You're looking at a Ford Mustang, but not as you'd normally know it. This is Ford's first 'proper' attempt at a global electric vehicle (EV), so what is it more like? A zero-emissions Mustang sports car? Or a quiet, comfortable family crossover trying to trade on one of the most famous nameplates in the business?
In the metal
Checks and balances, we believe it is called. A system of governance that ensures no one branch of control can become more powerful than the others. It's most famously used today in the US, where Articles I, II and III of the country's fabled Constitution control the legislative (Congress), executive (POTUS) and judicial (at the top level, the Supreme Court) arms of the Federal Government. And it would seem Ford has decided to instigate some checks and balances of its own with the new Mustang Mach-E electric crossover.
What we have here is possibly one of the best interiors we've seen on a modern EV yet, checked or balanced by an exterior aesthetic that... isn't half as convincing. So, we'll kick off with that aspect of the electric Mustang, because looks are subjective. In our opinions, trying to cram the distinctive styling cues of the glorious Mustang onto the underlying structure of a crossover-SUV (and a coupe-crossover-SUV, at that) hasn't really worked all that successfully. The Mach-E, from certain angles, looks a trifle ungainly and contrived, and there are various bits of it that look plain odd: like the fact the 19-inch wheels of this All-Wheel Drive (AWD) Standard Range model appear tiny in the rear arches, or that the 2,972mm wheelbase comes across as needlessly gargantuan in a vehicle that's 4,713mm from tip to tail. But, having said that, we don't dislike the look of the Mach-E either. Drab colours don't exactly do its design many favours, but the LED light clusters fore and aft - the latter of which have the distinctive triple-bar feature of the original 'Pony Car' - are appealing and actually there's something quite nice about the swooping roofline of the Mach-E. It probably needs a set of 20-inch wheels and a bold colour (like Grabber Blue, which is available on the First Edition model only) to look its absolute best, but for now we're not 100 per cent convinced by the external aesthetic.
However, let's go inside the car. And this first of all means dealing with the Mustang EV's 'E-Latch' door handles, which are four little round illuminated circles in its black window surrounds. For the front doors, these are also paired to weird metal brackets on the glasshouse sills, which aren't the most attractive solution to the idea of 'no traditional door handles, please'. But the system works reasonably well in reality, the doors popping open a good inch or two in a smooth and electrical fashion. And when you do climb aboard, wow. You will not fail to notice the star attraction here, which is that ginormous 15.5-inch portrait touchscreen for the SYNC 4 infotainment system. People who miss physical controls, look away now.
This is a brilliant system. Yes, the climate controls and every setting under the sun is on this touchscreen, but the way it looks, the way it operates, the way the graphics are all sharp and large means that controlling it effectively becomes almost second-nature within minutes of getting into the Ford. A shame, then, that the rotary volume dial set into the screen is cheap, plasticky, imitation knurled metal, rather than the real deal. Same story for the dial to select drive on the centre console.
Nevertheless, two clunking bits of cut-price silver plastic aside, we're pleased to report the Mach-E's interior is possibly its best feature. There's loads of space on board for five adults, the headroom in the rear isn't too bad at all (unless you cart multiple basketball players around on a regular basis) and the material finishing of everything you look at and touch is fantastic. Even the seats are clad in vegan-friendly Sensico 'pleather' but this is the best imitation hide we've seen yet. Red stitching is also a pleasant flourish, yet our favourite thing might just be that crystal-clear 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster behind the Mach-E's attractive (and heated) steering wheel. It shows you nothing extraneous and every bit of info you want in an EV in an instant, and it also features the 'Ground Speed' legend as a direct nod to the Mustang heritage. So, three stars for exterior styling, five stars for the cabin.
There are four main drivetrain and battery specs for the Mustang Mach-E range. These are the single-motor Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) models, with either the Standard Range battery or the Extended Range pack - these have capacities of 75.7kWh gross (68kWh usable) or 98.7kWh gross (88kWh usable), respectively - and then the dual-motor AWD versions, again in Standard or Extended Range formats. Our test car, an AWD Standard Range, is the Mach-E with the least amount of official driving range going. Ford quotes 400km at best, which isn't ground-breaking. However, the RWD version improves that figure to 440km, then the AWD Extended Range goes even further to 540km and, finally, the long-distance champ of the Mustang EV family is the RWD Extended Range at 610km.
RWD Mach-E models of course have their solitary electric motor mounted on the rear axle, while the AWD cars get an additional permanent magnet synchronous unit propelling the front wheels too. This alters the power outputs and performance. Any RWD Mach-E has maximum torque of 430Nm, teamed to 198kW (269hp) with the Standard Range battery, or 216kW (294hp) with the larger unit. The AWD Mach-Es have more flexibility thanks to a peak 580Nm, which, as tested here, comes with the same 269hp as on the RWD small-battery Ford. It has a tad more oomph (258kW, or 351hp) as an Extended Range model. You're therefore looking at a fastest 0-100km/h time of 5.8 seconds and a slowest of seven seconds precisely, depending on model, which places our test car, with its 6.3-second sprint, towards the more accelerative end of the line-up. Every Mach-E model is limited to a top speed of 180km/h, irrespective of its battery size or number of driven wheels.
There's even a change to the charging rates between models, the Standard Range maxing out at 115kW on a DC connection while the Extended Range can go to 150kW at the right electrical hook-ups. Either way, due to the differences in battery capacity, a 10-80 per cent juice-up in any Mach-E is going to take between 38 and 45 minutes at the maximum DC speed, or 11-14 hours on a 7.4kW AC wallbox. Back on a rapid DC connection, you can add between 85- and 119km of driving range per ten minutes of charging. Ford quotes an official energy usage rate of 19.5kWh/100km for this model, although we saw more like 23kWh/100km overall and a best of 20.7kWh/100km during a 160km-plus test period; neither number too far off what is quoted in the brochure.
