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]


  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.)

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