Christopher Little

Horse, Powered: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

After a long and rainy day driving dozens vehicles and catching up with industry colleagues at the International Motor Press Association Test Day, I was ready to leave. There was just one small problem; the Ford Mustang Mach-E I was slated to drive home was one of the vehicles being tested. After six hours of test-drives on the roads of Bear Mountain State Park, the Mach-E was reporting 100 miles of range and I had an 88 mile drive ahead of me. I was faced with a difficult choice; take a gamble on making the most energy-efficient drive of my life or go spend a half-hour at the Walmart Supercenter in Fishkill, New York. I rolled the dice and headed for home.

Luckily for me, the Mach-E’s range estimation was surprisingly accurate. With the A/C and radio off, avoiding use of the wireless charging pad, and driving in the most economic driving mode, I made it home with 12 miles of range left. Having been thrown into the deep end of EV life with a self-inflicted bout of range anxiety, I vowed to make sure the rest of the week was far more enjoyable. That two-and-a-half hour drive was uncomfortable, nerve wracking, and bordered on absurd. Day 0 with the Mach-E turned out to be a valuable lesson in EV adoption. It’s often not about the car; its about the infrastructure. A single DC fast charging station, like the one at said Walmart, can top the Mach-E up with 61 miles of range in only 10 minutes. But my small Upstate, New York town, like many along the way, have 7kW chargers that can only muster an additional 20 miles of range per charging hour.

The all-new Ford Mustang Mach-E comes in several different combinations of battery size and electric motor configuration. Our tester, a Mach-E Premium AWD with extended range battery, strikes the best balance of performance, range and drivability. With electric motors driving the front and rear wheels for e-AWD, the Mach-E has the equivalent of 346 horsepower and 428 lb-ft torque. The larger battery not only offers more range but can provide more power to those motors. This combination of equipment is good for a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds or an EPA range estimate of 270 miles. Range will vary between 211 and 300 miles depending on individual vehicle specs. Similarly, while the Mach-E GT can hit 60 in 3.5 seconds, other versions can take up to 6.1 seconds according to Ford. From a performance figures standpoint, the Mach-E can call itself a Mustang. But visually, it’s not so clear. The shape of the hood and sharp cutoff to the headlights do draw a passing resemblance, but the rounded shape looks more like a mare with foal than a racing thoroughbred. Some of the design cues, like the classic tri-bar tail lights, feel lost in the design.

My garage only has 120V outlets available, meaning the Mach-E’s included charger could only add 3 miles of range per charging hour. By the time I needed to leave for work on Day 1, I was afforded 64 miles of range. The good news is that my office building has an entire bank of Level 2 chargers available for free. With electrons to spare for climate control, wireless charging, and the Bang & Olufsen sound system, I paired my phone and hit the road. Driving without the benefit of private charging isn’t as daunting as it may seem thanks to the FordPass Charging Network. The largest charging network in the country, available to all Mach-E customers, means you can navigate and recharge at over 13,500 chargers. The FordPass phone app can be used to unlock chargers, view charging status, and plan routes. By setting departure times, the Mach-E can warm the cabin and prepare the battery for use, optimizing conditions for maximum operating efficiency while it’s plugged in. The app even has “Phone As a Key” technology, so you can leave the fob at home and use a smartphone to unlock and start the car. But despite the best laid plans, I did come across at least one inoperable Level 3 charger and several Level 2 chargers that were 100% occupied. For actual ownership, one of Ford’s in-home higher voltage charging solutions would be a must for me.

Without an internal combustion engine clattering away onboard, EVs are eerily quiet operators. With the Mach-E, you can even turn off the artificial noise and enjoy near-silent operation. But that isn’t an easy task when thousands of pounds of SUV rolls along on its tires and pushes a hole through the air. It takes an extraordinary effort to enjoy a truly quiet ride and the Mach-E delivers. With minimal wind and tire noise permeating the cabin, the Mach-E takes on a luxury level of quiet that pairs nicely with the avant garde interior. The cabin has an austere, almost minimalist design. The typical cluster of gauges is replaced by a simple rectangular 10.2″ screen and the center stack is dominated by a massive 15.5″ tablet-style touchscreen. The Bang & Olufsen speakers are seamlessly integrated across the dashboard like a sound bar. Ample light streams into the cabin through the fixed glass roof. The Mach-E’s cabin is unlike anything Ford has ever produced. In another first for Ford, SYNC 4A supports over-the-air updates, allowing Ford to push performance and maintenance updates and new features to vehicles remotely. The screens contribute to decluttering the interior but it takes two taps to change the drive mode and three taps to change the seat heating setting. Despite the fastback design, there’s ample head and leg room for rear passengers and a substantial trunk for storing cargo.

If the Mach-E is going to fit in as part of the Mustang family, the driving experience is quite possibly more important than the design cues and performance figures. Starting the week in Whisper, the most economic drive mode, the Mach-E is silent and docile. This mode enables one-pedal driving by default, but it can be toggled on or off in any drive mode. For daily commuting and running around town, this is EV comfort and conservation at its finest. Unbridled mode is for showing off, sharpening throttle sensitivity and providing more of the smile-inducing instant torque that electric motors are known for. As with the one-pedal driving, there’s a toggle in each mode for propulsion sound. If you’re buying an EV, you don’t want to hear fake engine noises and the experience is best without them. Truth be told, the drive modes don’t seem to provide much differentiation in the Mach-E’s driving character. With the batteries placed inside the underbody between the axles, the center of gravity is low. This contributes to the Mach-E’s stability and firm but compliant ride quality. Our all-wheel-drive model can also apply different levels of torque to the front and rear axles for excellent traction and handling. If all SUVs were this good to drive, the world would be a better place. But the Mach-E is also a Mustang and, from the driver’s seat, it isn’t quite there. Perhaps the Mach-E GT can change our minds.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E courtesy Ford Motor Company

Living with the Mach-E was as much a lesson in EV infrastructure as it was EV technology. Different charging levels and rates, route planning and charging locations are new to first-time owners. There’s definitely a learning curve and a bit of extra thinking ahead involved, especially in more rural areas. As the technology and infrastructure becomes familiar, we can evaluate the Mach-E on its own merits. Is it a Mustang? Perhaps not. But it is one of the better looking, well-thought-out, and better built EVs on the market. That’s what you should expect from an established manufacturer like Ford. But most importantly, this is an SUV that I could own and drive every day that doesn’t feel as if it compromises anything in the name of electrification.

Christopher Little

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD$49,700
Rapid Red$400
Extended Range Battery$5,000
Destination Charges$1,100
As-Tested MSRP$56,200

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