2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E first drive review: A very good EV, just an OK Mustang
Of all the years Ford has slapped the Mustang name on an electric crossover, 2020 feels right. Subverted expectations are the name of the game, and while the nomenclature may not suit everyone, rest assured that the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is a delightful little electric vehicle that speaks for great things to come.
The regular MO of the Ford Mustang is pretty simple – it’s meant to provide balanced handling with power that has the ability to overwhelm the rear. To this end, my first edition tester keeps the party line. With around 332 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, there’s certainly enough go-juice, but with most of the powerplant weight positioned as low as possible, it takes a fair bit of brute manipulation to upset the Mach-E. As expected, the instant electric torque allows for exciting starts, but it’s not enough to rip the toupee off the scalp. Even in its sharpest vehicle mode, there’s still plenty of reasonable right pedal modulation on offer, making it easy to get out of one corner and the next.
Exciting beginnings aside, the Mach-E feels a little tame, as if Ford is aiming for a more grand touring experience. The suspension’s standard fixed dampers err on the side of smoothness, with some body roll in the corners and a surprisingly well-cushioned ride on the highway. Adaptive magnetorheological shocks are on the schedule, but only for the upcoming GT, which feels like a missed opportunity – not only to milk a few extra bucks from buyers, but also to deliver a slightly sportier experience without requiring the piece full of change of the GT variant will command.
The Mustang Mach-E’s regenerative brakes don’t exactly command a sports car level of precision, but that doesn’t make them bad. The one-foot ride mode is exceptional, with just the right amount of deceleration on takeoff for easily controllable stops. My problems only arise when the left pedal is actually required; the meeting point between regenerative braking and friction braking is incredibly obvious, with a marked shift in deceleration as I push further into pedal travel. A little more linearity would inspire safer braking and create more Mustang dynamics, so hopefully this is fixed on the GT.
The Mach-E offers three different vehicle modes. Whisper is my favorite, taking advantage of the car’s inherent smoothness on the road with a numb throttle and a pleasantly light steering feel. Engage, the middle child option, refines the throttle and steering while the sportier mode, Unbridled (groan), further increases response. Each setting also has its own volume level for the false “engine” noise that Ford transmits into the cockpit, which is more of a low-pitched thrum that actually sounds pretty good, better than the usual low-speed spaceship-like noises that most car manufacturers rely on. You can turn it off if you don’t need to pretend you’re driving something non-electric, though.
The first edition before me has an EPA-rated range of 270 miles from its 98.8 kWh battery, but Michigan’s low ambient temperatures have reduced the onboard computer’s estimated range down to 220 miles and driving with a heavy foot can further reduce that number. . While the battery can accept up to 150 kilowatts of charging power, a trip to a 50 kW charger provided only 35 kW of maximum power, requiring a whopping 45 minutes to add around 18% juice.
For some context, EPA range estimates range from 211 miles on the low end, which represent AWD variants with the standard 68.8 kWh battery, to 300 miles on the high end, which covers large battery versions with rear-wheel Drive .
Impressive technology abounds in the Mach-E and it’s obvious from the first glance at the dashboard. The standard 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster focuses only on the most pertinent information, limiting itself to a speedometer, range estimates and current gear. Activating lane keeping assist or turn directions will add those on the screen as well, but everything has a distinct place and is easy to navigate with a quick glance. It will also change the background in different vehicle modes, which is a fun little touch.
The real meat and potatoes of the Mach-E’s cab technology comes from the 15.5-inch vertical display centered on the dashboard. It runs on a modified version of the Ford Sync 4 system, so it’s responsive and pleasing to the eye, with both light and dark patterns available. The top half of the screen is dedicated to a single thing, be it a navigation map or audio information, while a series of panes just below allows for quick swapping between the various corners of the system and you can see everything with a quick distract the gaze from the windshield. Climate controls are at the bottom, and while I lack the physical framework for these, the touchscreen controls are easy enough to use at traffic lights., and Waze integration are all included, as is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot running on AT&T’s network. Charging takes place via two USB ports (one Type-A, one Type-C) per row.
There is, however, a part of the central display that deserves a prize. There is an incredibly powerful settings menu which is accessed by pressing Mach-E in the top left corner of the screen. Unlike most menus of this type, which just expect you to know what everything means, each setting has an information icon which, when clicked, gives you a simple explanation in English of what the various modes do or settings. It’s little things like this that I love and I’m sure people who aren’t familiar with EV will also appreciate a bit of a grip to ease the transition.
While some parts of an electric vehicle’s life may take some getting used to, the Mach-E’s interiors demonstrate that some electric vehicle benefits are easy to live with. A lack of mechanical parts under the body means it is there so plenty of space on offer and it’s only improved on my tester thanks to a glass roof that makes the cabin feel rather airy. Usable space is everywhere, with two levels of storage (including a wireless device charger) just below the screen, as well as sufficiently deep door pockets, another cubby under the armrest and a trunk that, despite the cut roofline, it’s deep enough for a family value of golf clubs or groceries.
The Mach-E’s interior is extremely pleasing, with supportive front seats that aren’t so tight as to be uncomfortable for multiple Rubenesque occupants. The fabric interior trim is a nice touch that brings out an otherwise plain and somehow plain dash design, and I like that the same trim also covers the speaker housings to bring it all together. I’m hoping some of the hard plastics on my pre-production tester’s front pillar and lower center console get updated before they reach buyers, because those parts don’t really feel at home on a car starting at $ 43,000. Second-row occupants are in luck too, because that coupe-like silhouette doesn’t question a lot of headroom and there’s plenty of legroom available, to boot.
If anything, the closest link between the Mach-E and the current Mustang is the exterior design. The coupeover roofline and fat rear thighs would look just as appropriate on a regular Stang and the taillights are pretty much ripped straight from the real deal, albeit with new bumps bridging the visual gap through the tailgate. The front “grille” bears a slight resemblance to the Mustang, as do the headlights, but don’t worry: with a new generation of Mustangs on the horizon, something tells me the differences between the electric car and the pony car will decrease.
While I believe some links with the current Mustang do exists, the Mach-E is more of a great travel-focused EV that can be a little sporty when it wants. Considering its price range, which starts at around $ 43,000 and goes up to nearly $ 60,000 for a first edition, it seems like the place. Yes, hardcore variants like the GT are on the way, but as it stands, the Mach-E also offers everyday usability in a way that most Mustangs don’t. I think the Mach-E is a sign of great things to come from Ford, not just for its most valuable nameplate, but for every future electric vehicle the automaker makes.