Mustang is an all-American nameplate with a half-century-plus of history. What started as a restyled Ford Falcon soon got monstrous V-8’s, and performance tuned Mustangs have been tearing up dragstrips since the Sixties.
But the idea of an electric Mustang—much less an electric Mustang SUV, is an audacious rethinking of the model, and some believe this mixed breed stallion is diluting the thoroughbred lineage.
Ford Mustang owners might just be the one segment of car nuts who regard their impending electrification, as an electrocution, but the Mach-E has generated huge interest since it was unveiled to the world in 2019. And it came out of several challenges facing all carmakers today. Most notably, scaling up production of battery electric cars before internal combustion engines become obsolete.
We performed a deep dive into the specifications and story of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and uncovered some facts you might not have known, including that it almost wasn’t a Mustang at all.
Come along for a drive with me and I’ll tell you all about it, demonstrate some key features, and then toggle the driving mode to unbridled and let her gallop.
1. It Didn’t Start Out As a Mustang At All
The most remarkable thing about the Mustang Mach-E may be that it almost wasn’t a Mustang at all. It started out as a front-wheel-drive electric hatchback that would be the successor to Ford’s underwhelming Focus Electric.
The Focus Electric was what insiders call a “compliance car,” one carmakers build reluctantly and only in volumes that met regulatory requirements for sales of zero-emission vehicles. And that’s exactly what the Mach-E started as.
But then Ford decided to make an EV people actually want want to buy.
The engineers lengthened the hood, gave the car “haunches” over the rear wheels, and made extensive modifications to pretty much every aspect of its powertrain to make it more performance-oriented.
Journalists who got a sneak peek of the revised design back in autumn 2017 called the new EV “Mustang-like,” and Ford used that phrase right up until the November 2019 launch. Then it fessed up: the new electric vehicle would actually carry the hallowed Mustang label, complete with high-performance Mustang GT versions to come.
Meanwhile, Ford stresses the Mach-E is an addition to the Mustang lineup. Not a replacement. Fans don’t necessarily believe it, but that’s the party line and Ford is sticking to it.
2. During development, the driven wheels switched ends
One of the most major changes in the car’s evolution from nerdy compliance car to Mustang Mach-E was which set of wheels were powered. All Mustangs since 1964 have been rear-wheel drive.
So Ford opted for rear wheel drive standard on the Mach-e as well, to deliver the drive feel, handling, and roadholding expected of a Mustang. That meant more significant changes to the car’s underpinnings, which are loosely based on the company’s global compact-car (or “C-segment”) platform, that’s used on vehicles like the Focus.
Converting the c-segment platform to an EV architecture was extensive enough that Ford now considers it an entirely separate platform, which they plan on using for future battery-electric models.
There’s no standard for which set of wheels are driven in an EV. Ford has lined up with BMW, Tesla, Volkswagen Group, and others in defaulting to a rear wheel drive configuration. But Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, have stuck with front-wheel drive.
One advantage to EVs, though, is how easy it is to give them all-wheel drive. It doesn’t take a driveshaft running the length of the car from a gearbox to a differential. Instead, a second electric motor can easily sit between the rear wheels, and the cabin floor can stay flat if desired.
The car I’m driving here is the premium extended range all wheel drive model with an 88 kilowatt hour battery pack. 346 horse power, 428 pound-feet of torque, a range of 270 miles, 0-60 in 4.8. You know I wanted to feel that 3.5 on the GT, but this is a pretty sweet ride.
It seems the electric revolution is compelling a lot of change in the automotive industry. The Mach-E represents a radical departure from Ford’s traditional design language, and there’s one fact that shows just how much of a price Ford was willing to pay, for an inside position in the electric race.
3. It’s Only the Fourth Different Mustang Body Style in More Than 50 Years
The very first Mustang was launched in 1964 as a two-door coupe or a convertible, with a fastback coupe added just four months later. That lineup persisted until 1974, when the convertible exited for a while and the fastback traded its trunk for a hatchback. Then the fastback vanished from the lineup altogether.
