Pros and Cons of Air Ride SuspensionsLast Updated October 3, 2023 | Meghan Drummond
Adding an air ride suspension is a popular modification for Mustangs and other performance vehicles. In addition to improving the appearance of a Mustang, airlift suspensions also improve the feel of the ride and offer handling benefits. As more people try out airbag suspensions, bagged Mustangs are winning over a lot of converts.
If you’ve ever wondered if this modification is right for you, then it’s important to understand the pros and cons, as well as the total cost.
What Is an Air Ride Suspension?
An air suspension uses small bags that can fill with air, and release that air, on command. This gives your suspension a range of high and low settings, as well as a range of stiffness.
Though air ride suspensions are typically considered a newer innovation, they’ve been around for a very long time, though for a while the airbags were made of leather and acted more like bellows. Fortunately, they’ve come a long way since then.
If you’ve been to a car show recently, you’ve likely seen more than a few bagged Mustangs, though it may be hard to tell without asking the owner about their specifications. When set to an average height an air ride suspension doesn’t necessarily look different than a coil suspension to the passing viewer.
Pros of Air Ride Suspensions
If you love the look of a stanced Mustang but are unsure about the dramatic lowering and how it would affect handling, you’re not alone. Lowering a Mustang gives it an aggressively low posture that looks at home on the track and attracts viewers at any car show, but it also makes speed bumps perilous and can be uncomfortable on longer rides. That’s where an air ride suspension really comes in handy.
With an air ride suspension, you can lower your Mustang at the show, but then ride a little higher over the road.
Suspension Height Flexibility
Imagine adjusting the riding height of your Mustang at the touch of a button.
From skimming the surface of the road to riding a full inch higher than its stock height, airbag suspensions allow for lowering and lifting. It’s a flexibility that no static suspension kit can offer, and it’s the biggest advantage of an air ride suspension. Flexibility is amazing, but few expect to have a suspension that can offer them so much freedom.
Unlike other performance enhancements, air ride suspensions give you a more comfortable daily ride. This makes sense when you think about it, you’re literally swapping out a spring for a bag of air, but it’s still a nice surprise for many.
Air ride suspensions tend to be lighter than other suspension styles, which is a major benefit when it comes to handling. But that’s not the only handling benefit that air ride suspensions offer. The adjustability of a bagged suspension means that you have the ability to adjust the stiffness of the bags in an instant, improving your handling.
Cons of Air Ride Suspensions
No suspension style is perfect, and air ride is no exception. The first major con for air ride is the cost. Only a few luxury vehicles are sold with air ride as an option. For everyone else, the aftermarket is the only place for an airlift suspension, and they’re sold as kits.
Air ride suspensions, unlike other suspension systems that can be piecemealed together, are sold as one unit. Though this is better, it does require an initial investment.
The cost of an air ride suspension is still substantially less than the cost of damaging the undercarriage of your Mustang though and compared to other suspension upgrades, it’s not substantially more expensive once you account for all the necessary parts.
Installing an air ride suspension isn’t a straight part for part replacement. Because you’re swapping to an entirely different suspension style, you need to install some additional equipment, like an air compressor.
This installation video from CJ’s can give you a better idea of what to expect from the installation of your new air ride system.
Loss of Trunk Space
The air compressor needs a place where it can stay, and for most setups that’s going to end up being your trunk. An air compressor in your trunk means that there’s less storage space overall. Admittedly, this isn’t usually too big of a concern for people who are interested in bagging their suspensions to begin with, but it is something to be aware of.
Though this makes sense, it’s not something most people think about when they’re purchasing a suspension system that’s shiny and brand new. More expensive now means that it’s also more expensive to replace or fix if things begin to break.
Fortunately, as airbag suspensions have improved over time, most systems are well-made and less prone to breakage. Because these systems are so much less likely to break, many manufacturers have taken to offering a warranty on their systems.
Is an Air Ride Suspension Right for You?
Overall, the positives of an air ride suspension vastly outweigh the negatives for people who are still using a stock suspension system. It’s also a great investment for anyone who appreciates the look of a lowered, or stanced, Mustang but who also plans to drive their car over roads that may not be as smooth as glass.
It’s also a great addition for people who enjoy the sportier feel of their Mustang, but who also sometimes have passengers who would prefer a slightly softer ride.
In short, air ride suspensions are the most flexible suspension available for people whose needs for their Mustang are also variable. There are a number of benefits that will appeal to a broad range of Mustang enthusiasts. If you're interested in how air ride suspension compares to other alternatives like coilovers, check out our article on air suspension vs coilovers.