First Test: 2011 Ford Mustang V-6

The big news, literally, for the 2011 Mustang is the resurrection of the 5.0-liter, 302-cubic-inch V-8, a 412-horsepower engine that replaces the 2010’s comparably anemic 315-horse, 4.6-liter. But the bigger deal, arguably, is the Mustang’s all-new base motor, a 3.7-liter V-6 that — thank you, Ford! — at long last puts to rest the rudimentary 4.0-liter six that dates back more than four decades. Now, if 40-plus years doesn’t sound like much, think of it this way: Engine years are like dog years. Do you think if Fido were 42, he’d be tugging very hard on the leash?

Unlike the old 4.0, which for 2010 still employs a heavy iron block, an archaic two-valve/cylinder single-overhead-cam valvetrain, and a measly 210 horsepower, the new 3.7-liter is a technological tour de force. From lightweight aluminum architecture and a four-valve/cylinder dual-overhead-cam valvetrain to twin independent variable cam timing (Ti-VCT) and a deep-sump aluminum oil pan that stretches oil-change intervals to 10,000 miles, the 3.7 boasts modern goods. More important, it boasts the goods that matter to enthusiasts: horsepower, as in 305 of them. And torque? Try a very healthy 280 pound-feet, or 40 more than that of the 4.0.

Not that the Blue Oval’s new six-cylinder musclecar needs more power. Yep, you read right: We called the new 3.7 Mustang a musclecar. Now if you’re reeling from the idea of a Mustang V-6 ever being labeled with that word, or if you can’t believe how far that meatball just flew from your mouth, chew on this: 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.7 at 102.0 mph. The Hemi-powered 376-horse Dodge Challenger R/T isn’t any quicker to 60 and is just a tenth ahead at the quarter. Moreover, the new 3.7 is nearly as quick as last year’s V-8-powered GT, which put down 4.9 and 13.5 at 104.2.

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