Rental Car Reject or Enthusiast Bargain? The Forgotten S197 & S550 Ford Mustang V6
When it comes to the Ford Mustangs of the last decade, there are several different models which get most of the enthusiast attention.
For starters there’s the wonderful 5.0 Coyote V8 that’s powered every Mustang GT since 2011, then there’s the high-tech EcoBoost four-cylinder that debuted with the new S550 platform in 2015. And then there are the ultra-high performance models like the Shelby GT350 and GT500.
The Forgotten Ford 3.7L V6
What you don’t hear about much about though is the 3.7L V6, which for a span of about six years, made the base model Mustang a surprisingly fun car for the money. But how does the 3.7 Mustang hold up as an enthusiast car today though?
First let’s take a look back. With the 2011 model year the Mustang got some major engine upgrades. Along with the new 5.0 Coyote engine in the GT, the base Mustang got a brand new 3.7L DOHC V6 to replace the aging, underpowered 4.0 SOHC engine.
At 305 horsepower, the new base Mustang made nearly a hundred horsepower more than before. It also got a new six-speed manual (or six-speed automatic) and got nearly 30 mpg on the highway and had a standard limited slip differential. It even had dual exhaust.
Ford also offered a factory performance package for the V6 Mustang which included larger brakes, revised suspension, a shorter rear end gear and other upgrades.
Both on paper and on the road, the new V6 Mustang was a bit of revelation, delivering performance similar to the previous Mustang GT at a much cheaper price and with better fuel economy and cheaper insurance. It also had performance that could compete with other V6-powered coupes like the Infiniti G37 or Hyundai Genesis.
2015 S550 Chassis V6
In 2015 the Mustang got a ground up redesign, moving to the new S550 platform with independent rear suspension and other improvements throughout. The 3.7 V6 carried over onto the new chassis, but the V6 was now limited to base model cars only as the new 2.3L EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder engine was positioned as the mid level choice.
That meant no more Mustang V6 Performance Package and no fully loaded models either, with the bare bones V6 cars often destined for rental car fleets rather than retail customers.
Real World Truths 3.7L V6 vs 2.3L EcoBoost
Interestingly, despite being marketed as a more powerful, more fuel efficient upgrade over the V6, the EcoBoost Mustangs often proved to be no quicker and no more economical in the real world than the 3.7.
By this point it was clear which direction the wind was blowing, and when the S550 Mustang was refreshed for 2018, the V6 model was dropped from the lineup altogether with the EcoBoost taking its spot.
Regardless of its capability, the biggest knock against the Mustang V6 is the fact that it’s not a V8. No matter how quick it is, the soundtrack is always going to throw off people and you might always be wondering if you should have just stepped up to the GT.
However, if those things don’t bother you, or you like the idea of an underdog Mustang build, the 3.7 cars still have a lot to offer on the used market.
A classified search shows you can easily find 2011-2014 S197 V6 Mustangs as cheap as $10,000. The 2015-2017 V6 Mustangs seem to be priced closer to $20,000 - which interestingly actually seems a bit more expensive than EcoBoost models of similar year and mileage. Maybe the V6 has more fans than you might think?
If you’re plan includes running twisty roads, autocross or track days - the 3.7 cars are solid choices. Not only are they lighter, but nearly any suspension or brake upgrade for a GT should go right on.
Power upgrades can also be done, with all of the common intake, exhaust and computer tune upgrades available for the 3.7. However, don’t expect to see the same kind of gains you can on the turbocharged EcoBoost platform.
Supercharger kits are also available for the 3.7, and installing a blower and the supporting upgrades should be more than enough to get a V6 Mustang to V8 power levels.
But there again lies the problem. If your goal is to build a 3.7 Mustang for big power, there’s a good chance your time and money will be better spent on a Mustang GT, which should have better resale value and much greater overall potential than a V6.
However, if you are fine with a fun-to-drive, affordable and fuel efficient enthusiast car in the 300 horsepower neighborhood, the 2011-2017 V6 Mustang could very much be worth a look.