The introduction of the sixth generation Mustang for 2015 brought with it a bevy of changes to the iconic pony car. Along with a clean-sheet approach to its appearance, one of the key engineering focuses with the S550 Mustang was to improve ride and handling.
To that end the new car is both wider and lower, and for the first time in its fifty year run, every new Mustang now features fully independent rear suspension – an upgrade that’s been a long time coming, and one that was an ongoing item of contention among the Blue Oval faithful for many years.
Compared to its predecessor, the new car feels substantially more planted in the corners than the solid-axle Mustangs did, but as any gearhead worth his or her salt already knows, there’s always room for improvement.
Even on performance cars like the Mustang, the factory suspension tuning for the majority of new vehicles is designed to keep drivers out of trouble if things start to get unruly, and the easiest way to do that is to dial in the car for understeer at the limit. That’s perfectly fine for the majority of motorists, but for enthusiasts, understeer is more or less the opposite of fun.
“The roll stiffness of a vehicle determines not only the amount of body roll it exhibits but also understeer/neutral steer/oversteer,” says Ben Knaus at Hellwig. “Roll stiffness is determined by the entire suspension but a sway bar is there specifically to increase this.”
“In our sway bar design we increase the total roll stiffness as well as changing the front to rear ratio to bring the vehicle closer to a neutral steer setup. This allows the driver to corner faster and more confidently and makes the car more fun to drive,” he said. These adjustments can help tune the oversteer and understeer characteristics of your car.
The adjustments on the sway bars will provide varying levels of stiffness based on the setting used. These rates, noted below, are based on the installed strength of the bars, not the static rates. These rates include a 20% loss to account for bushing compliance, so they might appear to be different than other bars on the market that are listed at their static rate.
|Front Bar||Rear Bar|
|Part #56715 – 1-3/8-inch tube||Part #56815 – 1-inch tube|
|Firm –||489 lb/in||Firm –||273 lb/in|
|Middle –||432 lb/in||Middle –||226 lb/in|
|Soft –||391 lb/in||Soft –||174 lb/in|
We’re going install a set of Hellwig’s sways on a 2015 EcoBoost Mustang for an owner who’s looking to button down the handling a bit and make his car a little more receptive to the drifting he’s planning to do with it. While it’s a relatively painless procedure, there’s definitely some items of note along the way.
Front Sway Bar Installation
The good news here is that, on the whole, swapping out the front sway bar is an easier procedure than it was on previous Mustangs. These bars use the factory end links and do not require any drilling or cutting.
Once the car was up in the air, we cranked the wheel to the right to provide clearance through the wheel well to get the old sway bar out. We removed the subframe cover panel so the stock piece had enough room to be liberated from the car.
On this EcoBoost model we found that removing the airbox made accessing the bracket on the driver’s side an easier task. For V8 models, check for access and anything that is in the way can likely be easily removed for removal and installation.
Access from underneath on the passenger side was a breeze though – just make sure you have a very long socket extension to access the sway bar bracket bolts as well as the bolts attaching the sway bar to the subframe.
Now with everything unbolted the stock sway bar comes out by sliding it out through that gap we created on the driver’s side wheel well by cranking the wheel to the right, and the new bar goes in by reversing the process. Once the new bar is in place, we lubricated and installed the bushings using the factory hardware, torquing the bolts down to 35 ft-lb.
One particularly cool feature of Hellwig bars is that they use a hammertone powder coating on the bars because the small pockets in the finish help to trap the grease instead of squeezing it out when the bushing is clamped down. This helps ensure that the grease stays where it should, reducing the need to re-lubricate the bushings down the line.
This allows the customer to switch the front to rear bias depending on what track they’re on, who’s driving the car, or even change it between settings for track and daily driving. -Ben Knaus
Knaus explains the benefits as such, “In the case of the Mustang, both the front and rear bars have multiple attachment points for the end links. This allows the driver to tune their sway bar to fit exactly what they’re doing with the vehicle and their driving style. Basically, the different holes change the length of the effective arm of the sway bar, changing its rate. This allows the customer to switch the front to rear bias depending on what track they’re on, who’s driving the car, or even change it between settings for track and daily driving.”
Knaus recommends starting at the hole the furthest out before you start adjusting the settings. These bars are already stiffer than the factory bars and they will change the handling on the car. Once the new bar was hooked up to the the end links we centered the sway bar again, attached the collar clamps, and made sure everything was copacetic in terms of clearance with other systems under the car. With it all buttoned up we moved on to the rear sway bar installation.
Rear Sway Bar Installation
Although Hellwig’s instructions recommend dropping down the exhaust to get the new bar in, we were able to do it without going through that process. However, space is pretty tight back here, especially at the end links, so your application may vary.
We started by disconnecting the brake hose and its bracket, noting the orientation of the brake hose tabs before disconnecting the stock bar from the end links, as we’ll have need to flatten out the tab on one of them for clearance with the new sway bar.
The end links have ball-joint style ends and call for the use of an Allen wrench and box end to remove. Keep in mind that the Allen head socket in the bolt can easily be stripped, so make sure to use the Allen wrench to hold it in place, not to turn the bolt.
With that done, we removed the bolts attaching the factory sway bar to subframe and removed it from the car. After lubricating the bushings, the new bar gets attached to the subframe using supplied u-plates and factory hardware, torqued to 25 ft-lb.
Reattaching to the end links is just a reversal of the removal process, making sure to attach the brake hose bracket in the correct orientation. Once that’s out of the way, the bar gets centered and the collar clamps go back on. With everything back in one piece again, it’s time to head out for a test drive.
Out On The Road
Even utilizing the middle end link setting, the results are instantly noticeable out on the road. Body roll has been curtailed substantially and there’s more of an overall sense that the car is rotating on a pin in the center of the vehicle rather than it begin a tug-of-war between front end grip and on-throttle rotation from the rear.
The car owner was looking for better handling and less body roll so that he could try a little drifting with his car. When we asked how it handled with the new Hellwig Sway bars, he mentioned that it does allow him to drive a little faster in the turns because the car has leveled out substantially during hard cornering.
And contrary to what some people believe, swapping out the sway bars has minimal impact on the Mustang’s ride quality. For S-550 Mustang owners looking to upgrade their handling without affecting the suspension geometry and compliance, this is a great place to start.
Whether it’s the new 2015 Mustang or just about any other classic or modern musclecar, you can find a set of sway bars for hundreds of applications through the Hellwig Products website. If you’re not sure about your application, they’re always available to help you out and get your body roll under control.