This is the best-selling sportscar in the world

In terms of numbers, the Ford Mustang trumps everything from Germany and Japan



By George Kuruvilla

Published: Thu 3 Nov 2022, 7:41 PM

The Ford Mustang is the best-selling sportscar in the world. In terms of numbers, it trumps everything from Germany and Japan. It also outsells its obvious rivals, such as the Camaro and Challenger. And a lot has to do with heritage! Yes, people buy muscle cars to satisfy their fascination for unbridled power, but they also want to buy a tangible piece of American history, with the advantage of modern conveniences, of course.

The Ford Mustang Mach1 is one such special edition that has helped breed this fascination. The Mach1 was first introduced in 1968 as a 1969 model and has made intermittent but significant appearances in the Mustang line-up through the years. And to revive old fables amongst the new generation we have the all-new version to set the roads ablaze.

Design & aesthetics

The shape of the current crop of Mustangs is a near-seamless blend of two worlds. It combines the tall and brawny, ‘long hood and short rear deck’ muscle car recipe with the swoopy aerodynamic surfaces of a typical sportscar. It’s a dapper-looking ride with the right set of wheels. And with its unique squinty eyes at the front and signature 3-stripe taillights at the rear, it is instantly recognisable…night or day. Take it to the streets, and you earn lane privilege from other drivers. Take it to the hotel and you get the nod from the valet. But it is most appreciated on campus. Nothing gets young blood racing like a Mustang.

To differentiate the Mach1 from the rest of the pack, it gets a large black decal with orange highlights on the hood and stripes along the side, a scheme that harkens back to the original. And our test car came with the Fighter Jet Grey paint with 5-spoke 19-inch wheels finished in ‘low-gloss Dark Tarnish’, which adds some tamed visual aggression to what is basically the Mustang GT. It is missing a shaker hood scoop though, but it does get a couple of hood vents if that helps. And it comes with Mach1 logos all around, providing ever-present reminders of what you’ve purchased. It also has other titbits that add to the spectacle like the blacked-out circular receptacles on the grille (possibly for aftermarket fog lights), a neat rear lip spoiler, and shiny 4.5-inch quad tailpipes.

Speaking of exhausts, the Mach1, even with modest applications of the throttle, can throw its loud and throaty tune across the street like a few others, simultaneously scaring and attracting passers-by. But the active valve exhaust also gets a “quite start” setting that apparently limits the decibels… in case you feel for your napping neighbours.

If you are familiar with Mustangs, you’ll know that there is a certain uniqueness about its cabin too. I’m not talking of a future-forward design, exotic materials, or infrangible build quality, which to be honest, the Mach1 is only able to get to two-thirds the way in each of those departments. I’m talking about the mix of retro and contemporary elements. The steering wheel is a large and classically styled 3-spoke design with an average thickness and not a fancy, flat-bottom variety with bolsters as you would get in some European specials. And the Mustang logo deliberately planted at the steering centre evokes (brand’s) nostalgia. The double hooded dashboard is also a lovely throwback along with the squareness of the trims, which helps the interior exude a 70s vibe. And amidst all that you get a new age and fully customisable 12.3 digital instrument panel that has a sweeping tacho meter that flashes across like the speedos of old. The centre console also houses a voice-activated 8-inch touchscreen navigation system with pinch-to-zoom and Bluetooth capability. And more importantly, it is accompanied by physical buttons for the dual-zone aircon’ (which works well by the way) and knobs for volume and tuning adjustments for the premium 12-speaker B&O Sound System, which plays second fiddle to the exhaust note. Possibly the best visual treat here are the jetfighter-style toggle-like switches finished in chrome. However, quite curiously, they can only be pulled up and not downward, which means that if you miss an item, you’ll need to scroll through the menu again.

The Mach1 is a reasonably practical car too. The leather-upholstered front seats are sized right for 6-footers, and you do have the option of racecar-like Recaro buckets, for a little extra moolah. The 2+2 configuration means that two of your buddies can also huddle in the back in marginal discomfort with their heads touching the rear window. But I must say, with the sun shining down, it gets worse. There is also a generously sized boot at 408 liters, but the cavity is oddly shaped, and the lip is high, which means you’ll need gym-going hands to get luggage across without scraping paint.

Driving impressions

The Mustang hits the Goldilocks zone for everyday driving. The driving position isn’t as low-slung as some others which makes it comfy to enter and exit. And all-around visibility is generally good.

Pressing down on the start button was fun every time with the engine roaring into life. But as we paraded the streets we noticed some fundamental flaws about the Mach1, which reminded us of the saying, “Never meet your heroes”. The steering has this rubber band effect that takes away from its track-focus theme and there isn’t a lot of feedback from the front wheels either. The turning circle requires you to borrow real estate from the neighboring property or you will have to make do with a tedious 5-point turn instead of a 3. And thirdly, the suspension has been reworked to a point, it can feel unsettling at low speeds, rocking from side to side.

But the good news is that there is plenty of muscle car stuff to love about, which neither Japanese nor German counterparts are designed to deliver and certainly not at this price point. The Mach1 which bridges the gap between the GT and the Shelby GT500 (while eliminating the Bullitt, the PP2, and the 350R) gets the modified naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8. It has been endowed with a larger radiator, open Air Induction System (AIS), Revised Powertrain Control Module (PCM) calibrations, and a unique intake manifold. And dynamism also gets an upgrade thanks to unique traction and stability control tuning, heavy-duty front springs, and upsized rear sway bar.

Now, if you remember the Coyote engine actually brought Ford into the 21st century with a prolific specific output that was almost ‘un-American’. In the Mach1 power output has been upped further to a spectacular 480 PS and a tractor-like 570 Nm of torque. And with every throttle dip, you can feel the brute force making its way from the crank through the 10-speed auto and to the ground, ever so slightly shredding its tyres as it does some mild-mannered meandering as it pulls from rest. And it’s got some serious legs. With launch control, it will scream to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds carrying its thunderous exhaust all the way to a 12.6-second quarter mile and beyond.

You can also equip it with a TREMEC® TR-3160 6-speed manual with a unique white cue ball shifter, which I suspect could be the more engaging and enjoyable over the auto.

And there is more good news! As the speed climbs, all that I complained about earlier gets negated. The steering becomes more direct, you feel more connected. While it may not be a precision instrument like a Cayman or M3, it takes to the twisty roads with enthusiasm lent by the added traction of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres. And because of its inherent musclecar-like unwieldiness laterally, there is an actual thrill in achieving a balance of speed and steering angle via the rear wheels.

Also, the suspension smoothens out with speed. And with Brembo disc brakes all around (6-piston variety with larger 15-inch front rotors upfront), it stops in just 32 metres in the 100-0 km/h test if you go by claims.

Expectedly, the fuel economy is rather dismay. The claimed numbers of 9.9km/l for the auto and 9.3 for the manual look like an excerpt from a Presidential campaign. Overly ambitious! But in the real world, with the kind of revving you are encouraged to do, you’ll be visiting the petrol station with a disconcerting smile more often than you think.

Verdict

In a world where everything is intended to be straight-laced, efficient, and number driven, the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach1 is one wild, feral horse that reminds us that you don’t keep colouring between the lines to have some fun. The vague steering and rocking ride won’t deter most individuals from buying this old-school muscle car recipe that effortlessly mixes, menacing looks, a guttural exhaust note, and prodigious power. And it is kind of practical too! But for an extra hundred grand or so you can get the mighty 715 PS Shelby GT500, which is something to think about.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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