What Is It?
A car with one of the heaviest of heavyweight badges in the automotive industry, a Ford Mustang. And while the general shape of the vehicle and also the mystique surrounding this particular ‘Pony Car’ is of no surprise to our collective consciousness these days, given the Mustang has been around since 1964 in one form or another (and not all of said forms being what you’d call ‘good’…), did you know that we didn’t get Ford’s icon here as an official import until this very 6th-generation car landed in 2015? Oh sure, you could import one yourself from America, right through the history of the Mustang, and the 5th-gen car made its way over here in fairly decent numbers thanks to its on-point retro-type styling (in 2004, when the Mk5 Mustang launched, the BMW MINI was only just 3 years old). But if you wanted a proper, right-hand-drive Mustang from Ford, you were left waiting for 50 years for the privilege.
However, when this one arrived officially in Europe for 2015, complete with a right-hand-drive version for good old Blighty, car enthusiasts rejoiced. Sold as a manual or an automatic, with either a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine or a bellowing 5.0-litre V8, and the choice of Fastback coupe or Convertible soft-top bodies, there was plenty of choice for Mustang fans to get their teeth into. Not even a disastrous Euro NCAP 2-star crash-test rating put buyers off, because a hasty facelift in late 2017 improved the safety kit while mildly tweaking the looks. Apart from that technical update, in 2021 the 4-cylinder model was dropped from the offering due to slow sales – well, a Mustang should have a V8, shouldn’t it? – and there have been a handful of special models in the interim. One of which we’re looking at here.
What you’re getting with the Mustang, or traditionally what you would have got the Ford for, is a massive amount of character. It has never been the sharpest-driving car in the world, but with its brawny big motor up front, rear-wheel drive and unerring cool status, the Mustang makes every drive feel special – even if European rivals have always dynamically run rings around it. However, after a Bullitt limited-build special (which harked back to the classic Steve McQueen film) appeared and then was eagerly snapped up, there has been room at the top of the Mustang range for a more honed version of the V8 Fastback. And this is it: the Mach 1. It uses the slightly uprated 5.0-litre engine from the Bullitt, as well as having various chassis enhancements and styling accoutrements to make it stand out. Can these alterations move the Mustang closer to the European competition in terms of handling talent? Well, one way or the other, it’s gonna be a whole lotta fun finding out…
What’s Good About It?
Come on; kurb appeal! Seriously, if you’re not looking at this car and hopelessly salivating, we reckon you might have something wrong with you. Riffing off the Mk5 Mustang, which shamelessly aped the 1960s original, the shape of the Mk6 model has been smoothed off and given a far more contemporary vibe for the 2020s, which means you get classic Mustang styling cues – triple-blade rear lights, scowling headlights, not a single visible ‘Blue Oval’ Ford badge on the exterior – only imbued with a 21st-century identity all of its own.
Top that lot off with the Mach 1-specific details and you’re left with a stunning big coupe. For what it’s worth, this range-topping Mustang benefits from its own design of 5-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, it has the rather obvious and hard-to-miss ‘Stripe’ package plus socking great ‘Mach 1’ badges on its front wings, the front bumper and the radiator grille are redesigned, and there’s also a different shape of front splitter and rear diffuser to give the car 25% more downforce than a regular V8 Fastback. The chrome-tipped quad exhausts complement the wonderful aesthetic package, and if you peer closely at that radiator grille you’ll see 2 blanked-off circular shapes in there – that’s in case you want to add a set of inboard driving lamps, something the 1968 Mach 1 progenitor possessed. Nice little historical nod from Ford, there.
What Could Be Better?
Lots of critics, er, criticise the quality of the Mk6 Mustang’s interior, but we’re not among their number. Sure, if you go hunting them out, you might find a few suspect material finishes, yet in general all the main touchpoints in the cabin are rendered superbly, while the main switchgear operates with a pleasing tactility. That said, the infotainment system in the Mach 1 now looks obsolete thanks to Ford’s SYNC 4 set-up – which is the system employed in the car which cribs the Mustang’s name, the EV Mach-E – and rear-seat space isn’t exactly generous, considering the sizeable exterior proportions of the Fastback, so this is not a car without its flaws.
What’s It Like To Drive?
What we say here and what you think of our faculties of judgement is going to depend on the preconceptions you have of how the regular V8 Mustang drives. If you think the standard 5.0-litre model, with its 450hp motor, is all soft and wallowy and imprecise, then you’re in for a shock. While still not quite as ultimately capable in the corners as its main Audi, BMW and Mercedes opposition, this generation of Mustang is the first to enjoy more advanced fully independent rear suspension on the back axle, instead of a twist beam. So while the Ford is a touch rougher around the kinematic edges than the Europeans, it’s perfectly adept at stringing a sequence of corners together.
However, the Mach 1 is another level again and, for that reason, it is comfortably the best Mustang we’ve ever had the pleasure of driving and thus a deeply, deeply desirable creation as a result. As well as the increased downforce of the revised bodywork, Ford treats the Mach 1 to its own calibration for the MagneRide Adaptive Suspension System dampers and also the electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) set-up, while it further takes the time to fit stiffer anti-roll bars and front springs to the underside of the Mustang, as well as new front and rear subframes. Powerful 6-piston Brembo front brake callipers are drafted in to increase stopping capability, while the Active Exhaust System with its chrome tips is assisted in the acoustics department by a modified intake manifold and Ford’s Open Air Induction System.
