CleanTechnica Chief Editor Zach Shahan scored a 7-day test drive of the new Ford Mustang Mach-E “First Edition,” and he was gracious enough to let me drive it first. I’ve written about the Mach-E before, about 14 months ago when it was unveiled before the LA Auto Show. My take before driving the car was that it wasn’t a “Tesla Killer,” that it would be a big success, and that Ford made the right decision by calling the small crossover a Mustang.
I drove it a couple of miles to a local charging station at a strip mall and my first impression was not good. The car drove like a Nissan Sentra rental car! It was slow, laggy, had no regeneration when I let off the accelerator, and just felt “mushy.” I had read several other reviews of the car that said it drove well, so I knew I must have it in the wrong mode. While charging, Zach and I reviewed the settings and found the car was in “Engage” mode. This is supposed to be the “balanced, fun and engaging” mode, but with a dual-motor Tesla being my daily driver, my expectations are too high for that. The one-pedal driving mode was also turned off, which accounted for the lack of regen when letting up on the accelerator.
The Mustang Mach-E First Edition that we were loaned has a healthy 346 horsepower (compared to 384 in my Model Y), but since the car is about 4800 pounds, it isn’t as quick as you might expect at first. Once I got the car in the “Unbridled” mode, it felt slightly faster than my Model Y off the line and slightly slower than my Model Y above 30 mph. Not bad.
I especially enjoyed that Ford is a little looser with the stability control nannies and you get a little wheelspin on launch, and it also allows a bit of oversteer (you can wag the rear end a few inches) before the computer pulls you in. Tesla’s nannies are stricter unless you go to considerable lengths to modify them with Track mode — only available on the Model 3 Performance — or you use “Dyno Mode,” but that turns off all traction and stability control, which is, frankly, borderline dangerous on a car as powerful as a Tesla. I’m a risk-taker, but I haven’t had the guts to try Dyno Mode.
The throttle response of the Mustang was great and the regen was delightfully strong, possibly even a bit better than Tesla’s regen when you lift off the accelerator. The handling was well controlled with minimal body roll. The car is fast and it goes where you point. We even found a curvy road (difficult in Florida) and found the car to be a lot of fun at about double the recommended speed. I also got to try out Ford’s traffic-aware cruise control and lane centering, and it performed similarly to Tesla’s basic Autopilot. When parking, I loved the 360-degree “bird’s eye” view that made it easy to see if you were going to hit someone. [Editor’s note: Everyone loved that. Everyone who drove or rode in the car with me appreciated the bird’s eye view, and many asked why Tesla doesn’t have that.]
We checked out the interior of the car and noticed right away that the car had a more aggressive look than my Tesla Model Y with black and white interior. The black seats with light blue stitching looked great, and also offered some good lateral support for spirited driving. There was adequate room for 6 footers to sit in the front and back of the car. Although, it would be tight to put 3 big guys in the back seat. The cargo area was large (Ford claims 29 cubic feet, which seems to be right), but it is quite a bit shorter and less spacious than the Tesla Model Y rear area. It had a small underfloor storage compartment that was about fifth as large as Tesla’s huge underfloor area. The frunk appeared to be a good size, but it came with a divider that you would need to remove if you want to put luggage upfront. I noticed it had a drain, so you can put ice in it and use it as a cooler!
We spent some time exploring the settings in the car. I found the menus a bit overwhelming at first, but no more so than Tesla’s extensive set of settings. Ford has done a good job with the menus, but I’m sure they will refine the system in the future with over-the-air updates to make it even better. I found the display responsive, but not quite as fast as Tesla’s touchscreen. [Editor’s note: Another Tesla owner found the opposite to be true. I couldn’t really tell the difference. —Zach]
I like the analog volume control, but think it could be used to control other things too. Maybe they will make that change or maybe folks prefer that the volume control always does the same thing. Tesla seems to design its cars like Apple designs its operating systems. The company develops a way to do multiple things and expects people to learn them. Ford uses more of a research-oriented approach where the company designs something and then brings in customers to see what they like and dislike. And if customers want something changed, it seems Ford is more open to changing it.
I was impressed with the car in the first few hours I had with it. Stay tuned, though, as we will have many more articles on this car as a result of Ford’s 7 day loan. The reasons I think it will be successful are the same as I stated 14 months ago.
Although I prefer Tesla vehicles, that is probably because I’m a computer geek who is comfortable with large changes. Many other people aren’t prepared for that radical change. They want a great car but don’t want to read the manual. This car isn’t as easy to just get in and drive as a Nissan Leaf or other traditional electric cars are, because they did move most controls to the touchscreen and you will need to spend a couple of minutes to find the climate control and the radio controls. But Ford didn’t go as far as Tesla and eliminate as many dedicated controls. They still have some of those on the steering wheel and the previously mentioned volume knob. The car is a perfect introduction to the future of transportation for the many people who have an emotional connection to Ford and/or the Mustang franchise. It’s the right car, available at the right time, when Americans are interested in electric cars!
See Zach and David’s first-drive reviews of the Mustang Mach-E for more thoughts on the newest and only fully electric Ford:
Ford Mustang Mach-E — 1st Impressions https://t.co/Ob34293A55
— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) January 27, 2021
Oh boy! Here’s the Mustang Mach-E that @Ford is lending to @cleantechnica for the week. Got a little time behind the wheel yesterday. This Tesla fanboy is impressed. Did a quick write up on my “first impression” of it that should be posting imminently on https://t.co/2mD9ZYnyeB. pic.twitter.com/Z3wDsawB6L
— David Havasi (@daveydo2000) January 27, 2021
Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Tesla [TSLA], BYD [BYDDY], Nio [NIO], and Xpeng [XPEV]. But I offer no investment advice of any sort at any time or anywhere.