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Ford Mustang 2021 review: Mach 1

The Mach 1 has been designed to be the most track-capable Mustang - at least in Australia.
EXPERT RATING
7.4
Ford's latest special edition Mustang is aimed at those who want a sharper, more dynamic driving experience. Does it live up to its lofty ambitions?

If any car could be accused of trading on its heritage too much it’s the Ford Mustang.

The iconic pony car has embraced its retro style and stuck to the same principles that have made it so popular for so long.

The latest return to ‘old days’ is the arrival of the Mach 1, a special edition that features a raft of upgrades to make it “the most track-focused Mustang ever sold in Australia”; according to the company.

Ford has tried this before, introducing the locally-produced R-Spec in collaboration with longtime Ford tuner, Herrod Performance, in early 2020.

The Mach 1 takes things to the next level though, borrowing elements from the red-hot Shelby GT500 and GT350 (which aren’t available in right-hand drive) to create something that sits above the Mustang GT and R-Spec when it comes to track days.

Ford Mustang 2021: Mach 1
Safety rating
Engine Type5.0L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency12.4L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$83,365

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

The design leans into the retro appeal of the standard Mustang but builds on it by embracing the original Mach 1 that debuted back in 1968.

The design leans into the retro appeal of the standard Mustang. The design leans into the retro appeal of the standard Mustang.

The most notable unique element for the car is the new grille, which features a pair of round recesses in tribute to the 1970 Mach 1 which featured extra fog lamps. The grille also has a new 3D mesh design and a low-gloss blank ‘Mustang’ badge.

The most notable unique element for the car is the new grille. The most notable unique element for the car is the new grille.

The changes aren’t just for looks though, the lower front bumper has been aerodynamically honed with a new splitter and new lower grille, to help improve handling on track. At the rear there’s a new diffuser which is the same design used on the Shelby GT500.

The 19-inch alloy wheels are an inch wider than those on the Mustang GT and feature a design that harks back to the original’s ‘Magnum 500’ that became a muscle car staple in the ‘70s in the US.

The other major visual change is the graphics pack, which features a thick stripe down the centre of the car’s bonnet, roof and boot, as well as decals on the sides.

The 19-inch alloy wheels feature a design that harks back to the original’s ‘Magnum 500’. The 19-inch alloy wheels feature a design that harks back to the original’s ‘Magnum 500’.

There’s also 3D ‘Mach 1’ badging on the front quarter panels which blends in with the overall look while adding a premium touch.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

The Mach 1 isn’t any more or less practical than the standard Mustang GT. That means while it technically has four seats, it’s really best used as a two-seat sports coupe because the rear seats lack any meaningful leg room.

The front seats in each Mach 1 we drove were the optional Recaros. While an expensive addition they do look good and offer excellent support, particularly the chunky side bolsters that help keep you in place when you’re cornering with enthusiasm.

The adjustment on the seats isn’t ideal, with Ford continuing its trend of offering driver’s seats that feel too high - at least for this reviewer’s personal taste. Those who like an elevated view of the road, particularly down the long bonnet, will probably appreciate the positioning.

The boot is the same 408 litres as the GT, which is actually pretty respectable for a sports car. It would have no trouble with fitting your shopping bags or soft travel luggage for a long weekend road trip.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Only 700 examples of the Mach 1 are coming to Australia and it features a wide range of extra performance parts, and both of those elements are reflected in the price.

The Mach 1 is priced from $83,365 (plus on-road costs), which is $19,175 more expensive than a GT and $16,251 cheaper than the R-Spec was - creating a nice separation between the three very similar ‘Stangs.

Important to note, that $83,365 price is for both the six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic; there’s no premium for the auto.

We’ll go into detail on the special additions to the Mach 1 in the relevant sections, but in a nutshell it has changes to the engine, transmission, suspension and styling.

In terms of creature comforts and technology the Mach 1 comes standard with heated and cooled front seats, Ford’s SYNC3 multimedia system, a 12-inch digital instrument panel and a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.

While it’s primarily one specification there are some options for you to choose from. The first, and most expensive, is Recaro leather sports seats which add $3000 to the bill.

Prestige paint is a $650 extra, and of the five colours available only 'Oxford White' is not ‘Prestige’; the other four are 'Twister Orange', 'Velocity Blue', 'Shadow Black' and 'Fighter Jet Gray.'

The final optional extra is the 'Appearance Pack', which adds orange brake calipers and orange trim highlights and is included only on those in Fighter Jet Gray, but still adds $1000.