The Mach-E is only the fourth different mustang body style in more than 50 years.
There had never been a four-door Mustang, whether a sedan, wagon or an SUV. Every one of more than 10 million Mustangs built from 1964 to 2020 had only two doors.
The reason this car is a mustang, even though it’s a bit of a stretch, is the same reason we keep seeing remakes of king kong instead of new movies. When the stakes are high, and the market is fickle, big companies prefer to use existing, proven IP than taking on a chance on novel branding.
Mustang is the strongest brand-name in Ford’s arsenal, and they were forced to pull out the big guns to fight Tesla, who’s CEO Elon Musk launches astronauts to space in his spare time.
A compromise they knew would piss of Mustang traditionalists born with gasoline flowing through their veins, but Ford probably figured they’d cool their engines once they saw the specs on the GT performance edition.
4. The Mach-E GT Hot-Rod Versions Give Tesla a Run for Its Money
No Mustang lineup would be complete without its hot-rod “GT” versions. From the start, Ford previewed a Mach-E GT with two higher-performance motors and standard all-wheel drive. This April, the company started taking orders for delivery in early autumn.
The Mach-E GT is now quoted at 360 kilowatts or 480 hp, and 600 lb-ft of torque, with 0-to-60-mph acceleration in 3.8 seconds. The pricier GT Performance Edition boosts the torque figure to 634 lb-ft, and cuts the 0-to-60 time to 3.5 seconds.
The nearest comparable Tesla is the Model Y Performance, which also has a price slightly above $60,000 and the same 3 and a half second 0-to-60 time.
But as we all know, there’s a lot more to a car than just how fast it can go in a straight line, and EV’s, with their heavy battery packs are not renowned for their handling.
So just how does the Mach-E feel to drive?
The car feels balanced and sporty, but you can sense the power assisted steering compensating for the extra weight of the battery.
This is a modern electric vehicle, and there are quite a few layers of technology in between me pressing the accelerator, or turning the steering wheel, and the car moving.
The single speed automatic transmission and modern fly by wire handling feel is a departure for gearheads yearning for a wrestling match with the steering wheel, and the crisp downshift of a manual transmission.
But most importantly, the car is responsive, and when you put the pedal to the metal, she responds promptly, with that supernatural electric takeoff we’ve come to know and love from Tesla.
That said, I do wish Ford Gave the driver more respect, because the car’s active safety controls do feel a bit authoritarian. Sometimes you want to spin the wheels and let the back fishtail a bit just to make a statement.
Despite the crossover SUV form factor, the Mach-E’s center of gravity is only about an inch higher than a conventional mustang. And it’s bolstered by Ford’s magneride adaptive suspension technology.
Basically a computer is pinging sensors on the cars suspension 1,000 times per second making rapid adjustments to minimize body roll and isolate road imperfections. If you close your eyes you can almost feel it…
But it’s best we keep our eyes open until Ford releases their CoPilot360 self driving technology into the wild, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Let me pull over to the side of the road so we can take a stationary look at some interesting features.
6. Design Features Rundown
One of the more daring design features on the Mach-E is what’s missing. Specifically, recognizable door handles.
Conventional pull handles create aerodynamic drag along the body sides that might cost you a couple of miles of range. Some Tesla handles, the ones on the Jaguar I-Pace, and other EVs are flush with the body, and extend out when the driver approaches.
Ford took a simpler approach: Opening the door requires just pressing a small round rubber button, and pulling open the door with the hook. Note the position of the rearview mirror, acting as a fairing for this tiny protrusion, counteracting drag, and relieving any range penalty.
The only penalty is having to explain to every new passenger how to open the door.
And towards the rear we have a downward sloping roofline that blends seamlessly into the quarter panel shaping a smart, wing-like rear window profile.
This element is aesthetic though, because the roofline remains relatively planar, with the black trim molding the resemblance to that classic mustang shape.
