Warren Brown reviews the 2011 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT

By Warren Brown
Sunday, July 25, 2010; F01

CORNWALL, N.Y. The hardest part was northbound on the New York State Thruway, especially near the Sloatsburg Service Area, where state troopers are especially active. I dropped the Mustang's six-speed manual transmission into fourth gear and prayed the car wouldn't stray past the posted 65-mph limit, or even give the appearance of intending to do so.

New York's troopers are a humorless lot when it comes to speeding. And they have a particularly keen eye for potential culprits piloting hot cars.

I was driving the 2011 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT coupe with premium options. It is a hot car -- 412 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of torque worth of hot. It is motorized proof that the global automobile industry in general, and Ford Motor in particular, is suffering from a severe personality disorder.

It is an understandable dysfunction.

Consumers worldwide are asking car companies to do two distinctly different things -- to give them cars with top fuel economy . . . and road-scorching performance. The 2011 Mustang is an attempt to do both.

But here's a word to the wise: If it's better fuel economy you're after, get the Mustang with the 3.7-liter V-6 (305 horsepower, 280 foot-pounds of torque). It will get 19 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway using regular gasoline.

The 5.0 GT driven for this column will get you nothing but trouble. But you'll never have so much fun going to hell.

In self-defense, I'll say it wasn't my fault. The Mustang 5.0 GT made me do it. Ford in recent years has acquired the persona of an American automobile manufacturer newly and passionately intent on adhering to the disciplines of product quality and environmental responsibility. It is a born-again reputation richly deserved.

But the Mustang 5.0 GT is something else. It is a car from Ford's dark side, from the days when burning rubber on a Woodward Avenue drag strip in Detroit on a hot summer night took precedence over burning less fuel. Ford employs advanced engineering -- dual overhead camshafts and electronically controlled valve lift and timing; six-speed transmissions (manual and automatic available); tighter, lighter body construction -- in obeisance to cleaner, greener automobile development.

The notable result is a hot-rod Mustang 5.0 GT that gets 17 miles per gallon in city traffic (depending on traffic flow) and 26 miles per gallon on the highway (depending on speed, vehicle payload, road conditions and other factors). But there is a reason the car prefers premium gasoline "for best performance." It's all about running fast.

In fact, I've never been in a car that so detests low speeds. And that includes a variety of super-exotic models with bodacious engines of 500-plus horsepower. The Mustang 5.0 GT literally growls in city traffic, as if it's absolutely irritated by first and second gears. It begins to calm a tad when you move to third. But that's a mood shift in anticipation of breaking away in fourth and fifth and completely losing itself in an orgy of speed in sixth.

The delivery of all of that power and speed is seductively smooth. Acceleration doesn't throw your back to the seat. Instead, it steadily, firmly shoves you back and keeps you there. It feels sinful. But it's the kind of sin that's so pleasingly, thoroughly enjoyable. You want to do it over and over again in the vain hope of avoiding consequence. I'm thinking that addictions of all sorts must start like this.

At least, that is what I was thinking when I noticed a New York State Police car in my rear-view mirror. There were no flashing lights. There was just a state trooper cruiser dutifully following me like a cat tracking a mouse -- albeit a loud, speedy mouse with a "grabber blue" exterior paint job.

I slowed down. The police car, still following me, slowed down. The officer tailing me would not go away. I assumed he was thinking that there was no way I could keep the Mustang 5.0 GT under 65 mph on a high-speed highway. If that was his thinking, he was right. I pulled into the Sloatsburg rest stop and parked.

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