Noticeably absent from the options list is the 'Handling Package' that’s available in the USA. It adds a larger front splitter, new front wheel lip mouldings, a unique rear spoiler with a Gurney flap and unique alloy wheels.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

While the R-Spec added a supercharger to extract more power and torque, the Mach 1 makes do with the same 5.0-litre V8 Coyote engine as the GT. However, thanks to the installation of a new open-air induction system, intake manifold and new throttle bodies from the Shelby GT350, the Mach 1 does boast more power than before. It’s good for 345kW/556Nm, compared to 339kW/556Nm on the GT.

It’s only a small difference but Ford wasn’t trying to make the most powerful Mustang (that’s why the GT500 exists), but wanted an engine that felt flexible and linear on the track.

Another GT350 element used on this model is the manual transmission. Another GT350 element used on this model is the manual transmission.

Another GT350 element used on this model is the manual transmission, a Tremec six-speed unit that features both rev-matching on the downshifts and the ability to ‘flat-shift’ up through the gears.

The 10-speed automatic is the same gearbox used on the GT but has been given a unique software tune for the Mach 1 to better take advantage of the extra power and give the car its own character.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

It will come as no surprise that a 5.0-litre V8 designed for maximum performance on the track isn’t a fuel miser. Ford claims the manual uses premium unleaded at a rate of 13.9 litres per 100km, while the auto manages slightly better at 12.4L/100km.

Given our test drive included an extensive run on the track at high speeds we weren’t able to get a representative real world figure, but it would take some very careful driving to get near those claims.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

This is where the Mach 1 really comes into its own, with all the key changes centred around making it ride and handle better, while also lasting longer on the limit.

Underneath the car the suspension takes elements from both the Shelby models, there’s toe-link components from the GT350 while the rear subframe with stiffer bushings comes from the same parts bin as the GT500. 

This is the most track-capable Mustang yet, just as Ford promised. This is the most track-capable Mustang yet, just as Ford promised.

There’s also new, stiffer anti-roll bars front and rear, while unique front springs drop the ride height by 5.0mm for a better stance.

The Mach 1 is fitted with 'MagneRide' adaptive dampers, which use fluid inside the housing to adjust stiffness in real-time based on road conditions or when you select one of the more dynamic drive modes - 'Sports' or 'Track.'

While Ford uses MagneRide on other models, the Mach 1 gets a unique tune for more responsive handling.

The electric steering has been given a special tune too, to provide a unique feeling and better response than the regular ‘Stang.

The electric steering has been given a special tune to provide a unique feeling and better response. The electric steering has been given a special tune to provide a unique feeling and better response.

Cooling was another major area of work for the Ford engineers, which is critical because keeping everything from overheating is what makes the Mach 1 suitable for heavier track use.

A pair of side heat exchangers are fitted to cool the engine oil and transmission oil, while there’s also another cooler for the rear axle.

The brakes are six-piston Brembo calipers with 380mm rotors up front, with single-piston and 330mm discs at the rear.

To keep them cool when you’re making repeated hard stops on a track Ford has used some elements from the GT350 including a dedicated fins on the extended undertray that direct air onto the brakes.

The net result of all these changes really is the most track-capable Mustang yet, just as Ford promised.

We were able to test the Mach 1 on the road and track, lapping the tight and twisty ‘Amaroo’ layout at Sydney Motorsport Park to really experience the car in the setting Ford intended.

The Mustang feels good on the open road. The Mustang feels good on the open road.

Our road loop took us across some of Sydney’s pockmarked back roads and the Mach 1 demonstrated its firmer ride remains liveable, but still misses the balance between control and comfort that die-hard fans will remember from the locally-built Falcon-based sports sedans; especially those from FPV.

Still, the Mustang feels good on the open road, the V8 lopes along without any fuss, especially in the automatic which is happy to slot into tall gears as quickly as possible to try and save fuel.

Impressively, the ‘Stang manages to use all 10 ratios, something not all gearboxes this size have managed in the past.

However, even in Sport the auto ‘box prefers taller gears, so if you want to have a spirited drive on the road and hold a lower gear I recommend using the paddle-shifters on the steering wheel and taking control yourself.

While the road drive showcased a capable cruiser, just like the Mustang GT, the track drive is what really rammed home the improved capability of the Mach 1.

Ford kindly provided a GT for back-to-back comparison and it really highlighted the differences between the pair.

While the GT is a fun car to drive around a track, the Mach 1 feels sharper, more responsive and more playful which not only makes it faster but more enjoyable to drive.

The track drive is what really rammed home the improved capability of the Mach 1. The track drive is what really rammed home the improved capability of the Mach 1.

The combination of the extra downforce, overhauled suspension and re-tuned steering means the Mach 1 turns into corners with more directness and better control.

The way the Mach 1 transfers its weight as you push from one corner to another is a significant step up from the GT and even the R-Spec; even if it lacks the punch of the supercharged R-Spec on the straights.

