April 30, 2012
Life is moving too fast and I haven't been taking nearly enough just-because drives lately. But on Saturday afternoon I found myself on Corral Canyon Road in Malibu in our long-term 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 anyway.
The southern section of this road is rough and not great for a Mustang, but I still had fun. The more I'm around this V8, the more I love the sound of it. On a public road, it's not so much about going fast -- you have to enjoy the sensory experience, too. Almost none of the cars I've driven with forced-induction four- and six-cylinder engines check this box -- powerful as they may be. With the Mustang's 5.0-liter V8, it's apparent that the engineers who made it sound good had just as loud a voice as the ones in charge of getting it over the 400-hp threshold.
Actually going around corners in our Mustang is fun, too. It's a heavy car, of course (well, not heavy compared to a Camaro or Genesis Coupe, but heavier than I'd prefer) and the visibility is lousy, but push those complaints to the back of your brain, and you've got a well-behaved car with surprisingly quick, precise steering and strong brakes with great pedal feel.
Can't ask for much more than that on a Saturday afternoon.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 22,949 miles
April 26, 2012
I've been under some stress lately, and last night I got some therapy from our long-term Mustang GT.
I can't remember the last time I drove this car, as I often shy away from its impractical packaging when the weekend comes around (hard-to-access backseat, small trunk made smaller by the Shaker sub). But geez, the 5.0-liter V8 sounds wonderful, whether I'm rumbling up my driveway or making a move in freeway traffic.
I don't love the clutch takeup and shift feel you get with this Getrag six-speed manual gearbox, but somehow it's all well suited to the car's personality. There's a slight brutality and imprecision to the way gearchanges come together, as if the car's saying, "eh, close enough."
Heel-and-toe downshifts never feel as perfectly right as they do in something like the NSX, but they feel good nonetheless and sound even better. Most importantly, our Mustang's gearbox still feels just like it did when the car was new.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 22,849 miles
February 20, 2012
My neighbor is a Mustang guy through and through. He's on his fifth one now, a '99 GT coupe. Along the way, he's had a '77 ("the four-cylinder,"he offered, as though no more need be said), and '84 and '85 GT's. He'd fully dialed in the latter for autocross and general hoonage, and then one night the inevitable happened. The police eventually found the shell, but not much more.
"That one was my favorite,"he said, and you could tell it still stung.
He even survived a trip through the windshield of his Cobra, after getting cut off bending around a freeway transition. The back end got loose, hit a lightpole and the world spun. He woke up in the iceplant with a nurse kneeling over him, but a few dozen stitches later, he miraculously walked away.
I wanted to hear his thoughts on our 5.0, so I took him for a quick rip up and down the freeway and some nearby side streets. No surprise, he was impressed with how unlabored the new V8 feels getting up to speed. The new Coyote design lived up to all he'd heard and read about it, especially with its quiet, cruisy manners in sixth gear.
"I could get used to this,"he said, after a few more quick bursts and a couple of cloverleaf on-ramps. I think that about sums up most of our staff sentiment toward the Mustang.
I asked about the interior. "Looks good. A little plastic, but that seems to be the trend these days. I like that everything is close to the driver and easily falls to hand."
He even liked the intake whine, the faux supercharger whistle ported into the cabin from the engine bay. I thought a die-hard Mustang guy might think it was a gimmick, but he thought it added to the visceral thrill of acceleration. I can't argue. Gimmick or not, it's a cool trick.
Would you buy it for $40,000, I asked? Forty grand buys several very good cars these days, after all.
He just looked at me as if I'd asked a very silly question.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
February 15, 2012
Our Mustang GT remains one of my favorite cars in the fleet after nearly a year of service. I really look forward to driving it every time I score the keys. There aren't many cars that can do that regardless of the price, so the fact that the Mustang sill holds my interest after all this time is indicative of its performance.
I'm also reminded of the fact that even though it has over 20,000 miles on the clock, our GT doesn't feel like a car that has been beat on. The interior is still tight and rattle free, the clutch take up is still very progressive and easy to modulate and even the suspension still feels fresh.
This is the most grown up, refined pony car I've ever driven. And it lays great rubber into second. What more do you need?
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com @ 20,781 miles
February 03, 2012
Our long-term 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 is equipped with Brembo brakes. They're part of the $1695 Brembo Brake Package that includes 14-inch Brembo ventilated discs with four-piston fixed calipers on the front, and 11.8-inch Brembo ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers in the back. Included are 19 x 9 inch wheels (with a design I don't care for) mounted with 19-inch tires.
