Debate: Automatic vs. Manual Mustangs – Which is Better?

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.

Auto.jpgI 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 amount 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 AmericanMuscle.com’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.

Manual.jpg

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 everyday 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!

Tell us what you think!  Which is better?  Automatic or Manual trans?

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  • Brett H.

    I prefer a stick because it makes driving fast fun. But there are times where I wished I had an automatic because of Dallas traffic. Automatics are fun because you just sit back and drive. I had to learn to drive a stick in my first Mustang so I’ve just always had that love for standards. I guess it just depends on the person. IMO, Manual Mustangs are the way to go!!

    • Evan D.

      Same here. My first Mustang was stick and my uncles Mustang was stick, so I’m just so used to driving my Mustangs stick. But like you, this San Antonio traffic sometimes just makes driving stick grueling.

    • dalton

      three of my friends have mustangs. One is a stick v8, one is an auto V8, and one is an auto v8 with a B&M hammer shifter. Me personally love the hammer shifter. Its the best of both worlds you can just throw it in drive and go which is great for traffic or just cruzing but when you wanna just drive it like you stoll it rachet it back and shift when you want to and in my opinion if you have any plans of downshiting to say drift this is definately the way to go so i guess i have to say auto. but i also enjoy sticks i just aint to friendly to clutches

    • Kate

      Stick is always the way to go. You aren’t REALLY driving the car unless you have a manual. And why wouldn’t you want to REALLY drive a mustang?

  • Andy

    From a cruising around aspect I like my auto.

    But……..When im driving like a mad man i wish i had a stick. :(

    • William

      Well said

  • Russ

    I love having the stick because it makes the car fun to drive. That is unless there is a lot of traffic. I would not own a Mustang without a stick and V8 engine.

  • robert

    wat about when a auto has a shift kit shouldnt it perform better

    • William

      I’ve got an 04 auto with a built transmission and shift kit. I love the way it drives now :) It barks the tires going into second, and occasionally third, depending on the pavement type and road conditions. Sadly, the car isnt tuned, so the computer has adjusted over the past 2 months and she doesnt shift quite as hard now.

  • Shane

    Auto – Better Performance
    Manual – Better Fun

    At least with how the Auto trans have improved today. I’d still prefer a stick over paddle shifters any day.

    • Cody

      Wait. paddle shifters are way different than an auto trans. The paddle shifter is still considered a manual as far as i know. If the car has the right tune and on/off switches, its going to perform way better than an auto.

    • Kate

      Stick beats paddles. I don’t care what anyone says. And how nice is that heavy mustang clutch? :)

  • Tim

    I love standards but my Mustang has an automatic and I have come to enjoy it.
    Standards are certainly more fun to drive, but the automatic certainly has its advantages.

  • joel

    i prefer manual but from what i have been reading the advancements in the automatic transmissions are making them far superior to manual transmission because they shift smoother and do not have the human error involved. most “auto-stick” transmission are way better than manuals off the line and are nearly as much fun to drive.

  • http://BadPonyClub.com Jay

    I prefer a manual 99% of the time.. but when she was my DD, there were days that I wished I had gotten the slushbox.

  • Dylan

    i like my automatic, the 4r70w is good around town but it delays a little bit when i go wide open, and it shifts slower than newer autos, i hope it will be alot better when i add 4 10 gears and an SCT tuner

    • Chris

      I have the SCT X3 for my 2001 GT Auto and all I can say is wow, once you get the tuner and tune your car for firm shift points and to shift later in the gears, you will see how quick that auto really moves

      • Dylan

        thats what ive heared that it is the best thing to do with the auto, do you think it would be too much on the transmission to get it tuned, 4.10s and a shift kit or jmod all at the same time?

        • cameron

          i have a auto transmission 4.10 the car has a tune a runs great it cherps the tires going too second i love my auto

          • Cody

            just be careful with 4.10 gears if your just driving around because it kills you on gas mileage and will barely go over 90 or a 100

  • Andrew

    I have always been a manual guy but I do like autos. I love shifting when picking up speed, I do dislike driving in traffic because my knee feels like it’s about to give out because of the clutch. I however would prefer a manual over a auto and here’s why. 1. You are able to control the rate of your RPMs. 2. I feel you have more control over your vehicle because you are able to downshift which slows your car down faster and less wear on your break pads. So in the end I feel more safer in a manual car than auto, plus my mustang is muscle you need stick! lol

    • Diego

      Why would you want to down shift to slow down? brake pads are cheaper than a clutch disc…Do it right…press the brake pedal to slow down. The cluch shouldn’t be use to slow the car down, that’s what the brake pads are for.

