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Auto review: Cruisin' in the dreamy Mustang Mach 1

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

Try that on my pal Peter's 1969 classic analog Mustang GT.

We're a long way from the 20th century, Toto. Peter reveled in the car's leather-wrapped luxury, while his wife lounged comfortably in the back seats.

When they swapped places, the Mach 1 eagerly accommodated Carol's lead right foot. ROARRGH! The 5.0-liter V-8 spat as she quickly hit 60 mph on a two-lane lake road. The V-8 that had purred nicely at Peter's hand in traffic (and mine on Woodward) belts a brassy tune when you really put your foot in it.

It's not the wake-the-dead howl of the 8,000-RPM, 5.2-liter, flat-plane crank GT350, but it means business. And it's a reminder of Mach 1's performance envelope.

I didn't have the opportunity to track Mach 1 during Dream Cruise week (my usual M1 Concourse playground was busy with its inaugural Dream Show), but the coupe's sporting aspirations are apparent the moment you step in the car.

My tester was not equipped with the optional handling package, but Mach 1's standard upgrades over the GT are plenty: bigger sway-bars, front springs, bushings; Brembo brakes; and two additional heat exchangers.

 

Miles from Woodward stoplights, I had a blast flogging Mach 1 through Oakland County twisties. Dialing up TRACK mode (the instrument display changing to a broad RPM band for easy visual reference), the MagneRide shocks stiffened and I could confidently rotate the car's 3,900-pound heft through tight turns. I squeezed the accelerator on exit, pulling paddle shifts as I built speed.

I preferred the paddles because the 10-speed auto was the drivetrain's biggest weakness. Upshifts are harsh and the multitude of cogs could occasionally get confused.

I'd opt for the old-school six-speed manual. Not only is it better suited for manhandling the brute — but it now comes with new-school rev-matching for quick downshifts into corners. At $58,000, the Mach 1 split the $93,000 BMW M3 and $45,000 Honda Civic Type R Special Edition I tracked just a week before at Grattan Raceway near Grand Rapids. Mach 1 does not have the Bimmer's buttery-smooth auto tranny, nor does it boast the Honda's light-footed athleticism. But with a manual mated to a bellowing V-8, it has an American personality all its own.

Given the Mach 1's dual ID as Woodward cruiser/corner carver, most folks will prefer the automatic. When not on the boil, the transmission makes for easy upshifts — and less distraction from the interior's shelf-full of technology.

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