Expert Reviews

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E First Drive Review

I’m a huge fan of electric vehicles (EVs), but there’s currently a glaring gap in the marketplace.

On one end, there are more affordable models that are all excellent but a bit dorky and don’t offer all-wheel drive (AWD). On the other end, there are many cool-looking EVs from premium automakers with AWD and hefty price tags to match. Missing are mainstream electric vehicles that are affordable and stylish, and have motors at each axle.

This is where the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E comes in. This fully electric crossover bridges the gap, finally bringing style, range, and AWD to the EV mainstream.

Style and Substance

The Mustang Mach-E hits hard in so many key areas. With the upgraded 88-kWh extended-range battery, the rear-wheel-drive model gets as much as 485 km of range, while AWD models are projected to get more than 425 km. With the standard 68-kWh battery, more than 355 km of range is expected, while AWD models are projected to eclipse the 325-km mark.

When testing the Hyundai Kona Electric in the winter months, I saw about 420 km of range. Meanwhile, the Kia Soul EV with its upgraded battery had about 450 km during summertime testing. But these two are only offered with front-wheel drive. In terms of range, the extended-range Mach-E is at the top end of the spectrum, with only more expensive Tesla models offering more driving between charges.

Not only does it boast impressive range and is the most affordable electric vehicle with AWD, but the Mach-E has a unique look that will help more style-conscious EV shoppers feel better about going green. Up until now, there hasn’t been a mainstream EV with this much swagger. It’s an aggressive, sporty-looking EV, and the Mustang coupe’s design cues have been translated well onto this SUV body style, projecting a good mix of modern and muscle. Without a traditional grille or door handles, it looks sleek and I’m thankful Ford didn’t use any fake tailpipes, scoops, or vents, which would have muddied the design for no reason.

All Mach-Es come standard with Ford’s suite of safety and driver assistance features that includes forward collision sensing, automatic high-beams, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, front and rear automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with lane-centring and stop-and-go, speed sign recognition, interaction assist, and evasive steering.

Interior Game Strong

Another area the Mach-E hits hard is the interior, which is a huge stylistic departure from anything else Ford has done. As is so trendy these days, especially with EVs, the dashboard is dominated by one large vertical touchscreen where nearly all functions can be accessed, which means there are hardly any analogue buttons. While this would typically require quite the learning curve, Ford has done an excellent job in making sure this setup is still user-friendly. One way it achieves this is to have common functions permanently on display – the lower section of the screen is reserved for climate controls and is always visible, so there’s no digging through menus when you need to access HVAC controls quickly. There’s also a physical volume knob – but no easy way to tune the radio.

The Android Auto/Apple CarPlay display makes good use of the screen real estate and works wirelessly. The screen itself reacts quickly and the system is easy to navigate with intuitive menus. Being connected to the internet also enables over-the-air updates and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

One of my favourite features is how the navigation has a quick menu to find chargers. Because the Mach-E is internet-enabled, you can filter by fast chargers, no-cost chargers, only show chargers that are available, and it can even filter chargers in the FordPass network, which gives Mach-E owners two years of free charging. The 150-kW chargers in this network of more than 13,500 public stations across North America can get the Mach-E from 10 per cent to 80 per cent charge in 45 minutes, and the FordPass app manages all the accounts so drivers won’t need to sign up for multiple networks or have an app for each one, really streamlining the charging process.

The Mach-E provides plenty of information on a driver’s efficiency, ranging from how spent energy was used to how efficient their acceleration and speed are, making it easier to make improvements to stretch range even further. The 10.2-inch screen used for the gauges also shows how much of the braking’s energy was recouped each time as a percentage, though I think it would be more useful to show drivers how much range in kilometres they gained back instead.

There is lots of space in the centre stack for storage and a standard rubberized wireless charging mat that warns you if your phone has slid off and isn’t charging. There’s a big tunnel under the centre console but it’s awkward to get to, so it’s not a great place to put items if you need to access them quickly. There is a USB-A and USB-C port in both rows, but heated seats aren’t standard in the base model – a big letdown.

The Mach-E has a sizeable front trunk – a frunk, if you will – with divided compartments, and it’s waterproof and drainable so you can use it as a cooler. The roomy trunk has 840 L of space and an adjustable parcel shelf.

One area where some cost savings is obvious is with some of the hard plastics used throughout the cabin. The plastic is textured, so at least it looks interesting, but hard plastic is still hard plastic. There is a nice mix of textures like the speaker fabric that’s used throughout, but I’m not a fan of the fake carbon fibre.

First Driving Impressions

First off, the Mach-E makes it very easy to engage in one-pedal driving. The regenerative brakes are strong without being twitchy and drivers can come to a complete stop by just easing off the accelerator and the vehicle will hold the brakes until they want to get going again. Weirdly, not all EVs behave like this but they should.

The Mach-E has a muted hum when in operation and a propulsion sound under hard acceleration that sort of mimics a muffled muscle car, which seems fitting. Some EVs sound angelic while others sound like spaceships, so this sound seems like an appropriate pick for the Mach-E.

The rear-wheel-drive standard-range Mach-E is rated at 266 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque, while the AWD model gets the same horsepower and 428 lb-ft. The rear-drive extended-range version is rated for 290 hp and 317 lb-ft, and the AWD version gets 346 hp and 428 lb-ft. The GT Performance Edition gets 480 hp and a whopping 634 lb-ft but is only available with AWD and the bigger battery.

Although the Mach-E AWD with extended-range battery I drove briefly is rated to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in the mid-five-second range, it didn’t feel breakneck fast like a Tesla does. Drivers who want quicker acceleration will likely have to wait for the GT or GT Performance Mach-E, which can get to 100 km/h in less than four seconds.

During my short drive, range estimates were quite accurate and even verged on being conservative at times, which is good. The steering is heavy and responsive but doesn’t relay a lot of feedback to the driver. A welcome surprise was that in the sport mode Ford has dubbed “Unbridled,” in which the Mach-E was happy to let its tail slide out just a little, making it perhaps the only Mustang-like quality to its driving dynamics. It was refreshing to see this playfulness from an EV, though it’s still not sports-car engaging. The SUV is composed and quiet with a ride that’s geared more towards comfort.

Final Thoughts

The base 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E starts at a reasonable $50,495, while all-wheel drive adds $3,500, but this Select trim is only available with the standard range battery. Moving up to the Premium trim will cost $58,745 and adding the extended range battery costs an extra $7,000 so the price climbs quickly, but AWD is a no-cost option at this level. Pre-orders are available now and deliveries begin in early 2021.

Because I know you’re all going to ask: Does the Ford Mustang Mach-E feel like an “actual” Mustang? No. Does it even feel like a sports car? Not really. But none of that matters because this is a fantastic EV that’s easy to live with that gets a lot right and raises the bar for electric vehicles in general. If some people were considering jumping on the EV train but were held up by either range, AWD availability, style, or price, the Mach-E does its part to convince those folks to finally take the plunge.