      • Cody

        Apparently you dont understand how to drive a stick diego because you dont just throw it in first and pop the clutch. You slowly down shift and leave it in gear especially down long hills or mountains. I know what your saying Andrew. The only time i wish i had an auto is late at night coming home from somewhere when im barely awake.

      • M. Dixon

        It’s called engine braking and you’re meant to do it. Where did you get your license, Disney World?

      • hdude

        Clutches (drive properly of course) also last LONGER then brake pads….so the comparison is also somewhat pointless.

  • Eric

    A Mustang just doesn’t feel complete without a manual transmission. You can feel the rumble in the engine in the palm of your right hand. It may be better in bumper-to-bumper traffic but the automatic still falls short trying to put a smile on a true driver’s face.

  • Chris H.

    Welcome to 2011…auto’s (5R55S) have tunability that manuals can only dream of…with the right upgrades, there is nothing better than an auto on the street or the strip…the folks who like to bash auto’s are stuck 40 years in the past…while ur playin around with ur stick pretending u have a truly fast Mustang, the guy with the tuned auto just blew ur doors off ; )

    • brian

      or your daddy just never taught you to drive a manual so you drive a slush box like all the other girls.mustangs are meant to be manuals if you cant handle one consider an old man car like a vette or a girly ride like an eclipse

  • http://Facebook Henry

    For a vehicle that I have to drive a lot during the day I prefer an automatic. But on the weekends when I jump into my modified Mustang I want the standard tranny with my Spec 2 clutch. To me driving a Mustang GT or Cobra with an auto is just plain old UNAMERICAN!

  • John E.

    My auto shifts a red line all by it self, someone in a stick would have to be a very good shifter to beat it. I do wish it was a stick when driving in the Texas hill country, would save on my brakes. I got a auto because it was my daily driver and I have a bad knee, can drive stick no problem but it just made more sence to save on the pain of shifting.

  • Adam Begas

    Driving stick (for me) has never been about performance. I have always felt like I am in charge when driving a stick. You just have more control over the car and what it does. I drive stick through traffic every day and would never switch to automatic trans.
    I don’t even care if auto’s start beating out manuals on the track. I’ll always own a stick shift as long as they’re made.

  • Jerry H

    After 25 years of being able to drive and always wanting a Mustang, I just bought a 2011 V6. Had to have stick for my first Mustang. Automatic would have been OK, but come on it’s a Mustang.

  • Carrie

    I’m with Russ, I will not have a Mustang without a stick and a V8. Speed, power, traffic, whatever….it’s just the principle of the thing. A musclecar should be manual.

  • Rockford Hall

    Stick shift, no traction control, no ABS, I want to drive the car. It won’t be long before we will not be able to buy a car like that.

  • Paul

    Manual is definitely better other than in heavy traffic.
    1)More fun to drive, automatics are boring any1 can drive one
    2)Sounds better when you shift
    3)Sounds awesomje when you downshift
    4)If you can drive manual good it is faster then automatics for the most part
    5)You cant put an automatic in neutral while coming to a stop and reving it like you can in a manual without damaging your tranny
    6)When have you ever seen an automatic car in a racing movie? lmao

  • john

    I have a stick and would not trade it for a auto. I also think it helps with the gas milage.
    I also drive a truck for a living, with a 13 speed. So the Mustang is almost like a automatic!LOL

  • michael

    Well, I have a new 2010 GT with auto transmission. I have also tuned it with an sct tuner. I used to drive my brothers 04 mustang cobra to high school every day, so I did get moderately good with the shifting.

    BUT…….I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to go faster than my 2010 GT in the “shifting department” if I was to ever get a manual transmission.

    At first I was a little bit bummed out cause I thought I made a horrible mistake buying an auto tranny, but once I got that baby tuned up, man…..I was amazed!

    Pros:
    1. Never get tired of driving.
    2. Go faster than someone with a manual transmission. (for the most part)
    3. Never lose a race because you messed up shifting.
    4. Never worry about someone burning out your clutch if they use it (like my sister taking it for a week across the state..girls can’t drive worth crap).
    5. when driving in curvy roads…like mountain areas surrounding San Diego….you can usually drive faster and safer since you don’t have to worry about shifting.

