I recently received a 2011 Ford Mustang GT to review and play around with, but it got me thinking; at $30-45,000, how does the GT stack up against a new Chevrolet Corvette and a used BMW M3 at similar prices? Let’s find out, shall we?
Depending on the options you tick a 2011 Ford Mustang GT can cost you anywhere from $29,310 base, all the way to just shy of 44-grand with all options and a few accessories. Our as-tested price was 36,565 dollars, according to the Monroney sticker. A 1-2LT model Chevrolet Corvette, like the one used for this test, can cost you just over $49,000. And for the sake of this test, that’s what we have, a 2LT Corvette that is priced at $49,995, according to Chevrolet.com. Next we have a 2009 M3 that cost me $47,800 out the door, with 33,300 miles, 16,700 miles left on the factory free maintenance warranty. It came fully loaded with iDrive navigation. None of the other cars in this comparison come with navigation, but they’d cost more.
Now, the Corvette on loan is my brother’s personal 2011 2LT Corvette. The BMW M3 is my personal car that is fully loaded. The Ford Mustang GT was delivered to me by Ford to test and review. My brother paid a little over $45,000 for his car after tax, tag and documentation fees, while my M3 was $47,800 after all was said and done. The Mustang GT can be equipped at a similar price to the other two.
So what do we get? Well each car has a similar level of performance with 0-60 times all pegged right between 4.1-4.3 seconds, depending on the driver and conditions. Quarter mile times will undoubtedly be close in the mid-high 12s. Driving each against one another is quite easy, because you come to realize that the 2011 Mustang GT is easily on par with both other machines, but surprisingly has some very German ways of driving with a very American appeal. It’s almost like Albert Einstein; a German scientific perfectionist by day, but an American wit always ready for a good time each night.
But let’s start this out in alphabetical order.
2009 BMW E90 M3
When I think of a proper modern sports car I pretty much immediately think of the BMW M3. Now I get flack for this, especially since I’m a Bimmer nut. However, I’ll be honest in saying that a new M3 costs too much money, the interior isn’t quite up to snuff with how it should/could look, and the creaks and rattles from inside a used M3 interior remind you of an older Corvette. But none of that is a strike against how amazing the M3 is to drive. On a highway, a mountain road, or a race track, the BMW M3 will always please its driver and passengers with comfort, luxury and the sweet tones of its V8, but more than that, the steering and transmission are at home in any hands.
Now my M3 is the only car in this comparison test that has more than 2 doors. While some will complain that it’s unfair to test the E90 against two coupes, I’m treating this as if it were a 3 coupe comparo. I’ve driven the E92 M3 enough times to know its subtle differences in driving habits as well as the rest of its two door ways.
Let’s get straight to it: The M3 is a performance brute. It’s the Ted Nugent of sports cars, however from the exterior and interior you’d never guess it. It’ll turn any Mustang or Corvette faithful into a BMW respecter. You can’t get out of it and not say it was one hell of a ride, otherwise you’re nuts. At around twice what the Ford Mustang GT costs, though, you’d be nuts to argue that an M3 is a better brand new buy, that’s why at just over $45,000 it seems like the right fit for this title fight. A spoiler, if you will. Mine is a loaded 2009 model, and you can get 2008 M3s for much less than what I paid. There is a set back, because it’s obviously not new and has some mileage. BMW offers a 4 year/50,000 mile free service warranty that covers pretty much everything but the joker behind the wheel. If there’s an issue, BMW will fix it, pretty much no questions asked. GM nor Ford can really say they offer such a crazy good warranty.
My car had just shy of 17,000 miles left on its warranty when I bought her, so she’s already at a disadvantage. For that, though, BMW offers a certified pre-owned warranty for M cars that’ll run you roughly $3,000.
Enough of that crap. Let’s ask the real questions: What’s this car like to drive, and how is it against the other two? Hey, good question. The M3 rewards its driver with pleasureful sounds emanating from both its motor and exhaust that I could only relate to the best time you’ve ever had in bed. The stimulation from the actual sounds help to provide just as much excitement and enjoyment as the assurance that you’re actually good at what you’re doing, too. Drive an M3 and it makes you feel like a good driver, but allow yourself to work with the M3 and you’ll be a great driver. That’s as simply as I can put it to those who’ve never had the chance to drive this truly ultimate driving machine.
