2021 Mustang Mach-E — Skip Tesla: This all-new EV is the one to buy

By Jim Prueter

(February 20, 2021) There’s been quite a buzz about the new Mustang Mach-E, ever since it debuted at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. Fast forward through 12 months of presidential-election fever, a global pandemic, and we finally got a week of seat time behind the wheel of Ford’s first mass-market all-electric SUV, and it bears the legendary Mustang pony badge fore and aft.

For 56 years the name Mustang has been a mainstay in the blue oval’s lineup, a name as legendary as the F-150. The new EV started its life as an electrified Ford Focus. But Jim Farley, Ford’s then-president of global markets, ordered the design team to “think Mustang,” and give the car buying public something to get excited about.

Now, the Mach-E SUV joins the sports coupe, convertible and special editions in the Mustang stable. To be sure, the resulting vehicle certainly looks the part, with ample hints of Mustang features — the galloping ornamental Mustang affixed and illuminated on the front of the vehicle and familiar three-bar taillights inflated to fit on a Mustang crossover utility vehicle.

Both the Mach-E Mustang and the original Mustang are similar in size, with an overall length less than three inches of each other. The biggest differences are the Mach-E crossover’s height and longer wheelbase, better to accommodate five passengers behind four doors.

Still, the new Mach-E doesn’t feel much like a Mustang and there’s been no shortage of those who are disappointed with the use of the iconic name, feeling its simply a marketing ploy. While personally, I’m ambivalent about using the Mustang name, from a marketing standpoint I think it’s brilliant. It certainly has everyone talking — love it or hate it.

The sleek, curvy, muscular, ergonomically designed newcomer is easily the most handsome and techno-rich vehicle in the entire Ford lineup.

Mach-E, on sale now, is available in with standard and extended-range battery options with either rear- or all-wheel drive. There are four versions from which to choose; the base Select starts at $42,895 for a rear-drive model with 266-horsepower via a 68kWh battery, and an EPA estimated range of 230 miles on a single charge. Range drops to 210 miles for all-wheel drive — adding a second motor that powers the front axle – and ups the price to $45,595. All versions have a direct-drive single-speed automatic transmission.

A limited “First Edition” model with AWD (priced at $61,000) was a special early version of the Mach-E for those who wanted to get it before anyone else. It came with most of the available optional features along with 332-horsepower and an extended range battery pack that provides an estimated 270 miles of driving between charges. Ford took deposits and orders up to a year in advance, and the First Edition cars are no longer available on the Ford Mach E website. Ford didn’t announce how many orders they got for First Edition, nor how many were built and sold.

There’s also a California Route 1 edition with a base price of $53,500 with 282 horsepower via a 98.8kWh battery. Its estimated 300-mile driving range matches Mach-E’s longest-range model: the Premium with rear-drive and extended-range battery pack.

Our test Mach-E was the Premium with a base price of $51,700, plus AWD and optional extended-range battery pack ($5,000). Options included the Rapid Red metallic exterior paint finish and 19-inch aluminum wheels. Our vehicle did not have pricing on the furnished Monroney sticker, but we estimate the MSRP to be about $58,500.

The range-topping and more powerful GT and GT Performance editions, coming this summer, will get you 459 horsepower and 612 lb. ft of torque with the larger 98.9kWh hr. extended-range battery and AWD. We do not have pricing on the GT Performance as of this writing, but estimate a starting price of $71,000. Zero-to-50 mph acceleration time is expected to be about 3.5 seconds with a 250-mile driving range. All Mach-Es are eligible for incentives, including a $7,500 federal tax credit. Indicated prices do not include destination and handling charges.

Unlike EVs like the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt and products from Korean automakers, the Mach-E is everything we hoped it would be and that most shoppers will want. It’s great looking inside and out, easy to operate, and has room for five people and their cargo. There’s no hocus pocus about it; it’s simple enough that we could see even those who might not have an interest in owning an EV embracing the possibility.

Other than Tesla, Americans have yet to warm to the interest in EVs, but we found that spending time with it can do a lot to change minds and opinions. On the road, it has the same Tesla benefits like immediate torque and acceleration, extremely quiet ride, sports-car-like handling, and the one-pedal function that works flawlessly. Handling was consistent with traditional crossover utility vehicles, but if we found any fault in the Mach-E at all it was the ride quality that felt jiggly with excessive movement over other than flat, paved surfaces.

The Mach-E is well equipped with standard safety and driver-assist features that included blind spot and cross traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control, automatic front braking and collision alert, automatic rear braking, lane keep assist and alert, post-collision braking and a full complement of air bags.

Opening the door is accomplished by the push of a button rather than the pull of a handle. You can also forget the car key; all you need is a Smartphone and the Mach-E app to operate the vehicle. Most vehicle operations – lock the doors, unlock the doors, put the windows up or down, open the trunk, start the vehicle, find nearby charge stations, camera, driver assist, navigation and infotainment functions — are handled via a massive 15.5-inch center screen that’s clearly inspired by Tesla. You can even personalize it by adding your own picture to the top of the screen and building your profile so that, every time you get into the vehicle, it recognizes you and tailors each of the settings to your preference. You can have up to five different drivers and preferences on the application and it will even track your driving habits and calculate your anticipated driving range, depending on how the person behind the wheel actually drives.

One of my favorite tech features is the actual dial on the bottom of the screen to turn the audio system on/off and adjust the volume. Customers told Ford during development that they really preferred a dial to control the audio volume rather than an icon on the screen that you must slide up and down.

On the upper left corner of the screen is an icon of the Mach-E. Press the icon and it takes you to a screen where you can select your preferred drive mode. Choose from three different modes: Engage (the normal setting), Whisper (the most economical driving), and finally Unbridled for the most spirited and sporty driving experience.

Another different feature of the Mach-E is the fabric material that spans across the entire dashboard. It isn’t just trim, rather it’s the audio system speaker. It looks good and works fantastic. One other feature we are a bit unsure of is the giant glass panel that comprises the entire roof of the Mach-E, with no shade screen to cover or close it. It doesn’t open and you can’t make it lighter or darker. While it looks fantastic, we question how much heat it will transfer into the cabin, especially here in Arizona where we had over 50 days this past summer where the high temperature was 110° or more. I’ll be interested in testing the Mach-E again this coming summer.

Ford says it is only capable of building around 50,000 Mustang Mach-Es during first year of production due to battery-pack supply constraints. For comparison Ford sold more than 400,000 Mustangs in the 12 months following the first Mustang debut in April 1964 and more than a million by the end of 1965.

Overall, I really liked the Mach-E. I always thought EVs were boring, especially when it comes to styling – like Tesla products for example. However, the Mach-E delivers a much sportier driving experience than Tesla, all wrapped up in killer good looks. I know many will discount the Mach-E because it isn’t really a Mustang. And I get that. But Mustang name or not, the Mach-E is a really good, fun vehicle and overall, very impressive. Skip the Tesla, this is the EV I’d buy.   

Vital Stats
Base Price: $51,700
Price as Tested: $58,500 (est.)
Engine/Transmission: 282 horsepower via 88kWh battery with a direct drive single speed transmission.
Driving Range: EPA estimated range of 270 miles
Seats: 5

Where Built: Cuautitlan, Mexico

Crash Test Results: The Mach-E has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of this writing.

Competes With:
Tesla Model Y

Fab Features:
Powerful and fun to drive
Advanced user-friendly infotainment and technology
Sporty good looks