The Ford Mustang Mach 1 is back. After a 17-year pause, Ford released the 2021 Mustang Mach 1, continuing a history of genuine track performance and offering superb handling backed by high horsepower and torque. I had the chance to drive the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 twice in the past month and came away impressed.
The Ford Mustang Mach 1: A Brief History
The original Ford Mustang Mach 1 was released for the 1969 model year. The cars were offered only in the fastback body style and came with upgraded suspension pieces.
Power options started with a 351 CID Windsor V8 engine and went all the way up to the fabled 428 CID Cobra Jet. The Mach 1 gained instant fandom with a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats where it set nearly 300 records for speed and endurance.
With minor variations, Ford offered the Mach 1 as a sports performance offering through 1978. Ford resumed the name for 2003-04, positioning the revamped Mustang Mach 1 between the Mustang GT and the SVT Cobra model for that short time.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Review
For 2021, the Mach 1 comes with a 5.0L Coyote engine rated at 480 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. MPG is at 15 in the city and 23 on the highway.
Though it shares some parts with both the previous Shelby GT350 and the Shelby GT500, the engineers at Ford insist this is not a “parts bin” Mustang. With a starting price tag just over $53,000, it is priced between a GT and the Shelby Mustang models and comes with either a 10-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.
Jim Owens, the North American marketing manager for Mustang, says the Mach 1 allows for “personalization of performance” with a variety of affordable options. What that translates to is a track-ready car that is also suitable as a daily driver.
Ford also offers a Mach 1 Premium with a slightly different and more expensive set of packages and options
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1: Pros
I only drove the manual version and, frankly, if you are seeking a track day car, rowing your own gears is the way to go. This 6-speed TREMEC manual is not your father’s manual, allowing both automatic rev-matching downshifts and no lift upshifting. Admittedly, on the short courses that I drove, I had limited exposure to both, but it was apparent that this TREMEC is a game-changer.
Generally, with an old-school manual transmission to get the best performance results, a driver when downshifting would “blip” the throttle, or heel-toe downshift, to raise the rpm. With this TREMEC transmission, that is no longer necessary. The built-in electronics provide the proper rpm-matching during the downshifts.
No Lift Shift
Similarly, with a traditional manual transmission, when shifting up a gear, the driver would depress the clutch, remove their foot from the accelerator, change gears, and then ease out on the clutch while simultaneously depressing the throttle.
With this TREMEC transmission, you can keep your foot on the accelerator while shifting up a gear. The electronics handle everything for a smooth result. It takes a few tries to retrain your muscle memory to not take your foot off the throttle, but soon it became second nature.
Not only does the TREMEC make rowing through the gears fun, but it is also efficient and torque-inducing thanks in part to the 3.73 rear axle.
The trunk for the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 was surprisingly spacious. The volume is a compact 13.5 cubic feet, but with the optional rear split seats folded down, there is still some decent storage space available for most uses. I didn’t get a chance to pack it full of gear, but it appeared reasonably spacious.
The MagneRide shocks are the way to go for the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1. Sophisticated electronics allow the damping system to change 1,000 times per second providing for a smooth but responsive suspension by maximizing tire-to-road contact. My daily driver has a similar shock, I find it is a joy to use.
The Mustang Mach 1 comes with optional cloth or leather Recaro sport seats. I found the seats had just enough bolstering to keep me positioned in the seat without gouging me. Whether you intended to track the Mustang or keep it as a daily commuter, the seats were comfortable and supportive.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1: Cons
Not everything about the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 was ideal. Though these cons aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, they are something to keep in mind, especially if you plan on using your Mach 1 as a grocery getter as well as a track-day machine.
Rear Passenger Space
Though the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 has a folding split rear seat (if you get the Mach 1 handling package), let’s be honest, NO adult is going to be happy riding in the back seat for an extended time.
The rear passenger legroom is a miserly 29 inches, while the front occupants get a maximum of 45 inches. With the Mustang’s two-doors, even getting a child carrier in the back seat is tenuous, at best. However, you can order the Mustang with a factory delete for the rear seat—a tempting option. Perhaps that is why Ford only provides two USB ports in the car as well?
The interior designer of the Mach 1 must assume that driver would prefer to be looking out the windshield focused on the track. The car’s interior is rather bland. And since this is a track-performing car, the noise inside the cabin is noticeable, but the 9-speaker sound system could overcome it if that is your desire.
Additionally, someone thought putting a large Mach 1 nameplate on the passenger side of the dashboard, along with the chassis number, looked sweet. To me, it just looks tacky. Trust me, the Mach 1’s performance clearly clues in your passenger as to what car you are driving.
Though I am sure the front splitter aids in downforce and is aerodynamic, it invites instant damage from parking lot curbs, speed bumps, and even some track berms. Folks walking past the Mach 1 had better mind their shins as well. I suspect the Ford dealership parts department will make a killing with this replacement piece.
2021 Mustang Mach 1: The Best V8 Ford Has to Offer
The chief engineer for Mustang, Ed Krenz, calls the Mustang Mach 1 the “highest performing V8 track car, with the best parts from Ford.” If you are looking to spend around $60,000 (after some options) for a track-handling car that is also capable of commuting, the Mach 1 will fit the bill.
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