When we tested our long-term 5.0, we got braking distances for 30-0 mph of 27 feet and for 60-0, 109 ft. Within a week we also tested a Mustang GT with the California Special Package. This car was not equipped with Brembos (13.2 inch front and 11.8 rear discs) and produced 30-0 braking distances of 30 ft and 60-0 of 117 ft.
So we got 27 vs. 30 ft for 30-0 and 109 vs. 117 ft for 60-0, from our GT and the C/S, respectively. The Brembos must be the difference, right?
(Photo by Kurt Niebuhr)
January 26, 2012
With the new year, we learned the 5.0L V8 in the 2013 Mustang GT will be rated at 420 hp (from 412 hp in the current model). For track-day regulars, a new Track Pack package for manual-transmission GT models will include an engine oil cooler, an upgraded radiator, a 3.73 rear axle ratio, performance brake pads, and the same limited-slip differential now found on the Boss 302 model. That's just 24 horses shy of the Boss (assuming the 2013 model doesn't also receive some performance upgrades) with a lot of the same bits. This news kind of puts a great big target on the trunk of the Boss. Considering how close our long-term 5.0 already is to the last Boss we tested, what is Ford going to do?
It's been confirmed that there will be some sort of EcoBoost version of the Mustang, but exactly what that means is still a mystery. Do you think Ford is going for CAFE numbers and will offer some sort of frugal 4-cylinder turbo in the range of 270 hp like the Buick Regal? Or do you think it'll be something like the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 from the Lincoln MKS in the neighborhood of 355 hp? Finally, and here's the plea: How about shoe-horning something between the current Boss 302's 444-hp naturally aspirated V8 and the 2013 GT500's 600-hp supercharged V8? Is there a chance of a turbocharged V8 making something around 500 hp. If so, what should Ford call it? Will they resurrect the Mach 1 again?
Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton
January 09, 2012
...but this horse certainly does. It'd been a while since I'd been in the saddle and I'd almost forgotten how damn quick our Mustang GT is.
My personal car is a '98 Mustang Cobra, which is fairly quick (5.5 to 60 and 13.9 in the quarter, according to road tests of the day). But it almost feels slow in comparison to the new GT. Well duh, there's a lot more power here, not to mention six gears to work with versus five. But it's the GT's hefty low-end torque that kicks you in the seat of the pants when you crack the whip -- there's serious grunt here under 2,000 rpm. Prod the throttle at lower rpm and the GT hustles and continues to pull strong to redline, whereas my old Cobra comes alive when the tach's needle sweeps past three grand. Amazing what 15 years of development can do.
I said it once (okay, more than once) and I'll say it again: I'd buy this car in a heartbeat (sorry, Chevy) were I in the market for a performance car in the $30-35k range.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 19,808 miles
December 19, 2011
The previous weekend I highlighted the Mustang GT 5.0's ability to do fun things in a straight line.
This past weekend I decided to see what the Mustang is like when turning left and right in anger. Or at least mildly agitated.
So I was off, in search of twisty back roads.
First up was the Ortega Highway (74), a smooth two-lane ribbon of asphalt comprised mostly of high-speed sweepers. When I wasn't stuck behind slower cars, the Mustang performed admirably, cornering pretty flat, those Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s providing plenty of grip, nice effort from the steering with good precision.
Of course when you open the 'Stang 5.0 up on a straightaway, it just rips. Sweet music.
November 18, 2011
Admittedly, I've been completely corrupted by power. Our long-term Mustang is incredibly satisfying to drive, with its gobs of torque and glorious V8 growl. My first mustang (a 1995 GT Convertible) was my first taste. When I traded it in for a 1998 SVT Cobra, I was positively hooked. Now, with our 2011 GT, and a Shelby GT500 I tested last year, I find myself wanting even more.
Of course, this leads into the bonkers 2013 Shelby GT500 that churns out 650 hp. And yes, I want one. Who wouldn't, really? I'm curious how drivable it will be, but it likely won't dissuade my curiosity.
But this makes me wonder about the 5.0 downstairs. It wouldn't be hard to crank up the power output on our Mustang to ludicrous levels. A part of me wishes we would hold onto this car for another year, so I could get it into prime shape to conquer Willow Springs Raceway.
