Interesting. Some more questions:

Are the ping times really high all the time, or is it just some/most of 
the time?

One significant difference between the 2 drivers is that softmac 
defaults to 11M or 24M (depending on your kernel version) and doesn't 
change, whereas mac80211 defaults to 54M and dynamically adjusts based 
on number of failed transmissions.

So, ideally you should try and compare the rates being used in the 2 
drivers. To read the rate used on the softmac driver, run "iwconfig". I 
don't think mac80211 reports the rate there yet, so you will probably 
have to enable some debugging options in the kernel and watch the logs 
to figure out which rates it is choosing.

Another experiment: on the softmac driver, increase the rate to 54M and 
examine if your ping times become noticably worse:
        iwconfig ethX rate 54M


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