Tom Wilson
February 24, 2012

Steering precision and reduced lateral body motions over bumps were the main gain from the Panhard bar and stiffening the shocks. This is more difficult to feel or single out in your mind compared to the springs or rear sway bar, but are important in reducing lap times or building driver enjoyment on the street. Furthermore, our experience with the Panhard bar may have been a fluke of our test; Maximum Motorsports says they almost always detect an immediate sense of confidence and fewer mid-corner corrections from fitting the Panhard bar and we certainly felt it was an important part of the suspension on our now-retired '96 open-track car.

Shock tuning is always a subtle thing, and we opted to set the Tokicos on their softest settings until late in the day. With all the hardware we were going to get on the car installed we turned the front shocks from full soft to full hard (from 1 to 5) and that helped calm the front end a little bit, gaining our fastest time of day. Turning the rear shocks from soft to hard in the same fashion was our final test, and it was the only one that didn't return better feel or a faster lap time. Both the feel and lap times were nearly identical to the previous setting, and we'd have to say such a small difference is within our margin of error, both in feel and driving consistency. Likely the shock settings would vary from track to track depending on how bumpy they are. Previously on the street we've found the Tokicos best at medium to soft settings.

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We felt badly about not getting to the front sway bar and especially the rear lower control arms. Previous experience and talking with Maximum Motorsports indicates the front sway bar would have increased understeer at the autocross, and thus slowed us down. But on the street where it's impossible to corner as aggressively, the larger front bar would sharpen steering turn-in, which feels great. The rear lower control arms aid precision and would likely show up mainly as steadier mid-cornering action. Our previous experience indicates the lower control arms are beneficial for any handling duty while a larger front sway bar is usually too much roll stiffness.

At the end of our autocrossing day we were certainly smarter about how suspension parts interact. A simple test, it reinforced our belief that far too many enthusiasts concentrate on underhood improvements when there are just as great gains to be had in the wheelwells. 5.0

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Horse Sense: While changing springs Ricardo pointed out that the Tokico shocks we were looking at were the exact same set that we photographed for a suspension story on this car back in 2001. Can a decade really go by that fast?

Leveling Up

Maximum Motorsports has always done a great job of bundling its various suspension bits into sensible kits or boxes as they call them. The most popular of these is the Road & Track; pretty much what we tested in this story. The Road & Track box is a spring, sway bar, and shock group, along with some chassis stiffeners. It re-tunes the stock Mustang suspension design for more responsive handling and is both affordable and effective as our results show. To fit Ricardo's New Edge the R&T box lists for $2,446.72 and we recommend it for anyone looking for a nice gain in daily driving street handling or light open track duty.

But there is another step up from re-tuning the stock suspension and that's Maximum Motorsports' Maximum Grip box which is more of a suspension replacement. Here the main player is a torque arm rear suspension that replaces the '04 and earlier Mustangs schizophrenic four-link rear suspension, plus a geometry-restoring K-member for the front suspension. Much more involved than the R&T box, the Maximum Grip box lists for $4,664.84 and must be strongly considered by anyone serious about handling either on the street, strip or especially a road course. It will transform your Mustang.