2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Test Drive

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Dec 17, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Mustang Mach-E front beauty shot

Photo: Ron Sessions

It’s big news that Ford is introducing its first all-electric crossover SUV. Even more ground-breaking is that the company is branding it as a Mustang. The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E hits Ford showrooms this December with a wide range of trims and propulsion options.

Including the $1,100 destination charge, Mach-E prices start at $43,995 for the base Select, $48,100 for the midlevel Premium, $50,900 for the California Route 1 and $59,400 for the now sold-out First Edition model. In late summer 2021, a performance-oriented GT model priced at $61,600 will join the lineup.

Rear-wheel drive with a single electric motor is standard and all-wheel drive with one motor each at the front and rear axles is optional. There are two lithium-ion battery choices as well: a standard-range one in the Select and Premium with 68 kWh of usable capacity and an upgrade extended-range one in the Premium, California Route 1 and GT with 88 kWh of usable juice.

Output varies by trim, starting with 266 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque in the standard-range, rear-drive Select and topping out with 346 hp and 428 lb-ft in the extended-range, all-wheel-drive Premium. Later in the 2021 model year, the GT extended-range AWD debuts with 480 hp and 600 lb-ft and the same horsepower with 634 lb-ft of torque in the GT Performance Edition. The EPA-estimated driving range varies between 211 and 305 miles depending on battery selection and whether the Mach-E has a rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configuration.

The Mach-E is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit, something no longer available for Tesla EVs because that automaker has already reached the 200,000-unit threshold. 

For this report, J.D. Power tested a 2021 Mustang Mach-E with all-wheel drive and Premium trim over 110 miles of Los Angeles city streets and freeways as well as the twisty canyon roads inland from Malibu. Including the $1,100 destination charge, $5,000 extended-range battery and 346-hp/428 lb-ft dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrain, the Iconic Silver Mach-E Premium stickered at $55,800. That’s not including the potential $7,500 federal tax credit and not bad for a 5-door electric crossover sport-utility that wouldn’t look totally out of place at a Mustang family reunion.

Styling and Design - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E profile

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Mach-E is agog with traditional Mustang styling cues, including a long hood, broad, horse-emblazoned “grille,” twin hood bulges, prominent wheel flares, scalloped body sides, kicked-up rear haunches, fastback-look roof and twin three-element tail lamps with sequential turn signals, of course.

It’s got a look that effectively stirs some of the same passion that surrounded the 1960s Ford Mustangs.

In profile, the roomy Mach-E avoids the boxy SUV look with some help from the paint department. While the body-color sides of the roof slope coupishly aft of the rear doors, the black-painted rooftop hides the taller, more squared-off section over the cargo compartment. It’s an effective styling trick/strategy that makes the Mach-E just look swoopier than it really is.

Although the Mach-E towers over other 2-door Mustangs by about 10 inches, it fits right in Ford’s burgeoning SUV lineup, larger than the compact Escape and a bit smaller than the midsize Edge. Sizewise, the new Mach-E is just a few inches shorter, an inch narrower and 4.3 inches lower than the Edge SUV.

Features and Controls  - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E dashboard and front seats

Photo: Ron Sessions

First, the doors unlatch via pushbuttons at the bottom of the roof pillars. There are no external door latches, although there are small finger-size pulls for the front doors. The doors lock automatically when the keyfob holder walks away.

Inside, the new Mach-E is less icon and more contemporary. There’s nary a hint of retro Mustang in the cabin, which by the way is also considerably more expressive and tailored inside than a Tesla Model Y. For example, it doesn’t ask the driver to take eyes off the road to monitor key metrics—in addition to a huge, 15.5-inch vertical-format center touchscreen, the Mach-E also has a second, smaller landscape-format display in front of the driver available for uncluttered monitoring of such things as vehicle speed, gear selected, odometer, estimated driving range, navigation directions and key driver-assistive functions such as posted speed limits and lane-keeping assist. The driver’s display also changes its hue according to which drive mode is selected.

The big, center screen is where most of the action is. Equipped with the latest iteration of Ford’s Sync 4, the vertical screen is sharp and quick to respond to inputs. It can display four functions at once such as a navigation map, audio system, trip info, phone status and so on with the largest tile at the top and three smaller ones beneath it. A handy analog volume knob is at the bottom of the screen along with virtual climate control and seat settings. The screen is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. An AT&T network 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is included as well as a console-mounted wireless device charger. Both the front and rear seats get one each Type A and Type C USB ports.

