2019 Ford Mustang GT – Manual or Automatic, Which Would We Choose


2019 Ford Mustang GT
The last of the manual transmission-equipped cars has not yet been built. Inevitably, that day will likely come, probably in the not too distant future. Lamborghini built their final manual transmission-equipped car in 2014. The last manual transmission Ferrari was built in 2007. For more than a decade all of the Prancing Horses leaving the Maranello factory have been equipped with automatic paddle shifting transmissions. In Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsports, teams have been using paddle shifting gear boxes for more than two decades. We all know the reason: automatic paddle shifting transmissions are quicker around a race track than row it yourself manual transmissions. But are they more fun and as engaging to use as manual transmissions? Many of you will answer no.

2019 Ford Mustang GT

For 2019 the Ford Mustang GT is available with a standard 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 10-speed automatic with paddle shifters. We had the opportunity of driving both cars back to back on a race track to see which one we thought was “better”.

2019 Ford Mustang GT

The 2019 Mustang GT is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.0 litre V8 engine that pumps out 460 horsepower at 7,000 rpm (using 93 octane fuel). Peak torque of 420 lb-ft comes in at 4,600 rpm (when using 93 octane fuel). All of that power and torque is sent to the rear wheels. For anyone interested in quickly burning through a set of rear tires, this is a great car in which to do that. Crank the wheel all the way to the left or right, mash the loud peddle deep into the carpet and enjoy the sights, sounds and smell of burning rubber as you laydown big black donuts on the pavement. But if you want to go as quickly as possible around a race track, you want to harness all of that horsepower and torque and be in total control of what’s happening with your rear wheels via your right foot.

The 2019 Ford Mustang GT Fastback comes standard with the 6-speed manual transmission with rev matching and a base MSRP of $40,289. The 10-Speed SelectShift Automatic Transmission is a $1,750 option which brings the base MSRP up to $42,039, plus fees and taxes.

A Mustang GT Fastback equipped with a 6-speed manual weighs in at 4,398 pounds (1,995 kg) and 4,475 pounds (2,030 kg) when equipped with the 10-Speed SelectShift automatic.

Drive mode settings include Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport, Track and Drag Strip. Because these weren’t our cars, and the track was a little slippery, we drove both cars in Sport mode which provided electronic nanny protection versus Track mode which would mean we were out there on our own, without a safety net.

The track at our disposal was the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Driver Development Race Track, which is located next to the main Grand Prix track, commonly referred to as Mosport. We started out in the Orange Fury 6-speed manual with rev matching. Most diehard fans of manual transmission know how to heal and toe. That is the art of braking with the left side of your right foot (your toe) while blipping the throttle with the right side of your right foot (your heel) as you brake when approaching a corner.
2019 Ford Mustang GT

The 6-speed manual in our Mustang was equipped with rev matching which means the driver does not have to heel and toe when braking. As you brake and downshift through the gears, the automatic rev matching takes care of blipping the throttle to increase the engine revs to match each downshift. The auto rev matching works well and relieves the driver of one responsibility of driving a manual car.

It was a cool day and the track was damp in spots. With so much torque and horsepower on hand, we wanted to keep the rear tires firmly planted under us. One of the key ingredients of going quickly around a race track is being smooth, on and off the throttle, steering inputs, gear changes, etc. You don’t want to unsettle the car (or the driver for that matter). It is important to accurately hit all of the braking zones, corner entry, apexes and exit points. This requires total concentration while trying to understand and manage the adhesion limits of the car.

As you know, in a car with a manual transmission, you use your left hand to steer, right hand to change gears, left foot to deploy the clutch and right foot to accelerate and brake. In an automatic transmission equipped car you steer with both hands always firmly placed on the wheel and you use your right foot for the accelerator and brake and your left foot on the dead pedal to brace yourself (some race cars drivers use their left foot to brake and their right foot for the accelerator). Advantage, automatic.

The 6-speed manual Mustang GT was a bit of handful, especially on the slippery track. I did not feel that I was able to extract the best lap times with the manual equipped car. I have been driving manuals all my life but in this case, I was the weakest link in this drivetrain. With so much power and torque driving the rear wheels, I never really felt as though I could drive this car as hard and aggressively as I wanted to.

Up next was the 10-speed automatic in Velocity Blue. Behind the wheel of this car I immediately felt much more comfortable and was quickly able to be more aggressive with the loud pedal. I was harder on the brakes entering the corner, and harder on the gas exiting the corner, because I wasn’t responsible for managing the transmission downshifts and upshifts. That allowed me to focus on driving the proper racing line and not having to worry if I was in the best gear for that section of the race track. Every lap in this car brought a big smile on my face because I could be so much more aggressive and have so much more fun. Laps in the manual car were much more nerve-racking and I never felt like I was extracting the best performance out of the car. That was not the case with the 10-speed automatic, I was on it from the start and got quicker and quicker and more confident with each flying lap. I could easily imagine running a 1-hour race in this car, but an hour racing behind the wheel of the 6-speed manual would be much more tiring, harder work, and slower.

2019 Ford Mustang GT

Following our laps around the track I had the opportunity of driving both cars on the roads around Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. In this setting, the 6-speed manual is a more engaging route to go. But on a daily basis, commuting in heavy stop and go traffic, it is probably best only for the real die-hard enthusiasts. The automatic is less engaging, but with so many gears to go through, paddle shifting up and down through the gears makes the experience feel very racy and the sounds that are generated form the exhaust with each paddle shift are very rewarding with this big powerful V8.

If driver engagement is your number one priority, a 6-speed manual is likely the best route to go. If you have any aspirations of being quick at a race track at the odd track day, the Mustang GT equipped 10-speed automatic will probably get you around the quickest, and allow you to really focus on the racing line, and hopefully, on having fun. The great thing is, both of these cars are rewarding to drive, in either configuration. Changing gears manually like they do in NASCAR or paddling up and down through the cogs like they do in F1, these cars are racy. Open the windows, get aggressive with the throttle, enjoy the enthusiastic soundtrack from the tailpipes and miles of smiles should follow.
There are dozens of cars still being offered with manual transmissions from manufacturers including BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Genesis, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Mazda, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen. If you are a diehard manual transmission driver, then enjoy them while you can.

2019 Ford Mustang GT

PHOTOGRAPHS © Copyright 2019 Automobile Journalists Association of Canada

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