“They’re calling that thing a Mustang?”
TORONTO, ONTARIO – When the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E debuted, the internet was aghast. Both the crossover SUV and electric cars are seen as natural enemies of the full-fat red-blooded American V8 so making an electric crossover and plastering on the name of the car that invented the pony car segment seems a bit like shooting an adult film in Buckingham Palace. But there have been plenty of shocking Mustangs over the years and there’s a very strong possibility that the Mach-E is a really good car. To find out, Ford gave us the chance to take one for a brief spin.
To say the styling of the Mustang Mach-E has been contentious would be an understatement. In media and on autoshow stands, it seemed to be this ungainly, overinflated tall fastback shape. However, Ford has a long-running history of publishing absolutely hideous press photos and the retina-searing glare of autoshow lights don’t favour most new car designs. In person, the Mach-E is much sleeker than it appears online. It’s massively lower than any crossover Ford makes right now and the muscular fenders and blacked-out roof help it cut a lean silhouette. In fact the whole thing is only about as tall as an Audi Allroad and various cues from the flat, sharply-raked back glass to the leering snout harken back to great Mustangs of the past. It’s a surprisingly handsome look that really has to be seen to be believed.
On the inside, the Mustang Mach-E is shockingly minimalist. Aside from basic steering wheel audio controls, only physical control for the infotainment is the volume knob. The infotainment screen itself is an absolutely massive 15.5-inch LCD touchscreen that controls everything from the stereo to the traction control to the heated steering wheel. While it does look spectacular, it does have some limitations in practice.
First a disclaimer, the Mach-E we drove was a pre-production unit so some kinks are likely to be ironed out in production models. Still, Sync 4 ranks among the worst infotainment systems we’ve ever used. Although the massive screen is impressive on first glance, it doesn’t really translate to user-friendliness in motion. Almost all key functions are buried in unnecessary sub-menu structures and are operated via sliding menus which take the driver’s eyes off the road for far too long. To make matters worse, considerable multi-second delays were noted for everything from skipping audio tracks to changing drive modes. While the lag and glitchiness will likely be patched out come production time, the user experience design is a great reminder of why touch screens don’t really belong in cars.
Thankfully, some of the other electronics are quite good. The B&O Play stereo in Premium and up trim levels breaks from tradition of being awful in Ford products to offer punchy bass and solid mids, even if it does still display some harmonic distortion. Staging is alright but amplification is plenty and it has the ability to go louder than most people will ever want. What’s more, the digital gauge cluster changes based on drive mode and offers some really cool backgrounds. The inclusion of selectable multi-colour ambient lighting is also a welcome surprise, jazzing up the fairly monotone interior almost as well as the vast swaths of fabric across the dashboard. That fabric can also be found on the speaker grilles, adding a premium look to an interior otherwise composed of fairly average plastics.
As for just sitting in the Mach-E, the seats themselves are quite comfortable with good thigh support, rapid lumber adjustment and a solid range of height adjustment, although we wished the steering column could telescope out more. Rear seat passengers will also find plenty of room and a completely flat floor for proper three-across seating. There’s plenty of interior storage on tap too from a two-tier centre console to a deep bin under the front armrest and Ford’s even made room up front for a front trunk that’s effectively waterproof. Fill it up with ice, toss in a few beverages, tailgate in style and pull out the drain plugs when finished.
What sets the Mustang Mach-E apart from the EV pack is how it drives. Unlike 99 per cent of EVs including those with sporting aspirations (hello Polestar 2), the Mach-E actually feels rear-biased. Punch the throttle out of a corner and the rear actually wants to rotate, a godsend for chassis enthusiasts. Steering is well-weighted albeit lacking in feel, although part of that could be the winter tires on the pre-production example we drove.
If it’s missing one thing, it’s trust entering really tight bends. Without active suspension and four-wheel steering it’s very hard to hide over two tons of weight. Add in aggressive regenerative braking and while turn-in behaviour is solid, scrubbing speed is a bit of a guessing game. We predict that given time though, the average keen driver will be able to dive-bomb apexes like a juvenile delinquent.
As for shove, the all-wheel-drive extended range Mach-E we drove pumps out 346 horsepower and 428 lb.-ft. of torque. No surprise then, that it moved off the mark with grin-inducing authority. Ford estimates a naught to sixty run in the mid-5s which seems realistic. And don’t think that exploiting this shove comes at the expense of range as the extended-range all-wheel-drive model can go over 425 kilometres on a charge in ideal conditions. We cruised around for a solid two hours on a miserable December day and only saw roughly a 20 per cent drop in range. Part of that is due to the Mach-E offering a true one-pedal driving mode which recovers heaps of energy through regenerative braking.
Something few people talk about regarding electric cars is cold-weather comfort. In a normal car, the engine works as a giant dinosaur-powered heater to keep occupants comfortable. With that taken out, many electric cars are forced to make do with what feels like an athsmatic hamster buried in the dashboard, feebly coughing on the occupants through a straw. Not the Mustang Mach-E, for its occupants will be just as comfortable in winter as occupants in a combustion-powered car. Add in effective heated seats and a heated steering wheel on Premium trims and up, and the Mach-E is a great four-season companion.
Now on to what possibly matters the most. Pricing. The base rear-wheel-drive Select trim retails for $50,495 and offers over 355 kilometres of range. Stepping up to the Premium trim level adds an extra $8,300 to the price tag but adds a lot of kit and the option to step up to an extended-range battery pack. For those who want the most range possible, the California Route 1 is an aerodynamic long-distance special that retails for $63,745. As for the Premium long-range all-wheel-drive example we drove, it starts at $69,245. Almost $70k isn’t cheap, but even that spec undercuts the base-model Tesla Model Y.
So, the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is good value, well-equipped, great fun to drive and available in a variety of specs for just about everyone. Not only is it a real Mustang, it may just be the best non-performance-trim car Ford makes right now. Mass-market EVs, take a bow. Your new god has arrived.