In my fantasy, I'd start with the tires. Some DOT slicks would do it. Then I'd get a fully-adjustable suspension (Hotchkiss, probably). Inside, front race seats and mild roll cage; nothing too difficult to scramble over, but something we could mount shoulder belts to. Finally, the engine: an intercooled supercharger, race pan, lightweight flywheel and driveshaft, racing clutch and exhaust.
These are the things that keep me up at night. I'd love to buy our Mustang when we're done with it and let you all follow along as I chip away at lap times between each upgrade. I'd also try to do as much of the work myself, enlisting the help of my fellow editors and friends.
Then again, a new Mustang will probably be here for the 50th anniversary. Maybe I should wait until then. In the meantime, I'll be working on a personal project that involves a Suzuki Hayabusa and the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor
November 07, 2011
It rained in L.A. this weekend and I was lucky enough to have our Mustang. Weeeeeee! In the rain, this car with PS2s is super fun, super easy to drive with the tires spinning and even allows the driver to enjoy the benefits of throttle with traction control left on.
If I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I'd be broke. This was the average after about 100, mostly city, miles.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com @ 16,909.4 miles
October 14, 2011
Sad to say, but I'm old enough to remember when the 5.0 ruled the streets the first time around, so seeing this badge is a bit of a nostalgia trip. Normally I'm not big on the nostalgia thing, but I get over it the minute I let the clutch out.
Even after all these months, this 5.0 still impresses. It sounds good, spins smooth and absolutely tries to annihilate the tires with every shift. It is everything a pony car V8 should be and more. I'm sure someday they'll figure out how to make it get 40mpg, too, but until then I'm completely satisfied with this engine as it is.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com
October 12, 2011
Mark had an earlier in-car video post of our Mustang, but I thought you might find it interesting to hear our Mustang on the same route that I used previously to video our departed Corvette Z06. The Mustang video and the Vette one follow after the jump. Sorry for the shaky-cam quality; I really need to get a better mount setup.
October 07, 2011
It was last December that news on the 2011 Ford Mustang officially broke. At the time, I remember being pretty excited about it. And that's saying something given my normally cynical journalistic veneer. Return of the 5-point-oh? New 305-horsepower V6? Six-speed transmissions? Available short-ratio gearing? Brembo brakes? Getouttahere! I even remember perusing my local magazine rack and taking a look at the breathless multi-page cover story of 5.0 Mustang magazine. Those guys were probably the happiest dudes on Earth when they learned the 5.0 was back.
So here we are almost a year later. And I'm completely smitten with our long-term GT. It's silly fast and sounds awesome. The interior is comfortable respectable in terms of quality. It fares well on long-distance drives as well as curvy roads. It looks cool. And it's completely useable as a daily driver.
I still like the Camaro and Challenger. The Camaro is still the best looking and the Challenger is just neat in the way it recreates the old-school muscle car vibe. But if I had to pick one to own for myself, I'd go with the Mustang.
September 26, 2011
There's little to fault our Mustang for. I felt the same way about my 1998 SVT Cobra. That was until I started racing it. In some fortunate alignment of the planets and stars, I had the opportunity to have a full suspension upgrade; courtesy of a magazine I used to work on. And while I think our 5.0 is a vast improvement over Mustangs past, I think it can still benefit from a little tuning.
If it was my Mustang, I'd give it the same treatment, which consisted of a Hotchkis TVS kit and Koni adjustable shocks. The progressive springs had just enough initial compliance to make it livable on a daily basis, yet stiff enough to dial out that sloppy body roll. Our Mustang can benefit from a little tidying up in the suspension department.
The kit costs $2,633, and that's without the shocks. Then there's installation. The masterminds at Hotchkis installed it for free and even though they're pros and know the kit backwards and forwards, it still took a whole day. I can't imagine how much it would cost at a less experienced shop.
Would you do it?
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor
August 29, 2011
Some people sleep in on Sunday mornings. Others work in the yard or start some other project around the house. Me? I'd rather scrub off some tire rubber and burn a few gallons of premium unleaded. I've been riding and driving the same 50-mile route for over a decade. It has a wide variety of turns, plenty of elevation changes and many different pavement surfaces. It's the standard to which I judge all cars and motorcycles.
The last time I hit my loop in the 911, I had my baseball coach, Mr. Riswick in tow. This time, it was Jay Kavanagh and Caroline Pardilla in a short-term Evo X. Because of my familiarity with the route, I pretty much know where every mid-corner bump is, as well as where water and rocks tend to accumulate and where the local speed enforcers like to hide (though really, we weren't driving all that fast). I took the lead.
