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December 22, 2021updated 23 Dec 2021 1:56pm

Mach 1 – the best Ford Mustang yet?

The Mach 1 was added to Ford's 2021 model year Mustang range, replacing the Bullitt. And the good news continues as it's sticking around for MY22.

By Glenn Brooks

As with the Bullitt, there’s no Mach 1 convertible but Ford does give you a choice of transmissions, these being a ten-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. The second of those is one of the main engineering differences between the new edition and the Bullitt, manual versions of which had a Getrag MT-82 gearbox.

The new cars’s stick shift is Tremec’s TR-3160, as featured in the now former Shelby GT350 and GT350R. In North America, the aluminium Coyote 5.0-litre V8 produces 480 horsepower and 420 lb ft (569 Nm) of torque but cars for Ford of Europe’s markets have less power and torque.

Even with ‘just’ 338 kW (460 PS) and 529 Nm (390 lb ft), the Mach 1 is fearsomely fast and massively enjoyable. Width can be an issue on some UK roads but compared to many EVs and ICE-powered large SUVs, the Mustang is a breeze in narrow country lanes.

Quite a few things set a Mach 1 apart from other Mustangs. To start with there’s badging in a font which hark back to the original which debuted for the 1969 model year car. Ford revived the name a few more times in the ‘70s and early 2000s with similar exterior tweaks each time.

The first Mach 1’s partially black painted bonnet is reinterpreted as a wide stripe for the latest car, and the black stripes on the doors are there too, only lower down. Buyers get to choose from eight body colours and stripe combinations and there is gloss-black trim for the grille.

Ford puts the special edition’s name on the boot lid along with a small wing and there are special 19-inch wheels. Neither the blue oval nor the word Mustang appear at the rear but there’s a prancing pony on the grille. You also get a bespoke front splitter and a version-specific diffuser at the back which are claimed to give extra downforce.

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The braking system includes Brembo six-piston calipers up front and there’s recalibrated electrically-assisted steering with a newly designed subframe plus stiffer springs.

On the inside, it’s not that different to the Bullitt, the same white cue ball featuring atop the gear lever in manual transmission cars, a numbered plaque is fixed to the dashboard, the steering wheel is heated and so too are the black leather-faced front seats (plus they have cooling).

Drop down into any of the seats, cast your eyes about and the age of this car is suddenly apparent. Is that a bad thing? The handbrake looks a bit of a throwback compared to the automatic switches that are more or less the norm in other Fords and that’s not helped by it not having been switched for RHD. Never mind: in fact there’s a lot to love about the old school charm, not to mention the whole muscle car aura which suffuses the cockpit.

Ford has updated the instrumentation cluster with digital gauges, the best one obviously being the rev counter for that big engine, which incidentally, sounds wonderful as the starter motor cranks it into life. You can stay friends with your neighbours too, thanks to a Quiet mode for the exhaust system and its four tailpipes.

Officially, this is a 20+mpg car but it’s all too easy to drop consumption into the mid teens so as everyday car, the reality would be frequent visits to the petrol station. But surely not many owners would have this as their only car.

And the driving experience? Utterly fantastic and highly addictive. It’s hard not to blip the throttle pedal at idle just to listen to that engine. There’s also rev-matching on down-changes as an added delight. In addiction to a Launch function, driving modes are: Normal, MyMode, Snow/Wet, Sport+, Track and Drag.

On a damp road, the Mach 1 can go feral if you’re determined to push it too hard even with the safety tech trying to prevent a sideways exit so respect is needed. There’s no way I’d call it dangerous though: communication of what’s going on at point of tyres-meet-bitumen is loud and clear. And then there’s Launch Control – only for manual cars – which guarantees big smiles but perhaps a less than long life for tyres and clutch.

Ford has tweaked the S550 series Mustang’s chassis settings to an even higher level of brilliance for this new variant. It’s a credit to the company’s engineers that a car in the latter years of its life cycle is still so sharp. The suspension even manages to offer a ride that’s way more comfortable than could be expected.

There really is no other car like this one available in Britain at least, and Ford has got itself what’s likely to be a great cash generator and image-enhancer. Will the fastest, loudest version of the next generation Mustang have as much raw character as the Mach 1?

The Mustang Mach 1 costs from GBP55,255, will hit 62 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds (manual), has a top speed of 166 mph, Combined economy of 22.8 mpg and a CO2 average of 284 g/km.

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