2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 vs Toyota Supra GTS comparison on the Great Alpine Road


In a classic East versus West match-up, the 2021 Toyota Supra GTS faces off against the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 on the scenic battleground of the Great Alpine Road in Victoria.

Having lived in Victoria my whole life, I’m not sure how it’s taken me so long to have a crack at the Great Alpine Road. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never done a full-blown snow trip, but the 300-plus km stretch of tarmac has long been the one drive that got away.

It’s not for lack of enthusiasm – I tell myself every year that this is the one where I’ll gather a bunch of mates and set sail for B500 over the course of a weekend, but, for whatever reason, it has taken me until now to do it.

Prompted by an email round-up of post-lockdown road trip ideas, the Drive team got to talking about where we’re headed once the country’s most populous states were free once again.

Having completed its coastal cousin – the Great Ocean Road – too many times to count, my mind immediately went to what I know and love. Especially at a time of year when it wasn’t going to be inundated with tourists.

But after numerous colleagues put forth the Great Alpine Road as an all-time favourite, I decided now was a good a time as any to finally scratch the itch. It was always going to be the full B500 loop from Wangaratta in the state’s northeast, all the way through Mount Hotham, down through to Bairnsdale and back to Melbourne through Gippsland.

A not-inconsequential 11-hour round trip and a total of 838km. Worthy of grabbing some interesting cars, then.

It might sound like an odd pairing on paper – we can’t imagine there are too many buyers cross-shopping these two – but the limited-run 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 and top-spec 2021 Toyota Supra GTS seemed up to the task.

Key details 2021 Toyota Supra GTS 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Price (MSRP) $99,003 plus on-road costs $83,241 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Silverstone Yellow Twister Orange
Options Alcantara seats – $2500
Premium paint – $575
Recaro seats – $3000
Prestige paint – $650
Price as tested (MSRP) $102,078 plus on-road costs $86,891 plus on-road costs

Yeah, you can probably predict how this comparison is going to go straight out of the box, but I’d heard multiple accounts suggesting that the Mustang Mach 1 had transformed the Mustang into the most dynamic variant since it was introduced to Australia more than six years ago.

We already know that the Toyota Supra is a deftly-quick sports car – a fitting yardstick with which to judge Ford’s efforts in turning the Mustang into a track-honed muscle car.

From the outset, the decision between the Mustang and the Supra will always be a heart-over-head decision for buyers. While they’re both sports cars priced near $100,000, there are stark differences between the two dynamically, not to mention the obvious stylistic divides and differences in intentions.

So while it might be a twin-test of two the latest and greatest sports cars, just know there aren’t really winners or losers here – everybody wins!

That said, Ford’s Mustang Mach 1 does beat out the Toyota Supra GTS on price. Both before on-road costs; $83,241 for the six-speed manual Mustang Mach 1 compares favourably to the $99,003 Toyota Supra GTS – which is still only available with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Where the Toyota Supra GTS employs turbocharged power in the form of a 3.0-litre twin-scroll single-turbo engine with 285kW/500Nm, the Ford keeps things old school with a naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8, which outputs 345kW/556Nm. Both cars send power to the rear wheels.

While two very different takes on what a sports car should be, each is more than welcome on our inaugural run on the Great Alpine Road, which also includes Production Editor Kez Casey and Photographer Ted.

We set off early on a Monday morning in the Silverstone Yellow ($575) Toyota Supra GTS on the way to Ford HQ, which sits at the gateway to the Hume highway. I’m excited to pull up at the Campbellfield site to find a Twister Orange ($650) Mach 1 waiting for us, already fantasising at the thought of the imagery we’re going to capture with the two brightly-coloured cars over the next two days.

It’s with some trepidation that I saddle up in the Mustang for the first part of the boring freeway schlep. CarAdvice used to have a yellow manual Mustang GT years ago as a long-termer, which I did plenty of miles in, and the car and I did not gel. While it was savagely fast in a straight line, cornering was another matter entirely and it even felt downright scary at times in wet weather.

That was the last time I drove a Mustang, so I was excited to get reacquainted with its facelifted successor in Mach 1 guise, which adds a whole host of visual, technical and mechanical upgrades over regular Mustangs.

