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Ride, Sally, Ride

The new Mustang is a lot like the old Mustang. And that’s a good thing.

Author Mike Guy Photography Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Image – Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

SOME OF THE BRIGHTEST minds in popular music have sung about the Ford Mustang, from Chuck Berry (“My Mustang Ford”) and Wilson Pickett (“Mustang Sally”) to T. Rex (“Mustang Ford”). In 1968, Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg had a hit with “Ford Mustang,” and the car wasn’t even sold in France. Rapper Vanilla Ice even gave it a go with his timeless “Rollin’ in My 5.0.” The list is long and distinguished.

The 2011 Mustang GT deserves a song as well. It’s fast as all get-out and more beautiful than ever. I’m no songwriter, but raging back and forth on a closed course at an airfield in the hills near Sonoma, California, I’m envisioning some serious heavy metal at high volume. The new Mustang GT is powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 and churns out 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. It’s faster, more bumptious and—if you opt for the automatic gearbox (which I don’t, no way, never)—more economical: 25 miles per gallon on the highway. The V-6 version, despite getting 31 miles per gallon, is nonetheless fast enough to melt Vanilla Ice.

Here’s the beauty of the Ford Mustang: Contrary to all trends, Ford sticks to its guns. When fuel costs go up, Mustang goes bigger. When the market slows, the Mustang goes faster. And as other makers resurrect pony cars after years of dormancy (Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro), the Ford Motor Co. has kept the ’Stang production line humming all the while, for better (the 1967 Fastback; the 2011 GT) or worse (the anemic 1984 model and its 88 horsepower wheezer).

Out on the track, I blast through a quarter-mile run in 12.2 seconds, which is rip-snorting fast. Like all great American pony cars, the Mustang is fiendishly powerful (as are the Challenger and the Camaro—both excellent cars in their own right).

This beast has a refined and demonic look, a sleek representation of modern raw power, with a sweeping beltline and kicked-up haunches. The hood has an angry bulge—what Ford calls a “power dome”—that hints at the forces beneath, and the aggressive front fascia actually seems evil without appearing to try too hard. I guess that’s what keeping the Mustang factory open for all these years gets them: a fully evolved king of the road.

Under the “power dome” is a brand new 412-hp, 5.0-liter V-8.

Smoked-metallic rims hide optional 14-inch Brembo brakes.

A short-throw six-speed manual transmission flies through the gears.

At 3,605 pounds, it’s not light, but the GT still manages 26 mpg on the highway.

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