August 02, 2011
Santa Maria is a small city just about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. Our route from Dodger stadium would double that distance, making use of some of the most challenging roads in this region. As I noted in the last Kulinary Mille post, I was feeling that our long-term Mustang might come up short against the many exotic cars that assembled in the morning. As it turns out, my fears were unfounded.
The Mustang was a champ, as were the new Michelin Pilot Sports we just had installed. As a precaution, I took the tail-end position of the multi-million dollar train as we headed north on the Golden State Freeway. The first driving section was on a serpentine strip of pavement called Lake Hughes Road, but some of the other drivers exited the freeway one offramp too early and the group I was with seemed unsure of where to go.
I know this road quite well, as it's the fun way to get to Willow Springs Raceway, so I took the lead. We kept speeds on the straights to sane levels, but still managed to have a helluva time in the curves. My mirrors were filled with a silver Bentley Continental Supersports the whole time, but the Corvette ZR-1 and a few 458 Italias seemed to be trailing further back.
July 20, 2011
Our Mustang never fails to impress me with its ridiculously wide powerband. Every time I get on the freeway, I wind out a gear or two just to feel the 5.0's smooth delivery.
Last night, I performed my usual ritual and got a minor surprise -- pinging. Heard it in the background as the tach was nearing redline. Wasn't the worse pinging I've ever heard, but it was more than just a single detonation. Since any pinging is bad pinging we'll definitely keep an eye on the 5.0 to make sure this was an isolated event.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com
July 20, 2011
Ed's post regarding what he describes at detonation reminded me of a different characteristic of our longterm 2011 Ford Mustang GT's 5.0-liter engine. When cold, it'll make a muted but distinct quasi-rattle-y noise during light part-throttle conditions between 2600 and 3000 rpm. It's done it since day one. Sounds to my ears like variable cam phasers that need a little heat in order for the internal bits to expand slightly and take up slack. Once warm, it goes away.
It doesn't sound malignant to my ears, which is why I've not been prompted to get too excited about it.
Also, this engine kicks ass.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
July 08, 2011
A Southern California freeway at evening rush hour is no place for a high-powered pony to show its stuff. Stop. Go. Wait. Sigh. The Mustang was champing and raring -- with nowhere to go.
After 15 or so miles at a crawl, there was an opening enough for a little bit of speed. But it was a short run. Suddenly, it was red lights lighting, me downshifting and a romp-stopping halt to the fun. The Brembos did their thing nicely, delivering braking that was "straight, short and highly fade resistant,"as our track test notes put it.
Speed is good. Stopping with confidence is good, too.
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @11,156 miles
June 06, 2011
I'm not a fan of electronic driving nannies. Traction control, stability control and skip shift are usually the bane of my existence. But in our Mustang, I'm not that opposed to them because I think Ford got it right.
There's a left turn I take every morning and from time to time, I'll goose the throttle to kick the rear out just a bit. This morning, though, I forgot to disable traction control. I was pleasantly surprised at how effective yet non-intrusive it was. It didn't shut down the throttle completely, instead, it felt more like some wheels were receiving selective braking. The rear wheels were slipping ever so slightly (this wasn't a crazy powerslide, after all) and the Mustang tracked right through the turn at a very acute slip angle. Impressive.
Then there's skip shift. In our Corvette Z06, I was contemplating calling it dangerous, because when I actually NEEDED power, it wasn't there. Some evasive maneuvers, after all, require throttle instead of brakes. In fairness to the Z06, the Mustang does benefit from nine years of development. When our GT engages skip shift, it drops smoothly into fourth from first. The Corvette's skip shift felt like you missed the gate and was more of an impediment. Furthermore, the Mustang didn't bog down in fourth gear. Perhaps this could attributed to our optional 3.55 rear gear. In any case, it works.
Yup, my love affair with our Mustang continues.
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor
May 31, 2011
GMR. Glendora Mountain Road. It's The Place to go driving if you live anywhere close to Southern California's San Gabriel Valley and own a car with halfway decent handling and a little bit of torque. If you don't, well then skip right over this blog entry and read about one of our crossover SUVs.
