Thursday, September 23, 2010

Of Magical Mustangs and Howling Coyotes

By all accounts the new Mustang 5.0 is an American muscle masterpiece.

Power-to-weight besting many exotics and handling to match. Road course times within 10ths of 70k BMW M3s. Fire-breathing Camaros left at the apexes.

Solid rear axle? Chant that one all you want, at least until the first mid-corner pothole.

But something's fishy out in the pony pasture, and the stench is coming from the Mustang corral.

It's not so much the gamey spec-sheet: want the advertised 17/26 MPG? Better spec that 3.31 rear axle. Want to stay with a Camaro in the 1/4 mile like in all those magazine tests? Spec 3.73 and kiss the MPGs goodbye.

No, it's more the gaping gap in gallop documented in magazine testing of the soon-to-be legendary new 5.0.

Anybody notice that Motor Trend seems to find a tailwind every time they test a 2011 Mustang? We're talking a BIG tailwind ... as in a whole second's difference to 100 in the V8 compared to every other major car magazine 5.0 test out there. Similar specs-defying gaps for the V6.

But the tailwinds aren't just blowing hard out in California.

Car and Driver, the U.S. enthusiast book most likely to sniff-out and document automotive fish odors, recently tested a 5.0 Mustang convertible (200ish pounds heavier and mired in 3.31 gears) and got acceleration numbers nearly identical to the light & tight 3.73 coupe.

Something even fishier floating between the prose and numbers columns of CD's big June Pony Car shootout issue: Text that claims the 'Stang needs a shift to 3rd gear to hit 60 but a numbers column showing the car hitting 60 in second gear.

In fact, most sources show a 3.73 5.0 needing third to hit 60, but it's doubtful anybody getting mid 4s to 60 is making that third shift.

In the old days they used to tell you about this stuff.


Leaving out the magically-motivated Mustangs of Motor Trend, it appears Ford has built the best handling Mustang ever, but one still hampered by the real-world torque deficiencies of modern overhead cams against old-school pushrods.

All of this is good news in any case. It means Muscle Car Nation is still firmly rocking that 60s vibe where car mags hype but the streets and strips decide.

The Great Recession was over last year according to the people who label these things. CAFE 2020 is on the horizon. The drag strips will be a fun place to hang out during The Good Old Tire-Melting Days II.

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