Touring the Virginia countryside in Ford’s first fully-electric vehicle was an exercise in passion, patience, and lots of tech.
According to Ford, the Mustang Mach-E “embodies the Mustang spirit – from its sleek silhouette and muscular curves to exhilarating drive experiences that offer unique driving dynamics and sounds”. I kept this claim as my constitution during the review, given Ford doesn’t toss around the Pony Car’s namesake very often- the last new vehicle in the line up came 56 years ago.
Mindful that this is the first electric vehicle from a legacy automaker and the fact that electric vehicles are still somewhat novel to many people, Ford had a mandate to create something that is legitimate and sincere, untied from the perceptions of electric vehicles that Telsa and others have established.
First Impressions of the Ford Mustang Mach-E
The Mustang Mach-E draws inspiration from the Mustang coupe, but mostly lives on its own with elaborations on the taillights and wide-mouthed front fascia of the Mustang. Based on how many eyes and comments the Mustang Mach-E garnered on our tour, it’s certainly the most interesting looking electric SUV on the market. The Tesla lineup, entirely composed of jelly bean-like silhouettes, look especially bulbous and plain next to the Mach-E with its taut, sculpted hood, tightened midline, and fastback rear end.
The vehicle is largely devoid of markings indicating its Ford-ness. Instead, it’s laden with Mustang insignia, from the LED approach lights throwing an equine silhouette at the ground, to the Mustang logo framing the front and rear of the vehicle. With the B and C pillars cleverly hidden in dark paint and the door handles reduced to electric buttons (which, upon pressing, gently opens the door), the side of the vehicle is devoid of interruption. On the road it looks fast, purposeful, and serious. Call it a play of “muscular minimalism”.
Ford Mustang Mach-E Interior
The interior is a thoroughly modern affair, the centerpiece being the 15.5” touchscreen display punctuated with a handy dial in the center and a 10.2”-wide digital gauge cluster at the driver’s seat. Swaths of a woven fabric on the dashboard offers a soft texture to the interior and a mildly organic atmosphere. The truly enormous fixed panoramic glass roof, was best enjoyed from the backseat, offering an uninterrupted vista toward the sky, slightly tinted to keep the out a blasting sun. The vehicle can seat five comfortably and the trunk space was more than sufficient for our weekend tour (up to 59.7 cubic feet of storage space). The vehicle is outfitted with USB-C ports in the front and back seats along with a very sensitive charging mat in the center console (more on that later).
The 15.5” display handles all of the car’s settings as well as the view for navigation and more. Ford’s Sync 4A connected car tech works well in this format, and there is minimal learning curve. What particularly impressed me was the ability to use Apple CarPlay with absolutely no physical connection needed. Further, with the FordPass app, I could start, unlock and lock the car, as well as monitor its charging status. On the Premium model, the Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker audio system paired with a silent ride offers excellent listening.
Future Driving is Arriving: Ford Mustang Mach-E
There are aspects of the Mustang Mach-E which feel genuinely futuristic. Though not exclusive to the Mach-E, one-pedal mode is one such development. When one lifts off the accelerator, the electric motor that powers the car converts into a generator, which then converts the kinetic energy of the car’s forward momentum back into electricity and feeds it into the battery pack. The effect is a car that is always slowing down if you’re not maintaining pressure on the gas pedal. Different carmakers leverage one-pedal mode to different degrees, but Ford takes it all the way, allowing the Mach-E to come to a complete stop with a very soft point of arrival. I never turned off one-pedal mode, and the first time I returned to an internal-combustion engine, I found myself craving the comfort and ease of the setting. It calls to question the need of the brake pedal in the future, which could possibly be reduced to nothing but a button or tab on a steering wheel, reserved for extreme circumstances.
The 10.2”-wide “gauge cluster” is really more of an information screen at the steering wheel, and offered an essential view of the car’s driving details such as current speed, charge, and navigation information, if applicable. I came to really appreciate this view for how practical it was and it feels like the next step in digital driver information; past the skeuomorphic attempts to recreate the traditional gauge cluster, which were always less charming than the real thing.
The gear lever and the principle of the ignition (that is, the act of turning the car on) both feel grafted into the Mach-E out of a need of familiarity, not necessity. I can easily imagine the gear shifter (a knob, in the case of the Mach-E), one day being minimized to nothing, perhaps a selection of buttons for “go forward”, “go backward”, and “don’t go anywhere”. I shy away from the term “park”, as the one-pedal mode actually caused confusion around the principle (and need) of putting the car in park manually. The ignition is also theoretical. The car is either on or off, and the state was unclear when it was plugged in for charging. I found myself double-checking to see if I’d successfully turned it off at the end of a tour.
Obviously, the great triumph of the Mach-E is the electric engine itself, with up to 300 miles of range. The whirr of the electric engine at low speed always charms (though the Mach-E does offer a simulated propulsion sound as a setting). Ford has the natural benefit of the torque-oriented electric motor to play with. Ford offers the Mach-E with three distinct driving modes, “Whisper”, “Engage”, and “Unbridled”, each of which actually do alter the driving experience dramatically. We maintained Whisper for the majority of the trip, but leveraging Unbridled offered remarkable acceleration that felt aligned with the Mustang name.
The top performer of the Mach-E range is the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition with its 0-60 mph in 3.5-seconds and an estimated 358 kW (480 horsepower) and 860 Nm (634 lb.-ft.) of torque. That’s supercar territory.
Supported by Ford’s Magneride suspension and available AWD, we took the Mach-E for some light off-roading to find it a competent performer on mud and dirt. The Magneride damping system really shines here, offering a truly stable ride across uneven surface. Along with very low road noise, it was the most pleasant off-road experience in any car of recent memory; electric or otherwise.
