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The Ford Mustang Mach 1 fastback coupe
The 2021 Ford Mustang is alive, well, and kicking. Which can’t be said of so many Ford F, +2.19% cars. But the Mustang transcends 4-wheeled transportation in the present moment just as it has over many decades. It’s an integral part of American automotive culture, capable of everyday thrills in the EcoBoost versions and track-day euphoria with the track-ready Mach 1 and Shelby GT500 models. And the regular 5.0-liter V8 is awesome.
Ford offers a manual transmission for most Mustang trims. Only the new GT500 comes solely with an automatic, but it’s a 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission with driver-selectable modes and launch control.
Many Mustang versions are available as either a coupe (Fastback) or a convertible, and the range encompasses a wide variety of budgets, requirements, and tastes. Let’s just keep buying them, because if Ford senses waning consumer interest, it might do to the Mustang what it’s done to everything else that wasn’t an SUV/crossover — stop making them.
What’s new for 2021?
A limited-edition Mach 1 Mustang model makes its debut, with a 480-horsepower V8. Every Mustang receives the Ford Co-Pilot360 set of driver aids as standard, bringing forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, dynamic brake assistance, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance, automatic high beams, and rain-sensing wipers.
A new Smart and Safe options bundle brings adaptive cruise control and navigation to EcoBoost and GT trims.
The Shelby GT500 gains a Carbon Fiber Track Handling package that combines the best features of last year’s two yet mutually exclusive option packages, adding carbon fiber aerodynamic pieces, 20-inch carbon fiber wheels, and adjustable strut top mounts.
Fresh paint choices are Antimatter Blue, Fighter Jet Gray, Carbonized Gray and Grabber Yellow.
And now for the bad news. The Bullitt and Shelby GT350/350R models have been discontinued.
What we like
- Awesome V8 engines
- Fuel-efficient turbo four
- Sports-car handling
- Refined ride
- Stylish, high-quality interior
- Fierce Shelby GT500
What we don’t
- Small back seat
$28,350 to $75,000 (estimated, 2021 GT500 pricing TBA)
The 2021 Mustang range starts with a turbocharged (hence the EcoBoost name) 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine developing 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft. The optional High Performance Package boosts output to 332 hp (torque stays the same).
The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual (with rev-matching). A 10-speed automatic is optional. Every Mustang deploys rear-wheel drive.
The EPA estimates fuel consumption for the regular 2.3 EcoBoost coupe at 21 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg in combined driving (manual) or 21 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined (automatic). This engine in convertible versions returns 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined, regardless of transmission.
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These figures also apply to coupe versions of the High Performance 2.3, although the manual reduces consumption on the highway by one mile per gallon. Convertible versions run to 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined (manual) or 20 mpg city, 27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined (automatic).
The GT’s 5.0-liter V8 develops 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque while achieving 15 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined (coupe, manual) or 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined (coupe, auto). The GT convertible models return 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/17 mpg combined (manual) or 15 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined (automatic).
The new-for-2021 Mach 1 coupe takes that V8 and raises output to 480 hp. Once again, a 6-speed manual transmission is standard, with a 10-speed automatic available as an option. We expect fuel consumption to be close to the GT coupe’s.
A supercharged 5.2-liter V8 propels the Shelby GT500 with an immense 760 hp and 625 lb-ft. This connects to a 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission with selectable drive modes. The EPA puts fuel consumption at 12 mpg city/18 mpg hwy/14 mpg combined.
These EPA figures apply to the 2020 Mustang range, but we don’t anticipate any great differences for 2021.
Standard features and options
The 2021 Ford Mustang comes in EcoBoost, EcoBoost Premium, GT, GT Premium, Mach 1, and Shelby GT500 versions. The EcoBoost and GT versions offer the choice of a Fastback (coupe) or convertible body style. The Mach 1 and GT500 come solely as coupes.
Vehicle pricing includes the $1,195 destination charge.
The 2.3 EcoBoost Fastback ($28,350) and 2.3 EcoBoost convertible ($34,850) have 17-in alloy wheels, limited-slip differential, keyless entry/ignition, LED headlights, LED sequential taillights, dual exhaust system, height-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery, self-dimming rearview mirror, Track Apps (recording performance data during track driving), electronically lockable front brakes (Ford says they’re to help warm the rear tires, but some people will use this feature for burnouts), programmable MyKey system (with controls for geofencing, speed limit, stability control, audio volume, radio content, seat belt reminders, and low fuel warnings), Ford Co-Pilot360 driver aids, Sync infotainment system, 4.2-in infotainment screen, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, voice controls, wi-fi, two USB ports, auxiliary audio input, and a 6-speaker audio system.
The EcoBoost Premium Fastback ($33,370) and EcoBoost Premium convertible ($38,870) have 18-in alloy wheels, power-adjustable front seats (6-way for the driver, 4-way for the passenger), simulated leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, an upgraded Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8-in touchscreen, Apple AAPL, -0.30% CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, and a 9-speaker audio system.
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These EcoBoost models can be ordered with a High Performance package that also brings a front strut tower brace, Pirelli performance tires, stronger brakes, sport-tuned suspension, larger radiator, bigger brakes, shorter gearing, performance rear axle, stability control with higher thresholds, auxiliary gauges (including a boost gauge for the turbo) and aluminum interior accents. The GT’s Handling package includes uprated brakes, a Torsen (torque-sensing) limited-slip differential, and Ford’s MagneRide adaptive suspension.