There are two gateway icons, if you will: a car icon in the upper left-hand corner is the gateway to understanding the various vehicle settings and a person icon at the top center of the screen is for personal settings and preferences of the driver. The latter is continuously updated as the Mach-E learns the driver’s habits and behavior. System software is updated automatically over the air via the cloud.

Standard on the base Select trim is a 6-speaker AM/FM audio system with SiriusXM 360. Premium and higher trims get an immersive 10-speaker B&O sound system by Bang and Olufsen. Connected, voice-activated navigation is standard in all trims. 

Comfort and Cargo - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E cargo bay

Photo: Ron Sessions

This being a crossover SUV that just happens to be branded as a Mustang, there is an expectation of generous interior and cargo space. Aiding that perception is a fixed-glass panoramic roof with California Route 1 and higher trims. The glass roof has a coating that reduces ultraviolet and infrared light.

The front seats are generously proportioned, delivering comfort and support in equal doses. Seat coverings are an ActiveX faux-leather material and the manual tilt-telescopic steering wheel is wrapped with soft vinyl. There are no leather coverings available. A power driver’s seat is standard with all trims with a power front passenger seat, memory driver’s seat and a heated steering wheel and front seats standard in Premium and higher trims.

In addition to the glovebox, there’s plenty of stash space up front with open bins on and under the front console, under the center armrest and in the doors.

Unlike any Mustang that came before it, three adults can fit comfortably in the rear seat of the Mach-E. Headroom and legroom are comparable to that of Ford’s midsize Edge.

While the Mach-E’s cargo compartment is 10-13 cubic feet shy of that offered by the similarly sized Ford Edge, it’s a voluminous space for anything branded as a Mustang. There’s almost 30 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat and with the 60/40 rear seat folded nearly flat, just shy of 60 cubic feet of cargo area aft of the front seats. The height of the cargo load floor is adjustable with additional storage for the car charger, tire inflator and repair kit and other small personal items underneath. An optional hands-free power liftgate operated with a foot wave under the rear bumper is available as an option.

A frunk (front trunk) in the nose of the Mach-E adds another 4.7 cu ft of space and is available with a cargo divider to keep things from rolling around there. It even has a drain that allows users to fill it with ice for picnics, tailgate parties and such plus cup holders for social events. 

Safety and Technology - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E phone as key

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Mustang Mach-E is all-in on advanced tech and that means an extensive list of safety and driver-assistive systems. Most of it is standard on all models. Standard fare includes intelligent adaptive cruise control with lane centering, speed sign recognition (that can adjust the set speed to the posted limit) and stop and go. Also included as standard is a backup camera, lane keeping, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, automatic high beams, forward pre-collision assist with emergency automatic braking, post-collision braking, rear parking sensors, reverse brake assist, evasive steering assist and nine airbags.

Optionally available is a surround-view camera that stitches together an overhead view of the Mach-E and its immediate surroundings from cameras at the front, back and sides. Also optional is prep for Ford’s upcoming hands-free Active Drive Assist due for release in late 2021. Similar to GM’s Super Cruise, Ford’s Active Drive Assist will employ a camera to make sure the driver is paying attention to the road and will work on about 100,000 miles of limited-access highways in North America. The prep package also covers Ford’s semi-autonomous Active Park Assist 2.0 which will, once activated, operate the accelerator, steering, shifter and brakes to maneuver the Mach-E into and out of a parallel or perpendicular parking space.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had released crash ratings for the 2021 Mach-E as of December, 2020.

The Mach-E is the first Ford to offer phone-as-key technology. With the FordPass app, drivers can lock and unlock doors, open the liftgate, power windows up or down, activate the vehicle alarm or call up the car’s welcome mode with their cellphone via Bluetooth, all without a key.

Driving Impressions - Find the best Ford deals!

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E onroad

Photo: Ron Sessions

As with other battery electric vehicles, the first thing you notice is how quiet the cabin is. Then when you depress the accelerator pedal (don’t call it a gas pedal), brisk acceleration is available due to the fact that the electric powertrain develops full torque immediately—you don’t have to rev it up as with a gas engine to get full output.

