2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Review

Jack R. Nerad, Independent Expert | Apr 06, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Ford deals!

For well over 50 years, the Ford Mustang has brought a compelling mix of good looks, wide-ranging performance, and affordable prices to millions of car buyers. Whether you're a driving enthusiast seeking maximum speed or you simply want a good-looking car, you will find something to love in a Mustang.

So successful is this nameplate that Ford applies it to its new electric crossover. But the Ford Mustang Mach-E is something else entirely. Here, we're talking about the legendary coupe and convertible, fueled by gasoline.

The 2021 Ford Mustang lineup spans from a base model that costs less than $30,000 to the extreme high-performance Shelby GT500 that can cost more than $100,000. And the newest Mustang in the corral is the performance-tuned 2021 Mustang Mach 1 coupe.

The 2021 Mustang Mach 1 is a clever and compelling mix of nostalgia and leading-edge engineering. Its V8 engine, manual transmission, and rear-drive configuration might seem anachronistic, but with a dual-overhead-cam design, direct fuel injection, and downshift rev-matching, this powertrain is obviously not yanked out of your grandfather's 1969 Mach 1. 

New features offered in the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 include:

  • 480-horsepower 5.0-liter V8
  • 6-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Standard MagneRide electromagnetic adaptive damping suspension
  • Heavily revised aerodynamics for greater stability at speed
  • Added engine oil and transmission oil coolers 

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt. This review focuses on the Mach 1, which replaces the Bullitt in the lineup, and its differences from the Mustang GT.

What Owners Say About the Ford Mustang - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Group Photo at Track

Photo: Jack Nerad

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 80% of Ford Mustang owners are male (vs. 76% for the segment), and the median age of a Mustang owner is 58 years (vs. 52).

Owners say their favorite things about the Ford Mustang are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Powertrain
  • Driving feel
  • Setting up and starting
  • Interior design

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Ford Mustang are (in descending order) the: 

  • Feeling of safety
  • Driving comfort in a tie with Infotainment system
  • Getting in and out
  • Fuel economy

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Mustang ranked number two out of four midsize sporty cars.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 - Find the best Ford deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of several Mach 1 models. As a representative sample, most had the following options:

  • 10-speed automatic transmission
  • Mach 1 Appearance Package
  • Mach 1 Elite Package
  • Navigation 

The test vehicle described here would cost $59,995, including the $1,195 destination charge. Collectively, the test cars ranged in price from a base model at $53,915 to a fully equipped Mach 1 Premium with the Handling Package at $62,190.

480-horsepower Version of Familiar 5.0-liter V8

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Engine

Photo: Jack Nerad

The dual-overhead-cam 5.0-liter V8 engine in the new 2021 Mustang Mach 1 is essentially the same powerplant Ford used in the now-departed Mustang Bullitt. 

As was true in the Bullitt, it offers 480 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,600 rpm. There are differences, however. The specially tuned Mach 1 engine uses the intake manifold, oil filter adapter, and engine oil cooler from the late lamented Mustang Shelby GT350.

Compared to the 5.0-liter V8 under the 2021 Ford Mustang GT's hood, the Mach 1 generates 20 extra horsepower 500 rpm sooner in the rev range. The torque rating is identical.

These days some are enthralled with the instant torque and silent acceleration of an electric-powered performance car, but the rush of speed accompanied by the throaty roar of a high-displacement V8 is equally satisfying. And that's what you get in the Mustang Mach 1.

Availability of 6-Speed Manual, 10-Speed Automatic

Another key Shelby-tested component used in the new Mach 1 is the Tremec 3160 6-speed manual transmission. Sourced from the GT350, it supplies rev-matching capabilities, a welcome aid to those who have never perfected the art of heel-and-toe downshifting. It also includes the GT350 oil cooler system for faithful performance on the track.

For drivers willing to let technology choose the gears, the 2021 Mach 1 also offers a 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission tuned to optimize the V8 engine's available torque. Ford improves cooling capacity by 75% thanks to a second air-to-oil cooler. 