The GT Fastback ($37,315) echoes the regular EcoBoost’s features but with the V8 engine and bigger brakes. The GT Premium Fastback ($41,315) and GT Premium convertible ($46,815) add the EcoBoost Premium’s equipment inventory.
The new Mach 1 Fastback ($52,915) is a track-focused machine, compensating somewhat for the demise of the Shelby GT350 models. It has its own aerodynamic setup, extra cooling for the engine/transmission/differential, Torsen 3.73 limited-slip differential, sport-tuned MagneRide adaptive suspension, front strut tower brace, Brembo brakes, a 3.73 rear axle, Tremec 6-speed manual transmission with rev-matching, 19-in alloy wheels, summer tires, active exhaust system, and a cue ball shift knob with the manual transmission only.
The Mach 1 also offers satin black stripes accented with red, white or orange, plus leather-covered Recaro sport seats.
The Shelby GT500 Fastback (est. $75,000, pricing TBA) has the supercharged 5.2-liter V8 and a 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission, plus launch control, selectable drive modes, 20-in aluminum wheels, magnesium front strut tower brace, leather seating surfaces, 12-in LCD digital instrument cluster, rear spoiler and a dual exhaust with quad tips.
Other options include 20-in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, navigation, enhanced anti-theft system, dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient cabin lighting, leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, carbon-fiber interior trim, satellite radio, a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, and all-important racing stripes.
Trunk space in the coupe is 13.5 cu ft. The convertible’s trunk accommodates 11.4 cu ft.
The Mustang comes standard with anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, seven airbags in the coupe (front, front-side, knee, and full-length side curtain), and five airbags in the convertible (deleting the side-curtain airbags). This 2021 model year now includes all the above-mentioned driver aids of the Ford Co-Pilot360 package.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the coupe a full five stars across the board. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the coupe its top score of Good for most crash-test categories, except for a second-best Acceptable score in the tricky small-overlap front-impact test.
Behind the Wheel
There’s nothing rough, just classy materials, attractive gauges, supportive seats and cool metallic toggle switches. Optional Recaro bucket seats are form-fitting and perfect for the track, but tight for broader types. And while no one expects a sport coupe to accommodate six-footers behind the front row, the back seat is a squeeze even for kids.
The EcoBoost 4-cylinder turbo delivers impressive refinement and a healthy punch of midrange torque, but it tapers off toward redline. And the sound of a 4-cylinder under acceleration seems slightly wrong in a Mustang. Otherwise, this engine is a joy.
The GT’s V8 is a champ, delivering its 460 hp with a quick-revving and progressive character. The 6-speed manual shifter makes it a blast to run through the gears.
Read: Five cars we wish were still being made
It’s in the corners where the EcoBoost has the advantage, thanks to superior balance from a lighter engine. In comparison, the GT feels relatively nose-heavy. The distinction is subtle, though, and the GT is still wonderfully agile.
The new Mustang Mach 1 was still something of an unknown quantity while compiling this review, but it has the same engine output as the outgoing Bullitt, which could rush from standstill to 60 mph in around four seconds flat. So the Mach 1 should be able to match that, as well as take corners with greater speed and confidence because of its sport-tuned adaptive suspension.
Also see: Check out the Mustang Mach-E, Ford’s electric SUV
The Shelby GT500 has an absolutely menacing 760 horsepower as well as high-performance hardware like Brembo brakes, MagneRide suspension, and a lightweight front strut tower brace. Ford says it can thrust from standstill to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, hit a quarter-mile in 10.7 seconds while traveling in excess of 130 mph, and reach a top speed of 180 mph.
Other Cars to Consider
2021 BMW BMW, +1.13% 2 Series — The Mustang is the most sophisticated it has ever been, so that brings the 2 Series into play. No burbling V8 here, but razor-sharp handling, equal or better interior quality, and superior maneuverability make up for it.
2021 Chevrolet Camaro — Superb. Absolutely worth considering if shopping for a Mustang. Get one before Chevy decides to ditch it.
2021 Dodge Challenger — The Challenger is much improved, especially its handling, but it’s still the largest and most cumbersome of the traditional muscle car trio. However, it does have a proper rear seat, and that 6.4-liter V8 is a beauty.
Used BMW M3 — Another iconic car with a perfect mix of high speed and fine handling. Put it this way: if Steve McQueen had driven an M3, that famous movie car chase would have been a lot shorter.
Also see: Five perfect cars for five great American road trips
Questions You May Ask
How much power does the V8-engined 2021 Ford Mustang have?
If it’s the regular GT, we’re looking at 460 horsepower, which is quite a lot, especially for the money.
Which generation is the 2021 Ford Mustang?
It’s the sixth generation, which debuted for the 2015 model year. A new generation isn’t expected until 2022 at the earliest, perhaps as a 2023 model.
Where is the 2021 Ford Mustang built?
In Flat Rock, Michigan.
Before Ford introduced the High Performance Package, we would not have hesitated to recommend a V8 version, on the grounds that a Mustang should dazzle and rumble. But that combination of power and agility in the 2.3 High Performance package definitely has its own appeal. Go with whatever the heart and wallet can agree upon.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.