2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD Road Test | The Cayenne of Mustangs
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The name and badge is what everyone wants to talk about. I mean that literally as any person who stopped me from talking about that iconic 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD (and there were many) focused on that horse at a gallop and had questions or opinions about it. It wasn't all negative either. Far from it. Ultimately, however, they would want to know how it was. The answer was simple: it's extraordinary.
Of course, Mach-E is not an easy thing. There is a dizzying range of powertrain and battery combinations that result in numerous ranges, power outputs, and acceleration times. In general, opting for all-wheel drive brings more power and torque, but less range. The extended range battery (88 kWh usable battery capacity compared to 68 kWh) increases the range, as you might suspect, but also increases the performance. The availability of this battery also differs depending on the equipment variant: Not available with the basic selection, optional with the Premium and Standard with the California Route 1 and First Edition models. The powerful Mach-E GT offers longer range and higher performance, but is still months away.
Currently, the configuration we tested is the most powerful version available: the Premium AWD with the Extended Range battery that produces 346 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. Ford says it will hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. It feels just as fast. All that instant torque embeds your body firmly in the soft front seats as the Mach-E revs up with ease. However, when the numbers on the Mustang's "Ground Speed" gauge go up, it kind of runs out of steam, which indicates a car that has so much less horsepower than its torque. Accelerating at freeway speed once is a pleasure - just step on the accelerator and the Mach-E shoots forward without having to change gear or roar an engine.
However, it is not silent. Ford adds artificial noise that comes from roughly where you'd expect an exhaust to be. It's a deep, rumbling sound, but neither overdone nor a made-up copy of a V8. When the Mach-E is in normal driving mode, or "Engage" as it is officially known, the only time the sound is heard is when you shoot down the engine. It is more ubiquitous in sport driving mode, or "Unbridled" as it is ridiculously called. Basically, the Mach-E makes fast noises when you expect a car to make fast noises. It adds to the experience. I like that. If not, turn it off.
As with many other electric cars, but not all, the Mach-E gives drivers the choice of single-pedal driving. Easily accessible with the push of a button in a touchscreen menu, it's one of the most aggressive regenerative braking applications I've ever experienced. It's also one of the best. The Mach-E not only comes to a standstill by simply releasing the throttle, but it also uses the Auto Hold function to hold it there until you hit the throttle again. You quickly start figuring out when to take off and by how much, which is oddly satisfying. The same thing happens when you are driving on a mountain road. If you control the starting point of the throttle perfectly, the driver becomes surprisingly heavily involved.
You can still drive the old-fashioned way if you want, and more aggressive driving or emergency braking still requires a special press of the left pedal. When you do this, you'll find a firm, calming pedal feel without the weird transition from regenerative to mechanical braking. It feels perfectly normal. I would certainly have used it more in normal conditions on my drive through the mountain roads of northwest Oregon, but predictably damp pavement kept speeds prudent and usually within the capabilities of the regeneration system.
That said, the Mach-E could be propelled fast enough to detect strictly controlled body movements and a firm but well-cushioned suspension that also managed to devour uncomfortable pavement without harshness. Despite its crossover body and significant curb weight of around 4,800 pounds, it feels smaller and lower than the typical sporty crossover. The difference between the Mach-E and the morbidly obese Audi e-Tron Sportback is profound. The curvy bonnet rises at the corners with a touch of Infiniti FX50, making it easy to place in corners. The steering is precise and comparable to that of a Mustang, but reaction and feel are not synonymous. It feels more artificial and distant. If there is dynamic range, the Mustang Mach-E might do better on Mustang O.G. be aligned, this is it.
There's nothing Mustangy inside other than the horse on the steering wheel, which is fine. The quality of materials is far better than expected, both in terms of the regular Mustang and in terms of Ford's recent disappointing efforts in the Escape and Explorer. Plastics are of a higher quality, and the dashboard and doors are mostly covered in a padded, leather-like surface that resembles that of a Lincoln. The Premium also has a classy gray fabric trim over the dashboard.
