2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E first drive: Ford is not horsing around with electric SUV

December 15, 2020

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is an impressive electric crossover SUV that goes beyond its stylish looks and curious name to deliver practicality and zero-emissions fun.

Like the Mustang, the Mach-E has only one Ford logo on the entire vehicle (at the top of windshield). But in other ways it’s the Mustang’s antithesis. The Mustang burns through fuel like it was coffee on a night shift, can’t fit anyone in the backseat, and loves to set off car alarms when it drives by. The electric Mach-E whispers by, fits five adults, and trades tail pipes for charge ports. 

Instead, it’s right sized for both fun behind the wheel and family practicality, which is a combination that eludes the Mustang. Spoiler alert: I liked the hell out of it.

Ford will offer the Mustang Mach-E in five trims: Select, Premium, California Route 1, First Edition, and GT trims. Select, Premium, and California Route 1 models start heading to dealerships this month, but the First Edition run is already sold out and the performance-oriented GT trims won’t be available until late in 2021. 

Putting down the power

The Mustang Mach-E comes in two powertrain configurations (rear- or all-wheel drive) and two battery sizes (standard and extended range). With the 68-kwh standard battery, the Mach-E produces 266 horsepower and 317 pounds-feet of torque with a single motor powering the rear wheels. Add a front motor for all-wheel drive and torque increases to 428 lb-ft. The 88-kwh extended range battery bumps the horsepower to 290 hp with RWD and 346 hp with AWD, but the torque produced stays the same.

My test vehicle was a Premium AWD extended-range model, and I took it through a mix of city streets, highways, and canyon roads. It handled the first two environments with aplomb. The Mach-E offers three drive modes: Whisper (Eco), Engage (Normal), and Unbridled (Sport) which change up the throttle response, steering feel, and amount of regenerative braking (with Whisper being the least intrusive). The Engage and Unbridled modes also have louder artificial engine noises, though turning those sounds off is easy .

In the canyons, the instantaneous throttle response and steering feel were highlights. But the AWD system is slow to react to quick changes of direction, resulting in the plowing sensation common with front-drive vehicles. The Premium’s curb weight of 4,838 pounds helped push the nose of the SUV, especially on tighter turns.

Interestingly, a base Select standard-range RWD model (aka the most basic version of the Mach-E that you can get) handled sharper on a parking lot autocross built by Ford. It weighs 520 pounds less (4,318 pounds) which improved balance and the ability to rotate the back end in a controlled fashion, resulted in silly fun of the best kind. In this case, it seems less weight, power, and cost is more.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

Range results 

The Mach-E is the first non-Tesla to hit 300 miles of range for the RWD extended-range models. With the standard-range battery, that drops to 230 miles of range. Moving to AWD drops those estimates to 270 and 211 miles, respectively.

My test vehicle started the day with a full charge and an estimated range of 249 miles. Why is that lower than 270 miles? The computer takes into account prior driving styles. I ended up covering 63.9 miles, ending the drive with 161 miles of remaining range and the battery was 68% full. Hammering it on windy canyon roads and an autocross took a hefty slice (88 miles) off the remaining range estimate.

My, what a big screen you have

A standard 15.5-inch touchscreen dominates the dash and houses all of the car’s controls and settings. 

Ford developed the software and the design elements first, then found a screen that could fit all of those things. The screen puts the information and features folks will use on a regular basis near the surface. Most menus and settings are no more than two touches away and the smart phone integrations for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are well executed as well, opting for a square-ish ratio that takes up about half of the screen.

It lags on startup, however. Engineers that I spoke to were confident in the system’s processing power and that the problem can be fixed via over-the-air updates, which they plan on releasing as frequently as every few months. These updates could also help increase range, add applications and features, and fix other problems.

Looking up

The other eye-catching interior feature is the gigantic panoramic fixed-glass roof found on Premium models and up. Since the glass doesn’t open or close, it offers 1.5 inches more headroom than Select models with a traditional roof. The standard roof dips down in front of the rear passengers and makes the cabin feel smaller. 

Like other Ford vehicles, the front seats of the Mach-E could extend a bit further more more leg support. 

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

The backseat has plenty of headroom and legroom to fit adults and behind the rear seat is 29.7 cubic feet of cargo room, expanding to 59.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. This is slightly less than is found in other compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V (37.6 cubic feet) and Toyota RAV4 (37.5 cubic feet), but similar to the 30.3/64.2 cubic feet found in the Volkswagen ID.4, a more direct competitor. The Mach-E’s cargo area also comes with an excellent cargo cover that lifts up and out of the way with the liftgate. If you need to remove the cover, it can be stored under the cargo floor keeping one more item out of the garage.

Making things easy

Though the Mustang name invokes Ford’s past, the Mach-E is instead a look at its future. 

Ford has removed some of the pain points of EV ownership by developing a network of charging stations with pre-negotiated charging rates within the Ford app. For someone like me who doesn’t have home charging capability, this would help encourage EV ownership.

The sticker price for the Mach-E Premium AWD extended-range model I tested was $56,200 (including destination charges), and the available $7,500 federal EV tax credit knocking that price down to under $50,000. The real value comes from the base Mach-E Select RWD standard-range at just $46,695, or under $40,000 with the tax credit. 

The 2021 Mustang Mach-E is a smartly designed EV with the potential to become better with over-the-air updates. I still don’t understand why this is a Mustang, it seems like an unnecessary tie-in for a vehicle with more than enough merit to stand on its own. But if Ford promises to build more vehicles like this, then it can christen them however it wants.

2021
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