2021 Mustang Mach-E: Marketing Genius or a Total Farce?

This review is a based on a radio segment that ran on June 5th, 2021. It was written by the author for his “Open Road” segment on RMWorldTravel—America’s #1 Travel Radio Show.

The Mustang Mach-E has ruffled a lot of feathers in the car community. 

“Hello, Captain Obvious… you’re about two years too late to the party”, you might say…

Fair, but even today the visible reaction by some Ford enthusiasts at the mere mentioning of the Mach-E—cringing and recoiling— has yet to dissipate. Even after the Mach-E has been widely available on the market for over a year, the stigma left in its wake is still obvious.

Ford has forayed into the world of EVs before, with their Ranger EV in the late 90s and the Focus Electric… but neither of those cars performed all that well.  

Judging by Ford’s EV past, you’d be forgiven if you thought the Mach-E continued the tradition of poor performance, but I would venture to say nothing could be further from the truth…

Yes, the marketing department’s decision to brand a five-seat, electric crossover-SUV as a “Mustang” is a bit strange, but in reality the Mach-E could be the Mustang’s saving grace.  SUVs sell better than any other platform.  To date, SUVs have saved even the most esteemed brands from near extinction, such as Bentley, Aston Martin, and Lamborghini.  Without the Urus super-SUV, I doubt any Swiss-holding company could be offering over $9 billion USD to purchase Lamborghini from VW.

But I digress. As the world moves towards electrification and eco-friendly alternatives, the Mustang name—which typically evokes the idea of growling V8s and smoking tires—needs to be justified, and an all-electric, sporty big brother like the Mach-E might just be the right car for the job.

Image © RJ Carey

On the outside, the Mach-E is an amalgamation of clever tricks, sporty lines, and classic design cues.  The taillights are very much reminiscent of those on a ‘69 Fastback, and the black roofline makes the car look shorter and more stout from a side view than it actually is.  My tester was a First Edition which means exclusive paint options—in my case Carbonized Gray—and red-painted brake calipers, both of which compliment each other quite well.

Stepping inside, it’s immediately clear that you are not in a regular Mustang.  Not even close. The gigantic center-screen is an obvious take from the book of Tesla, but the addition of a secondary screen behind the steering wheel for relaying essential information is a nice touch and makes the cabin feel more complete.  

Interior quality is good… really good for Ford.  A 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system is standard.  Almost every surface within reach is upholstered in Ford’s ActiveX material, a synthetic leather that feels almost twice as soft and durable compared to normal automotive-grade leather, and bright red contrast stitching on every seam is a nice touch.

The backseats are extremely comfortable and the included panoramic moonroof offers superb headroom and visibility.  

Image © Dante DiMauro

Of course, the real meat and potatoes of this car is how it drives.  The First Edition has eAWD plus an extended-range battery, and power is a solid 346 horsepower with 428 lb-ft of torque.  The numbers don’t lie, either: The Mach-E is extremely torquey around town and making quick maneuvers on the highway is a breeze.  I have to stress that nothing about this car is rough, unsteady, or otherwise unruly (although Ford’s marketing team seems to think otherwise, given the “Unbridled” drive mode…).  The acceleration is very quick (try 0-60 in 4.8 seconds) but it’s exceptionally smooth, and the power delivery is consistently linear, par for the course when it comes to EVs.

So far, there’s nothing to complain about on the Mach-E.  It delivers, and sometimes even over delivers, in basically all categories.  However, I think the car has one Achilles-heel, and to be fair it’s no fault of its own: charging availability. 

Groundbreaking observation, I know. Here’s the thing though: if you buy a Mach-E and set up an at-home charger (which plugs into a 240V outlet, same as a dryer), and charge your car every night, then you should be able to wake up and drive the EPA-estimated 270 mile range (for the Extended Range, eAWD) every morning, barring power outages or blackouts.

However, if you need to take your car on an impromptu road trip and leave your home for a few days, you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle.  The Mach-E can’t be charged at a Tesla supercharger, and although Ford has teamed up with Electrify America to set up fast chargers across the country, they are few and far between right now.  Any regular charging station is going to take 4 hours to give you even just an additional 20% charge, so that isn’t always a viable plan B either.  Long story short, until the fast charging network catches up, the Mach-E will be too far ahead in its own game.

Realistically, that shouldn’t dissuade you from considering a Mach-E as a daily driver.  It drives cleanly and smoothly, and it has an impressive premium-feel that could win over almost any prospective buyer.  Yes it has its quirks—such as having buttons instead of door handles and having to open the hatch from the center screen. Even still, every bit of the car becomes second-nature after some average use. 

Pricing is the main inhibitor for the Mach-E. It doesn’t have the same curb appeal as a Tesla (due in part to Tesla’s rich-boy reputation), and that makes it harder to justify the $42k starting price tag considering a Model Y is a much easier EV to own at the moment. My First Edition Tester came out at just shy of $60k, which is not worth the money in my opinion. However, a Premium model with eAWD and an extended battery (all the same tech as my tester just without the exclusivity of the First Edition trim) will cost you somewhere in the mid-40s after a $7,500 tax credit—which is at least competitive for the segment.

The Mach-E is good enough to compete with Tesla, but time will tell if it proves to be anything more than just an EV stepping-stone for Ford. And if it allows for enough cash-flow to support Ford’s continuation of a regular, gas-powered Mustang—than it’s a far better investment than any Tesla out there.

See our complete photo collection of our time with the Mach-E below.

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