Auto review: Galloping into a gas-free future in Ford’s first EV, the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E
Its performance is immediate, yet incredibly quiet. Unlike every other Mustang ever built, there’s no sound or fury, merely speed.
During my test drive of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium, I continually pondered one question: Why was Ford’s first battery electric vehicle called a Mustang? It’s a fair question.
In the wake of the initial Mustang’s success in the mid-1960s, Ford considered building Mustang sedans and station wagons. Instead, they built a Thunderbird sedan that tarnished the Thunderbird’s good name forever. It was now little more than an aging automotive rock star that, in rock star fashion, had annihilated its brains doing drugs.
Could the same fate await the Mustang? The jury is still out.
Still, you can’t fault Ford for tapping the marketing magic of the Mustang name. If had been named the Ford Mach-E instead of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, it wouldn’t have attracted the attention and consumer good will this pony engenders. The name cuts through the cultural clutter and debris that clogs our heads and inboxes. Yet it yields a practical Mustang — two words that should never be used in the same sentence.
Still, it’s hard to argue with what Ford has wrought. The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium is a good-looking, practical, sporty, fun-to-drive crossover that just happens to be powered by electricity, not gasoline. It’s the perfect vehicle for making you forget all about that gas-powered chariot taking up needless space in your garage.
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Visually, the Mustang Mach-E looks sleeker in person than it appears in photos. Yes, it is extremely attractive. Yes, it wears some Mustang styling cues. But no, you wouldn’t consider it a Mustang unless you saw the badges affixed to its flanks. So you can be forgiven if you gaze at it and think, “It’s quite handsome, but it’s not a Mustang.” Still, its styling is sleekly sublime, avoiding the top-heavy, dumpy look of Tesla crossovers, possessing the sort of detailing that makes a vehicle exceptional, such as the push-button door handles. The front doors' touch-sensitive buttons are augmented by small handles. In the rear, once you hit the button, the doors pop open a couple inches so that you can open them.
Once you climb inside, you’ll find an incredible amount of interior space in both rows, and nearly 30 cubic feet of cargo space. Thank the vehicle’s skateboard platform that places the battery pack and electric motors underneath the load floor. This not only maximizes interior space, but it also lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity, which enhances handling. Seats are comfortable and provide good support. Storage space is very good, particularly the center console, with a large, flat rubberized surface with wireless charging for your smartphone, along with USB ports.
Interior ambiance is minimalist and finished in premium materials. The instrument panel’s design motif recalls older Mustangs’ dual cockpit layout. Dominated by a mammoth 15.5-inch vertical touchscreen and a horizontal digital instrument cluster, the touchscreen uses the latest version of Ford’s Sync 4A infotainment software. It’s very easy to use thanks to large on-screen tiles that makes hitting them easy to do while driving. Thoughtfully, its navigation system plots route with recommended charging stations should you need them. Aside from the screen, there are some knobs and switches, but they’re reserved for functions for which they’re ideally suited, like shifting the single-speed transmission.
Base models come with a single rear-mounted electric motor and 68-kWh battery generating 266 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. An available long-range 88-kWh battery adds an additional 30 horsepower. Stepping up to the mid-range Mach-E and you’ll get an additional motor on the front axle, allowing for all-wheel drive. Rated at 266 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque, an available long-range pack brings an additional 120 horsepower. Range is estimated at 211 to 300 miles depending on configuration. The top dog — um pony — is the Mach-E GT with 480 horsepower, 600 pound-feet of torque, a 270-mile range and a 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds.
The mid-range test vehicle with the 88-kWh battery pack matched the EPA-rated 305 miles per charge when fully charged. And it charges quickly. Ford says that the Mach-E reaches 80% capacity from 10% in 45 minutes using Level 3 quick-charging. Even using more-commonly available Level 2 charging, its battery refills very quickly, thanks to the Mustang Mach-E’s 400-volt electrical architecture.
Of course, driving a BEV differs from that of a traditional car, which takes time to build its torque and speed. In contrast, the Mustang Mach-E offers up instant torque, ideal in age when instant gratification is expected. The contrast between the two is the difference between a dimmer switch and a light switch you flick on. The Mustang Mach-E gets up to a gallop quickly with an ethereal seamlessness.
Its performance is immediate, yet incredibly quiet. Unlike every other Mustang ever built, there’s no sound or fury, merely speed. It’s enhanced by the single-speed transmission; there’s no abruptness from shifting, since there isn’t any. The low-mounted battery pack helps minimize body roll in corners, although its 4,900-pound curb weight is evident. And I appreciated the ease of one-pedal driving. By releasing the throttle, the car slows appreciably while capturing energy generated by braking, channeling it into the battery to maintain its charge. This is why despite hot summer weather, the Mach-E’s range readout proved accurate. By contrast, the all-electric Nissan Leaf’s was routinely off by about 30%.
If I have one complaint, it’s that ride quality isn’t always ideal over badly paved surfaces, yet this is easy to overlook given the Mustang Mach-E’s high fun factor.
It’s an automobile that will convince you of the wisdom of switching to an electric vehicle, particularly one so perfectly sized, exceptionally designed and fun to drive.
So what if it’s called a Mustang? Get over it.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium
Base price: $49,700
Engine: Dual electric motors and 88kWh battery
Horsepower/Torque: 346/428 pound-feet
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 105/93 MPGe
Fuel required: Electricity
Length/Width/Height: 185.6/74.1/64 inches
Cargo capacity: 29-59.6 cubic feet, plus 4.7 cubic-foot front trunk