Auto123 puts the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 to the test.
Throughout its glorious history, the Ford Mustang has captured the hearts of enthusiasts in many incarnations, under many different names. GT, Cobra, SVT, SVO, Shelby, Bullitt, Boss, California – do those a ring a bell with you? Probably. But don't forget Mach 1, the name that first appeared in the fall of 1968 for the 1969 Mustang crop. Popular with hardened fans of the model, the Mach 1 package was offered until 1978, though Ford did briefly revive the performance-oriented edition for the 2003 and 2004 Mustang models.
Cue forward to 2021, when the Mach 1 returns to the Mustang lineup, even as the sublime Bullitt is removed from the lineup. Can the Mach 1 be considered a worthy replacement for that movie-inspired variant? Yup. The newest Mach 1 ably fills the hole left by the Bullitt's departure (even that of the Shelby GT350's, if you stretch things a bit), but its purpose is somewhat different. Let's just say the Mach 1 can, when equipped with the right options, be a formidable weapon on the racetrack.
Here's a portrait of an American coupe that turns heads just about everywhere it goes.
The definition of a Mach 1
Those well familiar with the only remaining car in Ford's lineup will have already noticed the exclusive front end on this variant, which includes a bumper housing larger grilles under the turn signals, an essential feature to better ventilate the muscle car's disc brakes.
The grille also has a say in the sports car's visual signature. Indeed, the auxiliary lights, which were seen on both sides of the horse's crest on the other model, are absent, another distinctive feature of the Mach 1.
While the Mach 1 comes with standard five-spoke charcoal wheels, our tester had wider wheels with a complex design. We also noted that the front fenders have been widened by a thin molding made of matte black plastic.
On the hood and sides, the Mach 1 also stands out with its exclusive decals, while the front fenders are tattooed with the classic Mach 1 badge. And that's about it, at least as far as the appearance of this special variant is concerned.
Under the hood
But there's more to a Mustang Mach 1 than just an exclusive look and a few extra options. For instance, the engine, a naturally-aspirated 5.0L V8 borrowed from the Mustang GT that gets about 20 extra hp courtesy of a few components from the Shelby GT350 engine, such as the intake manifold, the oil filter adapter and the engine oil cooler.
But what makes the Mach 1 even more unique among all the pony car versions of the last few years is the manual transmission, a Tremec 3160 6-speed, borrowed from the excellent Shelby GT350. The dual disc clutch and short throw shifter are from the Mustang GT, meanwhile. Note that the Mach 1 can also be ordered with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Engineers also drew parts from the Shelby GT500, integrating two oil coolers on the sides, one for the engine oil and the other for the transmission oil. The diffuser and differential oil cooler are also from the Shelby GT500.
Finally, the MagneRide suspension, heavier steering column, stronger anti-roll bars and front springs, and a few other pieces of the fastest Mustang that are among the Mach 1's equipment round out this review.
The Mach 1 Driving Package
Like any good sports car, the Mach 1 Mustang can be equipped with a nice array of additional components. The Mach 1 Driving Package, for example, illustrates this eloquently. It includes wider wheels (10.5-inch front and 11-inch rear) and performance tires that are as wide as the rims they're mounted on. There are also adjustable upper suspension strut mounts.
This $4,500 optional package, which gives the Mach 1 different chassis settings, also dresses it up with a Flap Gurney-style rear spoiler and a performance-style aerodynamic splitter up front, while inside there's a folding, split centre rear seat.
I have to admit, this package greatly enhances the Mach 1's appearance. This coupe looks ready to take on the corners of a closed circuit with all its enhanced aerodynamic appendages. I have to say that the front splitter makes it a bit difficult to enter parking lots or drive over speed bumps. Fortunately, it’s made of plastic and not carbon-fibre!
For those of you who frequent closed tracks, know that the Mach 1 Driving Package gives the car 150 percent more downforce than a Mustang GT with the Level 1 Performance Package. Even without it, the Mach 1 already has 22 percent more downforce!
Living with a Mach 1 on a daily basis
When you read and reread how the Mach 1's equipment has been improved, you might wonder how liveable such a beast is on a daily basis. But I want to reassure you: first of all, the Mustang Mach 1 is a car that is authorized to be driven on our roads; and, even if it requires a little more skill to drive, it's perfectly possible to drive this modern muscle car on the cratered roads we Canadians love so much.
On the other hand, think twice before checking the option of the Mach 1 driving package, because its wide tires, better suited for a racetrack, don't mix well with highway ruts. It's a little easier in the city, where the Mach 1 isn't exposed to such road irregularities, despite a heavier clutch and steering.
Don't think that this heaviness spoils the driving experience. Quite the opposite in fact, as I felt like I had a solid connection with the road, while the clutch is very easy to modulate, not to mention the incredible shifter that has an intoxicating precision.
You also have to make friends with the rumble produced by this venerable American engine. To my ears, the sound of the Coyote engine is fantastic under acceleration or even when downshifting, but occasionally, you’ll want to put the little driving mode selector lever to use, as Normal mode makes the car sounds less throaty... and more relaxing. The Sport, Track and Acceleration Track modes are naturally more in your face – and in those of everyone else around you.
The last word
The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is simply a remarkable performance machine. Yes, it will sometimes reminds the driver that it should not be taken lightly. But in the vast majority of cases, the most muscular Mustang not bearing the Shelby badge is a charm to drive. Though at the risk of repeating myself, if you don't plan on using it on the track, you'd better get a Mach 1 without the optional driving package!
The menacing appearance
The sound of the V8
The driving pleasure
We like less
The Mach 1 driving package is not for everyone (!)
The price ($77,700)
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