Not that the Mach 1 feels slow when you open it up. It revs hard all the way to the redline and feels smooth and strong. It also makes a great noise thanks to some tweaks to the exhaust that help unleash a deeper and louder growl.

Paired with the six-speed manual ‘box the Mach 1 is great fun to drive, providing the kind of ‘old-school’ muscle car thrills that is becoming increasingly rare in a world of paddle-shifters and turbocharged engines.

In a nod to modern times though, the gearbox features both an ‘auto blip’ on downshifts (a burst of revs that helps slot the lower gear more smoothly) and the ability to ‘flat shift’ on up changes.

The latter means you can keep your right foot buried on the accelerator as you hit the clutch and pull the next gear. The engine automatically cuts the throttle for a split-second to avoid damaging the engine but help you accelerate harder.

It does take some getting used to - at least if you have mechanical sympathy - but when you do it’s a fun feature that adds to the track potential of the car.

While the manual will appeal to enthusiasts the automatic does a good job on the track, too. Because it hunts for tall gears on the road we opted to slot it into manual mode and use the paddles on the track.

The car will hold the gear right to the redline, or until you click the paddle, so you’re in control all the time. The shifts aren’t as fast or crisp as you’ll get with a dual-clutch transmission but it’s good enough to feel dynamic.

The brakes are impressive, too, which is good given how fast the V8 is. Not only in the power they provide, allowing you to dive much deeper into corners than you can in the GT, but also the consistency they have. The extra cooling means there was no fade in our five lap runs around the circuit.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   5/10

The Mustang’s safety history has been well documented, infamously scoring just a two-star rating from ANCAP, before being updated to earn its current three-star rating. That’s not to suggest the Mustang is an unsafe car and it has a respectable list of standard safety equipment.

This includes eight airbags (driver and passenger front, side and curtain as well as driver’s knee), lane departure warning with lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

There’s also Ford’s 'Emergency Assistance' which can automatically call emergency services if your phone is paired with the car and it detects the airbags have deployed.

However, there are some noticeable safety features missing that you could reasonably expect to come fitted to a car costing more than $80K.

Specifically, there’s no adaptive cruise control or rear parking sensors, both increasingly common features on cars costing significantly less.

Unfortunately for Ford, the original brochure for the Mach 1 included both items and this caused an uproar amongst some earlier buyers who felt they had been misled.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

Adaptive cruise control and parking sensors weren’t the only brochure blunder, Ford also originally claimed the Mach 1 would be fitted with a Torsen mechanical limited slip diff, however the right-hand drive variants use the same LSD as the Mustang GT.

To appease unhappy owners, Ford Australia is offering free servicing for the first three years which saves them almost $900. Otherwise, a standard service will cost $299 and are due every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.

Ford Australia is offering free servicing for the first three years. Ford Australia is offering free servicing for the first three years.

Also noteworthy is Ford providing a free loan car when you book your car in for service - something typically only offered by select premium brands.

The Mach 1 is covered by the same warranty as the rest of the Ford range, five-year/unlimited kilometres.

Importantly, Ford will cover warranty claims if the car is used on track, as long it’s “driven in a manner that is consistent with the guidelines” laid out in the owner’s manual. 

Verdict

Ford’s decision to go back to the Mach 1 continued its retro theme, following the Bullitt Mustang special edition, but it isn’t stuck in the past. The changes made to the Mach 1 over and above the GT make it a genuinely better car, with superior handling on the road and the track.

The appeal of the Mach 1 is very much focused on track use though, so it won’t be to everyone’s taste. However, for those that do plan on participating in track days on a regular basis the Mach 1 doesn’t disappoint. 

The plethora of Shelby parts and the other upgrades, means it feels like a much sharper instrument than any previous Mustang we’ve had in Australia. The only catch will be securing one of the 700 as the popularity of this American icon shows no signs of waning yet.

Pricing guides

$75,485
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$50,990
Highest Price
$99,980

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.3 Gtdi 2.3L, ULP, 10 SP AUTO $60,490 2021 Ford Mustang 2021 2.3 Gtdi Pricing and Specs
GT 5.0 V8 5.0L, PULP, 10 SP AUTO $74,890 2021 Ford Mustang 2021 GT 5.0 V8 Pricing and Specs
2.3 Gtdi 2.3L, ULP, 10 SP AUTO $53,990 2021 Ford Mustang 2021 2.3 Gtdi Pricing and Specs
GT 5.0 V8 5.0L, PULP, 10 SP AUTO $66,690 2021 Ford Mustang 2021 GT 5.0 V8 Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.4
Design9
Practicality6
Price and features7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption6
Driving9
Safety5
Ownership9
Stephen Ottley
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$83,365

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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