Friday, December 10, 2010

Mustang has a lot of dash for not much cash

This review originally appeared in the November edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California -- Horsepower doesn’t come cheap, unless you are a Mustang fan.

And if you are, rest assured that you can top 300 ponies and likely keep the bill under $25,000 for 2011, which is not a bad deal in these times.

Case in point is the tested 2011 Ford Mustang V6 Premium Coupe, a nice blend of original Mustang and modern-age engineering. The power plant is a 3.7-liter, 24-valve V-6 with twin independent variable camshaft timing. Ford did some sweet work here, with 305 hard-working horses and 280 foot-pounds or torque, yet you can still get up to 31 miles per gallon on the open road.

The engine is actually pretty tame until you ask it to do some heavy lifting. Then, it responds with a robust growl and push-me-into-the-seat effort. Six speeds flow smoothly through the transmission.

As usual, it looks good. Mine was what I’d call Battleship Gray, but black striping and chrome badging jazzed up the look – unmistakably Mustang at a glance. Inside, retro reigns with a black-and-silver trimmed, three-spoke steering wheel and analog gauges lifted right out of the 1960s. That takes me back.

Steering was exceedingly light, almost too much so, as I nearly rode up a couple of curbs early in the testing. It took me about a day to get used to it, but go easy when you first get this car, lest you leave some body paint on the walls of a tight dealership parking lot.

The list of comfort/convenience features is kind of short, and I have to believe that’s by design. After all, you’re getting a 305-horsepower Mustang for $23,965. That’s probably plenty for true Mustang devotees.

The Mustang carries four passengers, but those two in the back better be small in stature. I’ve always considered the Mustang a two-seater with some afterthoughts in the back. Even so, the cargo area in the back boot is pretty good – 13 cubic feet.

This latest-generation Mustang also provides a lesson in smart retailing. Yes, you can get much-pricier – and more powerful -- versions of the Mustang if you have the loot, but Ford has been wise to keep affordable, horsepower-laden versions of the car readily available for the under-$30,000 crowd. Guess that’s one of the reasons Ford is making money by the truckload of late.

Customizers, do I even have to go there? This Mustang is another blank canvas for creating road-going dreams. Craft away and boost the horsepower output as far as your imagination will take you.

Do icons still exist? Yes, they do. And well within reach of most budgets.

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