2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD Review - Ready for a Revolution That Isn't Here Yet
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD Fast Facts
I’ve been waiting to get my grubby mitts on the steering wheel of the Ford Mustang Mach-E for over a year now.
I spent a good chunk of a weekend learning all about it before the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. And I was all set to trek to Detroit to drive it last fall. But, well, COVID travel restrictions forced me to keep my FIB (if you know, you know) self out of Michigan. So we sent friend of the site Chad, since he was unencumbered by such things.
Finally, a scant few months later, the electric Mustang (yeah, I know. It’s on a different platform and I’m on record as not liking the use of the Mustang moniker) graced my garage.
I don’t, as a general rule, read reviews of a car I am scheduled to test before I get my turn. I don’t want to subconsciously prejudice my opinions. But sometimes the chatter can’t be avoided, and in addition to editing Chad’s review, I saw talk about how great the Mach-E is on the social channels. I even had a few journalists tell me that when we’ve talked over text or Zoom.
The truth is, the Mach-E is pretty good. But maybe a tick or two short of great.
Let’s start with the good, which will be good news to most of you – the Mach-E handles well. I wish most small crossovers handled this well. Whether in “engage” mode (balanced driving) or “unbridled” (the sport mode), the Mach-E turned in nicely, with well-weighted steering offering up nice accuracy and heft. There was some understeer when pushed a bit too hard on an off-ramp, though nothing dramatic.
This comes at a cost – in this case, a ride that’s more than a little stiff. Jarring at times, in fact. At least the all-wheel-drive system was sure-footed in the snow that dumped on Chicago during most of my loan.
Electric vehicles deliver torque pretty much instantaneously, and the Mach-E configured as my tester was – Premium trim with the 88 kWh extended-range battery (376 cells) and dual-motor AWD – puts out 428 lb-ft of twist. That makes for the kind of swift acceleration that brings grins. Ford claims a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds. The V8 soundtrack is missed, though not as much as you’d expect. If you’re wondering how many ponies this crossover with a pony-car name makes, the answer is 346 (259 kW) in this guise.
You can, of course, set your Mach-E to make propulsion sounds, or not, with the flick of a button on the 15.5-inch touchscreen that dominates the center stack.
You can also turn one-pedal driving on/off via that same screen (which also controls the drive modes and just about everything else – more on that in a bit). One-pedal driving always takes some getting used to when it has been a while, but it quickly starts to feel natural for urban driving. I did switch it off for about half of the spirited driving I did and for close-quarters maneuvering – the former to better carry speed into a corner when appropriate while keeping things smooth and the latter because leaving the one-pedal mode on causes the Mach-E to come to a stop without any throttle, and sometimes you need idle creep to ease into a parking space.
That aforementioned spirited driving was fit into a tight window of time in which it wasn’t snowing to beat the band, and I held back a bit because the pavement was cold and/or wet. I’d love to spend more time with a Mach-E when the weather is warm and the roads are dry, but my initial take is that it’s a relative joy to drive.
On-road dynamics aside, the cold weather apparently ate into battery range something fierce. Even in my heated garage, which has an ambient temperature of probably around 60 Fahrenheit, the Mach-E didn’t see more than 200 miles of range fully charged. This car had the extended-range battery, which promised 270 miles of range, maximum, in this trim. So either the polar vortex is a range killer, the car’s onboard range estimator is extremely conservative, or the estimator is just really bad. Or some combination thereof.
Ford tells me that it’s also possible the driver-profile wasn’t reset between loans, and that could affect the range estimator.
Charging isn’t fast either, at least not on the three-pin outlets provided by my garage (building management wasn’t sure what voltage, but guessed 110). Ford claims 20-30 miles of charge per hour on a 240-volt outlet with the extended-range battery and rear-wheel drive, and 61 miles of charge in 10 minutes on a DC fast charger in the same configuration, with standard-range batteries going from 10 percent to 80 percent in 45 minutes.
My own experience showed that my first long charge added 19 percent – from 56 to 75 – over the course of 17 hours and 15 minutes. That gained me 38 miles of range. I had two other long charges – 23 percent over 20 hours and 37 minutes for 55 miles, and 24 percent over more than 43 hours when the snow kept me indoors. Oddly, the FordPass app, which tracks these things, shows no miles added for that last charge, despite the battery going from 76 to 100 percent. Polar vortex at work, possibly.
Driving an EV can change one’s habits due to the search for a charge. For example, my local grocery chain doesn’t offer a charger at the store closest to my house. But a competing chain offered two chargers in its parking garage. So I swung by there, and picked up 2 percent and 3 miles in the 16 minutes I was in the store, fruitlessly searching for familiar staples. Whole Foods brings about a whole-new experience for those of us who usually shop with the hoi polloi.
At least this time the charger worked – this was the very same location where a Jaguar I-Pace failed to pick up any juice.
