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Which Mustang Transmission Should I Choose?

Kevin Cassar
May 7, 2020

When it comes to choosing the right transmission for your Mustang, it can be a pretty daunting task. Every enthusiast will select his or her transmission for their needs and lifestyle. For many years there has been a heated debate amongst Mustang enthusiasts on whether an automatic or manual transmission is the way to go. Steeda is here to help settle the score on this debate once and for all. No matter who you talk to, most often, Mustang owners will say a manual transmission is the only way to go period. At one point in time, this was the case, but due to modern technology, ingenuity, and engineering automatic transmissions have made enormous technological leaps forward.

In the world of Mustang performance, innovation has been leading the way for both manual and automatic transmissions. Within the last decade, engineers have been pushing the boundaries on transmission technology. Transmissions like the Tremec TR-9070 DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) in the all-new 2020 Shelby GT500 have paved the way for automatic transmission to perform like a manual but still provide the best of both worlds. When it comes to a factor of performance, passion, and feeling, there isn’t a greater feeling of rowing your own gears and becoming one with your Mustang! Throughout the content of this article, you will see an unbiased approach to giving you all the reasons you need to choose the right transmission for your current, future, or project Mustang.

Mustang Manual Transmission Mustang Automatic Transmission Which Is Better? Manual or Auto?

Shelby GT350R Manual Gearbox

Mustang Manual Transmission

Ever since Mustang launched back in April of 1964, enthusiasts have come to know the Mustang for its sleek lines, muscular stance, and performance capability. There isn't a more amazing feeling than when you become one with your Mustang. Most enthusiasts will tell anyone there is only one option when it comes to high-performance transmissions. Manual transmissions allow every enthusiast to feel like their Mustang has a sole and is communicating on what the car needs more of and should be doing. Its something you can't receive from an automatic transmission; you have to be the one to drive the car not the other way around.

When you choose a manual transmission in your Mustang, you are suggesting a notion that says I am a purist who enjoys the thrill of driving. A driver's car is a pure visceral sensation as you go through every gear change, clutch engagement, and downshift is a feeling unlike any other! It is something that has to be experienced, not said to an individual.

Below are very clear reasons on why a manual can be better than an automatic transmission:

Easier To Modify:

Unlike an automatic transmission where you have many different variables controlling the transmission, including a TCU (Transmission Control Unit), where it has to account for torque, engine speed, and shift points, a manual has much less components to worry about; this means more straightforward service, and parts that can are upgradable, including a short-throw shifter, clutch, flywheel, and hydraulic clutch line. Each of these components offers an enthusiast the ability to have a much more driver-focused feeling while giving your driveline more rigidity to handle a plethora of power.

Driver Focused:

Imagine yourself on a favorite backroad with changing elevation, sweeping corners, and being at the edge of your seat. All you can think about is yourself, your Mustang, and the connection you're getting from every gear change throughout the RPM range. You're not just letting the car control you; you are becoming one with your racehorse!

Controllability:

Unlike an automatic, a manual involves having a third pedal, which is the clutch. Controlling the amount of power is transferred through the transmission from the engine. If you haven't experienced this feeling yet, we suggest you hop over to your local Ford dealer to give it a shot.

Engagement:

The motion every enthusiast receives through each gear shift, pedal change, and the ultimate feeling of when you have the confidence to go full throttle while rowing gears as fast as possible. Grabbing the next gear at full-tilt is an experience unlike any other for a Mustang enthusiast.

Check out our full manual transmission infographic below to learn where component lies within a 6-speed transmission:

Mustang Manual Transmission Layout


2020 Mustang 10R80

Mustang Automatic Transmission

There is a lot than can be said for an automatic transmission from a reliability standpoint, ease of use, and helping your Mustang go extremely fast at any time. All you have to do is mash the throttle, and next thing you know it, you could be looking at the sky doing a wheelie at the drag strip. As of late, technology and innovation have helped the automatic start to take over the scene as the primary transmission amongst all vehicles, not just the Mustang. All of us in the purist community hate to say, but the automatic is taking over the world of transmissions. Here is an interesting fact for all enthusiasts, as of 2019 only 1.2% of all new vehicles made were manual transmissions.

