It’s no secret that we are big fans of the refreshed Ford Mustang here at Speed:Sport:Life. Nor are we alone: the vast majority of the automotive press has awarded the 2010 Mustang first place in the revitalized ponycar wars. The common theme among many reviewers is that the Mustang’s light weight, manageable size, and obsessive detailing are enough to overlook the relatively uncompetitive engine choices.

For the 2011 model year, those caveats are history. We’ve already shared the details on the variable-valve-timed, 300-plus-horsepower 2011 Mustang V6 with you, and now we are free to tell what has been the worst-kept secret in the industry: the five-liter Mustang is back, and it’s pissed off.

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The numbers surrounding the new quad-cam, TiVCT-enhanced five-liter are well-known by now: approximately 412 horsepower at a screaming seven thousand revs per minute, and 390 lb-ft of torque. We anticipate that this new V-8 will power the 2011 Mustang GT through the twelve-second barrier in the usual temperature-corrected magazine testing, and that it will easily match the Camaro SS in a drag race from launch (where, it must be said, the Mustang has the advantage thanks to its solid rear axle) all the way into triple-digit territory.

The specifications and stories behind the five-liter are impressive. From the factory tubular headers to the offset cams, every detail has seemingly been polished to a high gloss despite a remarkably short development time. This Mustang fairly growls at idle and across the rev range. Forget comparisons with engines like the General Motors LS-series and the Chrysler HEMI; this mill delivers a horsepower-to-liter ratio competitive with the AMG 6.2 V8! Only the high-rev four-liter V-8s from BMW and Audi have Ford beat for efficiency, and those engines come in models which cost at least twice as much as a Mustang GT.

Nor is the all-new 5.0 the only news. A six-speed manual offers class parity, while an available Brembo brake package adds the Shelby GT500’s calipers to address the Mustang’s major weakness as a weekend track rat. Fuel economy is projected to run as high as 25mpg, which is a full 25% better than the smaller, lighter BMW M3 can offer. The occasionally-controversial Ford EPAS electronic steering makes its first Mustang appearance as well, with racetrack-oriented dynamics. There’s even a bit of Prius-esque environmental appeasement, with an alternator that only charges on deceleration or something like that. We don’t really remember, because we were still grinning from watching the new V-8 run to seven grand on the dyno.

Ford’s long-lead media preview for this new ‘Stang was accompanied by an unusual amount of drama related to embargo violations and early “tweets”, but we can’t blame the people who couldn’t wait to spread the word. This is the most exciting ponycar in modern history, combining a spectacular naturally-aspirated punch with what was already the most satisfying package on the market. Look for lines to form at your local Ford dealer as soon as the order books open.

We expect to be among the first to experience the new Mustang 5.0 GT, and we’ll be sharing our impressions with you as soon as we get them. In the meantime, ponycar fans can look forward to our final 2010 Mustang test, in which we compare a GT500, GT Track Pack, and FRPP-supercharged GT at venues including Virginia International Raceway and Ohio’s Dragway 42. While you’re waiting, check out our galleries below!

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Jack Baruth

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