As the EV battle rages on, Ford brings something different to the table – but just as good.
A few months ago I switched to an Android phone after being a lifelong iPhone user, a move that rocked the foundation of my inner circle. Honestly, all I wanted was a smartphone that was better looking and fun to use, while offering more features. And while there are some things I do miss (RIP iMessage), the overall experience feels more satisfying.
That’s how I felt after a week in the new Ford Mustang Mach-E. If Tesla is the Apple of EV makers, with its closed-loop charging infrastructure and minimalist design language, the Mustang Mach-E feels like the best Android alternative – and it's the one I'd buy.
What the Mach-E offers more of than any other EV in its class is personality.
What the NACTOY-winning Mach-E offers more of than any other EV in its class is personality. This is not an appliance, not even close. Ford smartly used the iconic pony car nameplate to inject some life into its first true mass-market EV, which also blends superior driving dynamics, impossibly good looks, and a few honest-to-goodness muscle car characteristics.
As with any good Android product, the Mach-E does have its “quirks.” Ford clearly still has some ironing out to do in regards to its massive user interface, and there are some interior bits that feel too much like the “old” Ford. But those are minor in the larger scope; the bottom line is the Ford Mustang Mach-E is a phenomenal EV.
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The Ford Mustang Mach-E does not look like a muscle car, but there are obvious comparisons to draw with the traditional Mustang coupe, like the aggressively downturned headlights and the sloping hood line. Even the “grille,” which is just sheet metal surrounded by black plastic, looks muscle car–esque in an odd way.
The backside of the Mach-E represents a stark contrast. Other than the triple-bar taillight fixtures, you won't find much here to compare to the Mustang coupe (since it’s a crossover). The sloping roofline – finished in metallic black on this First Edition model – blends almost seamlessly into an embedded spoiler, affording the Mach-E its sporty shape. There is some unique detailing just below the trunk lid too, but the shiny black stuff lower down on the bumper isn't great.
This particular Mach-E wears one of the best paint color options available today: Grabber Blue metallic. This was a no-cost option on the First Edition model tested here (which is already sold out), and we haven't seen it on any other trims yet except the range-topping GT Performance model, not due to arrive until mid-year. This Mach-E also gets exclusive 19-inch directional wheels finished in bright silver with black inserts that really hammer the “performance” theme home.
This particular Mach-E wears one of the best paint color options available today: Grabber Blue metallic.
Pop open the doors (using the needlessly complicated button-and-pull-tab combo) and the inside of the Mach-E looks unlike any other Mustang, for the most part. Greeting you when you open the door is a massive 15.5-inch vertical touchscreen and an adjacent digital instrument cluster screen – and that's about it. The dash design is simple and clean, with nice materials like “ActiveX” faux stitched leather, smart speaker–style fabric, and a faux carbon silver texture that isn't anywhere near as offensive as standard hard plastic.
The knurled gear shifter could feel more premium and the volume dial could be sturdier, plus there's a healthy amount of piano black plastic, which is a fingerprint magnet. Otherwise, the inside of the Mach-E is leaps and bounds better than what you get on regular Mustangs and feels properly premium. And the big screen suggests that Ford is following Tesla’s lead, which is the right proper Android thing to do.
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The Mustang Mach-E, like many other EVs, exhibits significant bottom-heaviness and this First Edition's 19-inch wheels make for a harsh ride. Even over smoother pavement, there's some noticeable crashiness. But hey, the seats in the Mach-E are pretty great.
Unfortunately for fans of real cowhide, the Mustang Mach-E doesn't have a leather option. This car is completely vegan, meaning the seats wear high-quality ActiveX perforated faux leather and the steering wheel comes wrapped in vinyl. Ford's ActiveX material doesn't feel like a true substitute for real hides, though – it's oddly squishy and too pliable by comparison. But it still feels premium and looks good nonetheless.
The 39.3 inches of rear headroom with the panoramic glass roof are plenty for my 6-foot frame and some of the best figures in the class.
The 39.3 inches of rear headroom with the panoramic glass roof are plenty for my 6-foot frame and some of the best figures in the class.
The front compartment is airy and open, offering great visibility out of the side windows, even though the hood line is a bit long for my tastes. With 40.5 inches of headroom, the Mach-E is down a bit on paper compared to the Volkswagen ID.4 (41.4 inches) and Tesla Model Y (41.0 inches), but Ford beats alternatives like the new 2022 Chevrolet Bolt (40.1 inches) and Jaguar I-Pace (39.9 inches). The front legroom is also solid at 41.7 inches, but still not best in class – that honor goes to the new Bolt, which offers a hearty 44.3 inches.
