2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E First Drive: Tesla Model Y Challenger Receive updates on the best of TheTruthAboutCars.com
“Is the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E a proper Mustang?”
It’s a fair question, and one that I’m not sure I can answer. For many of you, a Mustang is a two-door, rear-drive car powered by a V8. If that’s the case, then this is NOT a Mustang. But if you are looking for a car that’s probably more fun than it needs to be, with decent storage and practicality, then the Mustang Mach-E might be something you want to look at. If you extend the Mustang definition to mean “a fun car,” then the Mach-E delivers.
Most of my day was spent in a Premium all-wheel-drive trim of the Mach-E, with the long-range battery. That car makes 346 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. It’s EPA-estimated range is 280 miles in this guise, and Ford claims a 0-to-60 mph of less than 5 seconds.
It doesn’t feel as quick as a Model Y Long Range off the line. Tesla seems to apply maximum torque immediately from its dual motors, while Ford appears to be taming the torque delivery a tiny bit. That doesn’t mean the Mach-E is slow by any means, but the first 60 feet will probably go to the Tesla in a drag race. Once you’re moving the Mach-E rapidly builds up speed, and it’s easy to pass “go to jail” speeds without noticing.
Even though the Mach-E I was in was all-wheel drive, the traction control system would allow a tiny bit of play when going around corners. A Tesla will immediately shut down the fun, at least in non-Performance variants, whereas the Mustang lets you have a bit of play. It gives the car a bit of character that you don’t feel in the Model Y.
Depending on drive mode, steering weight varies. It doesn’t have feel like you’d expect in an old-school sports car, but the steering is precise and the car will go where you point it. In Unbridled, which is what Ford calls the sportiest setting, the Mach-E even makes noise inside the cabin that builds as the speed does. It’s not fake engine noise, but it’s more than just a whoosh of the electric motors. I didn’t mind it, but some might not like it.
The driver’s aids are top-notch on the Mach-E, including standard lane centering and adaptive cruise control. This system is actually similar to Tesla’s standard Autopilot offering, and works well at keeping you in the lane on long trips. In fact, because the Mustang uses sensors in addition to cameras, there are fewer false braking events in the Mach-E. Thank goodness.
Next year, purchasable by an over-the-air software update, owners will be able to enable a hands-off driving mode similar to Cadillac’s Super Cruise. There is active driver monitoring to make sure you are paying attention. I wasn’t able to sample this tech yet, but it’ll appeal to some who do a lot of time highway commuting.
Recharging the Mach-E is a relative breeze. It comes with a charging cable that you can use to trickle charge at level 1 speeds, or it can plug into a NEMA 14-50 plug to charge at level 2 speeds. Ford claims that this charges the car at around 20 miles per hour. A public level 2 charging station, or Ford’s home charger it’ll sell you, can charge up to 30 miles per hour. Of course, your charging rate will vary based on amps of the charger, voltage available, and other conditions.
For high-speed charging, the Mach-E uses a CCS connector and can support a peak 150 kW charging rate. That means you can add 61 miles of range in approximately 10 minutes. Your mileage, will of course, vary.
Ford added a bunch of charging innovations to the Mach-E, including support for Electrify America’s Plug&Charge technology, single payment for multiple networks, and advanced EV route planning. While the demos all look impressive, it’ll take a longer-term loan to try them out to see how well they work.
Visually, the Mustang Mach-E is a looker. It has aggressive haunches and a long nose. The grille up front is painted to match the body work, and there’s a big Mustang horse right in the middle. The angular LED headlights point inwards, giving the Mach-E an angry face.
Around back, triple bar LED taillights mimic those on other Mustangs, and there’s a big Mustang horse again in the middle of the lift gate. The powered rear hatch has a spoiler atop it.
Inside, the interior is minimalist but still usable. While many of the controls for the vehicle live in the 15-inch center touch screen, which also has a physical rotary knob bonded to it, there is a 10.1-inch instrument cluster that shows you important details, like speed, right in your line of sight. How quaint.
There is a wireless charging pad up front, and USB-C ports to keep devices charged. The new Sync 4a technology supports wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto, has built-in trip planning functionality to take into consideration battery state of charge, and a B & O audio system.
Rear-seat passengers will have enough room for most trips, but larger adults might not want to go across the country in it. Rear seat headroom is actually pretty solid, and the panoramic roof adds a ton of light to the cabin.
Pricing for the vehicle I was in was $56,200 with destination. That includes the extended-range battery and Rapid Red paint. Rear-wheel drive, standard-range models start at $43,995 with destination. All models are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax incentive, plus there are local incentives in a lot of places. Consult your tax advisor, though.
There’s a lot more to making a successful EV than just building a good product. But I do like the product they built. It’s comfortable, it’s quick, and it has the tech and features to make it easy to charge and easy to live with. So, they got the first step right. Plus, this car gives us a glimpse into how serious Ford is taking future electrification, and many of the features you see in the Mach-E will make its way to other EVs, like the upcoming F-150 EV.
I think it’s fair to call it a Mustang. It’s a fun car to drive. It’s not a high-performance GT version, but that is coming. But with the standard models being more fun to drive than the equivalent Tesla Model Y, the GT might be quite the hoot. If this is the future of Mustang, and the future of Ford performance, it’s not a bad future at all.
[Images: © 2020 Chad Kirchner/TTAC]