Key highlights include an upgraded Tremec six-speed manual with rev-match, an upgraded oil cooler for extended track driving, MagneRide dampers with bespoke springs, revised power steering, thicker front sway bars, new rear suspension arms, and differential bushings from the Shelby GT500.

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This is in addition to powertrain upgrades to the familiar 5.0-litre Coyote V8, which comes fitted with a new intake manifold, pod filter-style induction system, and 87mm throttle bodies, all pinched from the Shelby GT350 parts bin.

2021 Toyota Supra GTS 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Seats Two Four
Length 4379mm 4789mm
Width 1854mm 1916mm
Height 1294mm 1387mm
Wheelbase 2470mm 2720mm

It would be some time before we were able to fully appreciate what Ford’s done under the skin, because before the Great Alpine Road comes a few hours’ motoring along the Hume highway. That said, it does afford some seat time to appraise the interior.

I’ve always been a fan of the Mustang interior. What it lacks in overall fit and finish, it makes up for with classic muscle car character that makes you feel good about driving one. The materials feel a little average to the touch, but I’m personally a fan of all the aviation-style switchgear and the high-set dash (with embedded Mach 1 moniker).

Our car is fitted with optional Recaro leather sports seats ($3000) which are nice and form-fitting, though they are massive units and can block vision behind. Road noise along the Hume highway is annoyingly consistent and we detected a few build quality issues such as a creaking dash and a rattling seat. Nice to see not everything has changed with the Mustang.

Considering this is the first major drive we’ve completed out of Melbourne since lockdown, it’s just nice to be out and about in the country, even if the first part of the drive is the monotonous Hume.

It’s not long before we arrive in Benalla for a lunch pit-stop and a quick debrief between Kez and I about how we’re feeling. I relay my findings about the Mustang’s long-throw clutch (bite-point is all at the end of the throw) and nice, notchy shifter, while Kez says he and Photographer Ted were happy motoring along in the Supra, if slightly cramped.

We take a chance after lunch to test the real-world performance of each car. Against a zero-to-100km/h claim from Toyota of 4.1 seconds, the best time we were able to record in the Supra was 4.73 seconds. Interestingly, the time returned while using the car’s integrated launch control system was slower than simply pinning the throttle from a stop. On the other side of the coin, the Supra stops to a halt from 100km/h in 35.69 metres.

The Mach 1 proves harder to launch correctly, either bogging down with traction control on or wheel-spinning without. Ford’s claim for a 0-100km/h run is 4.8 seconds for the six-speed manual-equipped car, while we could only muster 6.14 seconds.

I’ll happily put my hand up and say much of that time delta is due to being unpracticed with launching a manual car. Against the Toyota’s svelte 1473kg (tare), the heavier 1754kg Mustang comes to a stop from 100km/h in 38.75 metres.

We crack on with our drive through to Wangaratta and the beginning of the B500.

It’s not long after turning onto the Great Alpine Road that you start to become surrounded by mountainous ranges, with the rock-capped peaks of Mount Buffalo glinting in the sun to the right and endless tree plantations on the left.

I slide into the Supra’s seat for the first time after a fuel stop in Bright. It immediately feels far more of a sports car than the Mustang, cocooning you in place with a cockpit-style vibe. It feels so much smaller on the road within its lane, and is more darty and sporty as a result. The steering is a light weight, especially when compared against the Mustang.

Both cars sound awesome in their own way, though I’m impressed by the Supra’s boosty grumble and menacing start-up which becomes angrier in Sport mode. It makes subtle pops and backfires on downshifts when in this mode too. The Mach 1 is also fitted with a neat switchable exhaust system, which is pure theatre.

The Coyote V8 has always had potential to sound fantastic, but with past Mustangs its exhaust note felt stifled. Not so with the Mach 1 – it’s laughably-entertaining bassy beat entertains drivers and pedestrians alike.

After blasting through tiny towns and laughing childishly at their names like Smoko and Eurobin, we pass through Harrietville where the open plains end abruptly and the twisty climb up through mountain begins.

I’m pleasantly surprised with how much space there is on the road, and in what good condition it’s in. There’s great run-off to many of the corners and it’s not overly narrow, which I imagine Kez is similarly pleased by in the gigantic Mustang Mach 1.