The Mach-E Premium test vehicle with all-wheel drive and the extended range battery was good for 346 horsepower, 428 lb-ft of torque and 0-60 mph bursts in 4.8 seconds, just a tad quicker than, say, a 330-hp Mustang EcoBoost 4-cylinder turbo with the performance pack.

The heavy lithium-ion battery weighs nearly a half ton, not that it feels that way in most driving. At 4318-4838 lbs, depending on equipment, the Mach-E tips the scales about the same as the much larger Ford Explorer. It’s also about 700-800 lbs heavier than a Mustang coupe or convertible. The good news is the Mach-E carries its battery low in the chassis, under the passenger compartment floor, which means that even though Ford’s first electric crossover SUV towers over regular Mustangs by nearly a foot, its center of gravity is much lower than in the brand’s fossil-fueled SUVs. For the most part, it drives smaller than it looks.

There is minimal body lean in corners (compared to other SUVs) and practically no annoying side-to-side head toss on undulating, high-crown roads. Adaptive shocks will be coming later in 2021 with the high-performance GT model, but the conventional gas dampers currently in use on all trims of the Mach-E do a credible job of keeping all that mass in check and delivering good vertical body control. Ride quality is pleasantly smooth. About the only time you can feel the Mach-E’s heft is when negotiating a series of tight turns or catching a good size bump or dip mid-corner—things the equally heavy Tesla Model Y has to deal with as well. Otherwise, steering is light-effort, quick to turn in and overall front/rear balance is composed. All-season 18 or 19-inch tires are standard with summer performance skins an option. 20-inchers are due on the upcoming GT models. 

Much of the driving experience is customizable. There are three driving modes with catchy monikers: Whisper, Engage and Unbridled. Whisper is the de facto Comfort mode, with conservative accelerator-pedal response, easier coasting and just of hint of synthesized “engine” or propulsion sound piped in through the audio system. Engage makes the propulsion sound more involving and offers balanced responses to applying and lifting off the go-pedal. Unbridled, you guessed it, is the equivalent of a Sport mode and ratchets up the intensity of all three variables. If you don’t like the fake engine sound, it can be switched off completely. The driver can also customize the amount of regenerative braking available, with one-pedal driving available in vehicle settings.

The one-pedal setting makes stop-and-go driving in heavy traffic less of a chore; just lift up on the accelerator and the Mach-E will slow quickly and come to a tidy stop. In the two-pedal setting, however, the blending of the initial regenerative braking and eventual mechanical retardation from the 4-wheel discs is noticeable and could be more linear. With familiarization, it becomes less and less of an issue.

Overall, however, the Mach-E is fun to drive and even though it doesn’t quite have all of the moves of a low-slung, close-coupled Mustang coupe or convertible, its handling and overall composure will be a thrill for crossover SUV buyers, some of which will be considering their first electric vehicle.

Conclusion

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E rear beauty photo

Photo: Ron Sessions

Quite frankly, this car is a pretty big roll of the dice, but one Ford feels is ripe for the times. Naming its first battery electric a Mustang entails some risk as other battery electrics such as the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-PACE (to name a few) have failed to make much of a dent in Tesla’s electric car dominance in the U.S. But Ford is banking on the cache of its half-century-old performance icon to break through and draw potential buyers into showrooms for a test drive. It has to. Even as at the end of calendar year 2020, battery electric cars and crossovers represent a tiny fraction of total U.S. new vehicle sales, Ford has a bunch of other electric vehicles in the pipeline that will share many of the Mach-E’s underpinnings.

The advertised 211-305-mile driving range of the Mach-E is competitive, especially as most owners can recharge the Mach-E at home with a dedicated 240-volt charger overnight. But where Tesla has had a strong advantage is its dedicated nationwide Supercharger fast-charger network for charging on the fly. 

FordPass is the company’s name for a charging network of more than 13,500 charging stations. Mach-E owners will be able to find remote fast-charge stations on their phone or with the vehicle’s navigation system. While that pales in comparison to the 168,000 or so gas stations now in operation in the U.S., it’s a good start. FordPass can access Electrify America and other fast-charging third-party networks.

About the Author

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive web sites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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