Review of the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach 1: Farewell to the S550 with a Bang

2022 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Review: Sending Off the S550 With a Bang
Peter Nelson

The Ford Mustang possesses some of the most enthusiast canon of any American pony, sports, or muscle car, ever. It’s all things to all people, from those who want an easy-going fun cruiser, to adrenaline junkies looking to beat far more exotic and expensive machinery on track at their own game. Or, maybe you’re simply looking for opportunities to laugh in your Chevy Camaro-owning friends’ faces. We’re at the tail end of what might be the greatest Mustang generation ever and it has me a bit misty-eyed.

With the new, seventh-generation Mustang hitting American roads in 2024, Ford threw me the keys to a 2022 Mustang Mach 1 before the S550 leaves for good. This generation’s been around since 2015, which feels like an awfully long time ago. Though, it’s never felt stale: after being offered in several properly good, enthusiast-centric trims and possessing some of the most fun engines ever put into an American car, the Mach 1 is a bit of a greatest hits album. Comprising a lot of what made this generation of Mustang great, it really is the best sendoff for the platform one could’ve asked for.

Livably Enjoyable

Let’s get one thing out of the way early: driving the Mustang Mach 1 around simply never gets old. It’s livable enough to be a proper enthusiast daily driver but also able to plaster a big, stupid smile on your face at every opportunity.

Sure, its grippier 255/35/19 front and 275/35/19 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber tramlined a bit around town, and the 5.0-liter Coyote V8’s boisterous burble reached decibels that might annoy your neighbors when you fire it up and cruise off to work in the morning—although this can be toned down thanks to its muffler’s customizable baffling. But the big coupe possessed a very solid around-town ride quality, was plenty comfortable and quiet cruising on the highway, and was—hilariously small backseat notwithstanding—plenty accommodating inside.

I really enjoyed the Mach 1’s interior. It’s a classic, low-slung sports car driving position with good visibility, easy-enough-to-use infotainment, a delightfully analog instrument cluster, and incredibly comfortable, optional Recaro bucket seats. I would’ve preferred them to have more tilt, but after several hours in the saddle, my long legs didn’t tire much. I also dug the ability to bring the steering wheel within a decently good distance to my body, which is rare in any modern car. At six-foot-three, few sports cars fit me this well; I’d probably even be able to wear a helmet on track without reclining my seat more than an inch or two.

When fast highway cruising turned into bumper-to-bumper traffic, the 5.0’s engine tuning worked flawlessly with an easy-to-find clutch take-up point, plenty of low-end torque, and good gearing to be one of the best stick-shift cars to suffer through traffic in. First gear was a little short, but second was quite long and like many other newer manual cars, it was easy to roll on and off the clutch to creep along rather than having to mix in a dash of throttle for balance.

The only real downside of my week with the Mach 1 was the subpar range from its 16-gallon fuel tank exasperated by its very thirsty fuel economy—I averaged 14.8 mpg over nearly 600 miles. Wanting to rev out the mighty 5.0 as much as humanly possible didn’t help, especially on some of Southern California’s most fun roads. Though, how it performed in these settings quickly made up for it.

Brilliantly Fun On the Straight and Curvy

The last time I was behind the wheel of an S550 Mustang, I was in the Shelby GT350. The combination of its naturally aspirated 5.3-liter Voodoo V8 and all-around brilliant handling made it an addictive package that I just couldn’t get enough of.

The Mach 1 isn’t quite at that level, but that’s not to say it’s lacking in any way. The S550 swan song’s 5.0-liter Coyote V8 produces 470 horsepower, 410 lb-ft of torque, and happily revs out to 7,500 rpm. It’s not necessarily light at 3,868 lbs, but it still reaches 60 mph in a scant 4.2 seconds, which makes its accelerative abilities only marginally inferior to that of the GT350’s. For reference, it’s also around 130 pounds heavier than the standard GT while producing 10 lb-ft less torque but 20 more hp.

The way the Coyote V8 revved up and reacted to any amount of throttle was multifaceted, too. What I mean by this is it had that classic, mildly lumpy V8 burble at idle that almost resembles its single-cam, bow-tied rival. Well, former rival anyway. Its roaring low-end torque felt strong up to 4,000 rpm. Past four grand, its dual-cam variable valve timing kicked in to help the revs climb with exponentially more vigor and cackle-inducing shove, all the way to redline.

