+ Genuinely sharper to drive
+ Wonderful V8 engine and noise
+ Remains comfortable
- Considerable price jump
- Appetite for fuel versus rivals
- Cabin quality in places
Verdict: Better to drive in every way, the Mach 1 is hands-down the best Ford Mustang yet. Your head tells you its German rivals remain even sharper, more efficient and higher-quality, but there are now even more reasons to go with your heart instead.
Before you ask, no this Ford Mustang Mach 1 cannot do 761.21mph. It is not, as its name suggests, as fast as the speed of sound. However, it is the first Mach 1 to ever officially grace the UK, despite you being able to add a Mach 1 pack to your mustang in the US since way back in 1969.
Why now? Well, why not, we guess. Now that Ford has officially dropped the four-cylinder Mustang in the UK and the Shelby GT350 is no longer, the Mach 1 has come along to fill the gap between the standard V8 GT and frankly silly Shelby GT500.
The Mach 1 exists to be a sharper Mustang – one that feels more agile on the road but especially on the track. And remember, this could be the last combustion-engine Mustang we ever see here.
Nevertheless, trying to decide on direct rivals to the Mustang has always been difficult, but with the Mach 1's new focus, maybe it does make a Porsche Cayman S, Toyota Supra and BMW 4 Series more likely a consideration.
In truth, the Mach 1 feels a very different car. That starts with its looks, which are unapologetically brash, especially with the Mach 1's more aggressive front and rear bumpers and diffuser which bring 25% more downforce, additional air intake on its grille, unique 19-inch alloys, stripes, boot spoiler and Mach 1 badging. It all makes a Porsche Cayman S look a little, well, tame.
Inside, though, the aforementioned rivals do a better job when it comes to quality and infotainment. The Mach 1's insides are by no means terrible, with a nice design and solid build, but the materials used look, feel and even smell cheaper. The aluminium Mach 1-badged sill strips and Mach 1 badge on the dash with your car's unique chassis number don't really do enough.
Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system is standard, which includes a touchscreen featuring built-in sat-nav but also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Its menus are relatively easy to follow and it's decently responsive, but many of the onscreen buttons are too small to hit accurately when driving and Porsche and BMW are leagues ahead for screen resolution and additional features.
Still, like all current-generation Mustangs, the Mach 1 seats two tall adults in its front seats with room to stretch out, and the drive gets a generous helping of seat and wheel adjustment to ensure the perfect driving position is found easily. There are even two rear seats, that won't seat adults comfortably, but will seat children or baby seats. A Cayman can't do that.
But that's enough about Isofix points. What's the Mach 1 like to drive? Put simply; as good as a Mustang currently gets.
Ford's 5.0-litre V8 is glorious in the standard GT, where it produces 450hp, but in the Mach 1 it produces a slightly spikier 460hp thank to better cooling and revs slightly higher too.
This, you won't really notice on road or track - 0-62mph drops by just 0.1 seconds to 4.8 seconds - but that's fast by any measure and the new sports exhaust system helps make the Mach 1 more of an event to drive at any speed. The Mach 1 stops harder with lovely brake feel too, thanks to an upgraded Brembo brake system.
We drove the six-speed manual, an all-new, lighter gearbox borrowed from Shelby that gets extra cooling too. It's beefy to use, but wonderful with it, creating a proper muscle car feel to the way you drive the Mach 1 down a road. It also features a lovely cue ball shifter borrowed from the Bullit Mustang. A 10-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox costs £2000 extra, but it seems a shame to add it.
With its stiffer (but still adaptive) suspension, rear limited-slip differential and wider wheels with gripper Michelin PS4 Tyres, the Mach 1 is a genuinely more entertaining thing across country roads. Its steering column has been made stiffer and its steering recalibrated too, all adding up to a car that turns into corners with more gusto, hangs on harder through them and gets its power down more effectively out the other end.
Its mid-way (of three) driving modes, Sport+, makes the best road setting, while Race provides maximum attack and minimum stability control interference on track, where sideways stuff is still possible. Dial the Mach 1 right back, though, and it makes a comfortable and relatively quiet long-distance GT too.
The brutal truth? You'll probably lap faster in a Cayman S, Supra or even M440i if that's your thing. But not by as much as you might assume and categorically without as much giggling.
We suppose we'd better chat about money. The Mach 1 costs around £55,000 in manual form, which is about £11,000 more expensive than the standard manual GT – a car that provides 90% of the experience. And, like all V8 Mustangs, the rate at which you'll get through fuel is nothing short of alarming. It makes the Porsche, Toyota and BMW look like a Prius in comparison.
But you knew that, right? It's a Mustang. You aren't buying it for its fuel economy, you're buying it because it's a Mustang. Only this Mustang happens to be the best currently on sale, being genuinely more entertaining than the standard GT and actually drivable down a country road in winter, unlike the Shelby GT500.
Plus, the Mach 1 is pricey for a Mustang, sure, but pretty much matches those rivals above.
So, if this is the last hurrah for the V8 Mustang, or even the penultimate hurrah, it has certainly elevated the Mustang's drive. For those who like a German coupe it'll be something to think about, and for those who are muscle-car through and through, it is very good news indeed.