The net result of all the above is a car which is utterly glorious to travel in. Make no mistake, you can feel the extra alertness and talent coursing through the Mach 1’s veins within the first 50 yards, so even if – like us – you’re a fan of the regular V8 Mustang, you’ll nevertheless be craving this sharpened model with every fibre of your being once you’ve sampled its charms. It takes a few moderate turns of the steering wheel to sense how much more informative the Mach 1 is willing to be for its driver, while the keenness of the front end places the Ford well among the European rivals in terms of turn-in and grip. So you don’t really need to be extending the Mach 1’s chassis to reap the rewards of its programme of revisions… but when you do cut loose in the mightiest Mustang we get here in Europe, you’re rewarded with one of the most indelible driving experiences available this side of most hypercars.
The ’Bullitt’-spec engine has an additional 10hp and torque marginally reduced by 4Nm from the standard V8, which means peaks of 460hp and 529Nm. Believe us when we say the only regrettable thing about these numbers is that the US-spec Mach 1 has 480hp – we want that here, Ford, curse it! Anyway, you genuinely won’t lament the car’s performance. This is a powertrain replete with charisma and brilliance, and while it will lug happily and cleanly from low revs – it is a normally aspirated 5.0-litre V8, when all’s said and done – what’s so good about the ‘Coyote’ engine is that it spins eagerly around all the way to 7000rpm in a fury of phenomenal noise. Ford quotes 4.8 seconds for 0-62mph and a top speed of 166mph in the Mach 1, and we have no reason to doubt these stats, save to say they might be a tad conservative. You treat the Mustang with respect, because so much power thumping through the rear wheels deserves such care and attention, but aside from feeling like quite a wide car on narrower British country roads, this thing is an unmitigated joy to drive fast and not intimidating nor ragged in the slightest.
It is also magnificent if you just use it in a normal, everyday fashion. The engine has so much torque that it’ll pootle around in 5th and 6th at near-urban speeds with little complaint, while the rolling comfort on the MagneRide dampers is spectacular. There’s maybe a bit of excessive tyre roar in the cabin at speed, but that’s about it for the negatives on the way the Mach 1 drives. Honestly, it might still be something of a broadsword of a car, compared to the scalpel-like precision of, say, a Porsche 718 Cayman, but we defy you to have any less fun behind the wheel of the Ford Mustang Mach 1 because of that fact. It is mesmerising.
Oh, and go for the 6-speed manual model. There’s a 10-speed automatic option for the Mach 1 and it’s a splendid transmission, but there’s nothing like throwing that heavy-duty shifter about the H-gate and hearing the 5.0-litre powerplant grumbling away to your machinations as you do it. Yup, 6-speed manual for the win; this is the Mustang set up to cater best to keen drivers, after all.
How Practical Is It?
As we’ve already touched upon, despite the sheer physicality of the Mach 1’s exterior, the cabin isn’t the roomiest you’ll ever find. It also isn’t packed with loads of clever nooks and crannies in which to store personal belongings, and about your only concession to practicality is a pair of cupholders on the transmission tunnel… which place the tops of cups and larger bottles in just the wrong position for your elbow, if you’ve got the manual ‘box. Whoops.
There is, at least, a relatively vast 408-litre boot out the back of the Mustang Mach 1 to make up for its usability shortcomings in the passenger compartment. Really, though, you’re not buying the Mach 1 in the first place because it will transport a family of 5 and all their belongings with consummate ease – you’re buying it because it makes every single mile of driving feel good. Therefore, practicality has to take a vestigial back seat, if you’ll pardon the pun.
How Much Will It Cost Me?
The Mach 1 is the flagship Mustang and while it was ridiculously affordable in the UK when it launched – the V8 model was about £35,000 – the list prices have crept steadily upwards since then. So all Mustangs now have an asking figure well in excess of £40,000, while the Mach 1 kicks off at £56,955 – and our test car was £295 shy of 60 grand, thanks to the fitment of Grabber Yellow paint (£850) and the sensational Ebony leather Recaro front seats (£1900). Even on one of our unbeatable lease deals, a Mach 1 is going to set you back at least £640pcm.
Not only that, but the official economy claim is 22.8mpg combined… and we struggled even to match that lowly figure during the course of our week testing the car. Yikes. In mitigation, the Mach 1 comes with a bulging specification that includes the SYNC 3 infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a B&O 1000-watt, 12-speaker Premium Audio System, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and go, adaptive cruise control, a 12-inch digital LCD instrument cluster, a heated steering wheel and a rear-view camera, among much more. So you get a lot of toys for your money.
Anything Else I Should Know?
If you were wondering why Ford called its electric crossover the Mustang ‘Mach-E’, wonder no more. Its heritage comes directly from the original Mach 1 of the late 1960s, so it made sense – with the Mach-E on the scene for the 2020s – to bring back the Mach 1 nameplate on the ‘real’ Mustang at the same time.
What Alternatives Should I Look At?
Brutal 2.9 V6 biturbo engine and quattro traction, but nowhere near as charismatic as the Mustang.
The M4 has massively improved in this generation, and the Competition package just adds extra firepower.
Totally left-field choice but the V8 Lexus is spectacular. However, it’s nowhere near as affordable as the Ford.
The Vanarama Verdict: 9/10
"What you’re getting with the Mustang... is a massive amount of character."
3 Things To Remember About The Ford Mustang Mach 1:
Sharper handling than the regular V8 version
Has a tiny bit more power to play with
The best Mustang yet to hit the streets, in the US or otherwise