by Gerhard Horn
The latest Ford Mustang Mach 1 is built for the same reason the 1969 original was constructed: to fill a gap. While it may not seem like there is a gap to fill, there is a case to be made for a more hardcore non-Shelby Mustang in the USA. The standard GT is more cruiser than bruiser and the Shelby GT500 retails for over $77,000. The GT350, you ask? Well, that's no longer in production.
The Mach 1 badge has been dormant since 2004, but it made a spectacular return for 2021 in the form of a 480-horsepower track-oriented 'Stang that effectively replaced both the limited-edition Mustang Bullitt and the GT350. That output drops to 470 hp this year. It's a Franken-Stang of sorts that pulls parts from both of these, sending the power from its 5.0-liter V8 to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission from Tremec or an optional ten-speed auto. Retailing at $54,000, it's around $5,000 cheaper than the now-defunct GT350. The Chevrolet Camaro doesn't have a trim that directly rivals this, which means if you're looking for an alternative, Germany can counter with the BMW M2, or you can look closer to home at the more powerful Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack. The Mach might be back, but it's going to have to be better than ever to shine in such company.
While there are a few changes to the trim, equipment, and available packages on the lowlier Mustangs, the Mach 1 essentially stays unchanged for the 2022 model year. One unfortunate change, however - said to be due to stricter emissions regulations - is a drop in the Coyota V8's power and torque from 480 hp and 420 lb-ft to 470 hp and 410 lb-ft. The 10-hp reduction applies to the GT as well - now 450 hp - so the power gap between the GT and Mach 1 is still 20 hp, as before. On a more positive note, Ford has added quite a few fun new colors to the palette this year, including Eruption Green, Grabber Blue, and Cyber Orange.
See trim levels and configurations:
Despite being a track-focused driver's tool, you can have a Mach 1 that strikes a nice balance between on-road and track handling, or you can lean into its track spirations by adding the optional Mach 1 Handling Package.
The standard Mach 1 already has a lot to boast about. It comes with an electronic line-lock, launch control, selectable driving modes, and selectable power steering. The latter allows you to toggle between Comfort, Normal, and Sport, essentially adding artificial weight to the steering. The available driving modes are Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport, Track, or Drag Strip. In Normal and Snow/Wet modes, it dials back the throttle response, while the Track and Drag Strip settings make this car alert and hyperactive as a toddler on a diet of Pepsi and Reese's Pieces.
The parts that make a real difference to the Mach 1's persona are the MagneRide dampers, heavy-duty front springs, the trick aerodynamic additions, and six-piston Brembo brake calipers.
The MagneRide dampers automatically adjust 1,000 times per second, giving the Mach 1 a neutral, non-intimidating feel. Thanks to the revised bumper and fixed rear wing, the standard Mach 1 has 22% more downforce than the standard GT with the Performance Pack 1, and this figure increases to 150% with the optional handling package. This works particularly well with the stiffer, heavy-duty front springs. The turn-in is razor-sharp and grippy in much the same way the GT350 was. Finally, the uprated Brembo brakes let you wail on the Mach 1 for several laps at a time without fading.
The Handling Package takes the Mach 1 to the next level, adding adjustable strut top mounts, a larger rear spoiler with a gurney flap, a more aggressive front splitter, and sticky, high-performance 305/30R19 front and 315/30R19 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. Adding the Performance Pack will reduce lap times, and it doesn't compromise the on-road performance too much. The adaptive damping's comfort setting is acceptable, but you buy a car like this knowing that compromises need to be made.
Speaking of on-road handling, it's worth remembering that the Mach 1 comes as standard with summer tires, while the Handling Package upgrades to even more track-biased rubber. Both tire options grip nicely once you get some heat into them. We wouldn't attempt to accelerate away from traffic lights when they're still cold, however, unless you want to look like a cliche Cars And Coffee idiot on the internet.
