It shouldn’t have been a big surprise, sooner or later a mainstream manufacturer was going to create a vehicle that could give Tesla a run for its money. The bigger question may end up being if it’s the car itself or the marketing that was the bigger achievement here. Surely naming it a Mustang was a stroke of genius, guaranteed to get tongues wagging everywhere and generating huge amounts of publicity. Even the biggest and most avowed EV skeptics will likely take a look at the first few they see and discuss it with others, which probably wouldn’t have happened with a completely different name; they would have just ignored the hoopla altogether.
Ford won’t recreate that fateful day in April of 1964 as there isn’t the capacity for it, but that won’t matter a whit, what will matter is people linking Ford and electric vehicles in the same thought. If it gets people in the showrooms, great, if nothing else, the talk about the “Electric Mustang” surely has spread the word further than it would have otherwise.
Of course it’s important to realize that Ford has in fact done its homework. They have managed to create a viable competitor to the market leader in the EV segment and did it by apparently studying what people did and didn’t like and then capitalizing on many of those aspects.
Not that there aren’t some areas that could be improved upon, nothing is a slam dunk. Some internal to Ford items and a large one (perhaps the single largest one) that is purely external do loom and remain as unanswered questions that time will provide the answers to as it relates to the ultimate success of the Mustang Mach-E.
Ford was well aware that besides pickup trucks, the midsize SUV format is where the money is made these days. If you’re going to introduce a new EV, this is where the overall market is heading. To make the biggest splash and capture the most attention, this is the format to build. Why waste time on irrelevant supercars (12-year-olds don’t buy cars, just posters) or just as apparently irrelevant sedans (nobody buys those anymore, right?), just start out with something that has increasingly worldwide appeal. And if you can somehow sprinkle it with your company’s halo car pixie dust, then do so. So Mustang it is, but completely reimagined with the Mach-E suffix to the historic moniker.
The actual car is deceptive in size, compared to a Tesla Model Y the Mustang is one inch shorter, two inches narrower, and one inch lower in height. However the wheelbase is over three inches longer. Looking at in in profile I would have guessed it’s longer than the Model Y, perhaps the wheelbase throws that aspect off visually. But anyway, they are essentially identical as far as external dimensions are concerned.
They’ll never be confused for each other though, as the Mustang clearly has tried to imbue its design with as many Mustang cues as could be included without coming across as a complete caricature of itself. The Mustang has over the years sometimes tried a little too hard with fake vents and scoops and the like, thankfully none of that is present here. The shape is smooth and sculpted with some flair and maybe a hint of an unfinished aspect or direction lack of direction towards the rear, but that’s all subjective anyway. You either like it or as with me, grow to at least not mind it. The front and rear are recognizably different from everything else out there and the profile, well, it may have a hint of Infiniti FX to my eye, but that wasn’t one to easily confuse with the rest of the genre either.
Of course there’s no need for a real grille front and center, and thankfully it doesn’t have one pasted on, but rather an outline with an insert panel that sports the famed horse. In fact there are mighty few instances of actual Ford logos on the beast. As far as I could see there’s a small one at the top center of the windshield, the glass has the logo in the corner, as does the keyfob (that just stays in your pocket especially as the car uses your phone as a personalized key). Underneath that front panel though there is a lower grille opening with active shutters, likely for helping to cool the battery in hot conditions.
Walking anywhere near the car causes the lights to go on as it senses the presence of the key or connected phone (Ford supplied me with an iPhone programmed to the car), it unlocks automatically and silently, and only requires a push of the little round button on the pillar to activate the latch. Right under the button is a little…ledge, or fingerpull perhaps, that you curl your fingers into and use to pull the door open.
The rear door is similar but has no fingerpull, instead that door opens about an inch and a half and then requires a pull of the doorframe to open, it will not allow you (or more pointedly, little kids) to push the door closed on their fingers instead of using inserted fingers to pull it open. I don’t understand why both doors didn’t use one system or the other, but there it is.
There is also the Ford system that allows you to input a code sequence into a number pad that is embedded within the B-pillar to unlock the car and only lights up when you touch it. Below is the first of three videos that I produced that feature a sort of walkaround of the car and all of its apertures although everything is also covered in the text here. The videos allow some greater detail, especially of things that are difficult or would be inordinately lengthy to spell out. This one is a little over four minutes long.
This particular version was the Premium trim level with all-wheel-drive but the standard range battery. This trim level is equipped with 19″ wheels, a panoramic sunroof that doesn’t open but is permanently transparent without a sunshade, has two motors (one for each end), features an interior with faux leather dubbed “Active-X” and five seats. Except for the battery range, this specification is pretty much what the Tesla Model Y offers in its current basic format.
Range in the Mustang differs depending on trim level, driven wheels, and battery option, in this particular configuration the EPA rated it as offering 211 miles of range from the usable portion of this battery (Ford allows access to 68kWh and 88kWh for the larger option). The sticker price of this particular car was very similar to that of the AWD Long Range Model Y which offers 326 miles of range. More on this further on though….