    Cons:
    1. you can’t rev your engine at a stop light lol
    2. you can’t downshift to slow your car…wears down breaks.
    3. you can’t cruise at 3000RPM to show people your nice exhaust (well, you can…but it feels odd using the auto shifter)
    4. its not as fun to drive. THIS IS THE BIGGEST CON. Imagine riding a Honda or Yamaha 450cc quad in the desert with an automatic transmission….Just the thought of it makes me gag…the same applies with a car.
    5. YOU DONT FEEL SPECIAL DRIVING IT. My 19 year old little white (108lb) GirlFriend…WHO FREAKIN’ BUMBS TAYLOR SWIFT IN MY CAR WHEN SHE USES IT…… always wants to drive it. You don’t feel macho if you’re lil girlfriend can drive it just as fast as you can TOO! LOL!

  • Alex

    automatic. stock for stock, a manual will be faster, but you never miss a shift in an auto. ever. a properly built and tuned automatic will beat pretty much any driver in a similarly equipped manual. also, downshifting in a manual to slow down is just foolish. all for what? to save $100 on brake pads once, twice a year? boy, sure hope you don’t lug your engine and get a valve float condition. that’d sure put a damper on your day

  • jake

    the problem with autos is that anyone can drive one. It takes a skilled driver to drive a stick. plus its fun flying through gears on an open road, dumping the clutch and hearing your tires squeel while your engine is high in the rpm’s! The one advantage of autos are girls are able to drive it

  • erik

    My mustang is standard and I love it! I dont live in a big city so its nice just to punch it and shift and everything, its just adrenaline filling. On the other hand some days I wish I had a auto just cause its relaxing and cause I’m lazy. I think whenever I buy a newer stang it’ll still be a stick. They’re just so fun!

  • Eric

    Lol it’s pretty funny how all you man. guys are crying that they like it more…maybe just mad cause the auto can beat your stick?!? And my auto is pretty fun to drive ;)

  • John

    Hands down I am a Manual transmission guy. My first car (95 v6 mustang) was stick and I loved it, so when I moved up to a newer GT I wouldn’t even bother to look at the price or information on any car if it said automatic. There is a reason that all Shelby’s are manual, because it is for the real driver. Automatic just bores me.

  • Wayland

    I wanna see a Mustang with EcoBoost.

    • Kevin Fritsch

      Now they have one

  • Danny

    I just bought an 07 v6. . .I went into the dealer looking for a manual gt but when looking at the reality of taking an 1 1/2 to go 15 miles in morning central jersey traffic it just made more sense. . .but damn I wish I had a five speed when I want to get on her!!!

  • Kevin

    I gotta say Auto, sure Manual is fun however add a shift kit and tune and you got a crisp hard fast shifting transmission that will never miss a beat, Esp if you drive it like a manual starting in 1 and making your way up. I had a 95 Tbird with the 4R70W, threw a Performance Automatic Street/Strip Valve body and a hypertech chip in, and i was barking 2nd and chirping 3rd in D. Now i have an 04 Stang with the 4R75W and it already can Bark 2nd with a preditor tune, just waiting to J-Mod the Trans and it will shift great, plus i can manually shift if i want to. Best of both worlds haha.

  • Jose (Popeye)

    Gotta go loyal to the stick shift! Mustangs are meant to be driven and though the auto has it’s advantages, I’d still rather drive my Vivian in any Boston, NYC, Miami, Phoenix or San Diego traffic. No pun intended to all you auto fans!

  • Matt

    I prefer the manual transmission on the 2006 mustang gt. It gives me the freedom to drive for gas mileage or drive for speed. Plus it’s just fun to drive. But I live in the backroads of North Carolina so I don’t encounter barely any traffic, only when I go into town. Even then it’s not heavy traffic. If i lived in NYC or a heavy traffic area I would definitely have an automatic. It all depends on where you live and how you drive.