There are great turn-around spots and full-on vistas the higher we climb, so we stop often for Photographer Ted to work his magic with the stunning road and expansive views.

It’s obvious, but after completing the same section of road back-to-back in each car there are myriad differences between the two (duh).

“Like a light truck with race seats” colleague Kez affably remarks. Though delivered with a healthy dose of hyperbole, he’s not far off the mark. The Mustang feels heavy between switchback corners, requires plenty more steering to round bends, and its naturally-aspirated power is extracted right at the very top of its 7500rpm rev range. To the point that – despite having significantly more power than the Supra – the Mustang feels the slower car of the two.

It’s loud, takes a lot of revving to get it moving, but bites down hard on Brembo brakes when hauling into a corner. Grip is also very tight from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres; the Mustang does a much better job at putting its power down than I’ve come to expect from the platform.

The Mach 1 does feel like a worthy upgrade to lesser-specified Mustangs. It’s as surefooted and planted as ever and I’m a big fan of the Tremec manual gearbox which delivers a notchy and feelsome shift. Though, the placement of the cupholders on the centre console is annoying, getting in the way of a perfect shift.

Body roll is well controlled through succeeding corners, but the front end needs some motivation and a fair amount of steering to really get stuck into a corner. You sit on a park bench and dead-steer like a boat, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

I liken it to dumb fun. No one is heading out and buying a Mach 1 with canyon carving in mind, but it does manage to put a smile on your face as you feed it through corners at speed.

In contrast, the Supra feels like a performance weapon. Its low-slung body and sharp turn-in are far more focused than the Mustang, and it feels the more engaging sports car despite the lack of a manual gearbox.

Power is much easier to access with peak torque felt between 1850-5000rpm, and the sports automatic eight-speed gearbox does a great job of keeping the car in its sportiest character, without me having to toggle the steering wheel-mounted shifters manually.

Key details 2021 Toyota Supra GTS 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Engine 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol V8
Power 285kW @ 6500rpm 345kW @ 7500rpm
Torque 500Nm @ 1850-5000rpm 556Nm @ 4600rpm
Drive type Rear-wheel drive Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Eight-speed torque converter automatic Six-speed Tremec manual
Power to weight ratio 193.5kW/t 196.7kW/t
Weight (tare) 1473kg 1754kg

It actively sniffs out each corner with red-rag-to-a-bull energy, remains flat and composed mid-way through the bend, and shoots out the other side with ferocity. Traction is also great in the Supra GTS, with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres able to put down the car’s 285kW without much fuss.

Where the Mach 1’s MagneRide dampers help it punch through road imperfections leaving the car a bit too insulated from road feel, the Supra is more attune to what’s underfoot and feels the firmer of the two.  

Both cars have adjustable sport modes (Mustang has several modes), but I quite like the simplicity of the Supra’s sole Sport mode which weights-up the steering, holds onto gears longer, and accentuates the exhaust note. Buyers after their own bespoke settings will prefer the Mustang’s configurable nature.

In the lead-up to Mount Hotham’s summit, the views out both side windows are incredible. This late into November the mountain appears devoid of all snow and ice – luckily for us – save for one small patch at the very top of the 1861m mountain.

At last light we station-up near the highest point for some glorious sunset shots by Photographer Ted. It’s a beautiful part of the country – I don’t think Ted could have made it look unappealing if he tried. More than anything, I’m happy to be out and about again testing further afield.

After a well-earned parma, we retire to our Airbnb in Hotham Heights for the night.

The next morning is an early wake up to see what the rest of the Great Alpine Road has to offer. After Mount Hotham I expected the Great Alpine Road to traverse the tops of surrounding mountains, but was surprised to begin descending almost immediately after Hotham’s summit.

From expansive views across surrounding countryside, the landscape changes quickly after passing through neighbouring town Dinner Plain. You lose a lot of the cool alpine experience as the road paves through trees and into kangaroo territory, but even so, it’s nice to see changing landscapes along the B500.