The interior is plenty roomy for four, and would seem to be able to accommodate five in reasonable comfort. The front seats are large and supportive with power controls, and were easy to get very comfortable in. The seats are heated, as is the steering wheel, both aspects controlled from within the large center touch screen. The center console is a double-layered affair with an open lower level and a wireless charging pad in the top (most-used and accessible) level.
The dashboard itself is made of multiple materials ranging from a textured hard plastic on top, then transitioning to a fabric covered band that houses the dashboard speakers of the excellent Bang&Olufsen audio system and below that a hard plastic sort of carbon fiber texture piece that in reality is far better looking and feeling that it sounds. Finally there is more of the same light gray Active-X material as on the seats bisected with a French seam.
This theme carries over to the doors, where everything is soft above the lower black layer that houses the door pockets. Welcome here was the memory seat selector on the driver’s door panel (the other door, sorry) where it could be accessed before even sinking into the seat.
While the key and phone will adjust the car to your own programmed profile, there are times when someone needs to get into an unlocked car, having the seat adjustment option right there is a boon. There is almost nothing worse than having to climb into a car set up for someone a foot shorter and then having to adjust it afterward. First-world problems, I know.
Rear seat room is spacious enough, I had a couple of inches of legroom when the front seat was adjusted for myself (6’1″ with 32″ inseam) with my hair just brushing the sunroof surround when seated as far back as possible. A little slouch is possible for more comfort. The rear seat features a fold down armrest with cupholders and the seatbacks themselves can fold 60/40 but do not recline and the seats do not more forward or aft.
Neither do those in the Tesla, however that car does have more several more inches of legroom as well as more headroom and seat heating for all three positions in back. The Tesla would be more comfortable for a longer trip in the backseat but the Mustang is hardly a penalty box in this aspect. It sure beats any traditional Mustang I’ve ever been in by a country mile! We were able to travel about 150 miles one day with four of us aboard and zero complaints regarding space or comfort.
Overhead is a large fixed pane panoramic sunroof, again as in the Tesla and also without any sort of sunshade or cover. The glass is tinted and contains some sort of UV or Solar blocking coating to prevent the frying of the occupants. It covers as much of the area as possible, when viewed from the outside at any kind of angle it just appears as a black panel but inside serves to brighten things up significantly.
The biggie that I haven’t yet touched on though is the small supplemental screen right in front of the driver. It’s a small rectangle and displays the odometer, speed (labeled as “Ground Speed”, which is a little cringeworthy but when the fighter in the other corner’s initials are E.M., well, it could be worse), state of charge both in percentage as well as a range estimate, and also can display supplemental navigation instructions among a few other settings.
For one who switches between cars frequently this is a biggie, for someone like my wife who has gotten used to just glancing to the side no further than she would glance down (no Head-Up Display in either car), it was deemed unimportant. But yes, this more “traditional” aspect to the car will go a very long way with more than just a few buyers, that is obvious. Ford was smart to spend the extra money here instead of having to fight the naysayers. Below is another four minute or so long video I produced that shows many of the interior aspects of the car in more detail.
Between the front seats is a console bin that is accessed by flipping up the armrest and rolling back a cover, and in front of that is the rotary gear selector as well as buttons for the hazard lights and parking assist system. The electric parking brake is housed here as well with two cupholders just in front of that.
And, of course, the 15″ vertically oriented touch screen that controls many of the car’s functions to a far greater degree than one would think necessary. Underneath it is a wireless charging pad for one phone along with a couple of USB ports.
Ford did a very good job with this large screen and also introduced the new SYNC4 system here. The screen is intuitive to use, offers a lot of adjustability as far as the car is concerned, and while just a little laggy at times between some screens (evident in the next video), seems to function quite well overall. I never had any trouble using it from a functional perspective, reflections were not an issue, the size and distance were good for me, and if you thought screens were a fad that would play out soon, well, I hope you didn’t place any bets.
Of course the initial focus when viewing the screen is the large volume knob at the bottom. It’s about 2″ in diameter, the power button is inside it, and while it works as intended, the driver of the car would more likely just use the toggle on the steering wheel. The knob itself feels a little cheap, hard, and plasticky, in comparison to most of the other materials it has a little of an afterthought vibe to it although it works great.
I’ve put together another video (about sixteen minutes in total, there’s a lot of info and demonstration) that goes into the screens as well as some other ancillary aspects such as the range calculations if you are interested in sitting through it below. This is the last video of this series though, I promise.
Besides that aforementioned knob, the biggest takeaway from the interior is how un-Ford like it really is. The plastics seem of generally higher quality than in almost any Ford product, and the overall fit and finish was better as well. If Ford can get people into the car, those people will quite likely approve of what they see as it plays a cut above the expectation.
I can’t say it was absolutely perfect though, in this car’s case the A-pillar trim (unexpectedly done in plastic) on the driver’s side stood a quarter inch higher than its mating surface on the dashboard and clearly different from that of the passenger side which fit very well. I touched it to see if it was loose or just knocked out of position, but no, it was immovable. Tesla gets skewered for this sort of thing (and rightly so, thing won’t improve otherwise), but clearly this shows that even 100+ years of auto building doesn’t mean everything is always perfect either.
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