For years the Ford Mustang, at least in base V-6 trim, has lagged behind its rivals with one of the least efficient powertrains in the industry: a cast-iron block 4.0 L V-6 with only 210 horsepower on tap. All that’s about to change, however,  with the introduction of the new 2011 Ford Mustang, which comes onto the market this spring with a sophisticated 3.7-liter V-6 engine.

The new mill is rated at 305 horsepower and makes history as the first car ever with more than 300 horsepower and a fuel economy in excess of 30 mpg. In this case, the 2011 Ford Mustang delivers an EPA-rated fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway when equipped with the available six-speed automatic transmission. The standard six-speed manual transmission is rated at 29 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg in the city.

By comparison, the similarly powerful Chevrolet Camaro V-6 returns a fuel economy of 18 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, while the Dodge Challenger gets by with 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

The excellent fuel economy numbers are achieved with variable control of the engine’s valve operation right across the rev range. The 3.7-liter unit’s variable cams operate on Ford's new Direct Acting Mechanical Bucket (DAMB) valvetrain using polished buckets and roller finger followers to reduce friction. The end result is as much as a three percent improvement in fuel economy and a ten percent improvement in power output versus traditional engines without these advanced features. Furthermore, a cold air induction system and dual exhaust give the advanced powerplant its free-breathing feel, 7,000 rpm redline and near-instantaneous response to throttle inputs.

Further reducing fuel consumption is the Mustang’s electronic steering system and minor aerodynamic improvements such as the new front fascia, tire spats on the rear wheels, modified underbody shields, taller air dam and an added rear decklid seal.

Ford already has 11,000 orders for the latest Mustang, half of which is for the base V-6 model.