Ford Mustang Mach 1 review: a bit of Shelby spice
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Ford Mustang Mach 1
- Incredibly tight handling for a Mustang
- Sounds amazing
- Epic manual transmission
- Pretty thirsty
- Those decals could go
- Sold out before it hit NZ
A Mach 1 badge on a Ford Mustang is nothing new; the world first saw it in 1969, then again in 2003, and just recently it returned as a hardcore version of the Mustang GT. So what makes this one so special?
Like those that came before it, the new Mach 1 is a performance and aesthetic package for the V8 GT. In a way, it’s basically the Shelby GT350 that New Zealand never got, and now that the GT350 has finished production, it’s said to bridge the gap between the regular GT and the Shelby GT500 – and that’s a rather large gap.
Ford’s iconic 5.0-litre V8 engine sits beneath the bonnet. It uses the manifold from the GT350, which bumps power up to 358kW. This stellar-sounding V8 sends power rearward through a six-speed manual transmission, and on to a limited-slip differential which gets its own cooling system.
All this wonderful kit is sitting on suspension that takes a fair few components from the GT500, including the subframes. It also gets stiffer anti-roll bars, front springs, and a new calibration for the MagneRide dampers. Ford also states that thanks to all this, plus a new electric power steering setting, the Mach 1 has the “sharpest Mustang steering response” ever seen in NZ. Stopping power comes from a set of Brembo brakes with six-piston calipers up front and larger rotors all around.
The exterior also benefits from a bunch of GT500 parts. A new front splitter, diffuser and undertray all contribute to a 22 per cent increase in downforce. It also gets a special decal package that matches the orange Brembo brakes.
On the inside, a pair of Recaro buckets seats is the main attraction, but then there’s also the white shift knob taken from the most recent Bullitt edition. Things are pretty standard in here for the most part, except for the numbered Mach 1 plaque on the dash. Compared with the exterior of the Mach 1, the interior feels rather plain, but thankfully the driving experience more than makes up for it.
This Mach 1 feels far more sports car than pony car, with the tendency to grip up through the corners rather than slide around like a regular Mustang. Don’t get me wrong, the Mach 1 will still get sketchy if too much power is poured in too early in a corner, but its Shelby-derived suspension system does wonders to keep things tidy.
Waikato | Hamilton
$926.07 p/w $3,704.27 p/m
Waikato | Hamilton
$966.40 p/w $3,865.61 p/m
In Sport mode, the steering is heavy, but unashamedly direct. Drivers will need their wits about them when driving on NZ backroads, as the front wheels will follow the contours of the road without warning. In Normal mode, this is significantly dialled back thanks to the assistance of the electric power steering system, but where’s the fun in that?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Tremec six-speed manual transmission in the Mach 1 is the best I’ve ever experienced. The throw isn’t overly short, but it feels incredibly robust, and throwing the shifter between gears is addictive. Pair this with auto-blipping downshifts and you have a recipe for three-pedal perfection. For those that like to race in a straight line, it not only gives drivers the ability to flat-shift, but it also gets a launch control system which does an impressive job of minimising wheelspin while launching with the throttle fully open.
Speaking of a wide-open throttle, this Mach 1 could be the best-sounding V8 on the market. The V8 is a dying breed in itself, let alone a naturally aspirated one in a modern world of twin-turbo efficiency. The quad-tip exhaust system makes a plethora of wonderful noises when fully open, and drivers are generously rewarded for winding the 5.0 all the way out to 7500rpm.
I genuinely think that the Ford Mustang Mach 1 is the best performance car that can be had beneath the six-figure mark. At $97,990, it’s a fair chunk of change over a standard manual GT at $84,990, but then again, it represents an improvement on every front. But considering every Mustang Mach 1 that was allocated for NZ was snapped up before the ship even arrived, you’ll probably have quite a hard time getting your hands on one at this stage.
FORD MUSTANG MACH 1
ENGINE: 5.0-litre V8
GEARBOX: 6-speed manual, RWD