Ford is breaking all the rules. They’ve brought pretty much the entire motoring press corps to Los Angeles in advance of the 2019 L.A. Auto Show to witness as they toss 55 years of Mustang tradition onto a bonfire.
Good riddance, I say. The old rules and traditions sucked.
I’m not talking about the Mustang itself. That’s a pretty fabulous muscle car, especially in its high-performance incarnations like the Bullitt, GT350, and GT500. The rule that a Mustang can only ever be what it’s always been is what needed to die.
Enter the Mustang Mach-E
Let’s make one thing clear from the get-go: the regular Mustang isn’t going anywhere. Nothing is changing that. The Mustang Mach-E is a new vehicle in addition to the Mustang models already in the mix. Also, let’s make this clear: The new Mach-E shares precisely nothing with the existing Mustang except a few styling cues and the pony logo. Not the chassis, not the interior, not even a headlight bezel.
The Mach-E is built from the ground up to be a pure electric vehicle. Ford started a skunkworks project called “Edison” a few years ago to deliver an all-new EV. For a while, they went down the sorry road so many other automakers have followed, designing a “compliance car” that was probably going to be so frumpy that your high school English teacher would have thought it was hopelessly dull.
But along the way, something happened -– the powers that be decided to make an EV that wasn’t butt-ugly. Maybe they caught some inspiration from out West; who knows? For whatever reason, they staffed up Edison with car enthusiasts, and turned them loose to make something cool.
The Low-Down on the Mach-E
Here’s what the Mach-E is: It’s an all-new EV platform that places the batteries in the floor, with space for lots of battery packs to increase range. You can hang an electric motor off the rear of the platform, or the front, or both. This isn’t unusual. Volkswagen and most other brands planning new EVs are using variations on this theme because it makes sense.
The Mach-E platform carries a crossover SUV body. It’s taller than a Mustang and has four doors. Ford did some trompe l’oeil with the roofline to give the Mach-E a more sleek appearance than it really should have. The body is really the big sticking point when it comes to including the Mach-E in the Mustang family. Putting the Mustang pony on an SUV could feel like having a Corvette Minivan or a FWD hatchback Testarossa.
Yet one thing that a native EV platform does is liberate the body designers from restrictions imposed by driveline and fuel storage requirements. The Edison design team took ample advantage of that. They didn’t make the Mach-E look exactly like a Mustang, but they gave it Mustangness. The Mach-E presents with a tight, muscular, and speedy look that is appealing on its own, with a few Mustang features like the triple taillights and a stance that will make you smile.
Performance in the Mustang Tradition
The freedom inherent in EV design means that the Mach-E will come in a bunch of different performance levels and ranges. Ford says the target extended range is 300 miles with RWD or 270 miles with AWD. Standard range will be 210 miles with AWD or 230 miles with RWD. The GT trims are expected to have a 235-mile range.
Standard range RWD Mach-E vehicles are expected to have 255 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque, and a 0-60 time in the low 6-second range. Standard range AWD will boost the torque value to 417, and drop the 0-60 time to the mid 5-second range.
Extended range RWD boosts the horsepower to 282. The extended range, all-wheel-drive configuration will have about 332 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. That should also be good for a 0-60 time in the mid-5-second range. The Mach-E GT is planned to achieve 0-60 in under 4 seconds, while the GT Performance Edition is targeting the mid-3-second range. Both these models are expected to offer 459 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque.
For the still skeptical, all those numbers mean this crossover is going to be super quick. The instant torque that characterizes electric motors works to great effect here. The current top-of-the-line GT500 Mustang does 0-60 in 3.3 seconds, “under ideal conditions.” Point is, when the Mach-E GT Performance edition hits the street, it will be the real-world hot rod of the entire Mustang family. Let that sink in for a moment.
One more element of Mustangness is that the Mach-E will be available with rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, but not front-wheel-drive. The smaller front-mounted motor in the all-wheel-drive configuration will deliver about 25% of the power of the larger rear motor, so the vehicle will always be rear-biased.
