Hooniverse Asks- Does the Mustang's Live Axle Make it Suck?

One way that Ford has kept the costs down on the Mustang, and kept the traditional pony car feel alive, is buy using a coil-sprung, live axle. Now, Ford has a lot of experience with live axles, and the 2011 ‘Stang is probably the best handling stallion ever to emerge from the Blue Oval. But with the Chevy Camaro, and the Dodge Challenger rocking pavement-peeling IRS, does the Mustang seem like an also-ran?

Looking underneath the latest bow tie-wearing pony car may make traditionalists shake their heads when they see a pumpkin firmly bolted to the sub-frame, and sprouting a pair of half-shafts. Once they get behind the wheel, perhaps tradition will melt away as mid-corner irregularities fail to purturb the car, and the general ride feels more compliant than they’d expected.

But crawl under a Mustang and it’s 1964 and 1/2 all over again. Well, the semi-elliptics have been replaced with progressive-rate coils, but the wheels are bolted to a sturdy live axle that bounces up and down with every whoop and valley in the road. Despite that, the ‘Stang seems to be able to keep up with both of it’s more “independent” competitors. So, in this day and age, when image and feature matters as much as function, do you think the Mustang’s live axle makes it a lesser car than if it had an IRS?

Image sources: [ about.com, phtobucket]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    My live axle and coils would like to tell the haters just where to stick it.
    Lesser car? Hard to say. It's still a great car, whether because of – or despite – the axle.

  2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    No, and I love it more for being a solid axle. Ford has always done things a little diffrent, Twin Traction Beam I'm looking at you, and I think it has served them well.

  3. Maymar Avatar

    The Mustang's cheap, quick, and handles well enough, the big iron stick out back doesn't really bother me. Then again, I've driven a Z4 though some bumpy corners, and its IRS didn't seem to stop it from getting upset, so IRS clearly isn't the final word on competent handling.

  4. P161911 Avatar

    I'd rather have a $28k base Mustang GT with a live axle than a $33k base Mustang with IRS.
    HOWEVER, there is no excuse for the $46,000 GT500 not having a IRS.

  5. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Maybe IRS is a more optimal solution, but I don't think the 'Stang loses any sales for lack of it. I've heard anyone say they'd buy one if they'd just switch to IRS…typically they're anti-Mustang stance is more broad-based.
    Secondarily, by all accounts, the 2010 handles better than the IRS-equipped Challenger and Camaro. This is something Hooniverse needs to verify.
    Lastly, I'm willing to bet 90% of drivers couldn't tell the difference in a blind test. Only avid backroad carvers are likely to notice or care, and they're probably not buying pony/muscle cars anyway.

  6. engineerd Avatar

    Hi, my name is engineerd and I own a Mustang. It's not an addiction on the same level as cocaine, more on the level of crack. Hear me out.
    What attracts people to the Mustang? The same things that attract people to crack: history, familiarity, and price. Everyone knows what crack is. They know that it's a good high. They know it's inexpensive. Sure, you could upgrade to cocaine but it's so expensive! The same thing applies to the Mustang. Everyone knows the Blue Oval is going to produce a decent car. They know what the Mustang is after 45 years of production (OK, less than that if you don't count the Mustang II). They know it is as fun as, if not more fun, than other pony cars but for essentially less money. Sure, my V6 doesn't match the output of the V6 in the others, but my car is lighter and more fun to toss around. Actually, you can toss it around as opposed to the boat-like bloat of the Challenger.
    Therefore, the live axle of the Mustang is not a liability, but an asset. Just like crack.
    Also, Car and Driver said they thought the live axle setup in the Mustang GT was much better than the IRS setup in the Camaro SS. That's a big reason why they gave the win to the Mustang in their comparo last summer. The Challenger was a distant 3rd. It could win a comparison with a 1991 Buick Roadmaster.

    1. .357- Das Über Cool Avatar

      I think cocaine would be a Ford GT, while heroin would be a Pagani Zonda.

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        I can't see "Pagani Zonda" without thinking "Pia Zadora."
        Which in turn makes me think of…
        <img src="http://www.stavrotoons.com/cartoons/cannes_actresses/pia%20zadora-1982-04.jpg"&gt;

        …I, therefore, like the Pagani Zonda.

        1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

          That's better than coffee!

        2. engineerd Avatar

          I will have whatever it is that makes you think that way.

        3. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

          Damn! I wasn't even born when that pic was taken. Definitely puts things in perspective. Especially at 6:30 on a Sunday morning. Either way, she is HOT. In a 1980s wild thing cocaine snorthing way.

