Blasting across gravel-coated mountain roads walled in by jagged rocks, the Ford Mustang Mach 1 was metaphorically breaking through the sound barrier. The 5.0-litre V8’s angry bark echoed off the surrounding earthen walls while dust clouds billowed in the shark-nosed coupe’s wake. Henry Ford must surely be smiling.
Conceived as a bridging model between the standard 5.0-litre GT and the hardcore Shelby models, the limited-edition Mach 1 is the latest Mustang variant to land in Ford showrooms, reprising an evocative suffix that first appeared on a Mustang in 1969. In case you hadn’t guessed, the moniker is a tribute to Chuck Yeager, the US Air Force ace who broke the sound barrier (Mach 1 or 1,225 kilometres an hour) in 1947.
Ford bills the Mach 1 as the “most track-capable 5.0-litre Mustang ever”, courtesy of a series of aero upgrades, beefed-up suspension and mildly upgraded power train.
Although propelled by essentially the same 5.0-litre V8 as the GT, a new intake manifold enables the motor to breathe better and thump out 480 horsepower (20 horses more than the GT). The Mach 1 also features a more efficient cooling system, using components borrowed from the Shelby GT350.
A six-speed manual with short-throw shifter is the standard transmission in the Mustang Mach 1’s domestic market but, in our clutch-averse region, the default choice is a 10-speed automatic.
The Mach 1’s straight-line grunt is kept in check by an electronically controlled MagneRide adjustable suspension, and stiffer front springs and anti-roll bars. Rounding off the handling package are bespoke 19-inch five-spoke “Tarnished” dark-painted aluminium rims that hark back to the classic Magnum 500-style wheels worn by yesteryear Mustangs.
Also part of the Mach 1 recipe is an aero-enhancing package that allegedly increases downforce by 22 per cent.
It all sounds pretty good on paper, but the acid test would be provided by pitting the Mach 1 against the sinuous roads winding through mountainous Hatta. Immediately evident is that the limited-edition ’Stang is a tauter package than the standard GT.
There’s a bit of body roll to contend with, but get past this and you’ll find the Mach 1’s low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S rubber grips the tarmac with a fair degree of tenacity. The brakes could be better, though, as they’re a tad spongy and lacking in bite.
Undoubtedly, the Mustang’s juiciest element is that intoxicating 5.0-litre V8. You’ll find yourself looking for tunnels, just so you can blast through with the windows down. The V8 is not only sonorous, but also decently potent, propelling the Mach 1 from 0 to 100kph in 4.4 seconds, and on to a top speed of 267kph.
The fly in the ointment is the 10-speed automatic, which fast-tracks to the highest gear possible in the chase for fuel economy. Disappointingly, the transmission is also slow to respond when you flatten the throttle, seemingly confused as to which ratio it should kick down to. The Mach 1 would be a vastly more enjoyable car with the six-speed manual, so it’s a shame the latter configuration will be a rarity in our region.
In the looks department
Visually, the Mach 1 hits the mark, and The National’s Jet Fighter Grey test car drew its fair share of appreciative glances from onlookers. Apart from the tasty five-spoke rims, the limited-edition model stands apart from lesser ’Stangs via satin black stripes on the bonnet and flanks with reflective highlights in red, white or orange.
Inside, there are leather sports seats with stitching in Metal Grey, and each Mustang Mach 1 features a dashboard badge with a Mach 1 logo and the car’s individual build number. Standard comfort and convenience technologies include heated and cooled front seats, SYNC 3 connectivity and a premium 12-speaker B&O sound system.
There’s much to like about the Mustang Mach 1, but its Dh306,000 price tag puts it up against the ultra-capable Porsche Cayman GTS 4.0 and BMW Z4 M40i. The Germans are undoubtedly sharper sportsters, but the Mustang Mach 1 offers its own brand of raucous Yankee charisma.