I start off in the Supra again which gives me good time to gauge its cabin. The cabin feels better built and uses more quality materials than the Mustang, but it arguably operates in a more premium segment than the Mustang too. I wish the Supra’s screens were brighter, but I’m in love with the digital instrument cluster which features a cool 3D design. Our Supra GTS was upholstered in Alcantara ($2000) which prevents sliding about, and the seats hold you in place tightly, but they’re shaped for smaller people.

While the Supra’s fit and finish feels like it’ll last the distance, the space is let down due to an open cavity between the boot and the cabin. It needs a bulkhead to prevent things flying through into the interior. It also exhibits terrible wind buffeting at a variety of speeds – it’s a wonder the development team let that issue through the cracks.

Where the Mach 1’s interior is old school cool, the Supra GTS has the better fit and finish and materials.

Further down the mountain the landscape changes again to reveal much more greenery as you pass through farmland and into Omeo.

Leading into Omeo I take the chance to do another little back-to-back between the two cars to reaffirm my thoughts. The Mustang Mach 1 carries much more confidence into dynamic situations than a Mustang ever has in Australia. It’s a whole heap of fun to peddle through corners, especially with a manual gearbox, and I imagine it’d go well on a racetrack.

But it’s the Supra GTS which is the better suitor for the task at hand, covering ground much quicker than the Mach 1 ever could. The way the rear end sits down through successive corners is confidence-inspiring and you’re better rewarded as a driver. Though the steering is overly light in normal mode, switch it to Sport set-up and the weight becomes a much nicer feel with which to wrangle the body through bends.

Again, I’m so impressed to see how wide the roads are in this region. Makes the route very accommodating to cars of all sizes.

At a glance 2021 Toyota Supra GTS 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Warranty Five years / unlimited km Five years / unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months / 15,000km 12 months / 15,000km
Servicing costs $1155 (3yr) / $2285.62 (5yr) $941 (3 years) | $1630(5 years)
Fuel cons. (claimed) 7.7L/100km 13.9L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 9.3L/100km 10.8L/100km
Fuel type 95 RON 98 RON
Fuel tank size 52L 61L

We crank out some final shots after trundling out from a late breakfast in Omeo. The landscape of the Great Alpine Road changes again after Ensay, as the blacktop straddles alongside the Tambo River most of the way to the coastline. The other side of the road is bounded by a cliff face and I’m glad to be in the Mustang for this stretch.

It’s awesome powering up and down the gears in the Mach 1 alongside this rock wall, hearing the exhaust noise bounce off the surface and back into the cabin. Following, the Supra fires off some epic crackles and pops as it comes off boost.

I think Photographer Ted becomes irked at me suggesting a stop at every single pretty photo location, but we’re all in good spirits as we power through the Mount Elizabeth Nature Reserve and down to the end of the Great Alpine Road in Bairnsdale.

I didn’t expect this, but I think I’d pick the Great Alpine Road as the better ‘Great’ road between it and my old favourite, the Great Ocean Road. The latter might pip it on outright ocean vistas, but the relative scarcity of traffic and varied landscapes along the Great Alpine Road means you get better value out of the long drive.

As for the cars, it’s a bit of a foregone conclusion. The Toyota Supra GTS is a fantastic sports car and the undoubted winner in the performance stakes thanks to its engaging driving character, more accessible power, and diminutive size comparison.

However, that needn’t take away from the Ford Mustang Mach 1, which is a wholly entertaining drive in its own right. The Mach 1 brings the Mustang’s old school muscle car character closer to the dynamic sports car world than we’ve come to expect from the ageing platform.

At the end of the day, we can’t imagine any Mustang buyers cross-shopping it with a Supra, and the same vice versa. Both are excellent and varied takes on what a sports car should be, so owners of each should hold their head high, and hit up the Great Alpine Road.

Overall Ratings

Drive’s Pick

2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe

8.3/ 10

8.3/ 10

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback

8.0/ 10

8.0/ 10

Ratings Breakdown

2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
Ride Quality
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
Handling & Dynamics
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
Driver Technology
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
Interior Comfort + Packaging
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
Infotainment & Connectivity
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
Fuel Efficiency
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback
Fit for Purpose
2021 Toyota Supra GR GTS Coupe
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive. As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories. He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content. Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.

Read more about Tom Fraser