Is Independent Rear Suspension Good for Next Generation Ford Mustang?
by Patrick Rall
While Ford Motor Company hasn't offered up any information about the next generation of the Ford Mustang, rumors suggest that when the "next Mustang" hits the streets in 2014, independent rear suspension (IRS) will be a standard feature. Considering how many modern vehicles use IRS setups, it seems like a no-brainer that the classic American performance car would have this modern handling technology, but is standard IRS in the next Mustang what the American performance car segment wants?
The argument for the independent rear suspension is that it allows the wheels to respond to the surface of the road independent from each other. When a car with a solid rear axle, such as the 2011 Shelby GT500, hits any uneven pavement the entire rear axle moves - at least a little - and that means that both rear tires are affected - at least a little. On the other hand, an IRS setup allows one wheel to travel without any effect on the other rear wheel, so you still have ideal grip with that other tire, where a solid rear axle may cause compromised grip. Sounds perfect, right?
Considering that Ford's highest performance Mustang of all time, the 2011 Shelby GT500, and the best handling Mustang of all time, the 2012 Boss 302, both have solid rear axles, it is harder for Ford to defend the change from a standard solid axle to a standard independent axle. If IRS is so perfect, then why don't the Mustangs made for high performance come with IRS?
The answer lies in the hands of the average Mustang owner. While IRS is great for handling life's turns, be it on the open roads or private road courses, this setup is less than ideal for launching in a straight line. When you launch with a solid rear axle, when one tire lifts due to wheel spin it can have a reverse affect on the other wheel, so it essentially improves traction for activities like drag racing.
The Ford Mustang is designed and built for performance, and even though Ford has always focused on balanced performance from their legendary pony car, far more Mustang owners take to the drag strip than they do the road course or autocross track. A better handling Mustang is great, but when the majority of Mustangs owners who race are more worried about a good hard launch than they are the ability to get through a turn slightly faster, Mustang enthusiasts have long benefited from the solid rear axle.
Ford has previously offered IRS in the 2003 and 2004 SVT Cobra's, better known as "Terminators", with a vastly underrated 390hp. The Terminator is one of the fastest production cars of all time, but when it came to the drag strip, the 03-04 Cobra took a very good driver with an ideal launch to get the best drag strip times. Some owners of the Terminators would buy IRS braces or even solid rear axle swaps to improve their launching ability. At the end of the day, the solid rear axle offers an advantage over the IRS on the drag strip.
Making IRS standard in the 2014 Ford Mustang would improve the handling of the historic pony car, but it could conceivably turn off those enthusiasts who want a good drag strip car.
What do you think? Are you for or against IRS in the next gen Stang? Voice your opinion here!