Ford likes to keep its iconic Mustang fresh by swapping different versions of the sports coupe in and out of its line-up.
This shuffling of the performance end of the portfolio must have an impact as the Mustang — not including the Mach-E — has been the world’s best-selling sports coupe for the last six years. Not just the U.S., but in the world.
For 2021, the Mach 1 returned after a 17-year hiatus while the GT350 and Bullitt models went back into mothballs. What never seems to change is the sound and the fury that comes from these performance models as we found out after spending a week in the Mach 1.
For 2021, you can get your gas-powered Mustang in one of five setups: EcoBoost, 2.3-Liter High Performance, GT, Mach 1 and Shelby GT500. When most people think of the Mustang, it’s likely the GT model is what springs to mind — and that’s a pretty good view.
However, these vehicles feature powerplants that range from a turbocharged inline 4-cylinder putting out 310 horsepower to the DOHC port fuel-injected V-8 putting out 760 hp. The Mach 1 comes in just a step below the track-ready Shelby GT500 and its 760 hp and 625 pound-feet of torque. But there does seem to be a Mustang for every budget — well every budget looking for a sports coupe anyway.
A quick look at all of these variants will show you that they may all come from the same place — Ford’s plant in Flat Rock, Michigan — but they most certainly are not the same thing.
The 2021 Mustang Mach 1 returns after nearly two decades on the sidelines and not only does it look much like its siblings in the portfolio, bearing a strong resemblance to the Mustangs from the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Our test model came in Fighter Jet Gray with a singular thick black racing stripe outlined in orange and the “Mach 1” logo on the hood harkening back to the look from the original Mach 1. That’s all accented by the 19-inch five-spoke Tarnished Dark (read black) painted aluminum wheels.
This combination never failed to attract attention during my week in the vehicle, eliciting some form of “this is my favorite version of this car” daily, including from my car-crazed 21-year-old son and his friends, as well as — surprisingly — my 19-year-old car-knowledgeable daughter and her friends.
This model is track-ready so it gets a few upgrades that only enhance the aggressive, almost uncompromising exterior, including the 3-D mesh grille and side grilles under the turn signals. These combined with the front splitter and the large rear spoiler only seem to call attention to a vehicle that already looks like its leaning forward trying to go faster than it’s being allowed by the driver. In short, the outside doesn’t disappoint.
If the exterior lives up to its billing, then the interior exceeds it in many ways, starting with how it looks. The black leather seats are accented with an orange stripe across the middle giving you an indication you’re climbing into a different level of Mustang.
Meanwhile the gauge cluster — thankfully — retains its old-school look with the two round dials featuring the same style numbers found in the originals. However, it’s a 12.3-inch digital screen and between the two dials is a separate screen that allows the driver to access all of the high-tech wizardry packed into this vehicle, which I’ll get to shortly, using buttons on the steering wheel.
The center console features a large touchscreen with enough knobs to keep those who drove the original Mach 1 happy without cluttering the rest of the space. Several aluminum switches at the bottom of the console, near the shifter, make easier work of controlling certain aspects of the vehicle, like the traction control.
While I’d love to tell you about the famous white, cue ball-style shifter knob and how cool it looks against the backdrop of black leather and polished aluminum, I can’t. You get that in the manual and my tester was an automatic.
The 5.0 is the stuff of legend, finding its way into music and other forms of pop culture and it’s alive and well in the Mach 1. The current version of the 5.0-liter V-8 puts out 480 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. It’s beefy, brawny and makes the best sound of all the current muscle cars.
Buyers of the Mach 1 have a choice of a manual or automatic transmission. Our test rocket came with the 10-speed SelectShift automatic which comes with an upgraded torque converter specially calibrated to improve the vehicle’s performance. It also comes with paddle shifters for those who want to at least kind of feel like you’re doing the work.
I’ve driving Ford vehicles with the 10-speed before and always found them to be very good — until now. To be clear, it wasn’t terrible by any stretch, but there were times at lower speeds it seemed to struggle to find the right gear. Again, those times were few, but still annoying. Where is shines is at middle and higher speeds. Put your foot down and you simply go. It’s smooth and responsive.
