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’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 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?

  • Brooke

    ’01 Mustang v6 Auto, this is what I started off with. I knew I wanted a mustang ever since I knew the difference between models of cars. I’ve traded up for a ’07 Mustang GT Standard. Wouldn’t trade it for the world! Love the darned thing to death. I miss my little v6 from just being my first car but after 6yrs with it and now this… I’ll keep the standard. And as for Michael who posted on Jan. 6. Girls can’t drive… I’ll beat you in a race B*tch! LOL You really shoud be careful on what you post, one day you’ll actually have it happen. Karma!

    • Brooke

      Oh, yea… 5.4L DOHC bored a rated 6.0L with R2300 s/c. Bring it!

  • http://N/A Brad Wolser

    I also have allway’s had a standard shift. My car is built from front to back. I am getting 560 at the rear wheel’s. I have a tci shifter and with out having to worry about gear’s I have beat up other stang’s all the time. The only thing is with the whipple you have to drive the car with alot of respect, because I can’t clutch it when to much power get’s to the road. And there one more set back with an auto, horse power…I am running 11psi going to go to 17psi I will see how long my tranny will hold together then, but the guy’s at steeda no how to get a really good tune !!!

  • John Beachler

    I love stick. I grew up with stick. My last Mustang was a 2008 with 5 speed, and my first Ford. Really fun to drive, and it never bothered me to have all that shifting in heavy traffic. Bought a 2011 V6 as soon as they were available, and got the auto so my wife could drive it, as a clutch is pretty hard on a person who has had a total knee replacement. Just passed 10K miles, and I admit it’s still plenty of fun to drive, and with the Bama tune, the auto is pretty darn good. There are times when it is nice to just throw it in drive and go, probably a sign of my advancing age. BUT, there are days when I really wish I could have a stick in my right hand, preferably holding a classic Hurst ball.

  • Rich S

    I’m a die-hard stick-shift guy since I started driving in 1975. The only automatic I own is a Ford Expedition. My 05 GT is a daily driver with 130K on it and downtown Wash DC traffic hasn’t made me flinch abit. When I bought the car, it was Nov 04 and they disappeared in 30 mins of hitting the showroom, so there was no pickin’ what you wanted…would I own an auto? not on your life…

  • Aaron M

    I started out with a 2003 Black v6 stang. then just last year i got a 2006 5speed Shelby GT Mustang for my 18th b-day. i love the stick and would not trade it for the world.

  • Tony

    I run an automatic in my fox. There’s nothing wrong with and automatic.If you drag race that’s what you’re going to want to run anyway to be consistant.

  • Brett

    First car I ever drove was an ’89 4cyl with 5 speed. Now I own a 97 6cyl with 5 speed. I will own and drive manuals until there are no transmissions in cars all together! Adds a whole different feel so even with daily driving I feel more connected. And when I’m on the autcross course there is no comparison. I’ve heard preferences for not having to worry about shifting. Really the automatics are just never in the right gear for a turn and lose out to a manual.

    • clay breshears

      I drive a 07 Shelby GT automatic. Mods include bama tune, motion delete plugs, bassani cat deletes, and all the mods that came from it being a shelby gt(3.55 gears, 85mm cold air intake, ford racing suspension, gta exhaust). my buddies 09 GT 5 speed has a BRENSPEED tune, motion delete plugs ford racing suspension, slp loudmouth exhaust, frpp hot rod cams, and steeda under drive pulleys, and 3.73 gears. Theonly reason he beats me is the cams and 3.73s. All it takes is one bad shift and i win, but to each his own.

  • David Jones

    I am currently building a very built 04 Mach1. Everything you can think about doing is being done and the car will make somewhere around 800 bwhp when she’s done. I currently have a stick and love the sound when im shifting, boy do I turn heads. But will be going full built auto for consistent times at the track…and I am getting old also. Oh, BTW…the car is still street legal.

