Ford Mustang Mach-E First Drive — Is It Worth Your Consideration?

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The folks at Autoblog have gotten their hands on one of the first Ford Mustang Mach-E SUVs available to journalist and put it through its paces. The first question everybody wants an answer to is, how does it compare to the Tesla Model Y? Here’s how Autoblog contributor Lawrence Ulrich puts it.

“Whether it’s a ‘Mustang’ or not (it’s not), the Mach-E compact SUV is awfully good. How good? For the first time, we have a genuine, no-excuses competitor to Tesla’s benchmark EVs. In this case, it’s up against the Model Y, and in some areas, the Ford is better. That includes its curvaceous body, a superior interior and some 3,000 Ford dealers to service it versus 110 for Tesla. In other areas, including pure efficiency and an exponentially larger charging infrastructure, Tesla maintains an edge. But unlike, say, the overmatched Nissan Leaf versus a Model 3, no one is going to question your sanity if you choose the Ford. In fact, they’ll likely compliment your shrewd judgment and sense of style.”

Ford Mustang Mach-E
Courtesy of Ford

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you drive less than 100 miles a day, the Mach-E will be more than satisfactory for your needs. And it comes with one option Tesla can’t match — the $7500 federal EV tax credit, although that could change when President Biden takes the helm next month. If, however, you plan on doing lots of long distance highway driving, the Model Y has a clear advantage. In this road test, the Mach-E averaged about 3 miles per kWh. The Model Y exceeds that by a fairly big margin, averaging 4 miles per kWh.

However, as Ulrich points out, the Audi e-tron has perfectly dismal efficiency at just 2 miles per kwh, which means the Mach-E is good but not great when it comes to how far it can travel on electrons. In real world highway driving, Ulrich was only able to drive 250 miles at highway speeds before needing to recharge despite the car’s EPA rating of 270 miles. The test car was a Mach-E Premium with dual motors and the optional ($5,000) 98.4 kWh battery pack. Total price, including optional ($400) Rapid Red paint, was $56,200, but after the tax credit (assuming you are eligible for all of it) the net price of the car is $48,700 — about a thousand dollars less than the starting price for the Model Y.

The least expensive model, the Mach-E Select, starts at $43,995 or $36,495 after the federal credit. It has a single motor powering the rear wheels and a 76.8 kWh battery. Its range is rated at 230 miles. Adding another motor to power the front wheels drops the range to 211 miles. Below is a video about the Mustang Mach-E, which is best viewed with the volume down to avoid the cloying and highly annoying techno-pop background music. At the end of this article is a longer video that delves more deeply into the car, assuming you have 30 minutes available in your busy day.

But enough of the specs and details. What is it like to drive? Ulrich has praise for the interior appointments, which include a 15.5″ center touchscreen oriented vertically. “Where the Model Y looks a bit barren, the Ford’s minimalism is joined to more appealing design and craftsmanship, richer materials and more comfortable, supportive seats. Tactile stitching on faux-leather upholstery looks luxury league,” Ulrich says. Tesla interiors are often critiqued for being a bit austere. The Mach-E interior is a more pleasant place to be, apparently.

What is not so pleasant is how the brakes function. Plenty of manufacturers have trouble getting the mechanical brakes and regenerative braking to play nicely together. One pedal driving is a breeze, Ulrich says, but when the mechanical brakes are called into action, “The pedal is neither linear nor progressive, so you’re often applying too much or too little pressure. I dare anyone: Just try to halt the Mach-E smoothly and forcefully from 70 or 80 mph, or in fast corner entry, without upsetting the chassis or making mid-stream corrections. If Ford expects the upcoming GT version to drive like a legit high performance SUV, these clumsy brakes need a retuning, pronto.” Oh, dear.

There are three performance modes available to the driver — Whisper, Engage and Unbridled. Each one has its own unique combination of  throttle response, digitized onboard sound, and ambient lighting. The speakers pipe in a synthesized version of the rumble of a V-8 engine (Why?) which Ulrich says is unpleasantly loud in Engage mode. Fotunately, the sound effects can be deactivated in any mode. What can’t be shut off, though, are “gimmicky animations in the driver’s display, including a white lava lamp effect in Whisper and vaguely threatening orange spikes in Unbridled that grow or shrink as you accelerate and slow down.” Ugh. Too clever by half as my old Irish grandmother would say.

Lastly, Ulrich has praise for Ford’s fourth generation Sync infotainment system. He says, “There’s a lot going on in terms of icons, layered screens and apps, but after a few run-throughs, the Ford system was largely a breeze. Tesla’s screen is even larger, with more functions and Sync couldn’t match the uncanny ease of Tesla’s voice commands (it’s hard to top Tesla for pure tech integration). But Ford’s own portrait oriented screen seems easier to use while in motion, and comes smartly featured itself.”

The Verdict

All in all, the Mustang Mach-E is a worthy competitor with somewhat more aggressive styling than the Model Y and a more luxurious interior. With the advantage of the federal tax credit, it offers good value for the money and is an appealing option for those who just aren’t blown away by the Tesla mystique. Having all those dealers available to service it is a bonus as well.

Will the Mach-E suck sales away from the Model Y? Probably not. But it may appeal to many folks who are in the market for an electric SUV with decent range and good performance. In the final analysis, more EV choices are a good thing. The first Mach-Es are scheduled to be delivered to their owners early next year, although most will be fully optioned models. Availability for the entry level car may have to wait until late next year or even 2022. The GT version due out later may give the Model Y Performance a run for its money.

Kudos to Ford for getting the Mach-E into production and onto the streets ahead of some of its rivals (we’re looking at you, GM and FCA.)  The EV revolution may not be moving as fast as some of us would like, but it is picking up steam. People who don’t like electric cars have never driven an electric car. The more of them there are on the road, the faster the revolution will occur.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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