That said, I just don’t understand why anyone would buy a vehicle like this and replace the Tremec 3160 6-speed manual with an automatic. How many people daily drive this vehicle? But, it’s good to have options.
Safety and Technology
As they say, safety first and we’ll start with the basics. If you want your car to go fast, then you need it to stop fast. That’s not a problem with massive Brembo six-piston, vented disc brakes. I never really had to test how quickly they stop fortunately. It comes with enough airbags to keep out an invading army: front, side and curtain.
On the technological front, its AdvanceTrac with electronic stability control, ABS was paired on our model with Ford Co-Pilot360, which features auto high-beam headlamps, rearview camera, Blind Spot Information System, Lane-Keeping System, and Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support.
However, the technology doesn’t just keep you safer. It also allows the driver to configure the vehicle to maximize its potential, whether just showing off around town or showing up at the nearest race track. Particularly impressive was the line lock function which was simple to use and performed perfectly. Also nice are the four different settings for the car’s exhaust sounds: quiet, normal, sport and track. The latter three all fit the bill, but I was pleasantly surprised how effective the quiet mode was — so very thoughtful of the engineers.
Fast? Yup. Loud? When you want it to be so, yup. Bummed by the automatic? Yup. Is this a race car? It has race mode, but during my week in the car I had the opportunity to take it on a fairly long drive and this is where it really shocked me. It’s such a good touring car! The heated and cooled leather seats, optional MagneRide and specially calibrated electronic power-assisted steering combine to not only make track worthy, but distance friendly as well.
I took a three-hour round trip drive in it and didn’t experience any of the ride harshness — and the soreness and fatigue that comes with it — one often associates with muscle cars. This is in spite of all of the upgrades the car comes with the make it stiffer and more rigid so it can handle the track days.
However, with all the upside comes a downside: a 16-gallon gas tank. Before heading out on my trip, I filled it up and then go back in and saw the distance to empty: 226 miles. My everyday driver is nearly three times better than that. I just chuckled. Yup: 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
Normally I pay attention to the combined mileage when driving vehicles; however, it’s a Mustang — like I care how much gas I’m putting the tank. If I owned this vehicle, I’d be more concerned about how much I was gonna pay to constantly replace the rear tires.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premium specifications:
|Dimension||L: 189.5 inches/W: 76.6 inches/H: 54.3 inches/Wheelbase: 107.1 inches|
|Powertrain||5.0-liter V-8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission, |
and rear-wheel drive
|Fuel Economy||15 mpg city/23 mpg highway/18 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||480 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $51,720; As tested: $62,495 including $1,195 destination and delivery charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
After spending a week in the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 I can tell you the following: it’s fast, it looks the part of a snarling performance beast, and it’s a great touring car too boot. I didn’t even touch on things like wireless charging, Apple CarPlay, a better-than-average sounding audio system with a voice-activated navigation system, and the cool pony-shaped lights that come on when you unlock the car at night so you can see to get in.
Those things are important and the Mach 1 has all of the niceties that comes with a premium sports coupe. However, more import is it fast? Yup. Loud? Yup. Affordable? For a track-ready demon … yup. Our tester came in at $62,495, including the $1,195 destination and delivery fee. The Mustang’s the best-selling sports coupe in the world, in part, because it’s reasonably priced — and folks know it.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premium — Frequently Asked Questions
How much does the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premium cost?
The Mach 1 starts with a base price of $51,720 before $1,195 in destination and delivery fees. However, adding the 10-speed automatic transmission adds $1,595 while the Mach 1 Handling package means you’ll fork out an additional $3,500. When all the extras were tallied on our test model, the sticker price rose to $62,495.
How much horsepower does the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premium have?
The 5.0-liter V-8 engine puts out 480 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. This results in a top speed of 166 mph.
What are the differences between the Mach 1 and Mach 1 Premium?
There aren’t many. The biggest is the Premium comes in a color the regular Mach 1 does not: Fighter Jet Gray. It’s a matte gray with a tinge fo blue in it.