The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 has functional aerodynamic enhancements and competition-capable suspension upgrades. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 has functional aerodynamic enhancements and competition-capable suspension upgrades. (Manufacturer photo)

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is a returning champion

A classic favorite comes back looking better than ever and sporting tons of the latest technology.

Ford has gifted existing and potential Mustang fans by adding a limited edition Mach 1 model to its 2021 lineup. This event marks a return for the Mustang Mach 1, a symbol of automotive nostalgia originating in 1969 and put out to pasture 17 years ago.

There’s a family resemblance between the classic Mach 1 and the 2021 newbie, but it doesn’t go real deep. As with everything else, automotive technology has advanced rapid-fire during the past 17 years. The returning champion Mach 1 benefits from all of it.

A big V8 engine is the racing heart of a Mach 1, and engineers manhandled the 5.0-liter used in this one to produce 480 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Ford says it’s the most track-capable 5.0-liter Mustang ever, and credits the newly designed front end, Ford Performance parts from the Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT500 models, and an optional Handling Package for those who fancy taking track turns as fast as the car can go.

But statistics generated in my own mind indicate the percentage of 2021 Mustang Mach 1 owners who drive the car on a track might be the same as 4X4 SUV owners who go off-roading: Small.

That’s not necessarily a shame. The Mach 1 is constructed to also provide civilized passenger conditions during street driving, suitable enough to be used as a daily driver. Seats are roomy and comfortable but supportive, ingress and egress are easy, there’s a roomy trunk, active and passive safety features abound, and infotainment technology is on point. An extensive assortment of performance-related systems and their corresponding controls in the fabulous cabin make it obvious this isn’t just ANY daily driver.

A driver-focused cockpit with an array of performance-related controls contributes significantly to the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1’s allure. (Manufacturer photo)

A driver-focused cockpit with an array of performance-related controls contributes significantly to the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1’s allure. (Manufacturer photo)

Of course the Mach 1’s ferocious power and handling prowess are at your command should you get an urge to engage in something other than garden-variety driving.

The Mustang Mach 1 comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission sourced from the Shelby GT350. A 10-speed automatic transmission is optional.

Pricing starts at $52,915 including a $1,195 destination charge for a Mach 1 with manual transmission. The automatic transmission is an extra $1,595.

My test car was an automatic transmission model with an Elite Package adding a 12-speaker B&O sound system ($1,295), and an Appearance Package (Ebony/Orange interior, Mach 1 hood stripe) for $1,000. It was dressed in Mach 1-exclusive Fighter Jet Gray paint with orange reflective accent stripes. The understated gray paint isn’t photogenic and ends up looking like white in most photos, but it’s strikingly good looking in person.

At no time during the test week did I wish for the manual transmission. It seems appealing in a boy-racer kind of way, but hell on wheels in traffic. Besides, the 10-speed is a dreamy performer who could outshift a human any day, and the mellifluous sounds it produces while cycling through gears gladdened me all week.

I’ve saved the worst for last. Fuel economy. For my test car: 15 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, 18 mpg combined. And there’s a $1,000 gas guzzler tax.

If that inefficiency makes your blood boil, check this out: There’s a new all-electric Mustang called the Mach-E, getting up to 108 mpge city and 94 mpge highway, with a range up to 300 miles, horsepower up to 459, and torque up to 612 pound-feet.

But it’s an SUV.

The sleek profile of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is evocative of the classic versions. (Manufacturer photo)

The sleek profile of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is evocative of the classic versions. (Manufacturer photo)

2021 FORD MUSTANG MACH 1

Base price, including destination charge: $52,915

Price as driven: $60,390

Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.

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