Has Ford successfully the transitioned an iconic name into 2021? Or debauched a legend?
By PH Staff / Saturday, February 27, 2021 / Loading comments
+ Nailed it…
- Design makes decent use of Mustang cues
- Spacious interior a tech revelation for Ford
- Decent range, drives well
– Failed it…
- Only one model in the range weighs less than two tonnes
- Some cheap cabin fixtures
- £40k entry price is enticing, but extended range costs more
It was only half a dozen years ago that right-hand-drive Mustangs went on sale in the UK, more than half a century since the introduction of what became the world's most famous pony car. Possibly the world's most famous car, full stop. Back in 2015 the availability of a four-cylinder turbo beneath the V8 was a contentious point, 'not a proper Mustang' and so forth.
How innocent we were. Now the Mustang badge – or rather, the icon, as you won't find 'Mustang' written on it anywhere – is affixed to an all-electric SUV. A lineage that, for enthusiasts, was defined by the V8 and models like the Mach 1, GT390, GT500 and Boss 302, now includes one with no cylinders at all.
Which may be a bitter conceptual pill to swallow for some, but the Mach-E doesn't replace anything; those who want a V8 Mustang with a six-speed manual can still go and buy one. And if Fiat can make a 500X and Mini produce a Countryman, then who's to say Ford can't turn the Mustang into an SUV? The new model aims to represent the age-old virtues of freedom, progress, fast performance and a touch of rebellion – Ford's words, not ours – in a new segment.
Obviously it is right to be there: think Tesla Model Y, Jaguar I-Pace, VW ID.4, Mercedes EQC, Audi e-tron and BMW iX3. With a lineup that will eventually extend all the way from a standard range, single motor, rear-wheel drive model to a dual-motor GT with almost 500hp, all those rivals need to be thought about when assessing the Mach-E. And that's just the initial opening of the taps; doubtless more will follow.
Headline figures include a maximum 379 miles of range for the most efficient model, up to 150kw DC charging (adding a best figure 74 miles of range in 10 mins) and a chunky 15.5 inches as well – that's for the central touchscreen. Our test car was a dual-motor (and therefore all-wheel drive), Extended Range Mustang Mach-E; that means an 88kWh battery, 351hp and 427lb ft. That range is rated at 335 miles, which looks good given the Jaguar I-Pace (using a 90kWh battery) is rated at a maximum of 292 miles. But competitiveness on paper is one thing – what's the Mustang Mach-E like in the real world?
SPECIFICATION | MUSTANG MACH-E AWD EXTENDED RANGE
Engine: Lithium-ion battery, 88kWh capacity, twin electric motors
Transmission: Single-speed, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 351
Torque (lb ft): 427
0-62mph: 5.1 secs
Top speed: 111mph
Weight: 2,182kg (with fluids and 75kg driver)
Range: 335 miles (WLTP)
Price: £57,030 (price as standard; price as tested £58,180, comprised of Carbonised Grey paint for £1,150)
It would be fair to say that a few fast Ford interiors have let the side down over the years, whether that be through patchy quality or infuriating infotainment. By and large, the Mustang Mach-E addresses those criticisms. It possesses an innovative, appealing and fairly well sorted driving environment. It's not without its flaws, of course – but it is very good.
With such a drastic change in configuration, it was always going to be hard to create tangible links to the traditional Mustang, but being able to peer out over a heavily contoured bonnet just like a V8 GT is a nice touch. You sit high in a Mach-E on a flat but supportive enough seat, the leather grade probably best described as 'American'. It's hugely spacious, making good use of its bespoke electric platform to generate loads of room for people and things front and rear – a passenger of more than six foot can sit behind a driver of the same height no problem, not least because the roofline doesn't taper until a long way back in the body, meaning headroom is laudable. There are cubbies, charge ports and storage solutions aplenty, and the boot is a decent 519 litres; extendable to 1,420 litres with the rear seats down, plus the additional space up front around the charge cables.