Then there is the design. Tucking a vertically oriented 15.5-inch touchscreen and 10.2-inch widescreen letterbox instrument panel into a retro cabin would have looked ridiculous, like putting an Apple Watch on top of Big Ben. Instead, it's clean and modern, but with just enough traditional controls. This jumbo touchscreen is also one of the best examples of this growing trend. Instead of showing as much as possible on the screen, the extra space is used well by making buttons and indicators larger and easier to read at a glance. A separate instrument cluster is also appreciated, which is absolutely a reference to Tesla. Don't tell me that Model Y's reliance on a screen is nothing more than a cost-saving measure.
However, there did not seem to be a way to change the display on the instrument panel. In the middle there is always a driver assistance symbol with the speed display on the right. Given the regular Mustang's customizable, multi-color displays, it seems like a missed opportunity not being left with design options (admittedly, little yellow lines appear in "unbridled" mode). You can choose between light and dark mode for both screens, but I've left both in the dark - the "light" mode is dazzling white for a car interior.
Ford's new ActiveX synthetic leather looks and feels like the real stuff, but the seats it covers disappoint. The driver's seat can only be adjusted annoyingly in six directions (there's no tilting for the front of the seat) and the seat itself is a bit too muddy with insufficient side support. That way, the Mach-E is just like a regular Mustang! However, there are no Recaros as an upgrade here. The back seat is also flat and doesn't lean back. However, it is sufficient if a 6-foot seat sits behind you and a child seat fits in the middle and the front seat points all the way back. For the surprisingly spacious cargo space, check out our luggage review.
For electric range, we happily rely on the official EPA rating of 270 miles for the Mach-E with 88 kWh Extended Range battery and all-wheel drive. Similar to the report of tested mpg, my test scheme hardly gives any indication of normal driving conditions (or scientifically repeatable for comparison purposes). The cool temperatures reduced the possible range by 4% depending on the vehicle, while my insistence on using the heater reduced the range by 10%. It also didn't help to drive "unrestrained" through the mountains. As a result, my calculated actual range was 220.6 miles after an average of 2,507 miles per kWh. That was actually more than the 204 miles the car estimated on my 136-mile trip.
After that, I mostly topped up the battery using a regular household plug, but as with all pluggable cars, a proper charger at home is a must. I used one of the rare 150kW quick chargers here in Portland, an Electrify America unit in a Fred Meyer grocery store, and was impressed with the ease with which the FordPass charge service performed the process. I just plugged it in and the car automatically sent the account information to the charger - there is no need to scan a separate card or enter information. The owner of an Audi e-Tron with the same station was impressed by this simplicity. The app also helps you to keep an eye on the charge status and to find chargers on the FordPass network. Whether or not these chargers are actually open turned out to be unreliable, but that's not Ford's fault.
Many will accuse Ford of tarnishing the Mustang good name, but they shouldn't. Aside from this happened a long time ago, I argue that the decision to name it Mustang and then infuse it with just enough Mustangy flavor is a good one. Ford is a time-honored brand, but not a sexy one. It quite simply doesn't have the brand equity necessary to get an electric car to be known in places where electric cars are popular (Cough, California). Mustang does. In fact, it has so much that it hasn't had a Ford badge in decades. You don't have to know a car to know a Mustang - it's a car that was driven by Dan Gurney and my grandmother. With the Mustang's name and flavor, Ford's electric crossover is more distinctive, easier to spot, and therefore more competitive than Tesla, whose cars are undeniably sustained by the elephantine strength of its brand.
The car itself is better for that too. Does it drive like a Mustang? No, but a Porsche Cayenne doesn't drive exactly like a 911. That is the best analogy for the Mustang Mach-E indeed. Perhaps, with time and updates, certain dynamic attributes - hopefully the steering - will more closely resemble those of their namesake. Meanwhile, however, much like the original Cayenne, the Mustang Mach-E has just enough in common with the regular Mustang to make it far more compelling than any escape-looking Ford electric car with the same capabilities.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E
The all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E
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