What happens when you put the M3 up against both a Chevrolet Corvette and a Ford Mustang GT? They stick close together. Depending on the driver of each car, the M3’s 3,600+ lb weight doesn’t hurt it too much against the 3,200 lb Corvette or the 3,600 lb Mustang, surprisingly, especially since it has such low torque by comparison -295 lb-ft, compared with the 390 lb-ft Mustang GT and 428 lb-ft for the Corvette. But one place where the BMW M3 clearly wins is interior space. The Mustang has more space in the front, but the M3 has more places to put things, and the rear leg room is far superior. Trunk space in both are rather similar, so there’s no clear winner there. And the Corvette, well it unfortunately doesn’t stack up since it has very little room to put things in compartments and no real trunk. The M3 also wows all with its ability to change the throttle, suspension and steering sharpness with the push of a button. The extra-thick steering wheel sports a small button with an M inside of a circle. This allows for predetermined settings the driver’s made in the iDrive for Power, EDC (electronic damping control), DSC and Servotronic to be changed with the push of that button. Even without pushing the M button, you can still set your normal driving pleasures with three key buttons located to the left of your shifter.
2011 Chevrolet Corvette 2LT
You can’t say America without thinking of the Corvette. Since 1953 the Chevrolet Corvette has been the dream of every young American; My father, both my older brothers, and myself included, have all lusted after this sole surviving ‘Murican sports car. My father has had a wild collection, and I remember when he bought a 1967 427/400 Elkhart Blue over teal blue interior. She had factory side pipes, AM/FM radio, heating and air conditioning, and was a stupid fast car to drive. I, unfortunately, never had the pleasure; I was 10 when he bought it, and 15 when he sold it. Just one year from my permit… Thanks, dad.
I’d go into all of the Corvettes that my father and brothers have had, but that’ll take up most of this review, and we must be moving on. I’ll just say that my father’s had 11 Corvettes, and currently owns a 1967 327/350 (2 previous ’67s -427/400 coupe and 327/300 convertible) and a 1973 convertible, both of which will be restomodeded. My brother Jason, who so graciously loaned us his car to play with and photograph, is on his 4th ‘Vette in his 33 years of life. My oldest brother is only on his first, but not his last.
So as you can see, I know Corvettes better than almost anyone around. I’ve studied them and wanted one since I was a kid. I grew out of that phase, though, because I wanted to see something different in the driveway. However, my youngest older brother never did. Now, his 2011 Corvette is a 2LT, which means that he has electric seats, Bluetooth, Bose sound, an auxiliary jack, and dual-mode exhaust. His car, since he’s not big on the rough ride, doesn’t have the Z51 suspension package that ups the brakes to cross-drilled rotors and stiffens the suspension. But in the name of science, we must keep going!
You see, the Corvette is an interesting and rare bird, for sure. Over 23 mpg average is what my brother achieves while still driving his ‘Vette pretty hard every day. And that’s just how he uses it, every damn day. He loves the comfort, and while I agree it certainly is comfortable, the seats, as well as the interior bits, were unfortunately made for sad, old fat men who lost touch with their skinny teenage years while still telling everyone how they were the best athlete in town… and walked 39 miles to and from school each day in sub-Antarctic temperatures… uphill, both ways. Oddly enough, my brother is neither sad, old or fat. No matter.
The Chevrolet Corvette, regardless of how you judge it, is an absolute animal, spinning its tires and flicking through its six manual gears without much effort from the driver. Hold on to the steering wheel, though, because you’re going for a ride. And there’s another thing the Corvette lacks; a proper steering wheel. Thin, plasticy and somewhat poor in communicating what’s all happening. The Corvette is the truest form of sports car here, however. It’s kind of pointless, not ergonomic, nor does it have any class. Yet it’s shouty, gets very good gas mileage, and actually has a good driving comfort for you and the person next to you. And it’s still pretty sexy, too, isn’t it? The curves, lines, and general shape of it just make it proper. The Ferrari-esque headlamps do provide great lighting at night.
With all of the teenage spunk, the Chevrolet Corvette is getting old. The C6 is seen in more places than a 3-Series BMW, and you can pick them up rather cheaply. GM shot itself in the foot offering employee pricing and other various discounts to make sure anyone could have a Corvette. Now, everyone does, and you’ll just be that guy who never stopped thinking that getting to 60 mph the fastest you could from each stop light was the pinnacle of a joy ride. One interesting and redeeming factor is the fact that this is the only car in this test with a factory standard launch control system. Just put the traction management system (the traction control button) into Competitive Mode, put the car in first, hold the throttle -the car’s computer, at this point, registers different things about the car, holds the revs at a certain point- drop the clutch, and HOLY HELL you’ve just preformed a proper 0-60 test.
I can’t tell you that the $1,195 dual-mode exhaust is worth the extra 6 horsepower and 4 lb-ft of torque, but the sound above 4,000 RPM tickles every part of your body, which is worth the cost in my book.
