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2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 California Special Edition Review & Test Drive

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‘CALIFORNIA DREAMING IN THE NEW MUSTANG GT’

Ford is finally getting serious with the new Mustang GT.  Gone is the two-valve 4.6 liter V8 that pumped out 325hp and in is place is the more powerful and state-of-the-art 5.0 liter thirty-two-valve V8 that generates a whopping 412hp and 390lb.ft. of torque.  Who says the horsepower wars are dead.  With this high-tech engine and the standard six-speed manual or automatic transmission you get a ‘segment best’ 26mpg on the highway while rocketing out to 60mph in less than five-seconds.

Ford also just released the new GT with the California Special Edition Package that I had the privilege of test driving and photographing.

This unique appearance package gives the new GT more aggressive looks and a more unique and comfortable interior.  It consists of a front fascia highlighted with a horizontal slat grille with Pony emblem on the side, a deeper lower air-intake with integral round projector beam foglamps and splitter, a black GT/CS side tape graphic on the doors that gives the car the appearance of movement when parked, side scoops, a pedestal rear spoiler, a unique ‘California Special’ silver rear badge, a diffuser fitted between the dual exhaust tips to better manage the air, and custom 19X8.5 inch machined face, argent painted aluminum wheels with ‘GT’ chiseled on one spoke, and wrapped with Pirelli 245/45ZR19 inch P Zero Nero ultra-high-performance tires.

On the inside are carbon fiber weave ribbed leather bucket seat inserts with GT/CS embossing on the seatbacks, dark carbon fiber weaved leather door inserts, dark carbon fiber weave covering the aluminum plates on the dashboard and around the instrument cluster with a stenciled GT/CS graphic on the right side of the dashboard, and custom GT/CS embroidered floor mats.  The price for this exciting and unique package is just $1,995.00 and well worth it for all that you get to make your new 2011 Mustang GT even more aggressive looking, more aerodynamic and more comfortable behind the wheel.

But that is only part of the story-the new 2011 Ford Mustang GT is a fantastic piece of engineering that brings the GT up to ‘world-class’ power and performance while competing against the new Chevy Camaro SS and BMW M3 coupes.

The modern 5.0 liter, four-valve Twin-Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) V8 engine delivers 412hp at 6,500rpm and 390lb.ft. of torque at 4,250rpm.  As a result of the new higher power and torque specs, the new GT has a speedometer now reads 160mph, and the tachometer has a higher 8,000rpm redline.

The all-new aluminum four-valve-per-cylinder heads feature a compact roller-finger follower valvetrain layout leaving more room for high-flow ports for free-breathing performance.  Head structure is designed to support higher cylinder head pressures and cross-flow cooling for sustained high-rpm use.  Head bolt size is increased from 11 to 12 millimeters to contain the higher combustion pressures.  The aluminum block was developed for optimized windage and oil drainback under lateral conditions and high-rpm use, such as a track-day outing for an enthusiast owner.

Increased main bearing bulkhead widths and nodular iron cross-bolted main bearing caps with upsized bolts were also employed to accommodate the significant performance increase.  An additional element is the increased capacity and baffling of the deep-sump stamped steel oil pan to enable sustained high-rpm use and offer the convenience of 10,000 mile oil change intervals.  Piston-cooling jets also were incorporated for performance-minded drivers and for faster warm-up on cold starts.

Specially designed tubular exhaust headers were developed to maximize exhaust pulse separation and improve flow.  Engineers also made sure all of their hard work wasn’t disguised under the hood.  Curved intake runners are framed by an acoustic cover sporting the new 5.0 logo, while ‘Powered by Ford’ cam covers crown the tops of the cylinder banks.  This effect is perfectly suited for a purpose-build performance machine like the new 5.0 liter V8 engine.  It is a real gem, high-revving and smooth as you quickly reach the 8,000rpm redline.

Making the drive even more exciting and fun is the new 6-speed manual transmission with a ‘short-throw’ linkage that gives back a more direct feel of the shifter along with relaxed cruising with the extra top gear.  Enthusiasts who choose the 6-speed automatic will be pleasantly surprised to find the advanced 6-speed transmission delivering crisp, quick shifts but I would like Ford to include paddle shifters so you can more easily manual shift up or down with the automatic for more exciting driving experience.

The automatic transmission also features a grade-assist or ‘hill mode’ to improve drive-ability on hilly terrain.  This technical innovation uses vehicle input-acceleration pedal position, vehicle speed and brake status-to automatically determine the correct gear ratio while on an incline or decline.  Hill mode eliminates sixth gear, extends lower gear operation on uphill climbs and provides additional grade or engine braking for coast-downs.

The standard 3.31 manual, and 3.15 automatic rear axle ratios provide an ideal blend of cruising fuel economy and quick acceleration, aided by the wide ratio spread permitted through the use of six forward speeds in the gearboxes.  A standard limited-slip axle helps to distribute the new engine’s power between both rear wheels for maximum traction in all conditions.  My test GT model came with the 3.73 rear axle ratio for even quicker acceleration from a standstill that really got my heart pumping faster during launches when I could find the right road to experience the rocket-sled and seatback pinned blast.

The new Electric Power Assist (EPAS) rack & pinion steering system has made a dramatic contribution to the GT’s driving dynamics by delivering quicker on-center steering response, also made possible by the big, strut tower brace over the engine, increased effort at highway speeds and reduced effort required in low-speed parking maneuvers.