The cars front end is a bit of an embellishment as well. With compact electric motors, there’s no need for a long sweeping hood, massive air intake, or a big shiny grill. Cargo cult relics of 125 years of luxury heat engine design tradition. The Mach-E keeps thing relatively tight, but still takes liberties with a bulging ridged bonnet and large faux grill that insinuates there’s something powerful lurking beneath the hood.
Forward the condenser and radiator,, the chin spoiler contains active grill shutters that open and close to improve airflow, cooling, and aerodynamic efficiency.
This cyber mustang completes the simulation with chunky fender flares, vertical tail lights, and an aggressive stance that looks ready to pounce.
Bottom line, The car looks really cool, and does a good job translating classic mustang elements into the design language of modern performance SUV’s.
OPEN THE DOOR AND GO INSIDE
This SUV has a Roomy cabin and a Massive sunroof. The sunroof really feels like an intentional statement from Ford that they’re here to compete on features.
Ford is even delivering on some commonly requested features. The 10 inch Central gauge cluster behind the steering wheel addresses a common complaint of Tesla owners that wish simple driving information like speed, range and drive mode were more readily available.
We also have a big Telsa-like central information screen. From here we can access our three driving modes, Engage your Standard economy mode, Whisper a quieter econ mode, and Unbridled performance. Sport mode but, and I don’t see any reason to ever turn it off.
A quiet cabin for listening to audiobooks and podcasts has really grown into an important consideration for me when evaluating a new car, and the Mach E keeps things tranquil. Delivering rich sound with a big bang and olfussen speaker across the center console.
For now, we need to drive this car ourselves, but this little camera here is a harbinger of Ford’s upcoming hands-free driving technology. Before we get into the system…
I wanted to thank the sponsor of this video SayMine.
8. Most Mach-Es will be capable of hands-free driving … but it’ll cost you
Ford is building the bulk of its Mustang Mach-E electric cars with what it calls the Active Driver Assist Prep Kit already installed. That means the suite of sensors, cameras, and processors that will provide hands-free driving on roads that have been intensively mapped ahead of time.
Active Driver Assist will allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel if they continue to pay attention to the road. In essence, it adds lane centering to more familiar adaptive cruise-control functions. The car uses a camera to watch drivers’ eyes to ensure they’re paying attention to the road ahead—and not watching movies, texting, or checking their crypto portfolio.
But adding this capability to your electric Mustang won’t be free. There’ll be a $600 activation fee once the over-the-air update is ready to send. Like General Motors with its similar Super Cruise system, Ford will charge you a monthly fee to keep the system operational after a “free trial period” of three years.
For now, Ford says Active Driver Assist covers about 100,000 miles of roads, many of them Interstate highways. Those are mostly designed to a known set of specifications, making hands-free adaptive cruise control easier to implement. But don’t expect it to include your nearby twisty, hilly, two-lane country road any time soon.
Note that Ford carefully avoids the use of wording like “self-driving” or “autonomous.” That’s appropriate; this is a limited expansion to what the industry calls Advanced Driver Assist Systems. Most people hear “self-driving cars” and think of one that drives itself anywhere, any time, under any circumstances—just like sci-fi movies. That’s still many years away
9. Mach-E Launched ‘Plug And Charge’ In the U.S. Before Any Other EV (except maybe Porsche)
Unless you drive a Tesla, electric-car charging on the road is a bit of a mess. There are multiple competing charging networks, and most of them require you to be a member or download an app or call a toll-free number in order to charge at their stations.
One way around this is a software protocol known as Plug And Charge.It lets a driver pull up to a fast-charging station and plug in the car. The station identifies the car by VIN, and checks with the charging network and/or the manufacturer to see if there’s a payment method on file. If so, charging starts seamlessly.
Needless to say, this is far better than initiating the session via mobile app, or providing a credit card, or talking to someone on a customer-service line.
Very quietly, Ford rolled out Plug And Charge on the Mach-E from launch—making it the first EV on U.S. roads capable of seamless charging at suitably equipped Electrify America sites.