2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0
Since 1964 the Ford Mustang has been an all-American, not always of the best performers, but a classic nonetheless. When the S197 Mustang debuted in 2005, it was heralded as the return of Mustang glory. No more Fox body leftovers, some were saying, but where was there a Mustang GT that could actually handle some corners? That came in 2007 with the introduction of an optional limited-slip differential. In 2010 came the S197.2, the tweaked chassis and all new body for the Mustang, while in 2011 came the resurrection, so to speak. A 5.0 Mustang GT was back and ready to bully the Camaro and Challenger on the playground again. But not only did the new 5.0 GT bully them, it just walked away afterward.
Now not too long ago I had a 2008 Bullitt Mustang, or Jacqi, as I liked to call her. Unfortunately, I was looking at getting a new dog, and my sister’s kids are growing up. I was hanging out a lot more with my three oldest niece and nephews, taking them to movies, school, the mall, etc. The back seat of my Mustang just wasn’t big enough. But before I realized that I needed four doors, the 3 cars I went and looked at were the 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0, the 2012 Boss 302, and the BMW M3. Now even though we know how that ended, you don’t know that I had a hard time not buying the new Mustang… and here’s why.
Some have been worried that the new Mustang would try and become the American equivalent to the BMW M3. In fact, a Mustang friend of mine summed it up perfectly when he said to me the week before I was to get the car, “If it’s refined, it ain’t worth a damn and Ford failed…” Well, Mustang faithful, the new Mustang GT is a monster. The motor is rev happy; snarls with pride; and has no problem being whatever you want it to be. Let’s say this, though, it is far more refined than any Mustang motor before it, but Ford did it right when they made it react to your right foot more than anything.
Bluetooth; 500-watt sound system; satellite radio; iPod connectivity; wireless music streaming via Bluetooth; backup camera; 26 mpg highway. These are just a few of my favorite Mustang GT things. You have no idea how great it is to push the talk button on the steering wheel and say, “Stream Bluetooth,” and it does it. I do have some complaints, though. One of which being that my iPod has about 10,500 songs on it, and Sync takes a really, really, really, really, really long time to recognize my music once I’ve plugged it into the car, and even then it doesn’t actually allow me to play all of my music. It will tell me that there was a problem syncing everything, and will only have, maybe, half of my music. It’s a bit nerve-racking, to say the least.
One of the more wonderful things about the new Ford Mustang GT 5.0 is the actual ability to drive it how you want it. And what I mean by this is finally being able to steer the car through almost any corner with the throttle, properly. I took my sister’s oldest three kids out in the Mustang the first day I got it, and they were in awe of how cool it looked, how awesome it sounded, and how funny it was when I took a corner hard and got sideways for them. In my Bullitt there would have been quite a bit more input needed from both the throttle and the steering wheel, but the 2011 Mustang just needed a light flick, add in a bit more throttle, counter-steer, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for fun.
While I love the throttle driving pleasures, I strongly dislike the actual size and lack of feedback that the Mustang GT’s steering wheel offers, as well as its chincy silver plastic. One lesson Ford could have learned from the S197 Bullitt was the size of its steering wheel. Now in the Bullitt the steering wheel came from the 2007-09 SVT-GT500 parts bin, however it wasn’t as useless as it was in the GT500 -not SVT’s fault, mind you. No, it had a good solid feel with the right weight in corners, but it was also a very manageable size. It wasn’t too wide, and the thickness was similar to the current Mustang’s, but with a better overall feel. That’s not to say the Mustang GT has an uncomfortable steering wheel, quite the contrary. The buttons on the wheel work perfectly and are well placed on either side to help keep your music, voice commands and phone calls in check. I’d rather sacrifice buttons for size and road feel in a steering wheel any day, though.
As I said before, the as-tested price of this Mustang GT was just over 36,000 dollars, which may seem like a lot to some, but it’s hardly a sum worth mentioning. The 5.0 is almost worth every penny. What’s not worth every penny are the headlights and lack of bolstered front seats. Comfort is the main concern here, and that annoyed me. When taking corners in the Mustang, the body, chassis, tires, suspension, everything is up to that challenge and good hooning time. The seats, well they’re not. You slide around the seats mid corner like Mario Kart on a banana peel. Comfortable as a Ford Taurus, yes, and about the same bolstering, too. Interestingly enough, my father made a quip that shocked me, “I think the Corvette offers more side bolsters than the new Mustang.” At least they look cool as hell.
