2011 Ford Mustang GT Premium Review

Front 3/4 view of red 2011 Ford Mustang GT
The 2011 Mustang GT.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Ford Mustang came in second to the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird in terms of driving pleasure. The GM cousins hit the market in late '66 as better-handling cars than the original pony car, and when Ford started responding to the challenge, it was to make the Mustang bigger, not better.

Well, it's nice to see that institutional memory has its limits, because as great a car as the current Camaro is, the Mustang is smaller, lighter, more tossable...more of a driver's car.

Regular TireKicker readers will remember how much we liked the V6 Mustang (no slug now that it churns out 305 horsepower)...and now, we've had our week at the wheel of the Mustang GT. The one that comes with Ford's new 5.0 V8...making 402 horsepower (412 if you're running premium fuel).

Rear 3/4 view of red 2011 Ford Mustang GT
Rear view of the 2011 Mustang GT. The sloping rear panel with the taillights still says "Celica" instead of "Mustang" to me.

That's serious power for a car this size and weight, and that means most drivers will have this view of the Mustang. Even the Camaro, which has some major power of its own (426 horsepower), has a 136-pound curb weight disadvantage.

Is it really all that fun? Oh, yeah.

Ours was the Race Red you see here. And it was the GT Premium. Starting price was $32,845 (the non-premium GT begins at $29,310). That buys the 5.0, a six-speed manual transmission, auto headlamps, LED sequential taillamps (still one of our favorite gimmicks, but then we remember the mid-60s T-Birds and Cougars), stainless steel dual exhausts, variable interval wipers, electric power assist steering, 2 power points, AdvanceTrac with electronic stability control, and SOS post-crash alert system.

Interior shot of 2011 Ford Mustang GT through open door
The 2011 Mustang GT cockpit. Slide in, choose a color for the gauges, and take off.

There's also leather-trimmed sport seats (8-way power adjustable for the driver, manual 2-way adjustable for the front passenger), a center console with armrest, ambient lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the Shaker 500 AM/FM/CD/mp3 audio system with SiriusXM and SYNC.

You could stop right there and be perfectly happy for $32,845 plus $850 delivery. But Ford's press fleet office added some options. Some I'd go for, some might take some selling.

First is Rapid Spec Group 401A. It's the Premier Trim with color accent package. And it makes a nice interior (Ford really upped its game on the Mustang this year) even nicer. And it's only $395. Sold.

Next is the Electronics Package. $2,340 for voice-activated navigation with Sirius Traffic and Sirius Travel Link, plus HD Radio and dual-zone automatic temperature control. Hmm. I usually say no to nav (my cell phone does that and most if not all of what Sirius Traffic and Travel Link do).

Dual-zone climate control is nice, but in a cockpit as small as this one, I wonder if my being set at 70 and my passenger at 74 is really going to make a difference.

And then there's HD Radio. Depending on where you live, there might be two or three dozen radio stations you don't hear unless you have HD radio (they're carried on sidebands of the AM and FM stations you get on normal radios). Some of them have interesting programming with music you don't hear on the motherships and very few commercials (because very few people can hear them). It's added variety in listening, but if I don't care about the nav and climate control, I'm spending $2,340 for HD Radio. And that's crazy. Pass.

After that, the Security Package. $395 for an active anti-theft system and wheel-locking kit. Cheap insurance for a car that inspires this kind of lust. Deal.

Another $395 for the 3.73 ratio limited-slip axle. That's putting money into performance, and that's what this car's all about. A keeper.

$525 for HID headlamps? Seems a little steep, but you don't want to out-run your lights...and they are good. Okay.

$1,695 for the Brembo brake package, which includes an upgrade to 19 inch painted aluminum wheels. Well worth it.

And finally, $240 for a rear-view video camera. The slope of the rear window is such, that this is a very good idea. In fact, it's hard to think of a car that doesn't benefit from one of these.

So I'm only passing on one option, as it turns out, and lowering the as-tested price from $39,680 to $37,340...and for this level of performance, fun and desirability it's a more than fair price.

Is the 2011 Mustang GT the best Mustang ever? No doubt. And the fact that you can buy a 400-plus horsepower car with an EPA rating of 17 city/26 highway is a pretty wonderful thing, too.