By now we all know the latest Mustang has been praised as the best release ever. Or maybe you’ve only heard it from us. Let’s recap quickly. In base trim the 31-MPG rated 2011 Mustang is equipped with a 305 horsepower V6 available with a 6-speed manual transmission. Top speed is electronically limited to 114 MPH and the car tips the scales at a wee bit over 3500 pounds. The starting price is around $23k so in my mind it is also quite a bargain. What most of us, including myself, didn’t know was how good the Mustang V6 was on the track. Until now.
A few years back Car and Driver magazine began their Lightning Lap tests. They would group performance cars together based on price category then the collected stable would set out to Virginia International Raceway in search of their best lap time. Car and Driver magazine chose the serpentine 4.1-mile Grand West circuit as they believe it to be the nearest track which the U.S. has to Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife.
The Mustang V6 fits in to Car and Driver’s LL1 category, which is the cheapest category – cars which are obtainable off the showroom floor for less than $30,000. Other entries from the LL1 category have included the Mitsubishi Evolution IX, Subaru WRX, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Chevrolet Cobalt SS and the current crown bearer – the Nissan 350Z Track.
The 2011 Mustang V6 tested included the Performance Package, which added 255 width Pirelli P Zero tires and tighter suspension parts was no slouch in the corners, snaking through with precision normally reserved for much lighter weight sports cars. Just as a reminder, this was all with the solid axle – no fancy independent rear suspension required. The previous fastest lap time from an LL1 entry was 3:12.5 (three minutes, twelve and half seconds) was held by the lighter, Brembo equipped, 306 horsepower 2006 Nissan 350Z.
So how did the Mustang fare? Well, despite bouncing off the speed limiter for no less than fifteen seconds, the 2011 Mustang V6 lapped around VIR’s Grand West course in 3:12.5, matching the LL1 king, Nissan 350Z Track. There was little doubt the 2011 Mustang V6 would have stolen the crown if it wasn’t for the 114 MPH speed limiter. Remove the limiter (cheap and easily done through a 3rd party tuner) and suddenly Bob’s your uncle. Go ahead – read more directly from the editors at Car and Driver here.
Let’s pause for a moment. We’re not saying that the 2011 Mustang V6 is the car best suited for anyone with a $30,000 budget. What we’re bringing to light is that the 2011 Mustang V6 is a real competitor in the market. In decades of the past if you wanted a great handling sports car you were either buying an old man’s Corvette or looking over seas. It’s just not the case any more. Ford has proven that America can develop more than cars that drive straight and occasionally turn left. It may not have the luxury of a BMW 3 series or a Mercedes C class. Then again, it doesn’t have the price tag, nor do those European counterparts offer the same level of performance out of the box. If Mike Rowe was here I’d have him say it for me – Drive One.