Here at Modified, we have a certain mind-set we tend to stick with: performance above all else. Most of the cars we own and feature are Japanese sport compacts, but it would be silly to ignore the offerings from other regions. Take the good ol’ US of A, for example. American cars get a bad wrap, and it’s not entirely without cause. We’ve been plagued by dozens of very marginal, chintzy and poorly made domestic cars in recent years, cars that most serious performance enthusiasts simply write off as a non-option for any sort of project car or even daily driver.
However, the complaints and outcries for improvement have not fallen on deaf ears American carmakers have taken note and have gone back to the drawing boards. Domestic cars have improved vastly with the newest generation of models and redesigns; plain and simple, these new American cars are leaps and bounds beyond the once unloved, boring and, frankly, painful offerings of the ’90s and early ’00s.
Still not convinced? Set aside your preconceived notions for a moment. Picture a car a RWD car. This car has more than 400 hp, massive Brembo brakes, sticky tires, tightly tuned sports suspension and a 6-speed manual transmission with a LSD. This car also has remarkably neutral handling, a top-of-the-line SAT-NAV and a nice ergonomically designed interior. Here’s the doozy this car delivers M3 caliber performance, for less than $40,000.
Sound like a bit of a pipe dream, right? Not at all. The car I’ve just tricked you into imagining is in fact the new Ford Mustang GT. Shocked? Don’t be. Let me take it from the top and explain why we really love this car. The first thing anyone notices about a car is the outward appearance. The new Mustang is a powerful car with strong presence, with the continuation of Ford’s retro-themed designs carrying strong throughout. The newest body still resembles the previous redesign, but the lines have been smoothed out and carefully reconfigured so the newest breed has a more balanced and mature stature. The iconic hood cowl remains, of course, as do the postmodern head and taillights you’ll immediately know when this car pulls up behind (or, more likely, in front of) you. The long nose with a sharply angled design at the front grille is very ’69 Fastback-esque, and the wide rear end with dual exhaust tips are a far cry from the awkward bubbly shaped late-’90s Mustangs. Thank goodness!
The Mustang’s exterior looks are great in our minds, but that’s subjective. We know not everyone is crazy about the whole retro-style thing, and if you’re one of those people, you might not like the Mustang’s interior. Keeping with the style of the iconic late-’60s and early ’70s Mustangs, the new dashboard features large, round gauges and a three-spoke steering wheel. As far as build quality goes, the Mustang is on par with the likes of the Nissan 370Z, which is one of our favorite current Japanese RWD sports coupes. The Stang also has an optional Bluetooth and SAT-NAV package, which is incredibly well sorted out. Technology like this would have seemed out of place in a sub-$50K car just a few years ago, and we love how good (and affordable) these new systems have become in the latest generation of new cars. The view from the cockpit is very muscle car, next to zero rear visibility and a narrow windscreen. The massive hood cowl pokes into view over the long nose, a reminder of what lurks underneath. This brings us to what is, in fact, the best part about the new Mustang: the return of the 5.0-liter V-8.
Ford had a really good thing going in the early ’90s with its Fox Body Mustang. The 5.0 model of this generation received many accolades, popular acclaim and a huge enthusiast following. With gobs of power and a low entry price, this was the go-to car for muscle car guys everywhere. Two generations of watered-down GT models preceded and left everyone baffled, wanting more. We’re pleased to report that more would be a gross understatement of what Ford has engineered into the latest GT. Simply put, the newest GT Stang is wicked fast. The all-new 32-valve DOHC V-8 makes over 400 hp (412 at 6500 rpm, to be exact), and what’s most impressive is how the power delivery is so smooth throughout the rpm range. Unlike many older V-8s, the new 5.0 pulls hard from idle to redline, and when you grab for the next gear, the quick-shifter mated to the 6-speed transmission feels just plain right. The mechanical yet smooth feeling of changing gears in this car releases an amazing combination of chemicals in your brain, and when combined with the unrelenting roar of the 5.0-liter under WOT, you really can’t help but love this car. Throw the Mustang into a corner and you won’t be disappointed, either. With a redesigned suspension, featuring MacPherson strut design up front and a surprising remnant of old technology in the form of a live rear axle, you may think the heavy beast will simply slop around and become a handful in sticky situations. This isn’t the case. With surprisingly neutral handling, the car barely understeers even in extreme circumstances, and of course you can flick the rear end out when the need (or maybe we should say, desire) arises. When you need to slow your roll, stamp on the middle pedal and your face will rip off as the Brembos clamp down and provide the Yang to the Yin of the 5.0-liter powerplant. The Brembo brake package is an optional extra, but at about $1,700 MSRP it is absolutely a requirement in our minds .
Once you’ve had your fill of thrills and it’s time to meander on home, another pleasant surprise awaits in the Mustang GT. A notably tame feeling in a car with this much power isn’t an easy achievement, but Ford has done it quite well. You can cruise comfortably all day long, and you won’t have any complaints from your lady friend, any strange neck pains or spilled beverages. You might have to stop by the gas pump a few times, this is a thirsty horse indeed, but that’s one trade-off you must be willing to make if you want the benefits of the big 5.0-liter. Throughout our testing period, we averaged between roughly 15 to 20 mpg, depending on our mood mostly. So it’s not an economy car, but that should be obvious by now. And that is something we could certainly deal with.
Specs & Details
'11 Ford Mustang GT
Engine 5.0-liter 32-valve DOHC V-8
Horsepower 412 at 6500 rpm
Torque 390 at 4250 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual w/ LSD
Price Starting at $30,495