Reviews

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Is Ford’s Best EV Ever

The Mach-E wasn’t always going to be a Mustang. It started life as a wagonized Focus EV. Somewhere along the way Ford executives realized that if the company wanted to sell EVs, it would have to build something people could get excited about. Ford’s now-CEO Jim Farley ordered the design team back to the drawing board two years before the car’s scheduled unveiling, a schedule not normally compatible with delivering a functioning product. His instruction: “Think Mustang.” The resulting car certainly looks the part of a pony crossover. But for the year between the Mach-E’s initial unveiling and our first chance to drive one, we’ve been wondering if it could deliver on the promise of that long hood. Now we know.

The answer is yes. And no. Whether you end up thinking the Mach-E is a valuable addition to the Mustang family will depend a lot on why you like Mustangs. It is the best-looking vehicle in Ford’s current lineup other than the actual Stang, and it’s also more attractive than the majority of crossovers. We haven’t tested one (yet), but Ford says the extended-range all-wheel-drive model that we drove will get to 60 mph in less than 6.0 seconds. That’s plenty quick for something with 29 cubic feet of storage in the back. Rear-wheel-drive models with smaller (and lighter) batteries should come in under 7.0 seconds—still respectable for the genre. Ford’s latest claim for the GT Performance Edition (480 horsepower, 634 pound-feet of torque) is zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.

The extended-range all-wheel-drive model has 332 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, and the instant availability of all that torque makes the Mach-E capable of stomach-churning off-the-line acceleration. There are three selectable drive modes. (Ford calls them Whisper, Engage, and Unbridled, but we prefer to think of them as Eco, Comfort, and Sport.) The sportiest allows one-pedal driving but is maybe too prone to wheelspin, as we discovered when our test drive coincided with some cold, damp fall weather. But all-wheel-drive burnouts strike us as on-brand for a Mustang in the Hoonicorn (and Mach-E 1400) era. We found it to be perfectly competent during a few laps of a parking-lot autocross course that Ford set up for us, although the car’s prodigious weight was evident, particularly in the slalom section.

So, if you like Mustangs because they’re attractive, quick, and not a total bummer to drive, the Mach-E should suit you just fine. Plus, it’s nice enough inside that the near-$50,000 starting price feels appropriate. But we’ve driven a lot of Mustangs, and we don’t like them just because they’re quick. The Mustang family includes some of our favorite engines, with intoxicating exhaust notes and more character than any electric motor. They are also thrilling to drive. The Shelby models, in particular, deliver steering and suspension that’s hyper-communicative, and the risk of getting bucked off the pavement due to your own inattention or lack of skill is quite real. Plus: those exhaust notes. Those cars aren’t for everyone (nor is a GT with Performance Pack 2, for that matter). But they’re amazing.

Unlike the V-8 coupes, the Mustang Mach-E doesn’t traffic in barely sublimated danger. It’s quiet inside, and there’s not so much as a jostle or bump through the steering column no matter how bad the road. The ride is magic-carpet smooth, the isolation almost complete. This is its own kind of triumph in an EV, where the lack of a melodious engine can magnify wind and road noise. And plenty of drivers—especially crossover drivers—are perfectly happy to be isolated from the road. But when we think Mustang, hushed serenity isn’t what comes to mind.

Then there are all the other features that don’t jibe with our past Mustang experiences just because they’re new. The button-actuated doors are easy to use, feel novel, and seem less likely to malfunction than the perpetually frustrating pop-out handles employed by other automakers. There’s a massive 15.5-inch vertically oriented touchscreen, part of an infotainment system that is intuitive to operate and makes good use of screen space. Your phone is the car’s key, and an associated app will give you control over the Mach-E’s charge status, help with planning trips, and allow you to initiate certain vehicle functions, such as opening or closing the windows and lifting the tailgate.

The Mach-E will also be an early test bed for Ford’s connected-vehicle technology. This will include over-the-air software updates and real-time data on charger availability at some EV charging stations. Charging stations in Ford’s network will accept payment via FordPass, which is the Blue Oval’s version of Apple Pay. Owners will have to pay the old-fashioned way at stations not included in Ford’s network.

Once at those charging stations, owners can expect standard range Mach-Es to charge from 10 percent to 80 percent in 38 minutes with a DC fast charger. Ford says we should expect about 230 miles of range from a standard 66.0-kWh pack with rear-wheel drive and 210 miles of range with all-wheel drive. The extended-range version has an 88.0-kWh battery. Ford expects 270 miles of range for the all-wheel-drive version and 300 miles for the rear-drive variant. On our roughly 60-mile trip on a cold day, the Mach-E’s range indicator moved in step with the odometer, despite our free use of the heated seats and steering wheel and the climate control set at a comfortable 72 degrees.

Ford is in the midst of launching three very important vehicles: the newest F-150, the revived Bronco, and the Mustang Mach-E. The F-150 is Ford’s cash cow and it’s important to get it right, but it would take a pretty big blunder to dissuade the throngs of truck buyers who would never consider owning anything else. The Bronco will test Ford’s ability to build a viable sub-brand, but its sales success is almost a foregone conclusion—at least at first. The Mach-E would’ve been the biggest risk of the three even if the word Mustang was nowhere on it. But the Bronco Sport—another crossover borrowing a hallowed name—is enjoying a favorable response thus far, indicating that loyalists might not reflexively hate a crossover offshoot as long as it’s worthy. And the Mach-E is the best electric vehicle Ford has ever sold. It doesn’t feel like a Mustang to us, but it’s a crossover we’d recommend to a friend. Only time—and monthly sales reports—will tell if that’s enough to make Ford a player in the EV market.

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