FIRST DRIVE | 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 merges power with precision
Ultimate has many forms. In the case of the new Ford Mustang Mach 1 it is not the most powerful or the raciest Mustang, but it is the most track-focused iteration to be sold in SA. Other markets have the laudable GT350R and GT500.
The new Mach 1 is a modern commemoration of the extraperformance nameplate first introduced in 1969. Only 90 Mach 1 units have been allocated for this market. Aesthetic connections to the originator are body stickers and a bonnet with non-functional Naca ducts.
The interior is standard Mustang fare of a 2+2 configuration with low-slung, electric-powered, heated or cooled seats clad in leather with metal grey stitching.
Features also include Sync 3 connectivity and a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, a numbered plaque and a cue ball gear lever for the manual model.
Information displays are digital through a central screen and the driver’s binnacle, while there are silver-tipped physical buttons for controls such as vehicle mode selector, traction control and hazard lights.
All Mach 1s in SA will be easily identified through metallic Fighter Jet Grey paint; unique front grilles, splitter, and rear diffuser; a small boot-lid spoiler finished in black, and Dark Tarnish 19-inch wheels.
Thematically the new Mach 1 is aligned to the equally rare Mustang Bullitt, of which only 50 were brought to this market in 2019. It is powered by the same naturally aspirated 5.0l V8 engine that kicks out 338kW and 529Nm of torque (a 7kW boost above a standard Mustang GT) and an unchanged 529Nm of torque, but the Mach 1 has a raft of motorsport-specific ingredients borrowed from the GT350 and GT500.
Its power steering has been refined and the adjustable MagneRide 2 adaptive suspension is tweaked for sporting precision.
Enhanced cooling takes centre stage in the Mach 1. The V8’s oil cooler is from the Shelby GT350 while there are undertray fins for better cooling of its orange-painted six-piston Brembo brakes, which also feature an upgraded brake booster for more stopping power.
There is also a rear axle cooling system and right next to it, stiffer springs and antiroll bars and a stronger rear subframe donated by the GT500.
While the Bullitt is a manual-only car the limited-edition Mach 1 gets both types of transmissions. Ford SA says it will bring 75 units fitted with the company’s 10-speed automatic gearbox and only 15 equipped with a Tremec TR-3160 manual transmission with rev match. This gearbox from the Shelby GT350 has one extra trick: flat shift, which enables engaging the next gear without lifting a foot off the throttle pedal.
It has many driving modes — ranging from Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, Track, Line-lock and even a drag-racing mode — but there is enough get-up-and-go for a 0-100km/h in 4.4 sec for the auto and a slower 4.8 sec for the stick-shift. The top speed kudos swing the manual way with a higher 267km/h versus the self-shifter’s 249km/h.
The auto model I drove at the launch event showcased the results of the bespoke Mach 1 recipe. Out on the road there is fun to be had when you let it rumble. The steering response, cornering prowess and delivery of its muscle is sharper than before. If you take it towards the engine’s 7,250rpm limit the roar coming out of four big chromed exit tips gets theatrical bangs and crackles.
But it is still a hefty coupe that doesn’t feel outwardly sports car-like. It feels special enough to be a collectible sweetheart that can be driven at weekends and due to the pliancy of its adjustable suspension it can also be enjoyed as a daily drive.
The big blow is that all 90 units are sold out, at a price of R1,182,100 for the Mach 1 5.0 V8 manual and R1,203,800 for the auto.
Both come standard with a four-year/120,000km and a six-year/90,000km service plan.