10. Mach-E First Edition Buyers Each Received a Wireframe Horse In Their Car’s Color
It’s become a bit of a trend for automakers to launch a new model, often dubbed a “First Edition” trim. These usually have a few special features to set them apart from the more prosaic versions to follow.
Somewhat less common is a special gift from the automaker to the lucky first owners. Ford decided to thank the buyers who’d reserved First Edition Mach-Es way back in November 2019 by sending them a gift.
That took the form of a 3D-printed wireframe pony sculpture, dyed in one of the three launch colors to match their individual vehicles. The plastic sculptures are a scale model of the huge wireframe pony sculpture featured at the flashy Los Angeles launch event.
Ford calls the wireframe ponies “collectible,” but we think it’s just a nice and unexpected surprise for dedicated first buyers. Most of whom seem to have become avid promoters of the Mach-E and, more generally, ambassadors for EVs in general.
Like every Mustang, the Mach-E comes with a variety of powertrain options and trim packages.
The base model is known as the Mach-E Select, starting around $44,000. It comes with a battery pack rated at a usable capacity of 68-kilowatt-hours. The rear-wheel-drive version gets an EPA-rated range of 230 miles and a power rating of 266 hp. Adding all-wheel-drive to the Select cuts the range to 210 miles. But while power remains the same, the increased torque from that second motor (428 pound-feet, up from 317 lb-ft) gets you from 0 to 60 mph a bit quicker: 5.2 seconds vs 5.8 seconds.
The middle trim level is the Mach-E Premium, which offers both rear- and all-wheel drive, but also the option of a larger battery, at 88 kwh of usable capacity. Ranges vary from 211 to 300 miles, but the power and torque ratings remain the same for the various combinations. Acceleration with the larger pack and rear-wheel drive is slightly slower at 6.1 seconds. But put down the power through all four wheels, and it’s a bit quicker, at 4.8 seconds.
If you’re looking for maximum range, the California Route 1 version combines rear-wheel drive and the Long Range battery pack with a slimmed-down list of features. Again, the power and acceleration remain the same. But it ekes out an extra 5 miles, for a total combined range rating of 305 miles.
Finally, there are the hot-rod GT and GT Performance versions. Orders for both versions opened in April. Both have two motors, both are rated at 480 horsepower. But the Performance version has more torque: 634 lb-ft vs “just” 600 lb-ft. That cuts 0-to-60-mph acceleration time from 3.8 to 3.5 seconds, putting the highest-performance Mach-E into Tesla territory. Estimated range ratings are 250 and 235 miles respectively.
Inside, Ford’s designers split the difference between a conventional dashboard and the bare, touchscreen-only Tesla Model 3. Ford wisely added a small digital instrument panel behind the wheel, which works well for data like speed. The scroll wheel that pokes through the tablet-style central screen changes function, depending on what the user is trying to do on which screen. It’s unusual, even startling, but it works once you get used to it doing different things.
Expectations weren’t high in 2018 for Ford’s first long-range electric car. But the company took a deep breath and not only called it a Mustang but made it one, with sleek lines, high-performance versions, and a look that clearly draws people in to ask questions.
It’s not just one flavor, either. You can get a variety of models, ranges, performance levels, trim options, and colors. This all speaks to Ford’s seriousness in making an EV that people will actually want to buy, to drive, and to be seen in.
It was an unexpected move, and so far it seems to have drawn favorable reviews, public interest, and a number of awards.
It came at the right time, too. Electric-car plans are accelerating across the world’s three major car markets (China, North America, and Europe) and carmakers are starting to talk about the years in which they hope to build their last vehicles with internal-combustion engines.
Four years ago, we couldn’t have imagined the Mach-E: an electric Mustang that’s also a compact crossover utility vehicle. And you can buy it today.
Now Ford has to show it’s not a one-hit wonder. The next four EVs from Ford and Lincoln promise to be equally interesting.