► The most track-focused European Mustang yet
► Slight power hike for NA 5.0-litre V8
► Driven on road and track
Fans of the original Pony Car will no doubt be rubbing their hands with glee at the arrival of the Ford Mustang Mach 1 in Europe. Originally introduced at the tail end of the sixties the Mach 1 was – and is – a performance package for the regular V8 Mustang Fastback.
Under the bonnet you’ll find a revised intake with a larger throttle body and freer flowing intake system to liberate a whole nine additional horsepower. We can blame stringent EU emissions regs for the slightly disappointing uplift, you get far larger gains across the pond.
The suspension also receives firmer front springs, a stiffer front anti-roll bar and tweaked adaptive dampers. Now, if all that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the Bullitt special edition Mustang from a couple of years back had a very similar set of upgrades.
Is it just a Bullitt with some flashy paint, then?
Not quite. The Mach 1 has wider wheels and tyres front and rear along with retuned steering and new suspension componentry. This includes a revised subframe with stiffer bushes while the steering software has been recalibrated.
All this is garnished with a new front grille, a small lip spoiler on the boot and a rear diffuser nicked from the US market GT500. Combined the aero mods bring a 22% increase in downforce, adding to the range of subtle updates that should tighten the reins somewhat.
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Are you going to stop with the horse references and get on with the review?
Maybe. As you’d expect from fairly minor engine tweaks, there’s little to separate the Mach 1 and the regular Mustang in terms of acceleration and noise. Now, it’s been a while since this writer has driven a normal 5.0-litre, but the linear power curve and surprisingly peaky delivery felt very familiar.
It’ll pull from not much more than 1200rpm, but you need nearly 5000 showing on the standard digital display before it really starts pulling to its redline situated north of 7000rpm. Even then, it feels quick rather than outright fast with the 4.8sec 0-62mph time for the manual (4.6sec for the 10-speed auto) highlighting this.
The manual ‘box feels well suited to the Mustang. It has a pleasingly mechanical feel with a fair bit of heft and doesn’t like to be rushed too much, leaving you in no doubt you’re dealing with something heavy-duty. Similarly, the steering is a little on the heavy side and much slower than you might expect for a modern performance car.
But does it go round bends?
The standard Mustang can be something of a bucking bronco (sorry), kicking its tail out if you flex your right foot and getting out of shape over undulating roads. Like the Bullitt, the Mach 1 is much better in this regard, the wider rear tyres helping to generate far more dry weather grip and the revised suspension better containing well over 1800kg of bulk.
To truly test the modifications Ford gave us the run of Thruxton, Britain’s fastest circuit. As my previous experience of Thruxton was limited to TOCA Touring cars for the PS1, I opted to leave the various electronic aids on rather than risk a high-speed trip across the grass and into a marshal’s post.
Even so, three figure cornering speeds over their lumpy Tarmac and raised curbs elicited the mildest of hip wiggles and no traction control light flickering. The MagneRide dampers don’t have the same breadth of rate conventional adaptive dampers do, so you won’t find the racier modes adding a vast amount of additional control. However, they deal with the not inconsiderable kerbweight with aplomb and allow you to be pleasingly accurate.
So, what about on the road?
Away from the track you’ll find the Mach 1 a fair bit firmer than a regular ‘Stang, but by no means uncomfortable. Given the extra control, it’s a trade off we’d happily take as exploring the performance envelope is a much less intimidating experience. Even so, this is a large car for UK roads and is therefore best suited to open A roads than tight, nadgety B roads.
Any changes inside?
Apart from some new and not very convincing metal effect plastic, the Mach 1’s interior is typical Mustang. That means materials that feel a bit cheap given the price tag (how else are you going to get a V8 for this money?), seats that are positioned too high and don’t give enough side support (Recaros are still on the options list) and Ford’s easy to use but basic looking Sync3 infotainment system.
Given the Mustang’s size, the rear seats are surprisingly small, with limited head room even if you’re on the bijou side. At 5’ 4” wearing thick soled trainers, I found knee room limited with a tall driver up front and my hair brushing the rear glass.
Ford Mustang Mach 1: verdict
Whether or not you should buy the Mach 1 very much depends on what you’re after. If you want a trackday toy the £55,000 asking price will get you much sharper and more agile options that probably won’t chew through brakes and tyres quite so ravenously.
However, if you’re after something with a charismatic naturally aspirated V8, plenty of presence and a bit of ability in the bends, the Mach 1 is a very appealing thing. Yes, it is a hefty £10,000 more than the regular Mustang, but factor in the additional equipment and performance upgrades not available on the standard GT and we think it’s a price worth paying.
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