The Edison team also did their homework on the suspension. We got a short ride in a prototype with an experienced Mustang racing driver, and the suspension and basic handling characteristics are solid. The low center of gravity that comes from the EV-only platform gives the Mach-E excellent chassis rigidity, and the GT options will offer the same MagneRide suspension currently offered on the gas-powered Mustang. A Brembo brake upgrade kit will be available.
A New Interior
With no driveline to accommodate, the Mach-E interior team started from first principles. The cabin is dominated by a 15.5-inch infotainment touchscreen. You do get a big basic rotary knob on it for various purposes. Ford has updated the Sync system to work with all this new screen real estate so that every function is within two touches from the home screen. There will be an optional Bang & Olufsen sound system, and that should be well worth the money because the Mach-E is deliciously quiet inside.
In front of the driver, a short-wide screen handles information duties very nicely. One odd thing — the Mach-E won’t have a head-up display option, at least not at this time. Finishing up the tech rundown, there’s wireless charging in the console and one each of both USB and USB-C ports for the front seats
The Mach-E seats are comfortable and spacious. There’s plenty of in-door and center console storage because nothing else has to go there. The Mach-E allows a 6-foot tall driver and a 6-foot rear passenger to sit in comfort with at least 2 inches of knee room and headroom in the back.
Also owing to the EV design, the Mach-E offers 29 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats, and a 4.8 cubic foot “frunk” where the engine used to be. The frunk is all plastic, with a drain. You can fill it with ice and use it as a cooler, or it will hold one overhead-bin-sized roller bag.
One thing to know about the Mach-E interior is that no leather option is planned. The seats will be cloth or a very convincing replica leather. Heated seats and steering wheel are part of the plan, and there’s an optional all-glass roof that is truly panoramic. It extends almost from the rear hatch to just above the steering wheel.
Driving the Mach-E
As mentioned, we took a test ride with a pro driver who demonstrated the speed and handling of the Mach-E. But there’s a bit more to say. Ford told us that all Mach-E models will have the hardware necessary for limited hands-free highway driving, but that the feature won’t be activated until they’re satisfied with it. The Mach-E will get over-the-air updates from its onboard 4G/LTE modem.
The Mach-E will also enable one-pedal driving, similar to the e-pedal feature found in the Nissan Leaf. With this mode, lifting off the accelerator will bring the Mach-E to a smooth stop. This is great for in-town and commute traffic. It takes about 10 minutes to get used to the behavior, then you’ll wonder why all cars don’t do this. You will also be able to select two-pedal driving if you want.
The Mach-E will also come with at least three driving modes, known as Whisper, Engaged, and Unbridled. You can probably intuit what those are like from the names, but Whisper mode is super quiet inside, with only the legally required sounds for pedestrian safety outside the vehicle. Both Engaged and Unbridled modes pipe some Mustang-like engine noises into the cabin, and they tighten up throttle response and steering as well.
Buying the Mustang Mach-E
The Mach-E is expected to arrive in dealers in late 2020 as a model year 2021 vehicle. However, you can reserve your Mach-E today with a small deposit. Ford timed the Mach-E ordering website to go live precisely as the embargo lifts on all the information we’ve provided here, so click here to reserve your place in line. You can get a refund if you change your mind later.
There will be a First Edition, and then your choice of a basic Select trim or luxury Premium trim. A special California Route 1 trim is also planned for 2020. These will be followed by the GT edition in the spring of 2021.
Pricing is as follows. All prices are shown before the additional potential Federal tax credit of $7,500 or any potential state tax credits:
- Select – From $43,895
- Premium – From $50,600
- First Edition – From $59,900
- California Route 1 – From $52,400
- GT – From $60,500
But is it a Mustang, really?
The Mustang Mach-E is going to have its skeptics. Some purists will never accept the next phase of evolution as a “real” Mustang. That’s OK, because Mach-E buyers are probably going to be different people than your traditional Mustang buyers, and those folks will still have a traditional Mustang to buy. The important thing is that Ford has delivered a competitive EV that’s got range, power, and great looks. As Shakespeare said, “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” And the Mustang Mach-E is definitely a sweet ride.
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