- I tested a well-equipped, $US56,200 Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Detroit automaker’s flamboyant new all-electric crossover.
- The Mach-E has the Tesla Model Y squarely in its sights.
- But the Mach-E is a very visceral EV – much more emotionally satisfying to drive than any electric car I’ve yet tested – and the Premium all-wheel-drive trim level I sampled isn’t even the fastest Mach-E.
- I had just two days to get acquainted with the Mach-E, but after some initial confusion about its driving dynamics, I came to adore the new ‘Stang, especially when this electric pony was going fast.
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My first impression of the Mustang Mach-E wasn’t great.
I thought it drove like a truck.
Ford is legendary for its trucks â€” the F-150 pickup has been America’s bestselling vehicle since the first Reagan Administration â€” so I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I’m not used to EVs feeling utility-grade underfoot. Usually, they feel quick and feathery. Tesla Model 3, I’m looking at you.
I’d been urgently looking forward to driving the Mach-E, an approximately $US56,200 example of which Ford’s let me borrow for two days (My Premium trim-level vehicle wasn’t officially priced, so I spec’d it out using Ford’s website, adding a few options to the $US47,000 base model; the cheapest Mach-E, the Select, starts at about $US43,000.).
My snap reaction was, “Well, I hope it doesn’t drive like this all the time.”
Forget first impressions
I needn’t have worried. No sooner had I left my placid suburban byways and hopped onto the “Mad Max”-esque Garden State Parkway, flipping the drive mode into “Unbridled” mode (Get it? This MUSTANG is a WILD PONY!), that the Mach-E went, well … it went Mustang on me.
I didn’t even have one of the performance-oriented versions to test out. My E-Stang was a Premium trim level with all-wheel-drive. The $US60,500 GT has 480 horsepower (and 634 pound-feet of torque, for the top-spec car), versus a mere 346 for my extended-range model. The GT also has a Ford-claimed 3.8-second 0-60mph time, while the Mach-E Premium that I put the hammer down on manages a mere … 4.8 seconds.
Yeah. That’s fast. Real fast. For a four-door hatchback crossover.
As for that truck-y thing, it’s more that the Mach-E Premium is actually built for speed, with a beefy suspension organised around a bulky 88 kilowatt-hour battery pack, a motor over each axle, and a steadfast refusal to lean when pushed into a corner. Rock-solid. And get this: you don’t have to baby the thing because thanks to crossover ground clearance, one can trundle in and out of sloping driveways and over potholed Northeastern infrastructure.
Meanwhile, in a straight line, the Mach-E goes WHOOSH. And, in Unbridled mode, you can activate a rather Mustang-sounding “engine” note, eliminating the at-times depressingly futuristic whine that EVs are known for.
It isn’t fair to say that the Mach-E has competition. The EV market is currently rinky-dink, at just about 2% of total annual sales, so competition at this early stage is largely meaningless. Nonetheless, the Mach-E is a shot across the bow of the market leader, Tesla, and Tesla’s own crossover hatch, the Model Y. The Mach-E is also sorta-kinda taking on the Jaguar I-PACE, the Audi eTron, and some EVs that have been in the game longer, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt.
The Mach-E is also an addition to what’s now a proper sub-brand at Ford. Mustang has been one thing and one thing only since 1965: a two-door sports car with muscular inflections. The pony badge has taken up residence in the grille-less fascia of the Mach-E, so where there was only the iconic ‘Stang, there’s now an all-electric people hauler.
One very cool-looking crossover
It’s either brilliant or cynical, depending on your point of view. I’m leaning brilliant, and given the sheer number of curious inquiries from members of the public in my two brief days with the Mach-E, as well as a few thumbs-up in traffic, I think I might be leaning in the correct direction.
My tester was a good ‘un: “Rapid Red” metallic paint job and a “Light Grey perforated Activex” interior, which read as a creamy off-white with a combination of tweedy grey trim with faux carbon-fibre highlights. Nineteens in the wheel arches, just right.
My older son, of course, wanted to know why there was an SUV with a striated chrome pony on the front, and I had to explain to him that the Mustang design language had been adapted to a crossover electric vehicle format.
The “Um, OK, sure, dad” reaction was to be expected.
Still, the Mach-E looks rather cool, even if isn’t a BEV GT350 (what son number one would actually like to see). It also looks a tad Lexus-meets-Mazda, so ultimately the stallion on the non-grille and the sequential Mustang tail lights were welcome (the lights strobe in the direction of the turn signal).
The fastback, crossover coupÃ© silhouette, finished off with an integrated spoiler, is trÃ¨s of the moment. And I certainly enjoyed boarding the Mach-E after dark, when a snazzy ‘Stang welcome mat, crafted in light, was projected onto the pavement.
Inside, the show-stopper is the 15.5-inch central infotainment touchscreen, with its glorious big ol’ volume knob smack in the bottom-middle. I love a giant volume knob! More subdued is the 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, really just a thin rectangle of screen tucked behind the steering wheel. A panoramic glass roof owes something to Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y, while the rear seats are comfy and roomy enough for grownups.