Clearly heavily influenced by Tesla, the 15.5-inch infotainment display controls everything the car does other than the wipers, lights and indicators. By and large, it does a very good job of all the tasks assigned to it, if not quite as seamlessly as something like a Polestar 2. Smartphone pairing is fast and simple, and integrates well around the other functions, it responds well to pinches, zooms and prods and the menus, though plentiful, do make sense. Ford will tell you it's exactly like a smartphone in its operation, which it's not – because it's just not that slick – but the new Sync interface is so far away from previous systems it almost seems a disservice to give it the same name.
Gripes are largely familiar ones: the icons controlling the heating and ventilation are a bit low when on the move, the volume dial that buyers apparently insisted on is of horrible quality and certain functions still feel like they would be better served by a button. Something like drive mode selection – which treats you to a choice of 'Active', 'Whisper' and 'Untamed' – feels important enough not to require delving into a menu. Especially when that menu is behind a small white Mustang Mach-E icon on a white screen…
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The Mustang Mach-E's battery system is comprised of 288 lithium-ion cells in Standard Range cars and 376 cells in Extended Range models, rated at 68 kWh (Standard) or 88kWh. When the more powerful GT arrives, it'll use the same Extended range battery. This allows for a higher rate of charge, too, the 88kWh accepting 150kw of DC power against 115kw for the 68kWh models.
The Mach-E tested is the fastest currently on sale, with a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 111mph. That top speed is the same for all non-GT models, with the benchmark sprint taking anything up to 6.2 seconds depending on battery capacity and driven wheels. In reality the Mustang feels plenty brisk, albeit perhaps not with the sort of thrusting performance typically associated with a five-second sprint to 62mph.
Which makes sense if you read the small print: Ford measures these things the old fashioned drag race way, with a one-foot rollout. So, although the Mach-E will whisk its occupants up the road with some haste, it's never what you might call rapid: 351hp and 427lb ft are still moving, with a driver aboard, 2.2 tonnes. Even allowing for the synaptic response of an electric motor, the Mustang never feels hugely quick. On the other hand, it's unlikely that prospective customers – those after a family friendly, electric SUV, let's not forget, and not a 10-second car – will find much to grumble about. Throttle response is nicely calibrated, and the augmented noise – most prominent in Untamed – is one of the more successful ones, not a million miles from the piped in growl of a Focus ST.
Ford's '1 Pedal Driving' is a function well worth using in the Mach-E, the throttle as accurate when decelerating as accruing speed. There's a reasonable amount of regen even with the system turned off, but the slightly inconsistent feel of the brakes means it's preferable to drive about the place just using the right pedal. Again, while it's easily accessed on the XXL touchscreen, it's another feature that would've benefitted from a physical button.
As it often the way with these things, the Mach-e's efficiency claims weren't quite met. Delivered on a 96 per cent charge, the Mach-E was showing 260 miles to empty – some way off the 335 claim. That said it accurately tracked mileage and was showing 50 per cent of charge remaining with 130 miles or so of mixed driving.
With so many recent fast Fords admired for possessing a great chassis – but many a Mustang having not really shone dynamically – the Mach-E is in a tricky spot. Does it aim to be more like the great ST and RS hot hatches of Europe? Or deliver a more authentically Mustang experience? As it happens, the reality is somewhere between the two.
All Mach-Es are obviously built on a bespoke EV platform, battery between the axles and a with the motor nestled between the rear wheels; where a second motor is optioned, it sits at the front. Suspension is by MacPherson struts with a hollow anti-roll bar at the front, with an independent multilink rear and similar ARB. Notably it's a passive setup, Ford's Magneride dampers only coming as standard on the GT. Kerbweight is anything from 1,969kg for a standard range, two-wheel drive car (with full fluids and a 75kg driver) to 2,182kg for this dual motor, extended range Mach-E. The GT is going to be 2,273kg by the same measure.
Nonetheless, the Mustang drives nicely. Despite chunky sidewalls on the 19-inch tyres, the low-speed ride is pretty tough, but it levels out with speed to deliver the sort of assurance we've to expect from a Ford. The electric steering follows manufacturer tradition, too, with quite sharp initial response off centre and a strong willingness to self-centre, though less aggressively than something like a Focus ST. The weight and gearing would pass as inoffensive in a regular car, and thus pretty good for an EV – if not a patch on the Jaguar I-Pace's steering.