Right, got all that? Understand it all? Does any of this sound very... Mustang-ish? Because we think that's the aspect of this EV that we're struggling with the most. We understand why Ford chose to leverage its most iconic model when selling a whole new concept to its loyal customer base; it gives a sheen of star quality to what is otherwise a straightforward electric SUV. But we also feel like calling it a Mustang might be a misstep. While it's unfair to expect a zero-emissions SUV to have the sort of drama and charisma that a 5.0-litre, V8-powered coupe can effortlessly muster up, simply using the M-word in connection with this oh-so-important vehicle sets pre-drive expectations at a level the Mach-E is never going to attain.
What's most unfair about this is that the Mach-E is, in general, a wonderful EV to drive. It's really cultured and likeable, and there's a chassis of genuine talent underneath its contentious bodywork as well. Grip levels are high, you can feel the torque-vectoring working impressively during faster cornering and, if you time your throttle inputs just so on the exit of a bend, then the Mustang EV will transition into easily controllable oversteer like a genuine muscle car should. Also, the Mach-E seems to have some of Ford's best modern steering, too, free from that aggressive self-centring you can find on some STs, and its braking system is also beautifully calibrated. Choose the 'One-Pedal Driving' option carefully from the main touchscreen, though, because it's one of the hardest-acting regenerative systems we've tried yet. The Mach-E feels far more organic with One-Pedal Driving switched off.
So, you can have fun at the wheel of the Mustang Mach-E and we actually like the way it delivers its power. In some of the mega-power EVs the early 2020s, such is the ferocity of their performance laid against the backdrop of eerie (relative) silence from the drivetrain that it can create a serious sensory disconnect in your brain if you're not paying attention, leaving you feeling vaguely nauseous when brain-scrambling full power is deployed (hello Porsche Taycan Turbo). You don't get that discombobulating experience in the 269hp Mach-E AWD, but there's still a strong sensation of lunging acceleration from low speeds thanks to the 580Nm of instant torque and the immediate responses of the reduction gear automatic transmission, and the midrange is mighty effective too. The accumulation of speed only really starts to tail off noticeably beyond 110km/h, which isn't an issue here in Ireland, so actually the much-mooted GT model that's coming with a rumoured 3.5-second 0-100km/h probably isn't strictly required.
Where the Mach-E really scores heavily is in the comfort and refinement departments. It's a fabulous thing to travel in, with a supple ride (at speed) and the usual first-rate noise suppression levels that absolutely maximise the lack of an onboard combustion engine. As it whistles along at 100km/h on extra-urban roads, you'll be hard-pressed to realise that you're travelling forwards at all in the Mach-E. Such serene fast progress isn't spoiled by excessive body lean in the corners, although there is some lean to the shell as lateral loads build, and it's only a slightly nuggety, fidgety low-speed ride that arrives as the party-pooper. If you spend a lot of time in conurbations on corrugated roads riddled with craters, the lumpen way the Mach-E conducts itself on such surfaces might become a bit tiresome. Oh, and as we've already said, energy usage was of the order of 23kWh/100km, or 4.35-4.8km/kWh, in cold ambient conditions and with the Mustang EV not driven very sensibly at all (i.e., far from the comfort zone for any EV). Which means a real-world cruising range of around 296-326km should be possible for every driving style going. And that's none too shabby at all for a vehicle that weighs 2,086kg and which stands 1.6 metres tall.
What you get for your money
This is a crucial section that may improve or degrade the Mustang Mach-E's overall mark, once Irish prices are confirmed. We believe that Ford Ireland will, in essence, sell 'five' trims of its electric SUV: these being both Standard and Extended Range versions of the RWD and AWD models, and then a high-spec First Edition that is basically an AWD Extended Range with all the bells and whistles fitted. On all cars, the specification is excellent - every Mach-E comes with at least 18-inch alloy wheels, the side-door E-Latch system, LED rear lights, heated door mirrors with puddle lights, heated front seats, a wireless smartphone charging pad, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control and also the full digital interface up front with SYNC 4 infotainment.
Specifying an Extended Range model of the RWD Mach-E further ups the kit count, but the AWD, as tested here, benefits from plenty of extra toys - such as adaptive LED headlights with a Mustang signature, red brake callipers, a custom body kit, power-folding functionality added to the door mirrors, a dark headliner with perforated Sensico (fake leather) and red stitching and eight-way power adjustable front seats. Go for an Extended Range AWD and you'll also get a panoramic roof, a 360-degree camera, a hands-free tailgate, Advanced Active Park Assist and a ten-speaker, uprated Bang & Olufsen Sound System. If Ford prices this up right, it'll make the Mach-E a very desirable package.
Incidentally, Ford Ireland previously committed to a starting price of 'less than €50,000' for the Mustang Mach-E, but much has changed in the marketplace since then, not least the reduction in VRT rebates for more expensive electric cars.
What a conflicting machine the Ford Mustang Mach-E is on this first acquaintance. There's undoubtedly much to admire here, including generally excellent refinement, enjoyable handling and one of the best electric car interiors/infotainment systems of the lot. But trying to get the desirability factor of the Mustang mixed into it all has muddied the waters of perception somewhat; we can't help but suspect that we'd have been raving about this thing is Ford had just called it the Kuga Electric instead, and installed this running gear in its pre-existing mid-sized SUV. That said, if you like the looks of the Mach-E, and you can tolerate its firm low-speed ride, this is an incredibly promising start to the electric era of Ford.