When I learned that we were getting an automatic Mustang, I've got to admit I was disappointed by the choice of transmission. While I've learned to appreciate automatics from time to time, given a choice I'll almost always pick the stick. It's not always the fastest way to go, but it's usually the most fun. Still, the 10-speed had me curious, being a new transmission, and even more than that, the "Drag Mode" that comes with the automatic and Performance Pack-equipped car (i.e. ours).

For those who may have forgotten, or simply haven't heard of it, Ford announced the Mustang's new Drag Mode when it revealed the 0-60 mph time for the 2018 Mustang GT. It touted it as being the way to get the fastest shifts and most torque to the pavement. It sounded like fun, and there was only one appropriate place to test it.

So we went to Milan Dragway, a countryside drag strip near Milan, Michigan. Among the trees and farm fields is a quarter-mile plus of sticky tarmac for hustling hot rods down. I took our Orange Fury Mustang GT there during a test and tune night when people come out just to do practice runs with their cars, not as much for racing. I was hoping to get in as many runs in as possible and to see if Drag Mode would have much of an effect on my times as a pretty amateur drag racer. And by amateur, I mean, I've taken my personal cars to drag strips a few times for fun, but I'm not an expert at nailing launches, doing burnouts to heat the tires, and I don't have the timing on the lights down.

After paying my entry fee of $30 and a quick check over at the tech inspection station, I rolled on over to the staging lanes to wait my turn at the lights. Around me were a variety of racers running everything from a V8-swapped Suzuki Sidekick to modified Hayabusas. I decided I would do my first base run in Sport mode. I sidestepped the water box because I wasn't going to do a burnout, but I wanted to actually still have traction leaving the start line. I pulled up to activate both staging lights, and let the lights drop. At green, I stepped off the brake and jammed down the gas, letting the 10-speed automatic sort itself out as the speeds climbed. After getting back on the brakes past the finish line, I looped around to pick up my time slip which said I tripped the lights in 12.849 seconds at 111.68 mph. Not bad for a bone-stock car that wasn't even in hardcore Drag Mode.

  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts
  • Image Credit: Reese Counts


So I line up again and waited for my next run. Since there are only two lanes and lots of drivers, it takes quite a while. This second time, I activate Drag Mode, expecting to see a noticeable change in time. I line up at the lights, go from the brake to the gas on green just like last time. This time, it feels like the car launches harder, and each subsequent shift is fast and hard. The tires chirp each time, and you can really feel every shift. It's definitely more exciting than in Sport mode. I slow down past the finish line and swing around for my time slip. The result: 12.979 at 112.63 mph. "Huh," I thought to myself, "That's not what I was expecting."

At this point, I paused to go grab some B-roll, but I knew I had to do at least one more run before leaving. Especially since I was wondering if maybe I got a little water on the tires or something that made my run a tad slower. The sun was setting and I hopped back in line for one more run before the track shut down. Once again, I put it in Drag Mode, and launched it like I had the last couple times. The launch and the feel felt just as rough and exciting as the last Drag Mode run. At the timing booth, I got my slip, and saw I managed my best time of 12.828 at 112.10 mph. And, yes, that's only about .02 of a second faster than the Sport mode run.

Now, of course this isn't the most scientific test, since that would require far more test runs in many more modes, but that's not necessarily possible at a public test and tune, and certainly won't be the experience for the average Mustang owner. And it's possible that someone with more drag racing experience could manage a better launch and find a way to get a little advantage with Drag Mode. But if you're an amateur just looking for some fun, like myself, Drag Mode isn't going to help you much. But on a subjective basis, Drag Mode sure made those 12 seconds a lot more exhilarating, so it's still worth playing with if you get the automatic. And if you ever want to get into bracket drag racing, which is about getting as close to the same time over and over, not outright speed, this transmission proved to be astonishingly consistent.

It's definitely worth trying it out at the drag strip. I had a great time with the Mustang there. Besides it being a fun car to run, it's a blast to see so many other interesting cars. I saw everything from a show-ready custom C7 Corvette convertible to a V8-swapped Geo Tracker two-door. The air is full of rumbling exhaust, screeching tires and the distinct, sweet smell of high-octane fuel. It's a little slice of car guy heaven.

So to recap, the Mustang, regardless of transmission, is a hoot at the drag strip, capable of quick times even in the hands of an amateur. Drag Mode doesn't really do any good for an amateur, but man does it make the experience more visceral and fun. And perhaps more important is that going to the drag strip is fun, regardless of the car you're in, so try it out some time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to be checking Milan's schedule for upcoming events.

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