Whole Paycheck didn’t have what I wanted or needed, so I did a little Googling to find an outlet of my preferred chain that offered a charger. The search showed another store nearby with a charger in the garage, so I wandered over. This time, I picked up 3 percent and 4 miles in 24 minutes of grocery-getting.
I bring this up because this sort of planning is unnecessary with internal-combustion engines. This isn’t Ford’s fault – increasing charging infrastructure is a massive effort that will take years and the work of many different companies, and all EVs are affected by this – but it’s a reminder that the Mach-E is still subject to the same realities as every Bolt, Leaf, and Tesla.
Circling back to FordPass for a sec, the app is a bit of secondary tech that helps make the Mach-E experience a bit better. The app is offered on other Fords, but it has Mach-E-specific features that I found helpful. I could check on the state of charge from the comfort of home, find chargers, or set it up so that the car charged when electricity rates were lower or to be primed for a specific departure time. Some bugginess aside, the app helped me monitor things from my condo. I could check to make sure it was still plugged in and charging without trekking down to the parking garage, and even estimate when it might be fully charged.
It also lets you use your phone to unlock the car, which came in handy when I needed to grab something out of the vehicle and I didn’t have the key fob handy.
That 15.5-inch center-stack screen is the other notable piece of tech. Just about everything you do, from changing radio stations to setting the climate controls to turning on the steering-wheel and seat heaters, requires you to use the screen. Thankfully, the screen responded quickly to most of my inputs, and it’s pretty easy to find the right menu for the right function. Turning on Apple CarPlay – wireless, here – didn’t mess up the flow, since only the top half of the screen was given over to Apple’s interface. The other controls remained easily accessible below.
Ford claims the touchscreen can learn your habits, but I didn’t notice if it did during a week-long loan in which the Mach-E spent a fair amount of time parked because of the weather.
There was one minor nit – as per usual with Ford, my iPhone and Sync failed to connect on my second trip in the car. That hiccup didn’t occur again during my test.
With the exception of one large knob for volume, located in the touchscreen, the interior is minimalist, with very few physical buttons. The shifter is also a knob – the hockey-puck style which you lot in the comments have derided before. The dash has a double-sweep look in a subtle nod to the original and current Mustang sports cars, and the materials look nice. Thing is, some of the materials don’t feel upmarket, and I wonder how they’ll hold up to three to five years of abuse. The materials would be fine for the Escape, but at nearly 60 grand, I expected better.
At least the minimalist aesthetic looks cool. Even if the big infotainment screen, as useful as it, does look a bit tacky. The rectangular gauge screen has nice lettering that’s big and clear, but sometimes the steering wheel blocked my view of it.
Headroom and legroom are fine up front, and I found the rear mildly tight for a six-foot-one tester who eats too many Italian beefs. Not cramped, exactly, but not luxurious. Fully grown adults at around or under six feet of height will be fine on short and medium trips, though NBA players will complain about rear headroom.
There’s a front trunk (drainable) if you need it, but the 29.7 cubic feet of cargo space in the hatch (add 30 if you fold down the rear seats) proved plenty for grocery hauling.
Outside, the Mach-E is a looker, far prettier than it appears in pictures. While I don’t like the use of the Mustang name, I am forced to admit its styling evokes its pony-car “sibling.” It’s sleek and avoids any of the geekiness that is often associated with EVs.
The Mach-E also avoids most of the sacrifices required of driving a green car, save for the charging-infrastructure issues faced by all EVs. Unlike a hybrid running terribly performing tires to save fuel or other EVs that allow the battery to eat into interior space.
Indeed, outside of the lack of a grille, the Mach-E wouldn’t be easily identifiable, visually, as an EV.
On a related note, I wonder if Ford can make an ICE-powered crossover on this platform, with one of the EcoBoosts underhood. Maybe even the Coyote V8…
My test unit Premium AWD based at $47,000. The Rapid Red paint job – fast becoming my favorite shade on offer from the Blue Oval – added $400, and the extended-range battery plus AWD is $7,700 (battery is $5K with RWD). With the $1,100 destination fee, the total price rang in at $56,200. A federal tax credit of $7,500 is available.
Standard features included active grille shutters, 19-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlamps, rear spoiler, fixed panoramic glass roof, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, USB, charging cable, Bang & Olufsen audio, Co-Pilot 360 driver-aid tech (adaptive cruise control, lane-keep system, blind-spot information system with cross-traffic, 360-degree camera, lane-centering, evasive-steering assist, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, auto hold, and more), navigation, wireless cell-phone charging, Wi-Fi, push-button starting, and a power liftgate.
MPGe is rated at 96 city/84 highway/90 combined.
Putting aside any fretting about range anxiety or charging for a sec, the Mach-E performs well. It’s fast in a straight line, handles well, and looks good. The penalty you pay is a stiff ride, steep sticker price, and smallish rear-seat room.
So yeah, it’s good, though it needs some tweaks – mainly to cabin materials, and perhaps a reduction in price – to be truly great.
The EV revolution isn’t yet here. But when it comes, the Mach-E stands ready.
[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC, Ford]
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