It was April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair, that Ford introduced one of its most popular cars of all time, as well as creating a whole new genre for enthusiast driving — long hood/short deck pony cars.
With over 10 million sold worldwide since, with an incredible 1 million sold in the first 18 months of production, the Ford Mustang is THE iconic two-door for multiple generations of drivers.
As with many automakers, Ford has reached back into its past, again, this year for the Mach 1 label. Through the years, Ford has featured many high-performance models — GT350, GT500, Boss 302, Boss 429, Cobra, Bullitt and the Mach 1, all establishing high-water marks for performance during their respective eras. This year’s Mach 1 essentially replaces the departed GT350 and Bullitt models, slipping into the lineup ahead of the GT Premium and below the extroverted 760-hp GT500.
Buyers get a modified 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 that pumps out 20 horsepower over the GT model, 480 hp total, using active-valve exhaust with giant 4.5-inch quad tips, open-air injection (the throwback circular headlamp shrouds in the grille are fake) plus selectable drive modes that include apps for track and drag racing. A Torsen limited slip rear diff, aided by additional cooling, plus a beefy Tremec TR-3160 six-speed manual instead of the standard Getrag gearbox (our tester featured the quicker 10-speed automatic, $1,595) all work with a stouter chassis setup complemented by the excellent Magneride electronic ride system to create a crisp handling coupe that is also supple when necessary.
Six-piston Brembo brake calipers, in orange, automatic rev-matching on downshifts, specific hood decal and fender badges, plus huge Michelin Pilot Sport Cup-2 tires round out the $53,915 Mach 1 portfolio, which made a nice visual statement in Fighter Jet Gray paint with black and orange striping. With additional appearance options and features, our limited production number 39 sample car stickered for $59,390.
Yet, if this isn’t enough, there is an optional Handling package ($3,500) that upsizes the rubber to 305ZR/315ZR, larger front splitter and functional rear spoiler to really exploit the Track mode settings.
With a 2016 GT/CS convertible residing here, the comparisons just seem natural.
The sixth-generation Mustang offers a comfortable, roomy cabin with easily accessed buttons, knobs and toggle switches that provide real tactile feedback, not artificial swipes and wonderment. The power sport seat, heated and cooled (Recaros are optional), offers good support and all-day comfort. Visibility is better than in most peers, plus ingress and egress is less of an athletic move than some rivals. As with the car’s essential operating controls — the steering wheel, throttle and brake pedal — feedback and the all-elusive “feel” of a high-performance car are what matter most. The Mach 1, as well as my GT, never disappoint.
But there is no denying that the Mach 1 is a more focused and sharply honed tool to get the job done. In normal mode, the car is as placid as the family sedan. Tune things up with the right pedal, or the drive mode toggle switch, and the Mach 1 comes alive in a ferocious fashion, those quad pipes barking out a furious redline assault. The 10-speed is superb, shifting up or down intuitively, making the paddle shifters irrelevant, while the Magneride suspension adroitly handles whatever winding roadway you thrust the Mustang down.
Steering feel is rewarding as well, with none of the tramlining that some track-focused cars will reveal on the super-slab. The low-speed turning radius is greater than in my GT, but the forward march when pressed is stronger—much stronger, and on par with the small-block Camaro SSs that we run with.
Ford claims that the Mach 1 is the most track-capable 5.0-liter Mustang it has ever built, and equal to the departed GT350 in handling and track speed. Most impressive is that it is also a great daily driver. Rewarding to pilot, comfortable to ride in, with enough space to weekend with, the Mach 1 continues the grand touring tradition of Mustang, albeit with a big bang after you light the fuse.
Americans, by and large, work hard and play hard to enjoy their toys, toys such as boats, off-road vehicles and pony cars. This latest Mustang excites the senses and rewards the nerve endings in ways that pony car fans have always lusted for. A feel-good car that looks good, drives great and will become another notable icon in the brand’s history, this Mach 1 earns a slot in the Mustang Hall of Fame.