Operating the Tremec TR-3160 six-speed manual gearbox was an utter joy; shifts are gloriously crisp and spacing between them is just right. It’s paired to an engine that loves to be both short-shifted and revved out, and in light of its aforementioned gearing, the thing cruised awfully comfortably above 80 mph.

The drivetrain’s mechanical innards were great everywhere, too, as it was a thorough joy to rev out second and most of third gear on a tight mountain-top road. This is where the Mach 1 really shines. Ripping through a handful of Los Angeles County’s tight canyon roads, the Mach 1 exhibited very little body roll, great overall confidence, and respectably direct steering with good weight for a car possessing such a large motor hanging out over the front axle. Initial turn-in exhibited mild understeer on tight sections, so it required a little more patience and planning, and chicane-like transitions at speed called for a little more faith in the rear-end than with other rear-wheel-drive brutes. It just didn’t possess the same amount of pin-point turn-in mixed with endless all-around traction that the GT350 had. Or, for that matter, the new BMW M2.

But the whole experience was still great, and the Coyote’s massive torque window exerted solid strength in either second or third gear at corner exit. It all just depended on how many decibels of addictive, heavenly, tailpipe symphony I wanted bouncing off my eardrums while ripping along massive rock faces. Finally, its rear Torsen limited-slip differential—sporting a more vivacious 3.73 final drive ratio over the standard GT—revised any harsh inputs once the tires were up to temperature, boosting confidence even further.

But then, nothing about its handling should be all that surprising. The Mach 1 is a compilation album of the best components the S550 has to offer, combining the Bullitt’s engine tuning along with the Shelby’s gearbox, front and rear subframes, and sportier independent suspension with MagneRide adaptive damping. The only thing holding back the Mach 1’s handling is its standard narrower tires compared to the Shelby’s massive track-ready setup, but that’s reaching for any form of street driving. In terms of an all-around, have-your-cake-and-gorge-on-it setup, you can’t beat the Mach 1’s.

A Great Sendoff

The S650-generation 2024 Mustang is on the horizon, so the S550 is old news. But I’m glad I got to drive it before it completely disappeared. Its performance is brilliant, it’s comfortable around town, and it offers endless entertainment—I’d absolutely own one myself.

This was not my first rodeo with the S550 Mustang, though. My first taste of the chassis was behind the wheel of the Bullitt, which was immensely fun to toss around, lighting up the rear tires whenever possible (sadly, never in reverse), and taking every opportunity to reach redline. Its shoddy MT-82 manual gearbox was as smooth as a 60-year-old blender and always felt like it was on the verge of exploding. But there was joy in this shittiness—it felt like you were rowling long gears in an old, shoddy, honest, salt-of-the-earth muscle car.

A couple of months after that, I got behind the wheel of a spec’d-the-hell-out EcoBoost High-Performance Package with the EcoBoost Handling Package (say that five times fast). Don’t let the four-cylinder-‘Stang haters sway you, this car was epic fun with its light and direct front-end with sharp steering to match. Plus, they obviously haven’t heard of Ford’s racing activities back in the ’80s.

Then, a month or two later I drove the Shelby, which was an absolute honor to drive. It’s been so much fun getting behind the wheel of various S550 iterations during my relatively short tenure in automotive journalism, comparing and contrasting them with a wide variety of other enthusiast vehicles along the way. Whether I’ve just gotten out of a Veloster N or a McLaren GT, the S550 Mustang never lost its smile-inducing luster.

Even though the S550’s been around for a while, I’m going to miss it. To me, it’s the best-looking Mustang since the late ’60s and the nameplate’s most performance-capable chassis ever. Considering you could spec one as either a bland-as-hell rental convertible or something that’ll embarrass most supercars—and everything in between—gave it immense adaptability. And no matter which engine you went with, it’s amazing how universally good it was with the right dampers and mufflers bolted up.

Hopefully, the next Mustang will be even better. If Ford follows its usual upward-moving trend with the Mustang badge (I’m wilfully choosing to ignore the hideous Mustang II), it almost definitely will be better. Plus, judging by Ford’s planned motorsports activities, it looks like there will be plenty of enthusiasm engineered into the next version’s engine and chassis tuning.

But, man, what a tough act the S550 will be to follow.

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