Let's start by getting one thing out of the way: The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is, in fact, a Mustang. Ford, the company responsible for building the thing, baptized it as a Mustang and even went as far as putting Mustang badges on the front and rear of the car, as well as the steering wheel. I could sit here and debate with everyone whether this is right or wrong, but that'd be exhausting. It feels as tired to me as debating whether a Cayenne Turbo S is a "real" Porsche. Of course it is.
And more importantly, this debate wouldn't change anything at all. So, the faster we can move on from that, the sooner we can talk about what the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E really is.
Let's start there. It's a five-passenger, high-performance electric crossover that can be had in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, as well as in various battery and performance configurations that deliver anywhere from 266 to 480 horsepower, and 211 to 300 miles of range—though some have been driven for up to 355 miles. When it comes to zero-to-60 times, the slowest Mach-E will do it in a balmy 6.1 seconds while the quickest in an impressive 3.5. It's the first production Mustang with four doors, this kind of ride height, AWD, and propulsion from electricity, not gasoline.
Depending on your need for speed, you'll have to part ways with anywhere from $43,000 for a Mach-E Select all the way up to $65,000+ for a Mach-E GT Performance. That price range makes the Mach-E competitive in the current EV market, positioning it alongside the Nissan Leaf Plus on the low end, the all-new Volkswagen ID.4 electric crossover in the midrange, and the likes of the Tesla Model Y on the high end. Unlike most of the cars on that list, however, its focus is on performance, as it should be with that name and pony logo.
My tester was a Premium AWD model equipped with the 88 kWh extended range battery, which delivered a claimed 270 miles of range when fully charged. The same configuration but with rear-wheel drive would've bumped that up to 300 miles. Given its performance and equipment, the price of $56,200 seemed like a fair proposition to folks curious about switching to an electric vehicle without breaking the bank—should Ford dealers not tack on exorbitant markups, that is.
But was it?
2021 Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD, By the Numbers
- Base Price (As Tested): $49,700 ($56,200)
- Powertrain: 88 kWh battery | 346 horsepower, 428 pound-feet of torque | 1-speed transmission | all-wheel drive
- EPA Fuel Economy: 96 MPGe city | 84 MPGe highway | 270 miles of range
- Cargo Volume: 29.7 cubic feet (59.7 with the second row down) | 4.7 cubic feet front trunk
- The Promise: An electric SUV equal parts "normal" car and "next-level" stuff.
- The Delivery: A terrific marketing exercise to put Ford on the EV map. You might hate the name, but you won't hate the drive.
There's always a bit of extra added pressure that comes with testing a hot, new, or at the very least, controversial car. Bias has a way of creeping in long before you get behind the wheel. This is especially true nowadays when all of us, including journalists, are bombarded with hot takes from social media and comments that may sway us, even subconsciously. But trust me when I say I did my best to go into the Mach-E experience with an open mind. I'm a vault, baby—locked down.
Just like I recently did with the hotly anticipated and, in my opinion, over-hyped Ram 1500 TRX, I approached the Mustang Mach-E with a simple goal: to find out what's good, what's not good, and whether I could recommend it to folks like you.
So with those directives in mind, I pressed on the brake pedal, pushed the Power button, and—very much unlike in the TRX—heard absolutely nothing.
This Pony Can Go
The Mach-E's target demographic isn't the same as a traditional Mustang's, with Ford mostly seeking out "younger tech progressive buyers" who likely rank technology, versatility, and practicality higher than outright performance—but that didn't stop Ford from injecting some serious oomph into its electric crossover. You may have noticed that I referred to it as a "high-performance crossover" above and might be wondering why? Well, here's why.
The Rapid Red Mach-E I drove around for the week could sprint from zero to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds, according to Ford. According to me, however, it was faster than that. I estimated it to be closer to 4.4-ish on a cold day. I understand that in the age of Teslas and Rimacs a 4.8-second time doesn't sound all that fast, but to put it into perspective, that's actually quicker than a 2021 Porsche 718 Boxster T, and just as fast as a Macan GTS, neither of which you could consider a slouch.
If 4.8 ain't enough for ya, the Mach-E GT and GT Performance Edition can do even better. The GT can sprint to 60 from a standstill in 3.8 seconds and the GT Performance in 3.5, or essentially 0.30 seconds quicker than a $104,000 Porsche Taycan 4S electric sedan. That's also nearly as quick (just 0.2-sec. difference) as the Mustang Shelby GT500 equipped with 760 horsepower and launch control. It's proper fast.
Because it's nearly impossible to find a good driving road in or near Indianapolis, I had to head about 65 miles south to hit the same tarmac where I usually take high-caliber cars—most recently, a McLaren GT—just to see what the Mach-E could do. The electric pony did not disappoint, immediately putting a smile on my face.
