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Here's How Adaptive Cruise Control Works in a Manual Ford Mustang

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2018

I've recently been driving around in a 2018 Ford Mustang GT that has a combination of two interesting features: a manual transmission and adaptive cruise control. You already know what a manual transmission is; if you don't know what adaptive cruise control is, it's a feature that uses radar to slow you down or speed you up based on the speed of traffic in front of you.

The weird thing about this feature is obvious: How can a car with a clutch pedal use adaptive cruise control? It's one thing for a manual car to have cruise control, which keeps the car at a constant speed. But cruise control where it slows the car down and speeds it up? How does that work with a clutch pedal? I took the Mustang on a long trip and made liberal use of adaptive cruise control, and here's what I discovered.

First, Ford's adaptive cruise control disengages any time the clutch pedal is pressed. So if you engage adaptive cruise control on the highway and you're in fourth, and it comes time to upshift, cruise control turns off when you shift into fifth or sixth. If you want to re-engage it, you have to turn it back on after you're done with your shifting.

The bigger question I had, however, is: What happens to adaptive cruise control in a manual car as you begin to slow down to a stop? I had adaptive cruise control engaged when I was in sixth gear and approaching slowed traffic, and I got an answer to my question: It disengages. Admittedly, it does not disengage right away; it initially slows you down just like any other adaptive cruise control system would.

But at some point, when the revs are getting too low to keep the engine going and you're approaching the point where you simply must push down the clutch pedal or risk stalling, the system makes a "ding" noise and you're on your own. This isn't that surprising -- it's how adaptive cruise control systems used to be, before they could stop and start for you -- and it's how this one is now.

As a result, the adaptive cruise control system in the Mustang is compromised a bit: You can't use it in heavy traffic, since you're always on and off the clutch, and that disengages the system. And you can't rely on it to bring you to a complete stop, so you have to pay a little more attention than you would in a normal adaptive cruise control vehicle. But in spite of its limitations, I love the feature -- and I love that Ford offers it at all on a vehicle with three pedals.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's How Adaptive Cruise Control Works in a Manual Ford Mustang - Autotrader