Cargo capacity is 29 cubic feet, going up to 60 with the rear seats down, and the front trunk adds another five cubic feet, as well as a nifty separator to keep stuff from banging around. That enough capacity to outdo the compact crossovers of the world.
Well over 250 miles of range, and no shortage of speed
You have the range for a weekend away, with Ford touting 270 miles on a single charge (the rear-wheel-drive Mach-E notches 300 miles). I didn’t have the Mach-E long enough to drain the battery â€” although I engaged in plenty of spirited driving and got it down close to 100 miles left in the tank â€” but recharging at Level 2 or 240 volts should refill the Mach-E with electrons overnight, while fast DC charging ought to consume around an hour.
My tester was equipped with an onboard charge cable, Ford-branded (in fact, the only Ford-scripted feature on the entire vehicle â€” the Mach-E is very much in keeping with Mustang tradition here, with the Blue Oval nowhere in sight).
Assisting with electricity replenishment is regenerative braking, which reclaims some lost charge, as well as one-pedal drive mode, accessible via the central touchscreen, that uses the electric motors’ engine-braking qualities to eliminate foot-action almost completely. (I found the one-pedal system to be a little cumbersome.)
The Mach-E has a one-speed transmission that sends power from the battery pack under the floor to the dual-motor AWD setup. In the cabin, it’s a simple gear-shift rotary knob, much like the one on the infotainment screen. Three drive modes are available â€” Engage, Whisper, and Unbridled, with the first offering basic thrills, the second toning everything down, and the third, as previously discussed, unleashing electric hell.
Steering? Not light, at times too heavy, but exceptionally stable at high speeds. Put it all together and you have, as you might expect with a proper Mustang, an electric muscle crossover. I know, I know â€” what a mashup! But in this respect, the Mach-E is unique, a pleasing combination of a vehicle that evokes the gas-powered Mustang’s gruff qualities while, you know, saving the planet.
Tech-wise, the Mach-E has Ford’s superb SYNC 4 infotainment software running on the big screen, but the car also used that digital real estate to manage an assortment of vehicle functions, some not all that successfully. The sliders for heated seats were tricky to get the hang of, for instance. A Bang & Olufsen, 10-speaker premium audio system fills the cabin with lovely tunes, and not incidentally provides the soundtrack for the electric non-exhaust.
Bluetooth pairing is effortless, and there are both USB ports and a wireless charging pad that, unfortunately, doesn’t have the grip to keep a smartphone in place. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, and the onboard GPS navigation feature deftly handled what little I threw at it.
More tech than I’ve ever experienced in a Ford
Outside of the Tesla-verse, I shy away from smartphone interfaces for cars. But I went ahead and downloaded FordPass for the iPhone and linked it to the Mach-E, to explore using it as a key and also to assess some of the monitoring options. It was useful, although I didn’t spend hours delving into it. One notable capability: It was able to remote start the Mach-E from 100 feet away.
My Mach-E was equipped with a suite of semi-self-driving systems, including an autosteer feature that cooperates with adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and automatic parking (all clustered under the “Ford Co-Pilot 360” aegis). But while the arrangement was up to the challenge of highway driving in New Jersey, I was honestly having so much fun helming the Mach-E that I didn’t use the system all that much.
The verdict on the Mach-E is that I wound up being stunned by how engaging and emotional the vehicle was. Having driven everything from the “Ludicrous Mode” Tesla Model S and original Roadster to stuff like the Honda Fit EV and the Jaguar I-PACE, not to mention the all-new Polestar 2, I’m accustomed to battery-electrics going for sci-fi over old-school.
The engineers, it seems, either want to clobber you with G-forces or emulate the takeover temperament of an alien spaceship. The Mach-E aims for a huskier, more visceral impression, and in my hands, it was ultimately more fun to drive than the objectively stupendous Porsche Taycan.
There’s a whiff, then, of the reactionary about the Mach-E, but for a crossover that’s been christened a Mustang, it gets a close as one could expect to that ineffable ‘Stang vibe, which has often combined surprisingly good driving dynamics with a sort of “Yee-Haw!!!” American-ness that gives no quarter to received wisdom about how a sports car should behave (or misbehave).
If you detect a paradox here, well then, bravo. Ford has taken the Mustang legacy and melded it with high-tech propulsion and the wildly popular crossover form to create something memorable. If you were to A-B the Mach-E alongside the Tesla Model Y, you might spend very little time debating which superficially similar vehicle more thoroughly fires the imagination.
A statement â€” and a risk
From the perspective of Ford’s business, the Mach-E is both a statement and risk: the former because it’s the 117-year-old carmaker’s first “serious” EV; and the latter because it’s such a bold move.
For me, the Mach-E introduced a new concept: Think not about how the vehicle might compete with the market leader, but how it might define its own identity.
That’s important because if 98% of future yearly EV sales are yet to happen, the next wave of cars is going to have to stand out. The Mach-E does that in more ways than one. I couldn’t get enough of it.