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2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 First Drive and Review

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 makes a triumphant return after being MIA for almost two decades. Ford grabbed a legendary nameplate from its storied past for its comeback kid. Nostalgia sells and the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 fuses retro-inspired styling with modern day drivetrain and technology. The question in our minds is, was it worth the wait?

It’s been said the third time is the charm. The first time the Mach 1 nameplate appeared on the Mustang was from 1969 to 1973. Then the Mach 1 made a brief return during the 2003 and 2004 model years. Now, after a 17-year hiatus, the Mach 1 returns for 2021 with its sights set on domination at the track. In fact, Ford claims the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is the most track-capable 5.0-liter equipped Mustang ever. With that in mind, we were anxious to get some drive time behind the wheel of the new Mustang Mach 1.

A Sense of Déjà Vu

The original Mach 1 made a name for itself by setting 295 land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. While the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 probably won’t rise to such lofty aspirations, it does have some big shoes to fill. With the Ford Mustang GT Bullitt, the Ford Mustang GT with Performance Package 2, and the Shelby GT350 absent from the Mustang lineup, the Mach 1 fills a huge gap left behind in the pony car’s roster.

A walkaround of our 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premium reveals retro-inspired Mach 1 fender badges, heritage hood and body-side striping, and a grille with a 3-D mesh and faux lamp cutouts. Black, low-gloss mirror caps and a blacked-out rear spoiler are a few other standout features. Our Mach 1 was also outfitted with the Mach 1 Appearance Package which adds Fighter Jet Gray paint, orange brake calipers, and a black/orange hood stripe.  

Inside, our Mach 1 features a Dark Spindrift instrument panel with aluminum accents. Ebony leather seats with an orange accent stripe are quite comfy and feature 6-way power and lumbar control. One of our favorite interior features is the 12-inch LCD digital instrument cluster that allows you to personalize the gauge layout for Normal, Sport, and Track modes. Another cool touch is the serialized dash plaque that displays the Mach 1’s chassis number.

Engine and Drivetrain

The sole powerplant under the hood of the new Mach 1 is a 32-valve 5.0-liter V8 with port fuel direct injection. It pumps out 480 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft of torque, which is 20 horses more than the Mustang GT. This engine also gets hand-me-downs from the Shelby GT350 including the intake manifold, oil filter adapter, and an 85-mm throttle body. Helping the Mach 1 keep its cool is a 36 mm radiator along with an air engine oil cooler, transmission oil cooler, and rear differential cooler.

The standard transmission for the 2021 Mach 1 is a Tremec TR-3160 6-speed manual with rev matching and no-lift shift. We were a bit disappointed our Mach 1 was equipped with the optional 10-speed SelectShift automatic. We felt a car of this pedigree should come exclusively with a manual gearbox. However, after a little drive time behind the wheel, we warmed up a bit to the automatic. Opting for the automatic gets you a 3.55 Torsen limited-slip rear axle, an upgrade torque converter, and special calibration for optimal torque capability.

How Does It Perform?

For a car set up for track duty, the Mach 1’s ride is surprisingly comfortable. Even in Sport mode, the 2021 Mach 1’s MagneRide suspension isn’t jolting, even on bumpy or rutted roads. Our Mach 1 also seemed better set up for street duty since it was devoid of the Handling Package. There’s nothing wrong with that and we made the best of the situation without it. The 10-speed automatic shifts smoothly, though at times seemed to search for the right gear in Normal and Sport modes. And it also felt as though it was constantly shifting. Good thing the automatic features a manual mode where drivers can be more engaged and have more control over shift points by using the paddle shifters.

Of course, we were anxious to see how the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach performs. Our 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 goes from 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds and sprints the quarter mile in 12.6 seconds at 115 miles per hour. For comparison, those numbers are right up there with the 2020 Ford Shelby GT350, which goes from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds and completes the quarter in 12.3 seconds.

The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires provide plenty of bite and give the Mach 1 a surefooted feel. They’re mounted on 19 x 9.5-inch wheels up front and 19 x 10-inch wheels out back. The Mach 1 provides three power-assist steering modes. Comfort is perfect for cruising around town and commuting to work. Normal mode balances Sport and Comfort modes for a more engaging driving experience. Sport mode is especially tight and where we spent most of our time. The only complaint is the lack of steering feedback. However, that seems to be commonplace these days with most performance cars we’ve driven and not just with the Mustang. And the exhaust has a growl that sounds good to our ears and elicits dirty looks from the neighbors.

What Does It Cost?

Base price of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premuium is $55,300. The Mach 1 Appearance Package tacks on another $1,250. The 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission adds $1,595. The 19-inch Magnetic-painted aluminum wheels are $450. Destination charges bring in another $1,195. Tally it all up and the price of our 2021 Mach 1 Premium comes in at $59,790.

The Verdict

We found the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 to be a solid performer, even without the manual transmission and the Mach 1 Handling Package. As mentioned previously, our Mach 1 seemed better suited for street duty than for the track. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is a great alternative to those wanting more performance than the GT but don’t want to spend GT350 dough. Was it worth the 17 year wait? We think so. The sixth generation Mustang is one of the best we’ve driven and the 2021 Mustang Mach 1 builds on this generation’s solid reputation. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re considering a Mustang. 

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