  • Derek

    true, the automatic is more consistent. only because its for old people. of course theauto is more consistent on the strip, god i feel like it would get so boring just pushing the pedal down and getting within a .001 of your last time. the best part about the track IS inconsistency, cause then when you nail 3 or four perfect shifts in a row, best feeling.

  • Alekz

    I had foxes, sn95’s with both manual and auto, now im currently driving a 05 gt auto,with a pypes muffler delete system and a ford racing intake. And i still can downshift, it’s still fun to drive! plus if im coming; belive me, you will hear me blocks away. Oh! and i’m not old.

  • Mike

    My 2003 v6 was my first car. Since that was an auto I want to get a manual now. I just feel board at the wheel and pretend to shift. I now am going to sell my car to my brother so he can enjoy his first mustang.

    • Black-Ice

      have to agree same boat as you. Got a 2001 soft top stang fake shifting down the highway dieing for a manual..selling it to the lil bro and getting a manual 09 this weekend

  • http://none Russell Loveday

    I’ve had a stick for the last 10 years, got my 09 Mustang GT, decided to go with the auto. Modified the car with a TCI ratchet shifter, now, I kinda have the best of both worlds, when I’ve feeling frisky, I can manually shift, not quite the same thing, I know, but…… and when I’m feeling lazy or dont want to deal with traffic, ect, I can just do my own thing, without having both hands tied up all the time. IMO, it really depends on what someone likes, I love the control of the manual, but, it it nice to not have to deal with shifting all the time also, so, guess I’m kinda in the middle area. Added Comp Cams Mutha Thumpr cams, (Breenspeed tune) and straight piped the exhaust, its mild in auto mode, and if I wind out the gears, it screams and scares little kids. Personally, I love it.

  • Kevin Nugent

    Driving a v6 2004 manual. Wouldn’t trade it for an automatic. Even though I do agree with the post, I find driving a stick more enjoyable then just putting the car into drive.

  • JoNNy

    2008 GT/CS soft top Auto love it with the SCT tuner full exhaust W/ nice Intake. with the car don’t have *Tune* then yes I would have to say it don’t feel so good, but when it is tuned OMG it feels really nice. but for the 5.0 2011+ the 6 speed I would drive around in manual. BTW check out the shift kit for automatic you can find it in this site

    • DANNY


  • Speed Demon

    I drive a 09′ GT/CS automatic fully tuned, i prefer them cause i can launch and not miss a shift during racing!!!!! haven’t lost a race yet cause it’s an automatic.


  • Rockford Hall

    I want to drive the car and bend it to my will… stick.

  • Justin Reeves

    Stick….I love my T-56. After driving my sister’s 2010 GT the auto just feels sluggish (it is a stock car however).

  • Mark

    I have an automatic 2000 mustang GT, 4R70W trans and stock, I think it is a terrible transmission. The transmission is in overdrive at 30 mph going uphill under normal acceleration! What is the cause of this ridiculousness? The fluid is regularly changed, torque converter and all, new filter, and it still persists… valve body maybe? it kills my mileage and makes me sound like a tractor coming up over the hills with my SLP loudmouths. If I had it to do over again I would have held out for the Tremec Manual, better value. However I have driven a 2007 GT with the 5R55S trans and I was very impressed with that one, it seems a lot stronger in the guts than the previous automatics.

    • Justinschmidt9

      I believe a well built 4r70w is FAR stronger than a 5r55s….

    • Vickchicklets89/5.0

      Take it out of overdrive. Overdrive is for the freeway:P

  • Dj

    Stick all the way, had a 04 auto v6 loved it, but then got a 09 gt and things changed, just cruising on the highway and another coupe pulls up and that’s when things would get interesting, dropping a gear and flooring it just to feel that power and seeing the astonished look because their auto wasent capable of it was priceless. And to all the people talkin about traffic, I love traffic! No matter what cars are near me I always got people peering into my car, usually they look twice when they see it’s standard. Plus it just has that wow factor when people step into my car, I’m not sure about others but I get a small sense of pride and accomplishment when someone says you drive stick?! Just an enthusiasts opinion.

