Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
July 9, 2010
Photos By: Dale Amy

Tuned more to the aggressive side of things, the SVT Performance Pack transmits a bit more road feel in exchange for its precision. Much like last year's Track Pack, this version of a stock Mustang feels like it's already visited the aftermarket for tuning. You'd likely still want to adjust the ride height for styling or pop in more aggressive pads for the track, but this is minor stuff compared to the old days. Though I never called on the big Brembos in a panic, I know they'll be handy for the track heroes.

Along those lines, all the NVH and chassis stiffening have joined together to give the latest car a quiet confidence. It's hard to believe the car is yet again 12 percent stiffer than its predecessor, which was said to be as stiff as a Fox Mustang with a rollcage welded in. These improvements over the '10 GT are credited to the addition of a strut-tower brace, a gusseted V-brace, stiffening foam in the A-pillars, and most importantly, a new Z-brace, which ties together the radiator support and K-member.

A strong, silent type, the chassis does its work in obscurity. That's just how the Electronic Power Assist Steering gets down. Implementing this bit of technology freed up some power and fuel economy, but its execution was clean and seamless, far moreso than the addition of electronic throttle back in '05. Moreover, the EPAS can be programmed to actually improve the ride by combating crosswinds, road crown, and even minor wheel vibrations. It helps without hindering, so count me as a fan.

Lest you think I'm a total fanboy, I'm still not feeling the rear of the car. There were no real changes to the looks of the car, save the new special editions and the obvious 5.0 badge. Well,there is the still-ugly triangular mounting for the rear-view camera atop the quirky unchanged rear. While team 5.0&SF was standing around the car discussing its backside, one of the Mustang team members did come over to us and say, "I know, I know." So hope springs eternal for some sort of styling refresh.

Depsite those minor qualms, it would be easy to walk away pleased with a top of the line Mustang with all the gadgets and goodies, but I had the opportunity to drive a number of different configurations, including an automatic convertible. Now there were times in the not-too-distant past that I might have felt pretty emasculated driving such a car. Automatic plus convertible used to equal slug. Not so anymore. Sure, there was a slight drop off in handling and performance, but the car is so good now, it's not a cliff. The car rolls a bit more in turns and dives a bit more on the brakes, but it's still quite capable.

Moreover, the new six-speed auto keeps the car in the powerband and provides crisp shifting. I'm no fan of automatics, but this one gets the job done. It was fun to mat the pedal, and feel the tranny downshift and click through the gears while keeping the power in its happy place. When the SoCal traffic brought everything to a crawl, it was easy to forget all about the transmission and enjoy the ride.

And enjoy the ride I did. If you haven't gathered by now, the '11 Mustang GT is a hit. It's a winner on nearly every level, and if you've been waiting for the right time to buy a new Mustang, the time is now. The only real question is how the aftermarket will embrace this highly optimized Mustang. Unlike the last 5.0 that was crying out for a host of improvements, the latest naturally aspirated is already demon-tweaked to produce more power than the supercharged Terminator Cobra. The gains will be harder to come by, but we're going to have fun trying.

The new 5.0 era is off to a heck of a start. 5.0