Marc Christ
Brand Manager, Modified Mustangs & Fords
October 1, 2010

If you are an avid reader of MM&FF, then you're well aware that there's a new captain of the Pony-wars ship-the '11 Mustang GT. With its 412hp rating, an improved suspension, and all-new manual and automatic transmissions, the new breed of Pony is undoubtedly the best ever. And, you're also aware that as soon as we can get our hands on the first available mods, we're going to bring them to you. Well, here and now is where it begins.

With engineering, prototyping, road-testing, and production all playing a role in bolt-on parts manufacturing, the tuning market has quite a time-saving advantage when a new product comes out. Tuning companies like SCT (www.sctflash.com) can use existing hand-held tuning technology in conjunction with new software for Ford's new processor to provide a quick and easy upgrade at an affordable price.

We could have snagged a new 5.0L GT in stock form, dyno'd and track-tested it, then installed SCT's tune and retested. Boring. Instead we decided to put both auto and manual renditions in a head-to-head challenge-in stock form, and with the SCT tune. Though we probably wouldn't have considered doing this in years past, the new six-speed auto is an impressive piece of equipment. In fact, you'll be even more impressive by the end of this article.

Cracking the Code
As soon as the SCT team got its hands on the first '11 GT, it began cracking the code of the new CBP-C2 processor that accompanies the 5.0L powerplant. Also known as "Copperhead," the new processor is much more complex and intricate than its predecessor. "This is an all-new processor, so we had to start from scratch," said Chris Johnson of SCT.

After spending countless hours deciphering the code, Johnson and the team began to write the tuning software. "We used typical reverse-engineering methods," said Johnson. "But the new ECM utilizes a different communication protocol-ISO 14229 versus KWP2000. There is different control system logic for spark control, variable valve control, and fuel control. The High Definition Spark is new, and Variable Valve Control allows intake and exhaust cams to be controlled separately. Fuel controls differ in that wide-band O2 sensors are now used versus narrow-band, the Fuel Pressure Rail Sensor has been eliminated, and the system is now a mechanical returnless style."

Like other tuning software from SCT, there are adjustments for fuel octane rating (87, 91, or 93), cold-air intakes, axle ratio, top speed, and rpm limiter, which is raised from 7,000 to 7,350 rpm. So how is SCT modifying the Ti-VCT? "We're modifying the positions and relationship of the intake and exhaust cams at WOT," Johnson told us, essentially causing them to act as if they had been degree'd.

In addition, SCT increased the knock sensor window to reduce spark retard. The fans are programmed to come on progressively at 195 degrees opposed to the stock setting of 212 degrees. The tune also suppresses torque management and reduction during shifts.

Automagic
Many Ford automatic transmissions of yesteryear have long been regarded as-let's face it-crap. Only after thousands of dollars of overhauling and installation of upgraded components was your slushbox worthy of a performance vehicle. And by then, it was so heavily modified that it affected streetability.

My how things have changed. With the introduction of the 6R80 in the '11, torque capabilities are far greater, gear ratios are tighter, and shifts are more controllable through tuning. SCT's tune for the automatic-equipped GT raises the maximum torque value of the transmission from 410 to 500 lb-ft. It also reduces the commanded shift time, making shifts quicker and firmer.

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On the dyno, the auto with the stock tune made 362 rwhp and 339 lb-ft of torque. After downloading the SCT tune with an SF3 (PN 3015), our Kona Blue test subject pumped out an impressive 374 rwhp and 353 lb-ft of torque-an increase of 12 hp and 14 lb-ft, with a 40 lb-ft increase in torque down low.

Manual Labor
Nothing makes you feel like you're actually driving like a manual transmission-equipped vehicle. They're more fun to drive because as the driver, you are a part of the dynamic process. So when Ford announced that a six-speed manual would be standard on all new '11 Mustangs, we were stoked. It wasn't until later that we realized that there was actually only one Overdrive gear, unlike other six-speeds. But after we were able to get our hands on one, it all made sense-tighter gear ratios allowed the engine to stay in its peak power range all the time.

Jake and Christina Lamotta of Lamotta Performance (Longwood, Florida) lent us their Grabber Blue '11 GT equipped with a manual transmission. On the Dynojet, it made 360 rwhp and 344 lb-ft of torque in stock trim. With the same SCT tune as the automatic, the manual made 376 rwhp and 366 lb-ft of torque. And at 2,750 rpm, it made almost 50 lb-ft of torque more.

On Track
On track, the automatic was a breeze to drive. With the stock tune reinstalled and our test pilot Christina Lamotta behind the wheel, it ripped off a 13.54-second pass at 108 mph. It consistently pulled off 2.2-second 60-footers with very little bog on the launch. After a couple more passes in the 13.50s at between 107 and 108 mph, we called it good. (All testing was done in the mid-90-degree Florida heat at full operating temperature.)

The manual, on the other hand took a little more finesse to launch. On the stock tires, it was easy to overdo the launch and kill the 60-foot. The first pass yielded a 2.2 60-foot on the way to a 13.71 at 106 mph. Subsequent runs yielded a 13.67 at 106 mph, and a best of 13.47 at almost 108 mph.

After reloading the tune, the auto ran a 13.15 at 109 mph. To back it up, it then ran two 13.07 passes at 109 mph. The launch wasn't affected negatively by the increase in power and torque, but actually lowered the 60-foot to 2.18 seconds, as the previous bog was non-existent. The higher shift points, firmer and quicker shifts, and overall increase in power and torque paid off to the tune of almost a half a second and about 2 mph in the quarter-mile.

The manual responded similarly to the tune, however, the increase in torque made launches even more difficult. The best 60-foot we saw from the manual with the tune was 2.22. Still, e.t.'s and mph were significantly better. The first pass yielded a 13.38 at 108 mph. As Lamotta made a few more passes, she was able to pull off a 12.95 at 111 mph. Though mph and e.t. were improved considerably, we attribute part of that to a 20-degree drop in temperature as thunderstorms threatened.

The Verdict
Since our automatic test subject had 3.15:1 gears compared to 3.55s in the manual, there's little fairness regarding best e.t. However, it's clear that the automatic performed well against the manual. It responded to the tune, was easy to drive, and made great power and torque on the dyno. Plus, as tuner shops develop new tunes, there's no doubt that we'll see increased power from the latest 5.0.

However there are few things more fun than banging through the gears. And our manual saw significant gains both on the track and the dyno. So, to avoid copping out, the manual definitely performed better. But with a few more mods and a stickier tire, the automatic might give it a run for its money. Only time will tell.

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