What It's Like To Drive The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, The Battery Powered Pony Car Crossover No One Was Expecting
Looking for a way to guarantee nearly endless publicity for your upcoming electric car launch? Do what Ford did and brand your four-door crossover EV with the 'Mustang' badge, thus sparking off a storm of online controversy from the Blue Oval faithful concerned about snubbed tradition and branding heresy.
Regardless of your personal stance on whether the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is a 'real' Mustang or not, there's no denying that this latest entry into the battery-powered daily driver derby has garnered significant attention. This is true even of people who have no stake in the 'Mustang or not' sweepstakes,' as the Mach-E's muscular styling, reasonably affordable pricing, and respectable real-world driving range are compelling reasons to take one for a test drive.
The EV world gets more crowded by the day, and the Mustang Mach-E (alongside the F-150 Lightning) is an important part of Ford's all-electric efforts. How easy it is to live with the first battery-powered Mustang as your one-and-only car? I spent a week behind the wheel to find out.
What's In A Name?
Ford's done more than a little to make sure that the all electric Mustang Mach-E calls to mind its two-door sibling despite its four-door, wagon-like shape. Mustang design cues are most visible up front, where the flat trapezoidal grille is flanked by canted LED headlights and a buff-looking hood that are a reasonable facsimile of a puffed-up pony car. Squint along the sides and there's also the suggestion of strength in the way the Mach-E's sheet metal has been sculpted, particularly around the wheel openings at the rear, with Mustang-like tail lights capping things off.
Still, there's no way around it: the Mach-E is a tall-riding, bulging crossover that occupies a lot more visual real estate than its Mustang namesake. When finished in a light, piercing blue, I found the Mach-E's shape ruffled no feathers compared against its similarly-sized peers, and truth be told it attracted a lot of attention during our time together from curious onlookers asking questions about the big Mustang badges.
The sensation of additional size continues from inside the crossover. The seating position is tall and somewhat tilted towards the front, giving you the impression that you're riding over the road ahead. There's decent room for adults in both rows of seating (with a panoramic sunroof adding extra overhead 'space'), and with the second set of accommodations folded forward I had no trouble hauling my most recent tire purchase back from the shop.
There's 60 cubic feet of total cargo room inside the electric SUV, which is a little bit more than what you'd get from a smaller hatchback like the Volkswagen GTI. Why doesn't the bigger Mustang deliver more capacity? The battery pack that the crossover sits on dictates a high load floor at the back, and it's also something you'll be stepping over as you get in and out of the Mach-E (partially explaining its ride height).
Interior accommodations are perfectly adequate in terms of quality, although there's very little to interact with outside of steering wheel buttons, the massive vertical touchscreen mounted on the dashboard, and a dial shifter located on the console. I would have liked a slightly larger gauge cluster—it's easy for the gun-slit LCD screen to be hidden by the steering wheel—but most of your attention is directed to the center stack screen that controls virtually every aspect of the Mach-E experience.
Good, Better, Best
There are several distinct drivetrains offered by the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. My tester was outfitted with a dual-motor all-wheel drive setup that's good for 346hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, matched with an extended range 98.8 kWh battery that allowed for 270 miles of travel per charge (30 miles less than a rear-wheel drive example). The Mach-E's options are book-ended by a base 255hp rear-wheel drive model (with 230 miles of range from a 75.7 kWh power pack), and the top-tier GT Performance edition which ups the ante to 480 horses and 634 lb-ft of torque (while dropping range to 260 miles).
The Mach-E offers a trio of driving modes that shape how the EV setup responds to your inputs. In its most aggressive 'Unbridled' setting the crossover leaps forward with authority, blasting 'engine noise' out of the speakers sprinting to 60-mph in just under five seconds. The mid-range 'Engage' mode provides a more livable balance that helps stretch the battery out a little more when you don't need hair-trigger acceleration, while the vehicle's 'Whisper' setup softens the EV's edges (but doesn’t silence the unusual pedestrian-alerting noise the Mustang makes when traveling at lower speeds).
I had no issues with the Mach-E matching the driving range predicted on the dashboard, helped by the warmer weather and a truly effective regenerative braking system. The vehicle also charged relatively quickly even when using my household 110-volt outlet, although a public Level 2 charger provided better results the closer I got to the 100 percent mark on the battery pack.
Look Past The Hype
Is the Ford Mustang Mach-E a true enthusiast's ride? Not really, at least not when equipped with the mid-tier drivetrain I sampled. Instead, the crossover comes across as a truly decent and practical family ride, the kind of vehicle that can handle a wide range of whatever life has to throw your way.
Don't plan for thrilling handling (the Mach-E's chassis isn't all that communicative, but it does feel planted) or outrageous straight-line speed (although the Mustang is as quick as many sport sedans). Instead, look past the pony on the front and revel in the fact that Ford has built a comfortable electric cruiser with enough range to get you through your day—if not your week—at a price that starts as low as $42,000 (with the example I drove checking in closer to $55,000). That's the real story that's been obscured by all of the Mach-E's Mustang-hype, and it's the one that most important to the crowd actually interested in parking a battery-powered crossover in their garage.