Car and Driver took the new 2011 V6 Performance Package Mustang and beat an 2010 Mustang GT at Virginia International Raceway.
Taking the LL1 crown this year and tying the class-record time of 3:12.5 was Ford’s 305-hp V-6 Mustang. We have little doubt that it could have unseated the co–class-champ 2006 Nissan 350Z Track if the Ford hadn’t been equipped with a 114-mph governor, which the car banged into for more than 15 seconds per lap. Yet despite the interference of the electric anchor, the new V-6–powered car still managed to beat last year’s 315-hp V-8 Mustang by 0.8 second.
We might have found our minds wandering on the speed-limited straights, but the Mustang had no problem holding our attention in the corners. Equipped with the Performance package, which adds 255/40R-19 Pirelli P Zero rubber and a firmer, track-friendly chassis, the car swept through the rest of the track with an ease that masked its 3513-pound curb weight and solid rear axle. Under trail braking—braking past the point of turning into a corner—the easily modulated binders enabled impressive front-end grip as the Mustang tucked into tight, low-speed corners with the nimbleness of a much lighter car. A cinch to balance through the middle of a corner, the chassis tends toward neutrality and is only disturbed by big, foolish control inputs.
Even though effort through the leather-wrapped wheel is light and doesn’t increase much in response to cornering loads, the steering is resolutely accurate and faithful. Some initial roll compliance made the Mustang feel slightly disconnected, but the stability of its chassis makes sport of the downhill corners before the straightaway (sector five) and the uphill esses. The seats could use more support, and the V-6 lacks the torque and sound of the 5.0-liter V-8, but this model sacrifices nothing when it comes to handling.