In "Unbridled" driving mode (yeah, cheesy, but also horses I guess), the computer allows the electric motors to draw as much energy from the battery as your right foot desires and your skills allow. And on these tight roads, it had appeared as if the Mach-E never got the memo about it being a crossover.
A low center of gravity works wonders for any EV, considering most of the weight is kept way low compared to a gasoline-powered car, but there was more to the Mach-E's chops than just a low center of gravity.
The steering, for example, felt like something out of an older, more analog car despite it being the traditional electrically assisted setup we see nowadays. Even in this driving mode—I really hate saying Unbridled, sorry—the steering feel wasn't overly heavy like it is in some cars that just try too hard to be sporty. Quick left-right-left-right turns through very tight corners were a real pleasure thanks to how much feedback I received from the front end, but also the rear. This was further enhanced by the fact that the Mach-E, even in this not-hardcore trim, showed minimal body roll.
Having just received over a foot of snow in the days prior to my excursion, roads were still soaked with water from melting snow, but even worse, small streams made their way across roads carrying dirt, gravel, and mud. This forced me to be extra aware of essentially everything while driving quickly, but more importantly, it put Ford's brakes (which I was operating via one-panel driving to regenerate as much energy as possible) and its all-wheel-drive to the test.
Following the principle of smooth is fast, something which is even easier to do in a car that doesn't require shifting, I'd slightly let off the accelerator while approaching a corner to let the car gently regen-brake and transfer the weight forward to pre-load the front suspension. Then, I'd initiate turn-in while very gently pressing the accelerator again to get the tires to hook up while the steering reached maximum turn-in at the apex. It was at this moment that I had two different options: gently unwind the steering wheel while gradually accelerating out of the corner, or give it a quick jolt to rocket out in a more... loose fashion. In reality, I performed both over and over again for dozens of miles.
Doing the former allowed me to get a solid feel for the Mach-E's chassis and understand just how compliant it was. It never lost its composure, it never felt on the edge, and most importantly, it was always willing to do whatever I wanted it to do. Gradually accelerating sent the power forward in order to maximize traction. Doing the opposite, however, made me feel like a rally star—which despite having road-raced shifter karts for years—I am far from one.
At my right foot's command and with the front tires not pointing completely straight, the Mach-E would send its electric power to the rear tires and induce the slightest and friendliest amount of oversteer coming out of a corner. Because there's no engine noise at all, I could actually hear the tires gripping the road, or in the case of the rears, slide in the soggy tarmac underneath me. The sideways action was just enough to put a smile on my face without progressing into an oh-shit moment.
This sort of silent ballet that the Mach-E performed was a lot of fun, and quite frankly, very surprising. When you first walk up to one of these you don't expect them to perform this well on a proper road, especially considering there aren't any limited-slip differentials or traditional components that allow for load management or torque vectoring. And again, the fact that it's a near-silent experience almost draws the driver deeper "into the zone" by getting rid of nearly all distractions. The best way to describe it is as an extremely peaceful dose of adrenaline.
Away from the twisties, the Mach-E quite literally looks and feels like any other Ford SUV, and that's equal parts good and bad. The ride quality, for example, feels a bit harsh throughout the city. Nothing too uncomfortable, but there's enough thump to notice it while going through road imperfections. It's a slightly harsher ride than that of an Edge ST.
Another area of disappointment is the interior. I'm not talking about the 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster behind the wheel and the 15.5-inch portrait-style infotainment screen on the dash. No, those are fine. It's basically the hardware. The shifter, for example, it's the same dial rotary shifter that Ford uses in a number of other vehicles. And in an Explorer or a Fusion (RIP) or something else it's fine, but in what's supposed to be this ultra-modern electric crossover that's designed to show the world what Ford is capable of in this day and age—it sucks. Design-wise, it doesn't even fit in. It looks ugly.
It's the same story for the various controls on the steering wheel and doors. Just black plastic with zero design behind them. Blah. And last but not least, I appreciate the standard fixed glass roof (which is not a sunroof) that makes the cabin feel larger and airier, but not including some sort of blind, retractable shade, or something to be able to cover it is just plain silly. I don't always want to be bathed in light, you know?
I didn't encounter any performance or reliability problems during my weeklong test, but I noticed a couple of software glitches. One, for example, every time I took my daughter to school and she unbuckled her seatbelt to exit the car, I'd get a visual warning in the gauge cluster along with a chime warning me that an occupant had unbuckled their belt. While the chime would eventually turn off, the graphic on the screen would remain until I power-cycled the car—even if the occupant buckled up again. It was a similar story with the wireless phone charger, which regardless of how I positioned my phone, would trigger an error message on the large infotainment screen saying that my phone wasn't positioned properly and therefore would not charge. Something sort of understandable when driving on bouncy roads, but definitely not while parked.