Xenons, xenons, xenons. If your Mustang doesn’t have them then I’m sorry. Tell me you don’t need them all you want, and I’ll still call you a liar. The high beam visibility of the Mustang GT on a dark back road is about as good as trying to look around the corner of your television to see what bad guys are behind the wall in Modern Warfare 2. Almost as important, they truly enhance the sexy looks of the new Mustang GT, too. Almost as hard to use is the speedometer. Because Ford has opted to make the needle so wide and the actual mile per hour posts so thin and small, you’re not sure if you’re really going 50, 53, maybe 51, no wait, 55? I have no idea. The whole time I drove around just waiting to get pulled over, because I honestly didn’t know whether I was going 5 mph over or 9 over. Oh well, this probably won’t matter to most, though.
One area where the Mustang GT makes up points on the Corvette, and puts itself on par with the M3 is its trunk space. I took my mom shopping, and I bought a new pair of Pumas. She bought about 5 pairs of shoes. I also got a new 27-inch iMac (my first Apple computer), while she got a new iPad. You really have no idea how big 27 inches is until you try and jam it into the trunk of any car. My M3 would have fit it fine; the Corvette, yes, but not then you need to think about all the other shopping bags I had. The Mustang swallowed everything up with but a small burp. The only real trouble was the smaller opening, which was really only a small annoyance since the computer was somewhat heavy. The only other complaint I had is the small rise in the floor going back towards the rear seats. It was the same in my Bullitt, but I was still able to fit 7 guitar cases between the trunk and the folded down rear seats, as well as the trunk taking my Reissue ’57 Fender Twin Amp Custom Shop. So you should know the Mustang GT will literally hold just about anything.
So in the end, the Chevrolet Corvette is the most exotic looking; the BMW M3 is the most exotic driving; and the Ford Mustang GT 5.0 is just plain awesome. The fact that anything 30 grand can be just as fun as a German sports car and an American classic really makes the Camaro look bad… It costs just as much with less performance. You can drive a Corvette fantastically at any time once you’ve worked with it and learned its oddities. The M3 makes a genius out of almost any ham-fisted driver out there. But the real hero is the 2011 Mustang GT 5.0. It’ll make you feel like you’re back in the ’60s, but know you won’t slam into a tree and die with the lack of driveability. While Ford has a few things to work out, I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed having, what I called, the 007 GT in my driveway (named for the license plate that had 007 as its identifying plate). I drove it everywhere, and what I was most impressed with was the ability to drive any back road like I would my own M3. The high speeds I could reach on different straights and corners were as close as you can get between two cars. And the Mustang GT is far, far less. I don’t mean to bring that in to this equation, but for the price of a new or used BMW M3, you can have a fully loaded Mustang GT 5.0 that’ll do damn near the same thing.
While it may seem I hated on the Mustang GT and its faults, I leave with you this quote from Albert Einstein, the odd image that I draw upon with this car: “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” In this case, Ford tried some new things, not all worked, but they’ll fix what I didn’t like with time.
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[Photos by Josh Lewis and Corey Privette]
So without further ado, let’s see what the end results are.
While some may sit there and think, “Why is the only sports car coming in last?” Well, in short, because it’s not versatile enough. There’s no breakup between the hatch and the cab, and I know first hand of what it’s like to have something come flying forward at you when you make a panic stop in a Corvette. That’s not to say it isn’t a good every day car, because it certainly is. With great gas mileage, comfortable seating, and easy to use everything, the Chevrolet Corvette is no pile o’ junk. However, give me a 2012 with the new interior updates (better seats and steering wheel) and we’ll see how this test plays out then…
It’s great, it’s the car I purchased, but it’s just not as good for the money. I spent almost 50 grand on a car with 33,xxx miles, but got a car that could easily out carve the other two on any road with me behind the wheel. The iDrive is superb, seats are the best out there, and the driving style is perfect for any guy or girl. However, bad gas mileage and lack of options Ford’s Sync include is a bummer for a car that was $69,000 when brand new. The most redeeming factor for the M3 is its easy livability. If the Mustang had been pricier, the M3 may have won. I’ll tell ya, whether it’s a 2008 or a 2011, the Corvette nor the Mustang will get you as much respect at any classy joint like the M3 will.
And there you have it, the car that easily takes the cake, at this price range. Let’s be honest, had the Mustang GT been closer to 50 grand, it would have been a bigger dog fight between it and the M3. But let’s get one thing straight, Ford made one hell of a sports coupe. The Sync and Mach 1 sound system are fantastic, as is the ability to stream music from my iPhone via Bluetooth for way less than $40,000, a feature no 2008-2010 M3 has. The seats are terrible, though. As comfy as they are, they’re nowhere near as hold-you-in-place bolstered as my 2008 Bullitt Mustang’s were. I will say, too, get some xenons if you’re ordering the Mustang GT, because the stock halogens aren’t too great on back roads at night.