Test Drive Notes Library
- Breakthrough. Ford to America: You will be perfectly happy driving an electric car. You won’t miss your gasoline stinker.
Looks. Here’s why it makes sense to call this car a Mustang: Back in 1964, Ford took an extremely mundane and forgettable car, the compact Ford Falcon, and dropped a very appealing body on top of it. Voila! Instant smash hit. In 2021, Ford is taking a solid electric car chassis, and putting a very appealing body on top of it. Smash hit? It wouldn’t surprise us.
Look, Ford could have made a Nissan Leaf. A Toyota Prius. A Chevy Bolt. But instead, they made an EV with body style that is closer to fashion-forward models like the Mercedes GLC Coupe and the BMW X4. The high-riding, fastback style crossover is going to appeal, emotionally, to a lot of people. It looks cool. That means a lot of people who haven’t looked at an electric car before are suddenly going to get interested in one, because they’re interested in this one.
Range. Our Premium, rear wheel drive car came with the extended range battery that promises up to 300 miles of electric range (the AWD with the same bigger battery promises 270 miles and more horsepower). When we drove the car, the temperatures were in the 50’s, we had the heat going, the seat heaters on fry, the heated steering wheel glowing, and saw range in the low to mid 200s. Still, that’s enough to eliminate range anxiety in day to day driving. If you plug in at home (we’d recommend investing in a level II, 220V home charger for a few hundred bucks), you’ll leave every morning with nary a concern about having to plug in during the day.
If you take a longer trip, it’ll be trickier. There is an ad-hoc “Ford Charging Network,” but it still requires more forethought and time than a trip using gasoline. It will get easier, relatively soon. But for day to day commuting and the like, there’s plenty of range.
- Ride. The Mustang Mach E is far more comfortable than its namesake. Whereas the pony car is low and brutish, the Mach E is smooth and easy to live in. You sit above the battery pack in the floor, making the driving position higher than your average sedan. The ride is firm and sporty, but not at all uncomfortable. We found it relaxing to drive on the highway. It’s also damn quiet. There’s no engine noise (unless you flip a switch and ask for it), and tire and wind noise are kept to a minimum.
- Handling. Because of the low center of gravity provided by the in-floor battery pack, cornering is crisp. In normal driving, the Mach E feels responsive and agile. It’s actually fun to drive. Its size makes it easy to park and maneuver in town. A birds-eye view camera helps with parking and reversing.
- Acceleration. The electric motor in the RWD model is rated at 290 horsepower. Acceleration is quiet and plentiful. If you want to pass someone, or just see what it can do on a highway entrance ramp, you’ll be impressed by the whoosh of steady and abundant power. You can opt for one-pedal driving, which applies regenerative braking the instant you take your foot off the gas, or if you’re a traditionalist, you can set the Mach E to coast mode and it’ll drive like a gasoline-drinker.
- Safety. The Mach E is totally up to date with all the safety features Car Talk recommends; automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, lane keeping assist, and rear cross traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control includes a stop and go feature for traffic jams, which, when combined with the lane keeping assist, gives you a chance to relax when you’re stuck in traffic.
- Spacious and useful. The Mach E feels airy inside, due to a huge, glass roof and minimalist controls. Passenger room is good up front. With the rear wheels pushed all the way to the back of the chassis, there’s surprisingly good room in the back seat, too. And with no center “hump" on the floor, there’s room for three across in the back when required. There’s good room in the cargo area, plus a “frunk.” Rear seats fold down 60-40 to add utility. It’s a useful, five-door design, that gives up a little utility in back to enhance the styling, but not much. It could easily be your only car.
- Visible Blind Spot Warning. Too many recent cars, including some from Ford, have included a small, dull, yellow light in the side view mirror to warn you when a car is sneaking up on you in an adjacent lane. Ford has corrected this weakness by making the warning light nice and bright in the Mach E. Now it gets your attention — as it should — rather than you having to look for it.
- Price. Our fairly well loaded Premium RWD with the extra battery lists for $53,100. Not a bargain, but it feels fair. Subtract a $7,500 federal tax credit while they last, and whatever your state throws at you, and you’re looking at low to mid 40s. Not cheap, but it’s a very nice, modern, and even practical family car. Upgrade the interior surfaces just a tick or two more, and we’d have no quibble at all with he price. And if other EVs are any indication, you’ll spend far less on maintenance since there’s no oil to change, no engine parts to wear out, regenerative brakes to reduce brake wear, and no fuel to buy.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Hope you like your iPad. Following in the footsteps of the Tesla Model Y, with which it will directly compete, Ford has put virtually all the controls on a huge, vertically oriented, 15 inch-plus, centrally mounted iPad-like screen. It’s well done, as far as screen-based interfaces go. But a screen still requires your eyes, since you can’t do anything by feel. Want to adjust the temperature in the car? Screen. Want to turn the seat heater from sizzle to simmer? Screen. Want to open the rear hatch from the driver’s seat? Screen. You get the idea. On the plus side, there’s wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless charging, so you can use your phone easily for audio and GPS. There’s a large, well-located volume knob (praise be!), and a physical gear selector, but otherwise, you’re in for screen time for just about everything else.
- Optimistic range. We’re told that 300 miles is what the Mach E should achieve in this set up, but realistically, we got quite a bit less. It’s still enough. But with the Kia Niro, Chevy Bolt and others in the mid 200s, it’s not a breakthrough, and not quite what Tesla claims to provide in competitive models. And that’s with a $5,000 extended range battery.
- Visibility. Like it’s Mustang forebears, the Mach E punches up the styling at the expense of some visibility. It’s far better than the two door, gasoline Mustang coupe, but thick A-pillars and the sloping rear end make the included electronic guidance necessary. The main instrument cluster, by the way, has a wonderfully simple and clear image of the car with lines on each side, that change color to indicate potential hazards. It’s a model of clarity and simplicity. If it could be had in a head-up display, it’d be even better.
- Pop out doors. We’re not sure how we feel about the door handle decisions on the Mach E. You press a button and the door pops out an inch. Then you grab a little, what? Lip? Gutter? And with a finger or three you pull the door open. We thought the automotive industry had door handle technology pretty well down by now, but Ford says this is more aerodynamic. What happens when the little motor that pops out the door malfunctions? Or you live in snow country and that gutter fills up with ice? But it worked well enough for us. And when you walk away from the Mach E with the key fob, the car locks itself, saving you the terrible burden of having to lock your own car. So there’s that.
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