Aside from those hiccups, driving the Mach-E around town was pleasant. The cheapy-feeling seats are actually comfortable, and ingress and egress are a breeze despite the driver door sills being slightly elevated due to the nature of a battery-electric platform. The rear seat is spacious and most definitely able to fit three adults with plenty of headroom up top. Best of all, trunk space is quite ample and there's even a bonus frunk! This is a crossover after all, and no matter how cool or fast the Mach-E can be, poor comfort or practicality would render it a total dud. Luckily, it ranks just as high in those areas as any of Ford's other family-centric crossovers.
What Kept Me Up at Night
I'm not here to convert you into EV ownership, much less get you to like the Mach-E. You're on your own for that. What I do want to highlight, is that under most circumstances (notice I said most and not all), an EV just works—and yes, it's better for the environment.
The last time I spent a considerable amount of time with an EV was a while ago, during a two-week-long trip to Los Angeles, where Nissan kindly hooked me up with a Leaf. I spent the entirety of that trip crashing at friends' houses and Airbnbs, which forced me to mostly charge the Leaf at public chargers. Things never got too complicated, but it could've been easier had I been able to plug in at the same place every night.
It was a very different story with the Mach-E, where I only had to use a Level 3 charger once after my spirited drive down south. After that, I simply did some trickle charges at home overnight to gain back whatever range I had used during the day. This means that I spent $8 to fast-charge for about two hours once, and then about another $4 at home over the course of two charging sessions. Not bad for having driven about 360 miles over the course of a week. Of course, your mileage (pardon the pun) may vary based on your local charging networks and/or what you have in your garage.
My biggest issue, and probably one of the obstacles I'd have to face if I were to buy an EV? Range loss due to cold weather. Temperatures dipped into the low teens most if not all of the nights I had the Mach-E, and those early-morning school runs at 18, 22, 29 degrees were definitely eye-opening.
The first night, the range dropped from 240 to 219 after leaving it unplugged overnight. During the actual school run itself, which is exactly 16 miles round trip, I used the equivalent of roughly 29 miles by the time I got back home. By the time I started it up again later that day, I had lost another 20 percent. Plugging in overnight to my household 120-volt outlet—the same one you plug a toaster into—would replenish that day's mileage and then some, but would mostly help offset the energy loss overnight by keeping the internals nice and warm.
This disparity was further highlighted during what a call a Midwest Faux Spring Day; essentially a winter day when the sun actually comes out and temperatures rise into the 50s. At roughly 55 degrees, range loss due to weather—while parked or on the road—basically became nonexistent. If you live in a place where it never dips below 55 degrees, you've got it made.
This likely won't shock anyone. EVs have trouble with cold temperatures; my colleague Patrick George's Volkswagen ID.4 test yielded inconsistent range even at more moderate winter temperatures. But I wanted you to know what I experienced in my week with the car, and this is it.
In a nutshell, I'd be just fine driving an EV all year but I'd have to make sure to bring it inside and plug it in overnight in the winter rather than park on the street. Or just invest in a level two (240v) charger at home and make my life easier.
I talked with a couple of EV owners during my expedition to the one Chargepoint level 3 charger in Indy, and they were all genuinely impressed with the Mach-E. In fact, two Chevy Bolt EV owners and one BMW i3 said that their next EV was originally going to be a Tesla Model 3, but now they're considering the Ford instead.
And that's exactly the point of this highly unconventional Mustang. It's designed to get people's attention and draw in a new generation of buyers to the Blue Oval. I can promise you that Dearborn wouldn't have accomplished that by giving the Mach-E a new name that no one had ever heard of before. Whether you consider that sacrilegious or not, I honestly don't care, and it ultimately doesn't matter.
The Mach-E is an honest-to-goodness electric performance crossover that's enough run-of-the-mill Ford to make its driver feel at ease, but has enough of a holy-shit-this-is-cool factor to make you feel giddy. It doesn't feel gimmicky like a Tesla and it always aims to please. I know this because my wife absolutely loved it, and she hardly cares to say anything about the dozens of cars I drive every year. The fact that she actually went on the Ford online configurator and built her own Mach-E says it all—at least it does to me.
This thing looks cool, it's a blast to drive, and on a rally-spec road it'll put a bigger smile on your face than a 600-horsepower supercar will. If Ford can do this good with its first electric car, then whatever comes next is going to be something that every automaker should be very afraid of.
Email the author at [email protected]