That is amazing really to think about in this day in age because, at one time, there was a point where there were more manual vehicles than there were automatics. These facts show that automatic transmissionsare here to stay for a long time. Not to worry, because with Ford's latest 10R80 10-speed automatic transmission in the Mustang, there are already an insane amount of tuning options engineered into the design. When it comes to straight-line speed and getting off the line, there is no question today's Mustang auto transmissions are putting the competition to shame.

Below are some critical factors that give automatic transmissions a clear edge over their manual counterpart:

S550 Mustang 10R80 Transmission

Ease Of Use:

Practically, anyone that is licensed to drive a motor vehicle can hop into their Mustang, put the transmission in drive, and go anywhere they want to. Individuals don't have to worry about engaging the clutch because the torque converter within the transmission is taking care of this.

Drag Racing:

If you're a hardcore Mustang enthusiast, then you must know that there isn't a force in this world that can shift faster than what a computer can tell the transmission to do. In today's modern world of high-performance automatic transmissions, the amount of time it can shift is within milli-seconds. All you have to do is look at the quarter-mile slips to tell which transmission is changing gears faster and running the best ET times.

Commonality:

You are more likely to find an automatic Mustang than you are a manual Mustang in today's world. For enthusiasts, this is a sad fact, but it is one-hundred percent the truth. Nowadays, automatics have a select shift sport setting where you either shift from the paddle shifters on the steering wheel like most modern S550 Mustangs of today, or you can shift directly from the floor-mounted shifter.

Maintenance:

Automatics can require a lot more upkeep due to the vast amount of components inside the transmission casing. Over time these components can wear more quickly depending on how hard you're pushing your Mustang at the track or on the street. Repair costs can add up very quickly, depending on what is wrong with the transmission. Regular maintenance is straightforward whether the system is a closed or open system to drain your transmission fluid.

2020 Shelby GT350R Manual

Which Is Better?

The debate on automatic and standard transmissions has been going on for over a half-century. Enthusiasts know each has a specific purpose in mind to accomplish a particular goal. Each has its strengths and weaknesses; that is why enthusiasts prefer one over the other. The way we see it is quite simple. As an enthusiast,we want to be as connected as we can be to our beloved Mustang as possible. More than not, it will often be the way a manual transmission makes us feel as we get it in, press the clutch pedal to the floor, turn the key or start button, put it in first gear, then the rest is history. As each enthusiast rows through the gears, he or she gets a sensation of freedom, fun, and engagement that is indescribable.

On the other hand, automatics are for an enthusiast who wants to be connected as one with their Mustang, while not worrying about shifting their gears. The great thing about the new automatic transmissions of today, like the 10R80 10-speed in 2018 to present S550 Mustang, is that it offers standard paddle shifters to enable an automated manual mode without having a clutch. When it comes to making a decision, it is going to be up to each enthusiast on which transmission is going to be best suited for your lifestyle and goals.

Steeda Automatic Mustang S550

Manual or Auto?

For all of us at Steeda, we are hardcore enthusiasts with every fiber of our being, but with that said, everyone within team Steeda likes both for each reason. One thing is for sure. If you talk to a real enthusiast, they will tell you there isn't a more excellent feeling to shift your gears while you attack the track or your favorite country mountain road on a Saturday. Manual transmissions have been the choice for the true driving enthusiast for a very long time. As the modern age continues to evolve and Mustang models become more technologically sophisticated, it will be interesting to see how far automatic transmissions can go before the manual looks like a dinosaur of technology.

We certainly hope Ford continues putting in manual transmissions for the foreseeable future among the Mustang lineup. With the recent launch of the all-new Shelby GT500, it has told many enthusiasts and us that significant changes are headed down the pipeline for the world of Mustang performance. Over the next few years, Steeda is looking forward to what type of transmission technology Ford integrates into the Mustang. Be sure to stay tuned to all of Steeda's social media along with Steeda central for all the latest Mustang content!


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Image Credit: Ford Motor Company, Tremec




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