Because the belt-driven power steering pump is eliminated, EPAS provides a quieter ride with fewer components drawing engine power.  EPAS also enables new technologies that adjust for minor driving annoyances such as ‘Drift-Pull’ compensation that adjust the steering to correct for crosswinds and minor road crowning, while ‘Active Nibble’ control helps eliminate the ‘shimmy’ felt as high speeds when a wheel is out of balance or a brake rotor is warped.  Both conditions are alleviated by EPAS independent of driver input, helping ensure Mustang GT delivers a smooth, comfortable driving experience.

The front and rear suspension setups have also been reworked and improved to give you sharper turn-in and a more comfortable ride over poorly paved roads.  The enhanced rear lower control arms add stiffness, improve powertrain NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) and sharpen handling.  a stiffened rear stabilizer bar also gives better on-center steering.  Stabilizer bar diameters, spring rates and gas-charged shock absorbers all have been re-tuned for improved dynamics.  Compared to last year’s Mustang GT, you can feel the difference as soon as you steer into a corner at high speed.  When you turn the steering wheel it feels like you hit a wall as you easily turn through the curve and exit at higher speeds.  The new GT feels more nimble and neutral as you maneuver around slow city traffic, driving on the straight-aways at high speeds and when tackling curving back roads.

The refined front independent suspension setup features reverse-L MacPherson struts, and a larger 34.6mm tubular stabilizer bar.  The refined rear 3-link solid axle features coil springs, a Panhard rod and a 24mm solid stabilizer bar.  The Mustang GT stays ‘old school’ with the rear suspension geometry but it is continuously refined to handle the more powerful engine.  The only ‘blip’ from the rear is when I rode of two different types of road surfaces-pavement and blacktop-did the rear feel a little skittish.

Standard AdvanceTrac Electronic Stability Control, which complements the all-speed traction control and standard ABS helps keep the car under control in all driving conditions, but you can, of course, shut the system down to more easily slide the rear out when entering a steep curve.

Quickly slowing the new GT down from speed are new, power-assisted, 4-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS.  The front vented discs are larger 13.2in. rotors clamped with twin-piston 43mm floating aluminum calipers, and 11.8in. vented rotors clamped with single-piston floating iron calipers.

Like the exterior design and improved powertrain, suspension, steering and brakes, the interior design features world-class design and execution.  The one-piece instrument panel design is crafted in seamless soft-touch TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) skin fully encompassing the genuine aluminum-finish panels.  Mustang’s chrome-ringed gauges and dual-vane air register vents are precisely crafted and positioned.  The instrument panel and console flow as one shape, another strong connection to Mustang heritage.

The sport bucket seats are comfortable and hold you firmly in place with deeply cut side bolsters.  The sporty, leather-wrapped/tilting, 3-spoke steering wheel feels perfect in your hands.  The leather-wrapped shifter is positioned perfectly for easy reach and use.  The center console features dual cupholders and a deep storage bin.  There are storage slots in each door bottom to quickly reach need items.  All dials, switches and levers are easy to use and within easy reach, plus all are illuminated for safe nighttime travel.  The aluminum with rubber insert foot pedals add to the sportiness of the GT and feel great under your feet.  The Mustang GT with the California Special Package  also gets dual map lamps, variable-intermittent windshield wipers and washers, optional HID headlamps, easy fuel Capless filler, power express windows, power door locks, electronic climate control, remote keyless entry, power 6-way driver’s seat/2-way front passenger seat, thick cut-pile carpeting, signature CS/GT floor mats, split-folding rear seatback, electronic cruise-control, dual vanity mirrors, ambient lighting, Shaker 500 audio system with AM-FM-SIRIUS satellite radio, single CD Player and MP3 connection.  The interior is quieter thanks to additional sound-deadening materials on both sides of the instrument panel, and a rear wheel arch liner to reduce noise on gravel or wet surfaces.

Improvements in body stiffness contribute to enhanced driving performance and have a parallel benefit in accident protection.  A stiff vehicle structure like that found in the Mustang helps protect the cabin from deformation and intrusion in an impact.  Mustang also uses high-strength steel in its body structure and ultra-high-strength steel in the door intrusion beams for additional side-impact protection.  The front structure’s crush zones are computer-designed to absorb energy in a controlled manner and help dissipate it before it can reach the passenger compartment.  Additional safety equipment includes the Personal Safety System, which features dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, side-impact, seat-mounted airbags, 3-point seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters.

The optional Ford SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system now includes applications such as Traffic, Directions & Information, 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Report.

The new 2011 Mustang GT with the California Special Edition Package makes driving one of the world’s fastest sporty coupes even more fun, exciting and enjoyable than the standard factory GT model with more aggressive looks, better aerodynamics for enhanced stability, and a more comfortable ride when you are just cruising or when you are challenging steeply curving roads.

COPYRIGHT:2010:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: $32,845.00 Mustang GT Premium plus $1,995.00 California Special Edition
Construction: unitized welded steel body, aluminum powerdome hood

Dimensions

Wheelbase: 107.1in.
Overall length: 188.1in.
Overall width: 73.9in.
Overall height: 55.8in.
Track: f/r-62.3/62.9in.
Turning circle: 36.7ft.
Headroom: f/r-38.5/34.7in.
Legroom: f/r-42.4/29.8in.
SAE passenger volume: 38.3cu.ft.
Cargo volume: 13.4cu.ft.
Fuel tank: 16 gallons
Base curb weight: 3,605lbs. manual/3,653lbs. automatic
Weight distribution: 54/46% f/r

Fuel Data

EPS mileage: 17mpg/city, 26mpg/highway manual/18mpg/city, 25mpg/highway automatic

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