On Saturday afternoon, our long-term 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 and I met up with six readers and their cars here, and we went driving. Joe (mptlptr) came with 2007 Corvette Z06, Daniel (silverstang1) brought his 2011 Mustang GT with the Vortech supercharger kit, Dario (ms3fun) drove a black Mazdaspeed 3 (bless his heart), John (trek96) had a MkII BMW X5 (like our old long-termer, but with optional 20-inch meats), Louis (louiswei) arrived with his Lexus IS 350 and our good pal Loren (subytrojan) showed up in his ageless 2004 WRX. Oh, and Magrath turned up in a 1 Series M.
You'll find videos and commentary on the Mustang (from me) after the jump. Keep in mind that it was a busy afternoon on GMR with cyclists and families in minivans. As such, we left quite a bit on the table with our pace -- if you want to see the heat cranked up a few dozen notches, watch Jacquot and Monticello run it in the LFA, or look back at our GT-R vs. the World test when we had the road closed (temporarily) by the CHP.
May 24, 2011
My colleague, Miss Pardilla, spotted this Mustang GT convertible and was asking me about it relative to our long term GT. So I figured y'all may be interested in what we chatted about.
This version of the Mustang was produced from 1987 to 1993. Yes, the first "Fox body"Mustang debuted for 1979, but I'm talking about these later versions with the flush headlights, lower body skirting and of course the 225-hp version of the 5.0-liter V8. These 5.0 Mustangs were known for their high "bang for the buck"performance...well, straight line performance anyway as the Camaro and Firebird out-handled them. This one has been lightly modified with a different two-tone paint scheme (the lower portion was not available in white), a pair of stripes on the hood, clear turn signal lenses and what appear to be SVT Cobra wheels.
And today's Mustang GT still holds the bang for the buck title. Even more so, actually. If you convert $18,000 of 1991 money -- that's what a well equipped, brand new 1991 GT hatchback went for -- into today's dollars you get about $29,000. A 2011 Mustang GT starts at around $30 grand. So despite the massive advances the Mustang GT has made in terms of performance, safety, build quality and style over the last two decades, it's price hasn't effectively increased.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 8,419 miles
April 13, 2011
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor
April 12, 2011
OK, so this isn't our Mustang. But it's still a Mustang. It's still black (well, partly). It still has a 5.0-liter V8.
But, the Boss 302 also has two keys: one black, the other red. Watch the video after the jump to answer, which one will you choose? I suddenly feel like Laurence Fishburne.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
April 05, 2011
Two days Fiat 500 -- fun, but zero to 60 in "eventually."
Three days Toyota Sienna -- SE model sure, but still a living room on wheels.
Three days Toyota Prius rental car -- do I need to explain this one?
Somedays you just need a Mustang GT. Aaaaah, that's better.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
April 04, 2011
Yup, it happened -- we've dyno-tested our longterm 2011 Ford Mustang GT. And it produced some unexpected results compared to the pre-production one we dyno-tested a year ago.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
April 04, 2011
Don't get me wrong, our Mustang stops short as well as anything in its class. But the pedal? It's not exactly what I would call firm.
In most situations there's adequate heft and it's reasonably precise. Get on it with any sort of conviction, though, and it goes from pleasantly firm to all sloppy and hard to read.
It's been that way with Mustangs for years, so I wasn't exactly surprised. Still, when I see Brembo calipers up front I expect something more. They certainly deliver the power, just not the precision.
Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com
April 02, 2011
I don't have any data to back this up, and I'm certainly no doctor, but after putting 939.7 miles on our LT Mustang, I'm pretty convinced that nobody who owns or drives a 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 with the six-speed manual and 3.73 gears can possibly be depressed.
First there's the start-up. After the key-twist, there's a rev and a rumble that sort of says, "let's go!"It's not even moving and there's a sense of urgency from the new 5.0. And then once you get moving --- Yeee HAW! When rolling along in first gear between 10-20 MPH, treating the gas pedal like a spider on linoleum results in tire spin, a terrific noise and best of all -- the traction control lets it all happen! Of course, if it goes too far off course, the orange light flashes and intervenes, but having some proper Mustang fun is possible even without turning off the nannies. Plus, drive it right and it'll chirp the tires into third. Love that. My Porsche-driving passenger at the time was shocked cars could do that. Welcome to 'Merica, friend.
And things don't get worse if you want to drive it like a grown up....
As we've seen in our recent Mustang v. Mustang v. Mustang v. Mustang comparison, the stock Mustang GT aint too shabby on a racetrack. Yes, there have been some changes to the track (most notably a re-paved hump that allows for more speed down the back), but the last time we lapped an STI there, it did 1:32. The GT? 1:28.2. The steering is good, the brakes are good and there's enough visibility to comfortably haul some ass.
