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First drive: Ford Mustang Mach 1. Image by Ford.

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach 1
Ford tries to address the slightly soft-edged nature of the Mustang with this track-focused Mach 1 variant.

   



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Ford Mustang Mach 1

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Ford gives us Yoo-ro-pee-ans what it is claiming is the sharpest-handling Mustang yet in the form of the Mach 1, a long-serving nameplate in the Pony Car's illustrious history. Does this slice of Americana convince us of its merits around Goodwood's high-speed track?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Ford Mustang Mach 1
Pricing: Mustang range from 44,255, Mach 1 as tested from 55,255
Engine: 5.0-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive with limited-slip diff, six-speed Tremec manual with rev-matching
Body style: two-door performance coupe
CO2 emissions: 277g/km (VED Band Over 255: 2,245 first 12 months, then 490 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 155 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 21.6mpg
Top speed: 166mph
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: 460hp at 7,250rpm
Torque: 529Nm at 4,900rpm
Boot space: 408 litres

What's this?

If you were wondering why Ford called its electric SUV the Mustang Mach-E, with confusion about the second half of that nameplate in particular, then wonder no more. This is the Mustang Mach 1 and no, it's not powered by a synchronous electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack, but instead a good ol' hulking 5.0-litre V8. However, this is not just some 'stickers-and-paint' special from the Blue Oval, but instead a model which has been through a significant programme of change underneath to make the Mustang GT less of a fast cruiser and more of a keen-as-mustard track beast.

Handy, then, that in connection with that last analogy, Ford allowed us a few laps in a Grabber Yellow Mach 1, one of eight special paint schemes for the new model that better shows off its specific stripe-graphics package and also the aerodynamic changes to the car. Specifically, look at the front grilles of the Mach 1. The main radiator aperture is punctuated by two blanked-off round circles, into which an owner can slot a couple of aftermarket lamps if they want (to make it look like the original 1969 Mach 1), but below this is a different array of air intakes and bumper shaping. There's also a big splitter, part of an aerodynamic package including an extended undertray, the rear diffuser from the US-market-only Shelby GT500 and a modest little lip spoiler on the boot, all of which add up to provide an extra 22 per cent of downforce compared to a regular Mustang GT Fastback.

It is only available as a Fastback as well, the Mach 1, so don't go imagining there's a Convertible analogue for this car; sorry if that's dashed your dreams of a wind-in-your-hair track-day. Anyway, around the side of the Mustang are beefier skirts and also a set of 19-inch five-spoke alloys in black, which hark back to the first Mach 1 of 52 years ago, while at the back - aside from the diffuser and spoiler we've already outlined - there are four huge tailpipes. These measure 4.5 inches apiece and are the culmination of the Active Valve Performance Exhaust system fitted to the Mustang V8, which should ensure a thoroughly decent soundtrack. Incidentally, if all these giveaways aren't enough as to the special nature of the new Ford coupe, then you might also notice 'Mach 1' logos on the front wings, in between the distinctive triple-line rear lamp clusters at the back of the car and also on the central bonnet stripe running between the Mustang's cooling vents.

Inside, it's pretty much standard fare for the Mach 1, apart from an anodised metal instrument cluster, some Dark Engine turned-aluminium cabin trim, a special 'Mach 1' plaque on the passenger-side dash to commemorate its special, limited-build status, and stripe motifs on the seats. Other than that, the cabin is the same four-seater (2+2?) layout as any other Mustang Fastback, so some might lament the quality of the finishing in places. Us? We think it's a lovely place to spend some time.

How does it drive?

Ford hasn't just made the Mach 1 look good, it has tightened up most of the underpinnings of the car to ensure it has the dynamics to support the pre-match chutzpah of its paintwork and styling. The company makes lots of mention of the Shelby GT350 and GT500 Mustangs that are sold in the States, which is annoying because neither of these two leviathans are coming here due to the strictures of European homologation; more on this another time, though, because there's more to report on the GT500, specifically...

Anyway, first of all, the Coyote V8 up front. Ford makes big noises about 87mm throttle bodies and intake manifolds and 'Open Air Induction Systems' from the Shelby GT350 being bolted onto this lump, but in truth it would be simpler to say this is the slightly uprated version of the 5.0-litre engine from the now-defunct Mustang Bullitt. It has the same 460hp peak power and the same 529Nm of torque, figures which represent an increase of 10hp and a decrease of 4Nm on the standard Mustang's engine. The pity here is that the US-spec Mach 1 has 480hp to play with, so we're not sure why our model has to be strangled down by 20 wild horses (geddit?!) apart from emissions. Presumably.

