The news that Ford’s Mustang Mach 1 is coming (officially) to Europe for the first time is great news for lovers of fast Fords and anyone who appreciates a pony car out of its natural North American habitat.
For US buyers it nicks a bunch of parts from the GT350 and GT500 Mustangs to make it more focused and better able to withstand punishing track laps all day long. Some of the visual and aero items seem to be missing from the Euro-spec car, but at least Ford confirmed there would be both manual and 10-speed auto options.
At a likely list price of well over £50,000, though, it parachutes right into the back yards of five of the most enjoyable and most desirable sports cars and coupes on European roads today. Let’s consider the cars that could stop the Mach 1 before it even gets going.
Perhaps the lowest direct threat to the mightiest Mustang comes from the hottest Audi TT. The TT RS is fast, agile – if perhaps a little too direct at the steering wheel – and super-easy to drive fast. It’s still among the most desirable mid-level coupes out there, too.
It looks great, but the driving package slightly overplays the sum of its parts and it can leave you expecting more than you get. On the other hand, the five-cylinder turbocharged engine is a riot and gives the TT RS a unique selling point at £56,655 plus options.
Mercedes turns out a brilliant V6 C-Class. Even the knowledge that this is the ‘junior’ C-AMG can’t spoil its roaringly good blend of thunderous noise, four-wheel drive traction and a genuinely luxurious air when everything is set to Comfort.
The days of the eight-pot C63 are numbered, making the C43 perhaps more representative of where the model is going, rather than where it’s been. With four cylinders and hybridisation on the cards, this rather naughtier engine tugs on your heartstrings like a cherub in mid-February. Starting price is £54,675.
We admit we sometimes give the A90 Supra a hard time for not being more unique, like Nissan’s Z-Proto concept, but we don’t want to let that mask the fact that it’s a bloody good car. Find its flow on a great road and it’s rewarding, controlled, exciting and impressively cohesive.
For £53,035 you get a striking, purposeful-looking car with badge cachet and the cojones to back it up. It also manages to capture an air of something more exotic thanks to styling you couldn’t mistake for belonging to anything else. Finally, we like the fact that no one could ever think this was a boggo model on big wheels. A Supra is a Supra and commands respect.
Now things start to look really tricky for the Ford. The Cayman T is the £54,363 gap-filler between the S and the GTS. At just 1380kg it’s about 300kg lighter than the Mustang and will feel that much more agile and lithe on country roads.
On the down-side this is still the flat-four, 2.0-litre 296bhp engine that’s full of performance and advanced technology, but somewhat short on character compared to the 4.0-litre flat-six in the GTS – or the 5.0-litre V8 in the Mustang, for that matter. This is one to buy for the genius chassis engineering, not for the noise.
Finally we come to the current big dog in the £50,000-£60,000 park. The M2 Competition is more fun than even the Porsche, has a reasonable boot, will hit 62mph from standing in 4.2 seconds with the dual-clutch gearbox and, frankly, looks far better than just about anything else BMW makes. The straight-six-cylinder biturbo engine is an absolute peach, too, so you’re not likely to miss the Mustang’s bigger V.
Add to that the fact that it’s also ‘just’ £52,405 plus extras, is slightly more practical than a true coupe and that you can still get one from dealer stock, if you’re quick, we think the Mustang Mach 1 will have to work ridiculously hard to beat it. Limited stock remaining is the only black mark we can think to add to the BMW’s chart. If you can, buy one before you can’t.