March 21, 2011
As daylight faded on Saturday, I realized how screwed up my priorities were: I hadn't carved out 2 hours to take our long-term 2011 Ford Mustang GT on some mountain roads. A few hours later, the monsoon began, and I can only hope my favorite roads will be dried out by next weekend.
The reason I care is because our 2011 Mustang GT is one of those cars that manages to be fun in any driving situation. For me, it's a bit like the Mazdaspeed 3 in its character.
Of course, the 5.0-liter Coyote V8 in the Mustang has a far more interesting soundtrack than the Mazda's powerful but soulless, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder, but that's only part of the Ford's appeal.
The new Getrag six-speed manual gearbox is far more satisfying to shift than the Tremec you usually get in an American muscle car. The clutch takeup actually has some feel to it, with a natural, predictable engagement point. As you've likely figured out by this point, shifting is far more than a necessity to me in a three-pedal car -- it's something I really look forward to and this 2011 GT finally makes it a pleasure.
Another surprise is the electric-assisted power steering, which, at least in normal driving, feels pretty good in our Mustang GT. It doesn't strike me as artificially light nor unnecessarily heavy, and the ratio feels pretty quick.
Turn-in feel is also quick -- when you put a little something extra on a left turn or a trip down a tight freeway exit ramp. There's definitely the sensation here that the chassis engineers dug deep when tuning the 2011 Mustang to make it feel a little sportier, a little more special than in previous years. I can't wait to try it on Glendora Mountain Road, gem of Southern California's San Gabriel Mountains, when the weather clears.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 4,717 miles
March 14, 2011
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief
February 24, 2011
I loves me a good V8. Except the 5.0 in this 'Stang isn't very good; it's awesome. And not just because of the intoxicating music coming from the intake and exhaust.
No, the real reason you want to keep whacking open the throttle is because of what happens when you whack open the throttle: Smooth, luscious, throbbing power. Everywhere on the tach. Regardless of gear.
Yep, the 5.0 is back. And the people rejoiced.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 3,641.9 miles
February 09, 2011
It probably happened around the time when our longterm 2011 Ford Mustang GT was heading down the assembly line in Flat Rock. A new or revised Mustang is introduced to the media, and the subsequent reports from a half-dozen hacks inevitably gush "you can't even tell it has a live axle!"
Those journalists need to have their asses recalibrated.
The subject of the Mustang's live axle ignites heated arguments among enthusiasts nearly as effectively as do pushrods. Ford's justification for the live axle in modern times has been that their customers that drag race demand it, and, well, it's cheap. Fair enough. Mustang enthusiasts point to the car's impressive handling numbers. Also a fair point. But don't be fooled into concluding that a live axle out-points an independent layout on every pole of the spider graph.
Live axles have loads of unsprung mass, far more than that of an independent suspension. This is the technical description you've heard before, and the way unsprung mass manifests itself in the real world is a busy up-and-down action originating from the rear of the car. It's not really ride harshness per se, it's more of an exaggerated bobbling motion, and it's obvious. You notice it even when cruising down a freeway if that freeway is not completely smooth, a description that includes nearly every metropolitan-area freeway.
On smooth surfaces like racetracks, unsprung mass is far less of a liability (unless the best lines on the track are those that entail driving over berms...). A live-axle'd tire has no camber change due to body roll (i.e. it runs perpendicular to the track surface), an aspect that is no bad thing for grip and traction and is part of the reason drag racers like 'em. Of course, unlike live axles, independent layouts can have the luxury of toe and camber adjustments, allowing the user to take advantage of camber thrust for additional grip.
Roads in the real world are bumpy. When driving on said bumpy roads that also decide to turn, unsprung mass re-enters the equation and the Mustang bucks uncouth-ly. It's like some large, invisible hand is yanking the back of the car to and fro. Ford engineers have gone to some lengths in tuning the rear damper forces in attempt to manage this inherent behavior, and in doing so have extended the effective life of the stick axle layout.
But then you drive a car like the current Camaro over the same section of road and realize just how much less ass-end-derived drama and nonsense there can be (note: I'm not referring to oversteer, which is the kind of ass-end nonsense I can get behind). The difference in chassis control and composure is real.
This is one of the few areas in which I prefer the Camaro over the Mustang.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor