The arrival of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E marks a seismic shift for the auto industry at large, and yet it’s easy to get caught up in the semantics of it all.
It marks the first time a mainstream automaker has delivered an electric vehicle (EV) that looks cool instead of quirky, and yet some of the most passionate fans of Ford’s fabled pony car are concerned that it somehow sullies the Mustang name – as if there weren’t some real stinkers in the past. Even so, it begs the question: does it even matter what it’s called?
The Mach-E isn’t here to replace the gas-powered Mustang – at least not anytime soon – but rather lean on its legend and its looks in a bid to create some buzz around Ford’s first foray into full electrification for the masses. Looking beyond the badge, this smooth and efficient EV has all the tools it needs to succeed.
The Mach-E may not drive like its namesake (more on that shortly), but there’s no denying it looks every bit the Mustang designers intended it to. To this author’s eye, so-called “crossover coupes” are something of an acquired taste. It seems Ford made a deliberate choice to avoid using the term to describe this EV despite it being an outstanding example of one, with swept-back proportions and an abbreviated back end that makes it look a bit like an Aston Martin DBX in profile.
It’s low and lean, the hood’s long, and the rear end features sloping glass that flows into wide haunches. Toss in the chiseled crease lines and Mustang-inspired fascia, and the Mach-E is stylish no matter what it’s called.
The cabin is a tastefully modern space, with a great mix of materials that wouldn’t look or feel out of place inside a Volvo. The centrepiece is the massive 15.5-inch touchscreen that centralizes almost all controls on its tablet-like surface. Opting for this Premium trim’s faux leather finished in white is a brave choice, but it also helps to brighten an interior that’s mostly made up of grey and black finishes otherwise.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, with the right amount of contouring to make hours of driving fade into obscurity. The fake cowhide is fantastic, too, with a premium-market creaminess to the perforated surfaces that looks and feels like the real stuff.
The Mach-E is well insulated from outside interference, with good sound-deadening all around. Build quality is commendable, too – important in a vehicle where cabin creaks and rattles can stand out because of the silence of the electric powertrain.
Like any EV, the location of the battery pack low in the chassis creates noticeable rigidity in the Mach-E’s ride. Factor in the somewhat sporty suspension tune and this all-electric Ford amplifies the feel of broken and cracked pavement, but it glides over rolling surfaces with an upmarket air.
Fuel Economy: 10/10
The standard battery pack is a 68-kWh unit with an estimated range of 370 km, though that number drops to 340 km when all-wheel drive is optioned. This tester was fitted with the upgraded 88-kWh battery and all-wheel drive, which together result in a range of 435 km (stick with rear-wheel drive and that number stands at 483 km).
Embarking on a highway-biased 200-km test loop with no preconditioning and the battery topped up to 91 per cent, the Mach-E burned through less than half of those reserves and still showed an indicated range of 194 km with 49 per cent remaining. According to the computer, that works out to a consumption rate of 18.0 kWh/100 km – less than the official combined rating of 23.2 kWh/100 km.
User Friendliness: 8/10
Charging can be done a number of ways, and times vary depending on what the Mach-E is hooked up to. Maxed out on a 150-kW public fast-charger, Ford claims the battery can be boosted from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in 45 minutes. While the battery never dipped that low during testing, a stop at a fast-charger saw 40.3 kWh added to the battery in 28 minutes – it jumped from 39 per cent to 81 per cent – at a cost of $9.42.
That the lone charging port is on the driver’s side has its drawbacks, with some public chargers proving quite awkward to plug into. Even so, finding a charging station on the go is exceptionally easy, with the navigation system able to plot destinations along a preset route and filter them based on a few different parameters like speed and cost, helping alleviate at least some of the anxiety that comes with the EV experience.
Unfortunately, the infotainment system was plagued by problems all week long. From awkward graphic overlays to connectivity issues, it was occasionally frustrating despite its overall ease of use. For example, hooking up to Apple CarPlay wirelessly was easy, but it proved useless since the Wi-Fi hotspot had no data access. But the interface itself proved simple enough to sort through, while the display was responsive to inputs.
Despite the Mach-E’s sleek and sporty look, its ergonomics and the ease of entry and exit are top-notch. While the button-based door releases seem like a wholly unnecessary gimmick that could be problematic come wintertime, getting in and out of the front and rear seats is as straightforward as any small crossover, while the space inside is generous. Cabin width is all but identical to the similarly sized Ford Escape, and while there’s less rear legroom here it’s still enough that four occupants can fit comfortably.
Space for stuff isn’t quite as impressive as it is in that fellow Ford crossover, with the sloping roofline cutting into outright utility. The 841 L of cargo room behind the back seats isn’t far from what the stylish Mazda CX-5 has to offer, but the limited height inside the Mach-E limits the size of what can be carried. There is, however, the 133-L cargo area under the hood that’s similar in size to the Mazda MX-5’s trunk, adding to this Ford’s functionality.
With the dual-motor all-wheel drive setup, the Mustang Mach-E makes a combined 346 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque with the big battery pack under the floor. That’s plenty, and it puts a noteworthy pep in this EV’s step – though it’s the upcoming GT Performance version that Ford promises will be the powerhouse of the lineup.
