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Debate Automatic vs Manual Mustangs Which is Better

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Table of Contents
  1. Which Transmission is Better at the Drag Strip?
  2. Why Choose an Automatic Mustang?
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No matter which transmission you have, you're going to keep everything ready for race day. An upgrade to consider for automatic transmission owners is an oil cooler. An oil cooler will ensure your transmission doesn't overheat while going for your best lap times. Short throw shifters for manual transmissions reduce your time spent shifting. Every second counts.

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The manual vs. automatic rivalry rages on and the comparison between the two has never been hotter! Credit Ford for fanning the flames with the awesome 5R55S (2005-2010 Mustang GT) and 6R80 (2011 5.0L Mustang) automatic transmissions as they have gone toe-to-toe on the drag strip with stick-shift equipped Mustangs.

I admit it, my 2007 Mustang has an automatic transmission and I like it. There, I’ve said it and I am not ashamed one bit! In fact, I am not alone in being impressed with the 5R55S as MM&FF Editor and die-hard stick-shift racer Evan Smith has stated on many equations he likes racing his wife’s auto-equipped ’07 Stang.

Another stick-shift-or-die guy is noted NMRA racer and shop owner Justin Burcham and he digs the latest auto cars too. In fact, I’ve even quoted Justin in a magazine article as saying that if he had to own an auto-equipped Mustang it would be one with a 5R55S slush-box.

Which Transmission is Better at the Drag Strip?

The stick would still kill the automatic cars on the chassis dyno but on the drag strip the story changes. The number of forward gears (O/D off, four with the 5R55S, and five with 6R80) and lock-up functions of the transmission, the automatic Mustangs are running times similar to stick cars.

Two great examples are the’s 2011 Mustang GT that runs 10.90s on the bottle and my supercharged 2007 Mustang, which goes 11.24 at 120 mph. Both cars run those times rather effortlessly and consistently without any drama. It’s easy, just stick it in Drive, turn-off the Overdrive, and let it rip.

Why Choose an Automatic Mustang?

For me, I had got the auto because my goal was to use the car as a daily driver as I made the run from the NYC metropolitan area to northern NJ for work. Two chips in the paint and a cracked windshield later and I canned that idea!

As a daily-driver the automatic just made sense, but once I stopped driving the Mustang every day I started longing for the stick transmission. There are times when I make late-night jaunts up and down local highways and I miss having the manual transmission—especially when I am in mixed company with Vettes, Shelbys, and others. And then there are moments when I just don’t mind throwing the shifter in Drive; maybe it’s a sign that I am getting older!