Finally, there is the question of range and charging. Range on the Mach-E is excellent, simply put. The Mustang Mach-E is available in both standard-range (66 kWh usable lithium-ion battery) and extended-range (88 usable kWh battery), which has EPA-estimated range of at least 300 miles in rear-wheel-drive configuration. I expected to be much more anxious about the range, but those worries went away when I realized how incremental the drain is. It’s not like an iPhone, where the device can go from 80% to 15% after using a single intensive application. The car, even when using energy-intensive features like the air conditioning, caused no significant drain on charge. When it is time for charging, it is very easy. Using SYNC’s built-in navigation system, the system will factor in drives to the FordPass charging points along with duration of the charge included in the total travel time. The FordPass Charging Network is the largest public charging network in the country with more than 13,500 charging stations (and more than 40,000 charge plugs), including DC Fast Chargers.
It’s impossible to ignore how unpredictable the nation’s charging network is at present. While we never found ourselves so far out of range of a charge point, we quickly learned how varied charge speeds were (the Mach-E can accept up to 150kW at peak charging rate) and the myriad of apps and RFID cards needs to get charged. The best experience was with the Electrify America network, which automatically syncs with the vehicle upon plugging in, making for a seamless charge. To note: without an adapter, the Mustang Mach-E cannot utilize the Tesla charging network. That said, it was satisfying to find a charge point that was very quick. We were able to get from 18% charge to 80% in about 40 minutes at an Electrify America charge point at 150kW.
It takes not having a gas-powered vehicle to recognize how pervasive fossil fuel-oriented infrastructure really is. There is a small camaraderie and moment of recognition in seeing other electric vehicles on the road or at a charge point. It feels like a new guard and everyone else is living in the past.
Tech features that enhance the drive (most of the time)
The Mustang Mach-E has a host of high-tech safety and convenience features, many of which are standard or come as features in the crossover SUV class. Ford refers to this host of features as CoPilot360TM and includes tools such as auto high-beam lights, lane-keeping assist, cross traffic alerts, blind-spot information systems, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), 360-camera views, and BlueCruise, a highway cruise control. CoPilot360TM is standard on all Mach-E models.
A real moment of critique for any vehicle is when and how these safety and driving features come into play. In the case of the Toyota RAV-4, I found the “always on” nature of its safety features to interrupt the driving experience and actually make me a more risky driver, especially when having to fight the lane-keeping assist or break the adaptive cruise control as traffic patterns changed. Any moment of potentially spirited driving was ruined by an overwhelming demand for safety. The otherwise-excellent Subaru Outback required a series of steps to turn off its very sensitive driving distance system and blind-spot chimes.
Ford’s considerate application of these features, as a contribution to a total driving experience, critically differentiates the Mach-E from class players, electric or otherwise. It’s a genuinely intelligent system that I sense will improve over time. On the busy yet slow streets of New York, I wasn’t bombarded with chimes, dings, or beeps. Instead, blind-spot warnings would silently emerge, or the 360-sensors would offer a yellow, orange or red illumination on the driver’s display to indicate which side was in proximity to something else.
In spirited countryside driving along the byways of Virginia, safety features were again present, but very easy to override. No over-active chimes when I’d occasionally cross the solid yellow line nor complaints when I’d slightly accelerate over the speed limit. The CoPilot360 system feels like true driver’s support rather than a safety system in the business of controlling every move. The trick is that Ford really only activates these features to their full potential when cruise control is turned on, which correctly suggests the driver is at their least engaged.
There were a few moments of disruption that can be easily solved with a software update. The aforementioned integrated charging mat would disconnect from the device it was charging with a large notification taking over the center screen. The fix would remove this message or reduce its impact. The pre-collision warning system is truly alarming, even when the situation is calm or circumstantial (such as tight New York City traffic). A bright red screen takes over the driver’s display and beeping ensues, usually lasting longer than the situation itself. There is some other cruise control wonkiness, especially when merging into a lane where a car is much closer than what the distance-keeping feature prefers. In more than one instance, the Mach-E will brake in a dramatic manner to restore distance, with little regard to traffic behind (which may also be traveling in close proximity).
The speed sign recognition is a great idea in principle, but will abruptly adjust your speed down to over 5 MPH the posted limit if traveling in excess of the posted limit. It would be nice to be able to disable this or offer a delay (or a chance to cancel), especially when traffic is moving at more than 5 MPH over the limit.
From the excellent sound system and the intelligent driving assistance to the stellar range of the electric motor and the signature Mustang handling, the Ford Mustang Mach-E is a truly American car, comfortable in its own skin. The sales numbers are proving themselves already, with the Mach-E officially outselling the Mustang for the first time as of June 2021. Many new people will be joining the electric vehicle fold with this vehicle, and the Mustang Mach-E is a very good entry point.
Ford Mustang Mach-E Models
The Ford Mustang Mach-E is offered in a variety of models, but many share the features that we reviewed, including the Ford Co-Pilot360™ 2.0. All Mustang Mach-E models are eligible for Federal Tax Credits. Prices are as of July 14, 2021.
Mustang Mach-E Select: Starting at $42,895, this model offers a range of 230 miles and available eAWD or RWD.
Mustang Mach-E California Route 1: Starting at $50,400, this model offers a range of 305 miles via an Extended-Range Battery and rear-wheel drive standard.
Mustang Mach-E Premium: Starting at $47,600, this model offers a range of 305 miles, the panoramic fixed-glass roof, available eAWD or RWD. eAWD-spec’d models can get to 0-60 in 4.8 seconds.
Mustang Mach-E GT: Starting at $59,900, this model offers a range of 270 miles, eAWD standard, and the possibility of a 3.5 0-60 time with the GT Performance Edition.
Explore more and build your own at Ford.com