Furthermore, while the Mustang never quite manages the trick of apparently shedding hundreds of kilos through corners, it does manage its mass well – never ponderous and always eager. Ford says the springs, dampers, anti-roll bars and the steering have been tuned for Europe, effort that appears to have paid off. Perhaps the most limiting factor with regards to outright performance is fairly modest rubber, the Bridgestone Turanzas measuring only 225/55 R19 at each corner. This would typically be a point of criticism in a performance-orientated car; here a bit less purchase opens up the Mustang's chassis to the driver.
More often than not it's nice to have lower grip levels and more of an idea about what the car is doing. Lean is well controlled and helps detail the grip available; the Mach-E like so many Mustangs seeming to benefit from a slow-in, fast-out approach – not least because those fairly narrow front tyres don't always bite. Even in the all-wheel drive Mach-E, the driver can confidently use the power for a bit of cornering attitude on exit, which is fun. Plainly old habits clearly die hard as far as Mustangs are concerned.
In our time with the car, Untamed worked as the most agreeable drive mode. Unlike so many others, it obviously doesn't affect suspension stiffness, and its influence on the steering resistance seems negligible. Active is perfectly agreeable though keen drivers may miss the noise, and Whisper really takes some urgency out of proceedings. Which is probably the point.
One final thing: the Mach-E seems especially susceptible to crosswinds. Though tested on a reasonably gusty day, it required a fair amount of correction to keep a steady course in a motorway lane; this problem was exacerbated by overzealous lane keep assist (which can be deactivated on the wheel) and that bonnet, which can make judging extremities difficult. Like a real Mustang.
With only very short loans of the Mach-E currently available, we were unable to test out its charging credentials. However, it did prove pretty efficient on test, averaging just over three miles per kWh. Ford provides all Mach-E customers with two charging cables stowed neatly in the front for all eventualities – not always guaranteed with an EV.
All Mach-E customers will get five years free access to the FordPass range of chargers (150,000 in Europe) and a year's complimentary membership of Ionity, giving lower cost rates than ad hoc charging. A Ford wallbox is also available.
As for the cost of the car, this AWD Extended Range car is currently as pricey as the Mustang gets, starting at £57,030. This test car was £58,180 thanks to the Carbonised Grey paint option. Truth told, impressive though the Mach-E undoubtedly is, and even without experience of lesser models, £50k feels like appropriate sticker price than almost £60k. It's a fair bet that a rear-wheel drive, extended range Mach-E might be the best bet, especially as it would qualify for the Government grant. Smaller 18-inch wheels might help the ride quality, too.
Judging an electric vehicle after little more than 24 hours is like scoring a restaurant after the starter – there's a lot more to come that could drastically alter your perception. That said the Mach-E made an extremely favourable first impression. That we craved more time in its company is sufficient to make the car recommendable even without any experience of charging it.
It looks funky enough (it's better in the metal), the interior is cool and cavernous, it's entertaining to drive and it has a decent range. Most crucially of all, the Mustang Mach-E feels like its own distinct and desirable offering in what we all feared would become an identikit category very quickly indeed. Though clearly inspired by other cars – some from the Ford stable, some not – it doesn't feel a facsimile of anything else. Touches like the handleless doors, vast panoramic roof, 'Ground Speed' reading and discrete drive modes might be seen as a bit naff, but actually serve to give the car a likeable personality of its own. That there's some joy to be derived from operating it only adds to that appeal.
Cheap fittings undo some of the model's desirability, and the array of active safety kit now mandated has been better integrated elsewhere, too. But let's take nothing away from the Mach-E's notable achievement: the Mustang influence has given it a character sorely lacking from a lot of EVs, while a focus on the important electric vehicle stuff – range, most notably – has ensured that the car is good where it counts. That doesn't stop a V8-powered GT being better or ultimately more desirable, of course. But Ford has not betrayed the high esteem people hold for the badge, because it has not made the mistake of attaching it to a sub par model. The Mustang Mach-E is a first-rate electric SUV. For buyers of any sort, that has to be a good thing.
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