  • Jake J

    Manual is definately the way to go, everything I’ve enjoyed driving since I got my liscense has been a stick, the ranger, fox body and 01 gt convertable. When u own any muscle car, the stick just adds to the experience, a better way to feel the power of your car. It may be a little harder to race, but once you build up experience, you’ll go right along with a fast shifting auto. Plus you typically get more respect for racing a stick because of the knowledge and performance you have to posess yourself. Its great taking ur beast out for a cruze and puttin her through the gears, there’s not much more I enjoy more than that, and lettin the car shift for me ain’t one of em.

  • Phil P

    The wife has an auto 2003GT hardtop. I have a stick 2004GT ‘vert. Mine is hopped up and loud…great fun for short cruises and trips to the beach. But I always drive hers on long trips. If you can afford it, get both. Best of all worlds!

  • Sebastion

    A ratchet shifter gives you the best of both worlds! Manually shift and fly through gears when you want to. Cruise and drive effortlessly when you want to.

  • Daniel C

    Maybe I’m still young enough, but I have NEVER once felt tired or annoyed by constantly shifting a manual in traffic. I consider shifting a safety feature because it keeps the driver from having a phone stuck in their hand the instant they get in the car, because God forbid they be forced to drive a car during their discussion about Wal Mart’s new low price while on the highway.

    New automatics are VERY impressive indeed. My preference though, is still with the manuals. I have never driven an automatic that did exactly what I wanted it to do exactly when I wanted it to do it. And that is very important to me. To me, the only way to get the proper gear for the proper amount of time is to take my hand, move the lever, and put it there until I want to move it. No automatic will ever do that for me. Plus, manuals still weigh less and absorb less power.

    • Adam Begas

      “I have never driven an automatic that did exactly what I wanted it to do exactly when I wanted it to do it”

      I couldn’t agree with you more on that one!

  • Bob

    I’ve got both and I prefer the manual. My truck is an automatic and I kinda feel like a I temporarily lose IQ points for letting it shift for me whenever I get in it.

    Now, my Mustang is a manual and I get a rush of adrenaline just walking up to it knowing that she and I are gonna have a little fun whether it be running to the store (the long way, of course) or taking a few backroads at slightly imprudent speed. The control factor makes me vote manual.

    And really, would Steve McQueen drive an automatic?

  • Jason

    I owned a manual 08′ GT and loved it. I also drove my buddy’s 06 GT auto and it was nice but seemed weird when I drove it. I live in the suburbs of Chicago where traffic is horrific and snowy in winter however I still love manual. Personally I have more fun driving manual. I will not bash auto because its just a personal preference. To answer Michael, I tought my 22yr old girlfriend how to drive manual, and she had a dealership go all the way to Detroit to get her brand new pony pkg 2010′ in stick ! Now she drives my 08′ GT500 just as good as me lol

  • Henry

    my first car is a 94 mustang gt 5.0 with the five speed stick. when i bought it i knew i had to learn to drive it but that came in about no time now i’m powershifting gears so fast when i floor it i surprise myself. it sux in traffic and on steep hills but other than that not many kids my age (18) in high school drive stick shift cars. lol only me and my bro drive stick out of 650 kids that drive to school lol that says alot. It keeps you in tune with the car, keeps you awake and engaged with the car plus its fun as hell too.

  • Stephanie

    You boys are real cute. Any guy that drives an auto or v6 mustang should just go ahead and drive a honda. I drive a 01 GT stick and i love it. Its pretty sad when my mustang is louder than all the guys’. Dont be a whimp and drive an auto, get a stick ;)

    • Mattslanina

      I drive an 07 V6 that’s an automatic Stephanie. I guess I’m a “whimp” huh? Even though I’m a firefighter, a powerlifter(with 4 state records), and am currently in the process of enlistment in the US Air Force Reserve. As a firefighter I get paid very little in comparison to most occupations therefore purchasing my first “nice” vehicle to get me from point a to point b was quite satisfactory to say the least. Now as my occupation requires me to drive fire trucks I must maintain a clean driving record so blasting down the street isn’t something I’m necessarily concerned about. So I guess I’ll sit my wimpy little 235lb self in my automatic V6 and drive leisurely to work where I’ll be responding to countless car accidents resulting from drivers who can’t control their speed. So stay safe out there Stephanie, and you’re welcome.

    • vanhalen

      No, you girls are real cute…. Thinking you know EVERYTHING about cars, and acting too cool for your own good because you drive a stick, lol. Get over yourself and grow up.