It’s not that the Mach-E Premium is a slouch by any stretch, but outright performance prowess isn’t its raison d’ȇtre. This is an efficient EV first and foremost that’s easy to drive and offers great comfort – and it happens to be peppy, too. But in a nod to its inherent everyday practicality, its quickness is felt when making highway passing manoeuvres rather than racing from stoplight to stoplight.
Driving Feel: 9/10
Particularly when travelling at triple-digit speeds, overtaking is as effortless as it gets, with the instantaneous torque delivery shoving this crossover around slower traffic in a hurry. When it’s over, simply ease off the throttle and get back to the prescribed highway cruising speed.
Easing off the throttle is key should one-pedal driving be activated, with the regenerative braking slowing the Mach-E down in a hurry. It could probably use some settings that adjust the aggressiveness rather than simply being on or off. While it’s easy enough to grow accustomed to, with proper pedal modulation taking no time to master, keeping a bottle of Gravol in the glovebox for uninitiated passengers wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The steering system could also benefit from adjustability independent of drive mode, with only the sportiest “unbridled” settings offering any sort of enjoyable weight and resistance. But that’s a small nit to pick considering how buttoned down the drive is regardless of setting. To describe the handling as go-kart-like only tells half the story. Because it’s certainly nimble and quick to change directions, but there are times when the low centre of gravity exceeds the grip the tires can provide, the Mach-E skipping and squealing its way through turns like a go-kart without a governor.
Smoothness and serenity come first with this powertrain, but it can be playful, too. Does it drive like a Mustang, as Bill Ford, this automaker’s Executive Chairman, so proudly proclaimed? Not unless there was some secret electric model that existed before this one. With all due respect, it’s a silly parallel to draw in the first place, since the fundamentals of a rear-wheel-drive sports car with an engine under its hood are such that an all-electric crossover like this feels about as different as what propels them in the first place.
Every Mustang Mach-E features a slew of advanced safety technology ranging from front and rear parking sensors to blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking. On top of that, it’s fitted with a fantastic adaptive cruise control system that requires hands on the wheel to work and applies gentle steering inputs instead of twitchy micro-corrections to remain in the intended lane of travel. As far a technology showcase for Ford, the Mach-E hits the mark.
Ford has thrown a lot of other good tech at this EV’s entire lineup, with that vertical touchscreen, wireless charging, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all standard, as well as an app-based feature that allows a connected smartphone to work as the key (it wasn’t available during testing). Unfortunately, heated front seats aren’t included in the cheapest trim, requiring an upgrade package instead. And while a heated steering is included in the Premium trim, the front seats aren’t ventilated, nor are the rear seats heated. In those ways, it seems Ford held off on giving this halo product the full feature treatment that would surely help it stand apart.
The space the Mustang Mach-E competes in is small, with only a handful of EVs on the market that are similar in execution, but it still manages to make a strong financial case. Forget for a moment the savings that come with plugging it in instead of filling a fuel tank; that applies to every all-electric ride out there. The Tesla Model Y starts at $69,990 before tax and features all-wheel drive and an estimated range of 525 km, while the slightly smaller Kia Niro EV starts at $46,790, drives the front wheels only, and has an estimated range of 385 km.
The Mach-E manages to split the difference, with the rear-wheel-drive base version and its 370-km range coming in at $52,490 before tax but including a non-negotiable $1,995 freight charge. All-wheel drive adds $3,500 to the price and cuts 30 km from the range, meanwhile. The Premium trim adds comfort and convenience features as well as the option to upgrade to the 88-kWh battery pack, a $7,000 option that boosts range to 483 km ($68,490) or 435 km ($71,990) depending on drive configuration.
Ford’s come pretty close to hitting a grand slam with the Mustang Mach-E. It’s well priced – especially for those in British Columbia or Quebec that can take advantage of provincial incentives – and delivers all the good stuff an EV should, like decent range, smooth driving, and quick charging.
It also looks cool instead of quirky, which might be a first for an EV from a mainstream automaker. The Mach-E isn’t quite perfect, however, and it’s missing a few key features that surely would help set it apart, like ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. Ditching most of the physical controls inside also seems wholly unnecessary, while the button-based exterior door releases could pose problems of their own come wintertime. To stick with the baseball analogies, it’s fair to call this a bases-clearing triple then. That’s certainly not a bad way to get some runs on the board. For those looking to get in on the EV game, it might well be time to pick up a bat.
|Engine Displacement||258 kW||Model Tested||2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD|
|Engine Cylinders||Dual electric motors||Base Price||$62,995|
|Peak Horsepower||346 hp||A/C Tax||$100|
|Peak Torque||428 lb-ft||Destination Fee||$1,995|
|Fuel Economy||2.4 / 2.8 / 2.6 Le/100 km, 21.8 / 25.0 / 23.2 kWh/100 km; 435 km estimated range||Price as Tested||$72,990|
|Cargo Space||841 / 1,689 L seats up/down|
$7,900 – 88-kWh Battery, $7,000; Infinite Blue Metallic Paint, $550; Interior Protection Package, $350
This article was originally published on AutoTrader.ca