The Mach-E's aggressively tapered roofline does make for a tight rear entryway, but once inside, the backseat feels plenty spacious. The 39.3 inches of rear headroom with the panoramic glass roof are plenty for my 6-foot frame and some of the best figures in the class. Only the Tesla Model Y, with 39.4 inches of headroom, is better in this respect. The Mach-E also has a solid 29.7 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row and 59.7 cubic feet with that row folded flat, plus a waterproof “frunk” – but we have more planned with that in a few weeks.
There's a lot to like about the 15.5-inch vertical touchscreen in the Mach-E. For one, it's gorgeous. The tablet-like display produces a crystal-clear readout of the Sync 4 infotainment system, which offers split-screen functionality with optional wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as a ton of baked-in options. This version of Sync 4, in fact, was designed specifically for the Mach-E, but we expect it to make its way to other Ford products in the near future.
But this massive screen does require a learning curve to master. The uppermost portion consists of two clickable options: vehicle settings on the left-hand side with quick access to things like drive modes and active safety, as well as an option to access the entire portfolio of settings. Next to that, a pull-down menu in the center offers suggestions like phone settings, navigation, and quick routing to the nearest charging stations. These options are dependent on what the vehicle thinks you might want to access based on its current status, and for the most part, feels intuitive.
There are a few things that clearly need ironing out, which Ford should be able to fix with the Mach-E’s over-the-air update functionality. Twice during our week-long test, the screen went completely black; thankfully, a Mach-E forum provided a solution. Put the car in auxiliary mode, hold the right arrow and volume down rocker at the same time for 15 seconds – both on the right side of the steering wheel – and it should boot back up. If not, locking the car fully and walking away for 15 minutes or so should force a hard reset of the screen. Ford says it's looking into the issue, and remember, this is a pre-production vehicle, so there could be some kinks that still need working out.
The scrollable list of boxes just below the main display was a constant source of frustration, too. Typically this portion of the screen allows you to quickly change from one feature to another, be it navigation to Android Auto, etc. But a very obvious glitch caused some of those boxes to stack on top of each other, rendering them virtually useless. On top of that, trying to connect wirelessly to Android Auto was a very hit-and-miss experience.
I also had a gripe with the climate control setup. Like some other manufacturers (looking at you, Volvo and Subaru), the A/C settings are baked directly into the screen, and no matter how familiar you get with the Mach-E's massive display, it's almost impossible to change the fan speed or temperature without taking your eyes off the road because there are so low on the already long screen. Tactile buttons are still superior in this respect.
For better or worse, the Mach-E does feel like a pony car in a few ways. With 346 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque in this extended-range, all-wheel-drive setup, the Mach-E accelerates with the quickness you expect of a genuine performance car. Tick the drive mode selector to the most-aggressive “Unbridled” mode, and it takes a brisk 4.8 seconds for the Mach-E to sprint to 60 – the only difference here is that torque is instant, compared to the more gradual torque curve experienced with traditional gas engines.
It’s extremely pleasant around town, offering a smooth drive, a quiet cabin, and always-on-demand torque.
The Mach-E feels familiar in the corners, too. The steering is heavy in a good way, similar to what you feel in other Mustangs, but still tactile and responsive. The taut suspension reacts well even when pushed, keeping the hefty EV mostly flat. Only when you hammer it into a turn does the Mach-E exhibit noticeable body roll. The nearly 5,000-pound curb weight means the suspension can only do so much to fight physics – we expect the more aggressive tuning of the GT model will help alleviate some of that. And the brakes can be a bit grabby.
But in a lot of ways, this Mustang drives like a normal EV. It’s extremely pleasant around town, offering a smooth drive, a quiet cabin, and always-on-demand torque – which means you can zip around at low speeds with a smile on your face. The one-pedal driving experience is unique, too; simply lift your foot off the gas and the Mach-E stops fully. This is becoming more common in EVs, but the regen pull is more aggressive here than in some others. Fortunately, you’re able to turn it off, which I did for most of the week.
Ford’s advanced Co-Pilot 360 active safety equipment comes standard on every Mach-E, including the base Select trim. The only thing that isn't standard on the base model is the hardware for the upcoming Active Drive Assist, the software for which will roll out later this year as a $600 over-the-air update. That hardware is bundled together into the reasonable $2,600 Comfort and Technology package that also includes heated front seats, a power liftgate, a memory driver’s seat setting, and more.