      Try living in Detroit (yes Motown) and commuting everyday with a STICK. Its not fun. I now save my manual transmission M5 (2006) for the weekends. My wife is looking at a manual 2012 GT…but after weighing options, the automatic seems better, especially since she commutes as well.

      BUT many people dont have that luxury of having both a weekend and daily driver.

      As for the “honda” comment, I drive an Accord…and I love it, lol.

      But…if you want to race, we would love to to put our new ‘stang up against yours and see what happens…. :)

      But seriously, drive safe, and check your ego at the door.

      Sidenote to Matt, Thank you for your continued service sir, both as a firefighter and as an airman.

  • Piotr Dieradzkk

    I just bought a 2007 Mustang GT about 2 months ago and it is my first car with a manual transmission. The first week was terrifying and I was beginning to regret my decision to get the car but after that first week I absolutely loved it. I never get bored driving and it feels so rewarding being able to control the car.

  • Matt

    I love my auto in traffic and on the strip. It shifts hard and never misses. With a tune you really can’t call it a slush box. Sometime I miss having a stick but it’s rare.

  • Bobby

    I see it as people who don’t like stick haven’t driven one very much. I have a 88 5.0 mustang with a 5 speed and i love it any time i drive any auto i get depressed, just isn’t the same. Plus with racing an auto takes away a good bit of power, you don’t have that in a manual, but again thats just my opinion.

  • Craig

    I have a 04 GT with an auto.I was bummed when I got it due to poor credit.I had to get this one being helped out on the credit and a stick wasn’t available.After getting tuned exhaust,tuned intake and a SCT tuner I kinda like it.Plus it’s black and loaded.I was suprised the way the car layed rubber in second with the traction control off.When I pay it off I will get a stick.I would like to get a 2011 but I want a Premium edition like I have.
    Craig

  • Alberto

    I’m 19 and I bought my first mustang last year in august 2010. It is a 2005 Mustang GT. One of the requirements when I was shopping was that it HAD TO BE a GT and IT HAD TO BE A STICK. A stick just makes everything more fun. However, there are days when I wish I had an automatic. Damn San Francisco traffic!!! That and I hate it when someone else is the DD and can’t shift properly!!! Makes the buzz go away hahah

  • http://roadrunner Don

    It’s all a matter of preferance. Mustangs are great cars, auto or stick,V6 or V8. At 81 years of age I bought my Mustage GT two weeks ago, It’s a 2007 cherry, in showroom condition with 5,880 miles on the car, never driven in the weather and I love it. it’s realy a new car.

    By the way it’s a std. tranny.

    • Dizzle

      Nice, 81 and still rockin’ a standard. Hopefully when I’m 81 stick cars will still be around!

  • Dizzle

    Unless you have a knee / leg problem, manual is the only way to go in a Mustang. I drive through Miami in AM and PM rush hour all the time, and it’s no big deal.

    • Tom

      Funny thing is I just tore my ACL in my right knee three days ago and I still insist on driving my manual stang! I can’t live down my stick

  • Tyler

    Auto is definitely a convenience when it comes to heavy traffic, but I think the fun of a manual makes up for it. So much more control over the car, and nothing is more fun than flying towards a corner going 90+, then heel-toe downshifting 3 gears in quick succession….Sounds badass too if you’re good at it :)

  • Jesse

    Hello!!! sports car = Manual… I live in L.A. during traffic I would love a autamatic but love stick the most.

  • Tom

    I have owned a 2000 azure blue automatic mustang and drove it five years til I hit a few deer. I then got a 2000 red manual mustang. Both were simple v6 3.8L and I love both. I’m the first in the family to become car a car enthusiast and the first to own some American muscle. They both run the same but I notice a slight speed increase in the stick. I feel more in control of the stick Stang and it makes driving more fun. The stick stang just feels right, like its the way mustangs were meant to be made and driven. I will never buy an automatic mustang again, at least not for myself.

  • Drew

    I love my 01 gt with the 5 speed and 3.73 gears in the back and a short shifter. I’ve been forced to drive a stick by my parents since 14 and I’ve never wanted anything different. I agree with a lot of people above that it does get annoying in traffic or a lot of stop lights. But when it comes to plain fun ill never take an automatic. My only true complaint about my manual is that my gf can’t drive it so I can never loan her my car if she needs it. I guess its my cars way of telling me I don’t need her behind the wheel anyways.