There are two ways of looking at the Mach 1 - it's either a sad replacement for the GT350 or an improved version of the Bullitt. But what if we told you that it's both? Or that it does the job better than either?
It might not have the high-revving Voodoo V8, but it has some of the best bits of Mustang models over the last few years. It's a blend of the best hits from the GT, Bullitt, and GT350, yet with a far more accessible price tag than the latter. We might miss the high-revving wail of the Voodoo, but the GT350 was expensive and, once usurped by the GT500, was a little overpriced for what it was. In the Mach 1, Ford has given us all the suspension trickery of the GT350, its exceptional Tremec six-speed, and a price tag that fits within a budget that makes it perfect for entry-level track exploration.
It doesn't compromise on being used as a daily driver, either, striking an exceptional balance between the two roles it needs to fulfill. If speed and not dynamic finesse is top of your list, you may prefer the cheaper Dodge Challenger R/T Scat pack with its 485-hp V8.
The list of standard luxury and safety features is decent, and with prices starting at $54,000, it's a lot of car for the money. It may be roughly $13,000 more than the GT Premium Coupe, but there's enough here to justify the increase. The GT350 started at around $60,000, and used examples are holding their value. That makes the Mach 1 even more of a bargain.
The GT500 commands a premium of over $23,000 relative to the base Mach 1. Is it worth that additional lump of cash? Well, for starters, the GT500 has an engine with the codename "Predator." That right there is already worth $5,000. Seriously though, the GT500's 760 hp and 625 lb-ft of torque easily trounces the Mach 1's 470 hp and 410 lb-ft. The 0 to 60 mph time is decreased from around 4.5 seconds to just 3.3 seconds. The GT500 is only available with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, however.
You could make the argument that the Mach 1 is more track-focused, but the GT500 is no longer a one-trick pony. It also has the adaptive MagneRide suspension, powerful Brembo brakes, and an even more ridiculous fixed rear wing. If you can afford it, the GT500 is the ultimate Mustang and the one with which you'll be hunting lap times to live up to the engine's apex codename. We wouldn't feel shortchanged by the Mach 1, however, especially if you're a buyer who's only just getting into the whole track-day thing. The places where you can safely exploit 760 angry supercharged horses are few and far between, and 470 hp is more than enough to have a fun day at the track and learn not just the limits of the car, but your own limits as a driver.
The Mach 1 effectively replaces the Bullitt. The Bullitt was the first model to feature the 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with modifications borrowed from the GT350, which is why both it and the Mach 1 had the same 480-hp output. Of course, now it has 10 hp up on the 2022 Mach 1.
While the Bullitt featured some chassis, suspension, and brake upgrades, Ford didn't go so far as to include MagneRide as standard. It also doesn't have trick aerodynamics, but its sleek green body is lovely to look at. The Mach 1 is more focused as a driver's tool, so for those who prefer driving their car instead of standing next to it, it's the one to go for.
You might be thinking the Bullitt represents an interesting used alternative if you can't stretch the budget to $50,000. Unfortunately, the Bullitt retains its value exceptionally well. When new, it retailed for just under $48,000. The cheapest used model will still likely cost around $45,000. It's a nice saving, but if you go up that high, you may as well go for the Mach 1. It has its own unique allure and specialness that makes it just as desirable and likely to retain its value as Steve McQueen's homage. And, both of them get the cue-ball shifter.
You could also spend the $54,000 you would have spent on the Mach 1 on a nice used GT350. The GT350 has everything the Mach 1 has and adds that highly charismatic high-revving Voodoo V8. It has 526 hp and 429 lb-ft and revs to over 8,000 rpm.
There is a problem, however. You could probably get a GT350 for between $40,000 to $50,000, but most of these cars' warranties have now expired and they have likely sustained a lot of abuse on track. The GT350 gets you that hallowed Shelby badge and a spectacular V8, but the Mach 1 gets you 90% of the ability. Cast aside the cachet of the badge, and the Mach 1 makes more practical sense.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Ford Mustang Mach 1: