The Mach 1 return dusts off a storied nameplate in Mustang history, just as the Mustang is poised to become a sub-brand for Ford. In a way, it's surprising how long the hiatus lasted, given the popularity of the classic models. But can this new version recapture the magic of the original while also offering Mustang fans enough usable track performance with a V8 distinct from the GT model?
The new Mustang Mach 1, returning after a 17-year absence, is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 good for 480 hp at 7,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. Buyers will have a choice of a Tremec 3160 six-speed manual transmission with a short-throw shifter as the standard unit, or a 10-speed automatic. Ford wants to have a Mustang for every wallet, and the Mach 1's role in the sprawling menu of Mustangs is that of the the most track-capable 5.0-liter Mustang ever. The model is meant to serve as a bridge between the Mustang GT and the more powerful Shelby versions. 480 hp represents a 20-hp gain over the Mustang GT, while the torque figure is the same. The Mach 1 is also distant enough from the Shelby GT350R and its 526 hp and 429 lb-ft, courtesy of that model's 5.2-liter V8, and even more distant from the GT500 with its 760 hp and 625 lb-ft of torque.
Ford has tweaked the design of the Mach 1's front fascia to improve both cooling and aerodynamics. The changes are more extensive than they look; Ford has changed the design of the upper and lower grille, as well as the valance and the side grilles. A front splitter and a rear spoiler add to the new coupe's aggressive look while providing 22% more downforce compared to a Mustang GT. That might sound like a solid improvement, but when optioned with the Handling Pack the downforce improves approximately 150%. But Ford says the underbelly pan is actually the most important aerodynamic upgrade, smoothing and increasing the airflow under the car. The new pan stretches 20 inches farther back on the Mach 1 compared to the Mustang GT optioned with a Performance Pack.