Ford’s active safety equipment displays some of the best on-road manners we’ve ever tested. The lane-centering is superb and keeps the car from ping-ponging between the lines. The adaptive cruise control is great, too, seamlessly applying brake and accelerator as needed with no jerkiness. And the 360-degree overhead camera makes parking that much easier, as does the available Active Park Assist 2.0, which helps the driver pull into even the trickiest parallel spot.
The Mach-E also gets a few features as part of the Co-Pilot 360 package that some other Ford models don’t. Things like evasive steering, post-collision braking, and even an Intersection Assist, which warns you of an oncoming vehicle when attempting to make a left turn into traffic, come standard as part of the package.
With the extended-range, 88.0-kilowatt-hour battery pack, and all-wheel drive, the Mach-E First Edition achieves 270 miles of range. The rear-wheel-drive version is slightly better, returning 305 miles of range with the extended battery pack. But either way, the Mach-E sits near the top of the pack in terms of range, bested only by the Tesla Model Y.
The Jaguar I-Pace can go for 234 miles, the Kia Niro EV for 239 miles, the Volkswagen ID.4 for 250 miles, and the latest Bolt EV goes 259 miles. Naturally, the Tesla Model Y is still king, achieving up to 326 miles of range in the Long Range model and 303 miles in the Performance variant (those are the only two options offered for 2021).
Ford made finding a place to refill the Mach-E easy with a charger locator baked into the navigation and accessible via one click. In my case, the nearest charger was an EVgo fast-charging station just five miles away, tucked away in the back of a Winn-Dixie parking lot like a problem stepchild. This obviously wasn't a high-traffic station, but that made plugging in multiple times during the week seamless. So I downloaded the EVgo app, input my info, and charged the Mach-E three times during the week – here's what my charging schedule looked like and how much it cost each time:
|Start Time||1:02 PM||3:50 PM||1:20 PM|
|Start Charge||45 Percent||34 Percent||25 Percent|
|Start Mileage||117 Miles||91 Miles||65 Miles|
|End Time||1:27 PM||4:54 PM||2:22 PM|
|End Charge||57 Percent||63 Percent||55 Percent|
|End Mileage||148 Miles||161 Miles||148 Miles|
As you can see, I spent three days out of the week at a charging station (I do not have access to a Level 2 charger at my apartment, which is a topic for another day). My mileage during the seven days was average to above average; my one long drive out to the Everglades was to get the pretty pictures you see here. Although this review does not include an official range test, the Mach-E shows some obvious bright spots when driven efficiently.
That Sunday after charging, I drove about 15 miles to a local park and back – using one-pedal drive the entire way – and the final range showed 157 miles and 58 percent charge. So even though I drove approximately 15 miles, the Mach-E indicated that I only used four miles and five percent out of the final range total. Not bad. Also, when using the adaptive cruise control on the highway, it was obvious that the indicated range wasn't depleting as quickly as the actual mileage covered. Hopefully soon I'll be able to do a full range test on the Mach-E, but my initial test showed great signs, and proof that its EPA-rated range is very much achievable in the real world.
If you’re fond of the Ford Mustang Mach-E First Edition tested here, sorry – this model is completely sold out. At $59,900 with no available options, this version features exclusive 19-inch wheels, unique “First Edition” badging, and a Grabber Blue paint job that you can’t get outside of the upcoming GT model. The good news, though, is that even the base Mach-E Select is well-equipped out of the box. And that model costs just $42,895 before a $7,500 federal tax credit.
Granted, the Mach-E still isn’t the most affordable option out there. The new Bolt EV starts at $31,995, the Kona EV costs $37,390, the Niro EV starts at $39,090, and the ID.4 is $39,995. But the Mach-E feels both more premium and sportier than all of those alternatives, and when compared to true “premium” alternatives from Tesla and Jaguar, the Mustang undercuts those two models significantly. The Tesla Model Y starts at $49,990 and the Jaguar I-Pace costs a very unreasonable $69,850. In that respect, the Ford Mustang Mach-E feels like a relative bargain that comes with a big $7,500 coupon from Uncle Sam.
And without hesitation, I will say that the Ford Mustang Mach-E is my favorite option of the bunch. This is the first EV that’s nearly convinced me to switch; it looks great, is extremely nice to drive, and brings a lot to the table. Hopefully this is the first of many great forays into electrification from Ford in the next few years.
Mustang Mach-E Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E: Review
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E First Edition AWD