    • Justinschmidt9

       Im confused, did you just say an auto transmission isnt capable of down shifting and going wot? lol

      • Eric Ivey


    • Justinschmidt9

       Im confused, did you just say an auto transmission isnt capable of down shifting and going wot? lol

    • Eric Ivey

      That’s so cute I think I know why they ask if you drive a stick and it’s not the car lol. It’s funny all these sticks think their tough but drop a shift kit a ratchet shifter (for fun) and as you start to down shift you notice the auto pulling away and once you get it into the lower gear you’ll realize the autos gone so you have to convince your girl you was picking on the Honda

  • 07 GT Dave

    Muscle car, auto transmission ? Like takeing a shower wearing a raincoat…

  • tyler

    Manual all the way! Auto’s are great until you forget and slam on the brake thinking its the clutch.

  • Keven

    Manual is the only way. if your saying an auto is better for racing or whatever thats a shame. slamming your foot to the floor and waiting till you make it to the finish doesnt really make you any good. real drivers at a track will drive manuals and have 100x more respect for other people who have manuals. Also if your driving stick you dont have a hand to text with :p

  • http://MyYahoo Robert

    Manual transmission is far better. No sense in having a sports car that you just sit back and drive like a family sedan. It may be a pain in city driving but deal with it. Take it out on the back roads and drive the way it was meant to be driven. Enjoy your Mustang the way it was meant to be enjoyed!!

  • chris

    Stick all the way lets see you bark fourth in a auto

  • Bob

    My manual mustang gt feels a lot faster than my friends automatic, so i would say manual. And as far as using the clutch in traffic, it is not that bad.

  • Sandy Fox

    I prefer the automatic since Im a girl.

  • Delsie Maidens

    Manual all the way. While a car with an automatic transition is easier to drive, manual gear box gives you the feeling of being one with the car. Especially if it’s a fast sports car, no modern gizmo should spoil the fun of driving it on the road. 

  • pharmd

    It all depends on the car.  There are some horrible long throw trans. out there.  1997-2004 corvettes have manual transmission like a truck.  The mazda miata was a pleasure.  My current car is a 2007 mini cooper S with a manual and it great…but not as good as the miata.
    As much as I like to drive manual, its a chore in the city.  Especially since your driving from one stop light to the other on the way to work.  In addition, some great advancements have been made in the auto department and now some auto’s are faster then the manuals.
    This is why I would seriously consider the 2013 mustang GT with the auto transmission.

  • Cowgirlj

    As owning a 96 v6 manual mustang, sadly wrecking that and now I have a 04 v6 auto I would take my 96 manual over the newer car any day. It may be nicer but sticks are just way more fun to drive and if your gonna own a sports car why not. And I loved being able to say that I can drive a manual and I’m a girl. It’s not like it’s hard..

  • Justinschmidt9

    Say what you want but my auto car ran 11.35@ 121 MPH, stock longblock with a vortech, dynoed around 380 rwhp with some slicks and a converter.  This is with a PI 4.6 2v….you wont see many manual cars getting anywhere near that with that kinda power.

  • derrick sanderson

    I have Both..2010 Mustang Gt..5speed and a 1998 Mustang Gt converitable..I couldn’t pass up the 1998 in BLACK/BLACK it was awesome the price and mileage and wasnt dog out with differrent wheels and fire I can’t stand kids in my 2010 Mustang one respects your car not even your friends..who drive I said thats it,no one gets in it at all. Just me ..SO there..

    • Tyler Wilkins

      I missed the part where you talked about transmissions.

  • Ken Clark

    Auto the manual is made for kids

  • vanhalen

    Its all about personal preference, locations, driving habits, and the actual car.

    Some may enjoy driving a manual in heavy traffic…Well here in Detroit it absolutely sucks. I wouldnt mind driving an automatic mustang to work daily. The pro is that you can actually enjoy the ride. Sure a manual would be fun, but you have to look at your needs and if its practical.

    There are no right or wrong answers here.