Nevertheless, it's not the power you want to focus on, it's the precision. The keen-eyed among you will notice that the German-registered car in our shots has the white cue-ball shift lever, which denotes that - yes - the Mach 1 is available as a manual. Rejoice! Praise be! Thank the lord! And various other exultations. Ahem. Moving on, the car is also available with the ten-speed automatic transmission for another 2,000 on top of its already robust 55,255 asking price (making the Mach 1 a neat 11,000 dearer than the standard 5.0 GT Fastback at 44,255; it's a good job the 2.3 EcoBoost has been dropped over here, otherwise the Mach 1 would look more expensive still). But while these may appear to be the same gearbox choices as the regular GT is privy to, there is in truth a big change underneath.

The Mach 1 manual transmission is provided by Tremec, rather than Getrag, and it features both rev-matching on the downshifts and flat-upshift functions that the regular Mustang 'box simply cannot. Similarly, the automatic in the Mach 1 has an uprated torque converter to cope with the extra grunt, plus its own bespoke control software to make it sportier in its reponses. Both units feature an oil cooler so they don't overheat during track work, and indeed the Mach 1 also has improved engine-oil cooling and an adaptor to prevent 'oil surge' while pounding a circuit, as well as better cooling airflow to the brakes, courtesy of the underbody aero.

Besides the greater downforce, the enhanced engine and the uprated cooling mechanisms, the Mach 1 also comes with a limited-slip differential as standard, as well as its own calibration of the MagneRide adjustable dampers, stiffer front suspension springs and anti-roll bars, revised tuning of the electronic power-assisted steering, and the same front subframe and toe-link components as that Shelby GT350 we keep being taunted with. All of which adds up to a Mustang which is said to be quite a lot quicker around a track than its source material (itself not a slow car), and a machine capable of posting the benchmark stats of 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and a V-max of 166mph.

But does it all work in reality? Goodness, yes. We adore the Mustang GT 5.0 as it is but fully accept it's something of a blunt instrument when compared to something like an Audi RS 5 or the latest BMW M4 Competition. Now, in all honesty, at 1,755kg as tested, the Mach 1 is still not rapier-sharp, but there's significantly increased keenness from the front axle to get turned into a corner, while the steering is replete with improved feedback and turns out to be much zestier than the set-up found on the standard Ford.

These facets combine with epic traction and grip from the LSD-equipped rear axle to make the Mach 1 a proper hoot around a track. It has more zing and urgency as it spools up through its revs, but then this V8 is a glorious combustion engine anyway. Any 5.0-litre nat-asp lump that's prepared to rev cleanly to 7,000rpm and beyond is more than fine by us, so the Mach 1's powertrain is a real winner. It pulls insistently round to 7,500rpm, a tremendous noise coming from the meatier exhaust system, and the V8 is connected up to a beautifully hefty, positive-of-throw manual that has gear ratios sensibly spaced for the 5.0-litre's ample spread of power.

That eager front end is the star of the show, though. It does its best to make the Mach 1 feel lighter, smaller and wieldier than it really is, which in turn gives the driver more confidence to lean on the heightened abilities of the chassis and carry more speed through turns. It still takes something of a leap of faith to trust the Mustang won't wildly segue into oversteer when you get on the power out of tighter corners, but once you are aware the rear axle is as hooked up to the tarmac as the front, you build a superb rapport with the Mach 1 and find that, yes, Ford's claim about this being the most track-focused model yet seen this side of The Pond is not just marketing flim-flam. This Mustang is incredibly good.

Verdict

We're keen to get the Ford Mustang Mach 1 out on the public roads to see if it is as enjoyable as it was blasting around Goodwood on somebody else's fuel card, but there's clearly a chassis of genuine talent underneath this big coupe. That it preserves all of the Mustang's visual charm, and even builds on it with the specific aesthetic detail changes, is merely the icing on the cake. Our favourite American car just got that tiny bit better still.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 18 May 2021



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2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Goodwood UK track test. Image by Ford.








 

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