Last Updated Apr 20, 2010 12:10 PM EDT
But the 2011 Ford Mustang V-6, which goes on sale next month, may be changing that image. It generates over 300 horsepower and gets an impressive 31 mpg rating in highway driving (19 mpg city). Unreconstructed speedsters can opt for the 5.0-liter, 412 horsepower V-8 Mustang, which still manages a respectable 26 mpg in highway ratings.
As auto makers scramble to meet tougher new federal mpg regulations, they must boost the mileage even of their fast, sporty cars to hit the required 35.5 mpg average by 2016. So offering the high-mileage V-6 option is a necessity-not to mention a favor to an owner's' wallet.
Ford, aiming for the Mustang to beat the mileage of its arch-rival Chevrolet Camaro (25 mpg highway, 16 city)-used an assortment of incremental improvements. The electric power steering and six-speed automatic transmission are not only more efficient, but cut weight. The 3.7-liter engine has continuous valve adjustment, improving performance and mileage. The 2011 Mustang will start at $22,145 for the V-6 and $29,645 for the V-8. Not yet road-tested, both will likely go from zero to 60 in under six seconds, the V-8 well under.
Here are three more excellent, fast cars that are also frugal:
BWW 335d-The diesel version of BMW's stylish 3-series sedan ($43,950) takes you from zero to 60 in 5.9 seconds. And the diesel efficiency gets a rating of 36 mpg highway, 23 city. So you'll combine top gas mileage with what reviewers generally rate as the best entry-level luxury sedan.
Volkswagen GTI-The pick of so-called hot hatchbacks, the GTI features a four-cylinder engine with turbocharger. Its 2.0-liter, 200 horsepower engine delivers EPA ratings of 32 mpg highway, 24 city. Reviewers, who time the GTI doing zero to 60 in 6.9 seconds, rate it among the most entertaining cars for the money. Coupe models start at $23,500.
Hyundai Genesis Coupe-Aimed at the fast-and-sporty market dominated by Mustang and Camaro, this Hyundai coupe competes well. Reviewers marveled that Hyundai, typically known for improving quality at affordable prices, succeeded so well with this flashy entry. The four-cylinder turbo-boosted 210 horsepower version gets highway ratings of 30 mpg, 21 city. While it can't get under six seconds for 0 to 60, its more muscular brother V-6 version can. (The V-6 mileage drops to 26 mpg highway, 17 city). This coupe is priced right, with the four-cylinder starting at $22,750 and the V-6 at $25,750.
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