Accelerate hard, and the Mach 1 leaps forward. As it accelerates, the 10-speed automatic changes gears so rapidly that you can barely discern them. Because there is little torque loss between shifts, performance cars with modern automatic transmissions are often quicker to 60 mph and in the standing quarter-mile than nearly identical cars with manual transmissions. I couldn't confirm this during testing, but I wouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be the case.

Superior Aerodynamics, Downforce, and Cooling

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Red Front Quarter View

Photo: Jack Nerad

As a testament to the alluringly enduring shape of the first Ford Mustang, more than half a century later, the 2021 Mustang of today bears a strong resemblance to the original. And in that same manner, the latest Mach 1 looks a lot like the Mach 1 of 1969. 

From its long hood to its fastback roofline, the new Mach 1's design details signal performance. The classic Mustang grille with its prancing pony inside, the artfully rendered haunches over the rear wheels, and the heritage-inspired stripes and spoilers deliver a delightfully retro appearance.

But this is where looks might deceive you. Yes, the Mach 1's front end resembles Mustangs of old. But the design is also the result of meticulous engineering. And it differs significantly from the less expensive Mustang GT. 

Painstakingly shaped to deliver maximum cooling airflow to critical components while at the same time avoiding dreaded high-speed front-end lift, the Mach 1's styling changes represent equal parts form and function. The car has a two-piece upper grille, a lower grille and valance, and large and well-integrated new side intakes designed to cool the engine and transmission oil. 

Aerodynamics is equally important. According to Ford, the 2021 Mustang Mach 1 has a 168-mph top speed, so keeping the tires in firm contact with the pavement is critical. The aggressive front splitter is optimized to work in concert with an elongated belly pan to provide better aerodynamics than lesser Mustangs.

Ford claims the base-level Mach 1 delivers 22% more downforce than a Mustang GT with the optional Performance Pack Level 1. When equipped with the Mach 1 Handling Package, the downforce improvement shoots up to 150%. Mach 1s with the Handling Package get an even more prominent front splitter, new front-wheel lip moldings, and a swing spoiler with a Gurney flap from the Shelby GT500

Extensive Suspension and Handling Improvements

The Mustang Mach 1 driver's connection to the road comes through a three-mode electric-assisted rack-and-pinion steering that communicates well. But the key to the Mach 1's ability to provide both a smooth boulevard ride and precise handling characteristics is the quick-adapting MagneRide magnetic damping suspension. 

With the Handling Package, the Mach 1 rides on wide Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer performance tires. They're sized 305/30R19 in the front and 315/30R19s in the back, mounted to unique tarnished dark-finish wheels. This option also upgrades the front brakes to 15-inch vented rotors with Brembo 6-piston calipers. 

Even without the Handling Package, the Mach 1 represents an upgrade in all functional areas over the Mustang GT. Compared to the Mustang GT, the Mach 1 has stiffer, bigger-diameter, front and rear sway bars, and a GT500-derived rear subframe.

During high-speed track driving in a Mach 1 with the Handling Package, I confirmed that the car supplies extremely high levels of cornering ability. The combination of sticky tires, sharp steering, and a sophisticated suspension works beautifully in the Mustang Mach 1. 

Happily, for a car with this much speed potential, so do the brakes. Pedal feel inspires trust and confidence, and during multiple hot laps on the track at Willow Springs, California, braking remained sure and short.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Red Rear Quarter View

Photo: Jack Nerad

From behind the wheel, the new 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 delivers an intoxicating mixture of old-school muscle car and modern tech. Some might suggest that one gets in the way of the other, but I found that they worked well in concert.

In this way, the Mach 1 is a true dual-use vehicle. Owners can drive it to work every day in comfort and security, paying almost no price in convenience for the performance the car offers. At the same time, the Mach 1 has the chops to get things done on the drag strip and the race track. 

For the right person, the new Ford Mustang Mach 1 represents money well spent. 

Jack R. Nerad is a longtime automotive journalist who is Vice President of the North American Car of the Year jury and President of the Motor Press Guild. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous automotive magazines, new- and used-car buying guides, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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