The most track-focused European Mustang
Slight power increase for the NA 5.0 liter V8
Driven on roads and tracks
Fans of the original Pony Car will no doubt be rubbing their hands with delight at the arrival of the Ford Mustang Mach 1 in Europe. Originally introduced in the late sixties, the Mach 1 was – and is now – the performance pack for the regular Mustang V8 Fastback.
Under the hood, you’ll find a revised intake with a larger throttle body and a freer-flowing intake system to free up an additional nine horsepower. We can blame strict EU emission regulations for a slightly disappointing upgrade, you get a much bigger gain.
The suspension also received tighter front springs, stiffer front anti-roll bars and modified adaptive dampers. Now, if any of that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the Bullitt special edition Mustang from a few years ago had a very similar set of upgrades.
Is it just Bullitt with flashy paint, then?
Not too. The Mach 1 has wider front and rear wheels and tires along with a re-tuned steering and new suspension components. This includes a revised subframe with stiffer bushings while steering software has been recalibrated.
All this is decorated with a new front grille, a small lip spoiler in the trunk and a rear diffuser taken from the US market GT500. Incorporating the aero mod brings a 22% increase in downforce, adding various subtle updates that should tighten the controls a bit.
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Are you going to stop with the horse reference and continue the review??
Possible. As you’d expect from a fairly minor engine tweak, there’s little difference between the Mach 1 and the regular Mustang in terms of acceleration and noise. Now, it’s been a while since this author drove a normal 5.0 liter, but the surprisingly linear power curve and peak delivery feel very familiar.
It will pull from no more than 1200rpm, but you’ll need nearly 5000 showing on a standard digital display before it actually starts pulling to the redline that lies north of 7000rpm. Even so, it feels faster than fast with a time of 4.8 seconds 0-62mph for the manual (4.6 seconds for the 10-speed automatic) highlighting this.
The manuals’ box feels right for the Mustang. It has a pleasant mechanical feel with minimal weight and doesn’t like to be rushed, leaving you with no hesitation in dealing with anything heavy. Likewise, the steering is a little on the heavy side and much slower than you’d expect for a modern performance car.
But is it going round and round?
A standard Mustang can be a bucking bronco (sorry), kicking its tail out if you flex your right foot and get out of shape on bumpy roads. Like the Bullitt, the Mach 1 is much better in this regard, wider rear tires help to produce much drier weather grip and a revised suspension that is better containing over 1800kg of bulk.
To really test the modification Ford gave us a run at Thruxton, the fastest circuit in the UK. Since my previous experience with the Thruxton was limited to the TOCA Touring car for the PS1, I chose to forsake the various electronic aids rather than risk a high-speed trip across the grass and to the marshal’s post.
Even so, the three-figure cornering speed on the lumpy Tarmac and raised pavement produced the least amount of hip wobble and no flickering of the traction control lights. The MagneRide damper doesn’t have the same area as a conventional adaptive damper, so you won’t find the racier mode adding a huge amount of extra control. However, they handle the not-so-big curb weight with aplomb and allow you to be accurate.
Then, how about on the road?
Away from the track, you’ll find the Mach 1 a bit firmer than the regular ‘Stangular’, but by no means uncomfortable. Given the extra control, it’s a trade-off we’ll gladly take as exploring the performance envelope is a much less daunting experience. Still, it’s a big car for British highways and as such is best suited for open road A rather than narrow, nadgety road B.
Any changes inside?
Apart from some new and not-so-convincing metal-effect plastics, the Mach 1’s interior is typical Mustang. That means materials that feel a bit cheap considering the price tag (how else are you going to get a V8 for this money?), seats that are positioned too high and don’t provide enough side support (Recaros is still on the options list) and Ford’s easy-to-use Sync3 infotainment system. but looks simple.
Given the Mustang’s size, the rear seats are surprisingly small, with limited headroom even if you’re on the bijou side. At 5′ 4” wearing thick soles, I found limited knee space with a tall driver up front and my hair brushing the rear windshield.
Ford Mustang Mach 1: verdict
Whether you should buy Mach 1 or not really depends on what you are looking for. If you want a trackday toy, the £55,000 asking price will give you a much sharper and more nimble option that probably won’t chew up brakes and tires so greedily.
However, if you’re looking for something with a naturally aspirated, charismatic V8, plenty of presence and a little bit of capability around the corners, the Mach 1 is a very interesting one. Yes, it’s £10,000 more hefty than a regular Mustang, but factor in the extra equipment and performance improvements not available on the standard GT and we think it’s a price worth paying.
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