  7. skitter Avatar

    The only ultimate drawback to a live rear axle is having two of your suspension pickups predetermined by your differential. Anything else, geometry and behavior wise, is possible with careful engineering. Deriding the 'Stang for its rear suspension components, rather than its ultimate ride or handling characteristics, places you in the same group of fools who think pushrods somehow don't open poppet valves as well as overhead cams. At that point, you're using big words you don't understand. Results speak for themselves, from reports of the Mustang's excellent handling to 13,000 RPM Can-Am Smallblocks. And regardless of your enthusiasm for the car, do yourself a favor by studying the Corvette's 'leaf spring' rear suspension; it's brilliant.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      Very well said, as usual. I knew I liked you for a reason.
      The basics, as I see them, are this: HOW DOES IT HANDLE? Every handling test I've seen puts it on par with the Camaro and superior to the Challenger by a huge margin, and it does it with a much simpler setup. Okay, great! So it's good, it works, and there's no reason to go to IRS. End of story.
      I am bothered by this debate because the only reason it's happening is because people are obsessed with whatever badge they can put on their car. If it's theoretically an "upgrade" according to their "build menu" in their street-racer video game, then their car has to have it. By the same token, as I recall, Ford is running a DOHC engine, and Chevy is running a pushrod. Clearly, Chevy needs to upgrade to match, because that big beefy detuned Corvette engine is just all-around inferior to the Ford.
      I have a few friends who also own Corrados, and I get a bit of flack from time to time because I have the first-year all-analogue 4-cyl supercharged version, not the much heavier and more powerful VR6. But with a few grand in upgrades, I'm pulling significantly better horsepower numbers, and hundreds of pounds less weight. But according to their mindset, they've got the better car, because of the badge on the arse end.
      The important thing is what it can do, not the talking point in its press release.

  8. Alff Avatar

    Only on paper. Unless your nickname is "Grasshopper", you don't travel on paper.

  9. LTDScott Avatar

    I have not driven one, but the consensus I've seen from the press is that the live axle is only a downfall when cornering on uneven pavement. The rest of the time, it's just fine.
    The new Stangs have a pretty nice panhard bar set up, instead of the old 4-link as used up to 2004. My own car has a solid rear end with a panhard bar and the ancient rear suspension has done me just fine while dicing it up with E46 BMWs and C5 Corvettes on the track.

  10. dculberson Avatar

    Yep, my take on it mirrors Skitter's. Anybody decrying a car that, by most accounts, handles BETTER than its IRS competitors, is a fool.
    I believe in using what works. Not what looks good on paper.

  11. scroggzilla Avatar

    Suck, no. On the street, in the real world, the Mustang live axle isn't an issue.
    On a race track…. on the other hand…. maybe. Depends on what iron you're competing against, doesn't it.
    On blogs…..well, it has us typing.

  12. ptschett Avatar

    The 2011 Mustang with the new V6 is probably going to be my next new car, and I don't care that it has a live axle. Maybe I don't know any better (everything I've had was live axle, leaf spring RWD except the T-bird with its low-tech IRS) but I think the live axle behavior is just part of the fun of that kind of car.

  13. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Yeah, you wonder if AteUpWithMotor has forgotten more things about cars than we will ever know.

  14. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    I'll only say that the lack of IRS in the Mustang makes it suck as much as the interior in the Vette makes IT suck. Which is to say not at all unless you happen to write for C&D or MT.

    1. skitter Avatar

      I'll round up some applause as soon as I collect my jaw from the floor.

    2. engineerd Avatar

      Nicely said, and it's good to see you here!

  15. PowerTryp Avatar

    I love the Mustang and can tell you right now that I'm proud of it for handling the way it does with it's live axle. Does it make it suck? No. Do I deam of an IRS Mustang? Yes but thats why I'll go for a 99-04 mustang and pick up a used Cobra rearend on Ebay. I also happen to want to stick a Barra I6 from an Ausi Falcon under the hood, what does that tell you?

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      It tells us you're hanging out in the right place.

  16. Eggwich Avatar

    I drive teh 09 GT and sometimes when I go around teh corner it's all like CHONK and that gets my attention and whatever but it's not like I have ten glass babies in teh back all worrying me with their fragility, so I'm all like HA YOU FEEL THAT CHONK? and I laugh agin then ERRRT I push the gas and everything fun again.
    (Translation: does it handle smoothly on crappy city streets? Hell no. Do I care? If I was racing someone around those corners, I guess I would, but that's not happening, so the lack of handling in said situation entertains and injures as much as it hinders. Then, sooner than later, I partake in hearty acceleration and all is well again in the hooniverse.)

    1. engineerd Avatar

      Yay! Eggwich is here! How ya doin' buddy?
      Oh, and your statement had me chuckling.

    2. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

      WTF is CHONK? Maybe I am missing out of the street lingo.

      1. Eggwich Avatar

        It's like a "clunk" sound, but Asian.

  17. […] alive, is by using a coil-sprung, live axle. Now, Ford has a lot of experience with live axles, and the 2011 ‘Stang is probably the best handling stallion ever to emerge from the Blue Oval. But with the Chevy Camaro, and the Dodge Challenger rocking […]

  18. Carolyn McCarthy Avatar

    Thank you so very much for putting this out here.