People love road tests, those richly detailed, stream of consciousness outpourings from automotive journalists meant to inform readers about the strengths and weakness of popular models. The idea, in theory, is that readers will be able to make an intelligent, informed decision about which car to buy after reading the road test report.
But in reality, we buy on emotion and justify our decision later with facts. Back in the days when people actually worked in offices and hung around the water cooler sharing gossip, people would say things like, “I bought the Belchfire 5000 because the Axle Nut road test said it stops 3 feet shorter in the 80 mph emergency braking test!” Or they might gloat about how the new Aggressor Type S won the moose avoidance test in the latest Engine & Tire muscle car comparison test.
Autoblog recently put a Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S and a Ford Mustang Mach-E California Route 1 through their paces to see which one is the best battery electric SUV for American drivers today. [Actually, make that the second best battery electric SUV because we all know the Tesla Model Y is head and shoulders above the competition.]
The Technical Stuff
Automotive journalists love to quantify stuff. Cargo capacity, rear seat hip room, front seat head room, and the all important 0-60 acceleration time. Here’s what Autoblog found when it took out its tape measure. The ID.4 has slightly more cargo capacity that the Mach-E but the Mustang has a frunk. The VW does not. For some, a frunk is the quintessential feature that makes for a real electric car.
The ID.4 has an EPA range of 250 miles, the Mach-E is rated at 305 miles. That’s an appreciable difference when you are out on the superslab, eastbound and truckin’ with the hammer down. The Mustang is also about a second quicker to 60. Then again, the VW costs about $5000 less — a number that may be more important to buyers than acceleration times.
Charging times are important, and there are some slight differences between the two cars. The Mach-E can charge a up to 150 kW using a Level 3 charger while the ID.4 is limited to 125 kW. But using Level 2 charging, which is how most charging is done at home, the Volkswagen has a slight advantage over the Ford — 11 kW versus 10.5 kW.
Both cars have nearly identical efficiency ratings. “The Mach-E is rated at 108 city, / 94 highway / 101 combined mile-per-gallon equivalent. The ID.4 is just a touch lower, at 104/89/97 MPGe. That’s close enough to be statistically insignificant.”
The Subjective Stuff
The Autoblog road tester preferred the handling of the ID.4 to that of the Mach-E. “Its ride and handling feel more dialed in and buttoned down, with well-controlled rebound and body roll. It’s just better suited to throwing its weight around, and its excellent steering only makes it feel more precise. Turn-in is sharp, which makes quick maneuvers a snap. The Mustang can feel a little sluggish in pointing its bow sharply in either direction at rural highway speeds. And though it’s a hoot to flop the Ford’s tail out around a corner, it would be the ID.4 we’d choose when trying to nick an apex. In addition, it’s also the car we’d rather take Grandma across town in during construction season.”
In the “car as rolling computer” era, people want to know how all those touchscreens work. “The [ID.4] infotainment system isn’t quite as robust or in-depth as that on the Mach-E, which some people might actually prefer. The ID.4’s touchscreen interface is more intuitive than the Mach-E’s, at least for the vast majority of customers who have grown used to a smartphone interface. Its hard buttons, however, aren’t as instinctive to operate. Most of them are disagreeable touch-sensitive ‘buttons’ on the piano black trim, or touch sensitive sliders to do things like change the volume, adjust temperature or even open or close the sunroof shade.”
It’s common knowledge that Volkswagen has had some issues getting its software right, but at least it can be upgraded with over the air updates, just as the Mach-E can. Any car without OTA capability today is not really a serious contender. Volkswagen just completed its first major OTA software update. They will get it right — eventually.
Autoblog was less than impressed with the braking performance of the ID.4. “We didn’t do any stopping distance tests, but we felt significantly better about the braking feel of the Mustang. The ID.4’s pedal feels oddly mushy and inconsistent when hauling it down from high speeds — an oft-endured trait in electrified vehicles that blend regenerative braking of the e-motor with the mechanical brake mechanisms at the wheels. The Mach-E’s feel much more natural, and doesn’t draw attention to itself beyond performing smoothly and confidently.”
Autoblog also praised the Mach-E’s driver assistance technology. “While the Mach-E’s gigantic infotainment touchscreen wows in comparison to the ID.4’s more conventional unit, Ford’s driving assistance tech is also superior. It calls ID.4 on its adaptive cruise control, and raises with its simultaneous lane centering, as well as a nifty Intelligent Cruise Control that will automatically adjust the cruise control setting based on the speed limit.” Tesla fans may wonder why that is news.
The summary of the side by side, head to head comparison is this: “The ID.4 is attractive, but the Mach-E is magnetic. This was the car that caught looks on the highway, and questions from passersby in the parking lot. There’s something to be said for the ID.4’s mature looks and ability to more or less blend in, but the Mach-E’s muscle-car-derived design language shouts louder. And while I did encounter some holdouts that seemed uneasy about the Mustang name being applied to a crossover, it’s evocative nonetheless, and generally in positive way.”
The Dealer Experience
I haunt internet places like the Reddit electric car forum and have noticed an unending stream of horror stories about Ford dealers playing all sorts of games with Mach-E customers. Not all dealers, mind you, but enough to make someone looking to buy one gun shy — $5 to 7 thousand dollar dealer markups, $1000 wheel locks that are a mandatory upcharge, and financing tricks galore in the finance office.
There are fewer tales of skullduggery at Volkswagen dealers, not to say that some of them are not trying to take advantage of the limited supply of cars available.
My wife and I recently ordered a Tesla Model Y, and part of our decision was based on not having to arm wrestle with a dealer (although Tesla has been less than generous with its trade-in offer for our 2015 LEAF). As much as Autoblog praises the Mach-E, there is no way it can adequately inform readers about the nefarious business practices of Ford’s greedy, grasping dealers.
The Autoblog comparo also does not discuss charging networks, but there are plenty of online references to less than satisfactory results at Electrify America and other charging stations in the wild. Once again, Tesla has the advantage when it comes to that critical part of the EV ownership experience.
In the end, we buy the car that best fits our needs and budget. Whether the ID.4 or the Mach-E is your choice, either is a fine alternative to a conventional gasmobile. You pays your money and you takes your choice. Drive happy!