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Ford Mustang Mach-E review: The people’s pony goes electric

Yes, I am aware that photographing an electric car in front of an electricity power station is a cliché. Sorry.
Enlarge / Yes, I am aware that photographing an electric car in front of an electricity power station is a cliché. Sorry.

Jonathan Gitlin

I wasn’t expecting the Ford Mustang Mach-E to draw quite as much attention as it did. Over the past few months, I’ve driven some wild-looking cars, but more people pulled out their camera phones to capture the Mach-E drive past than they did for the McLaren GT. When stopped in traffic, the Mach-E garnered more curious questions—from other drivers, as well as pedestrians—than did the Polaris Slingshot. Ford’s new battery electric vehicle definitely has mindshare, no doubt helped by the fact that over a year has passed since the production version was first unveiled to the public in November 2019.

I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I say the Mach-E might be the most important new car of the year. The ubiquity of Ford dealerships makes the Mach-E accessible to people in parts of the country where brands like Tesla or Polestar have yet to reach (although, like its startup rivals, the Mach-E is configured and ordered online, not bought from a forecourt). The influence of Tesla is evident in more than just the sales process, too; the Mach-E’s minimalist interior is almost button-free and dominated by a large touchscreen. But the vehicle still offers the familiarity of the Mustang name and some of the sports car’s design cues to go with it, like the distinctive triple-barred tail lights.

Not everyone is on board with the Mach-E being called a Mustang. Car people in particular are unhappy that the long and storied name has been attached to a five-door crossover, not a two-door coupe. But Ford wants to sell the Mach-E to the mainstream, and the car-buying public at large wants crossovers, so here we are. Personally, I’m more upset that, over in Europe, Ford chose to resurrect the Puma as a crossover—I offer this anecdote only to show that, to normal people, we sound a bit obsessed when we complain about stuff like this. (Also, the fact is that plenty of Mustangs have been unexciting cars, as anyone who ever rented a V6-powered one in the mid-2000s will attest.)

From most angles, the Mach-E hides its size well. At 185.6 inches (4,714mm) long, it’s closer to the length of a Tesla Model Y than to a Volkswagen ID.4 (its two most natural rivals), although the 74-inch (1,880mm) width is almost as narrow as the VW. (All three electric crossovers are an identical 64 inches [1,626mm] tall.) The Mach-E’s wheelbase is much longer, however—at 117.5 inches (2,985mm), it adds internal space that mostly translates to extra room up front. But the vehicle appears smaller in person, thanks to the stylist’s trick of using glossy black finishes to disappear the bits they don’t want you to see, like the sides underneath the doors or the trailing edge of the hatch.

Whether you think the Mach-E is an attractive car will be subjective; I find the shape a bit bulbous from some angles, but it looks great when seen from a rear three-quarters angle. One thing you won’t see on the outside, no matter the angle, is a Ford badge; the front and rear are merely adorned with the silhouette of a wild horse.

You also won’t see any of the Mach-E’s powertrain. In the case of our test car, a 2021 Premium e-AWD model with the extended-range battery, the powertrain includes a pair of electric motors outputting a total of 346hp (258kW) and 428lb-ft (580Nm), along with a battery pack composed of 376 lithium-ion cells. Ford is apparently being extremely conservative with the battery. When we attended a tech briefing about the car in 2019, we knew that the extended-range battery would have a total capacity of 98.9kWh, but we now know that translates to a usable capacity of just 88kWh. Other OEMs might leave 3-4kWh as unusable capacity; Ford has left more than 10kWh, which seems excessive but could translate to range increases enabled via over-the-air updates as the company becomes more comfortable with battery management.

A downside to carrying all those lithium ions onboard is excess weight. Oddly, Ford hasn’t included the Mach-E’s mass in the spec sheet, but Autocar found out that curb weights range between 4,394 to 4,890 lbs (1,993-2,218kg). For context, a Tesla Model Y tips the scales at 4,416 lbs (2,003kg) and a VW ID.4 at 4,682 lbs (2,124kg).

The Mach-E is a crossover with a 4.8-second 0-60mph time and an EPA-estimated range of 270 miles (434km), with three drive modes that offer maximum performance (Unbridled), maximum efficiency (Whisper), or a Goldilocks blend (Engage). The weather was not conducive to optimal range efficiency in late January, with temperatures hovering around freezing for the week. In those conditions, with an 80 percent state of charge, the Mach-E reported over 180 miles (290km) of range. At 100 percent SoC and below-freezing ambient temperatures, the Mach-E reported 199 miles (320km) of range.

As you’ll see from the gallery above, the frigid outside temperature sapped between 15 to 29 percent of the Mach-E’s energy. Turning on the heater—an electric one, a heat pump having been rejected (ironically) for adding range-sapping weight and complexity—adds a similar drain on energy. If you’re worried about range, it’s much more efficient to just use the heated front seats and steering wheel (both standard equipment). Beyond the weather, the other range-affecting variable is your driving style; if it’s particularly cold or you’re being particularly boisterous with the accelerator (or both), you might dip below 2 miles/kWh (31kWh/100km). Conversely, I was also able to achieve 6.2mi/kWh (10kWh/100km)—it depends on your right foot and your brain.

One hundred and eighty-ish miles is more than sufficient for a day’s driving for most of us, and most BEV owners will plug their cars in each night and wake up each morning with a full charge. If, like me, you can’t charge at home right now, Ford promised that a DC fast charger would restore the battery to 80 percent SoC within 38 minutes, and Ford has delivered exactly that. The car is capable of accepting up to 150kW, although you may only see power peak that high if you arrive at a charger with ~10 percent SoC; arriving with about 20 percent both times, I only saw power peak at 109kW. (As soon as the car reaches 80 percent SoC, DC fast charging throttles back significantly thanks to the sigmoidal nature of the curve that describes a lithium-ion battery’s ability to recharge over time.) If you don’t need to take on as much range and don’t have as much time to wait, 10 minutes should be enough to add 61 miles (98km).

Fast-charging at one of Ford’s in-network fast chargers—which includes the entire Electrify America network—is as simple as plugging the CCS cable into the charging port. The Mach-E uses the ISO 11518 “plug and charge” protocol to handle billing at the same time as it exchanges a digital handshake with the charger, and owners get 250kWh free—equivalent to about five fast charges. Slow charging at 240V adds between 20 to 30 miles (32-48km) of range per hour, depending on the amperage of the charger.

Consequently, range anxiety shouldn’t be a factor with the Mach-E, even in the depths of winter. And if you live relatively near a 150kW charging station, it should be possible to live with a Mach-E even if you can’t charge at home—although at 43 cents/kWh, fast charging once a week probably won’t be cheap (or healthy for the battery’s longevity).

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