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The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Jeremy Au Yeung/The Globe and Mail

Let’s just get the Mustang thing out of the way first. The new all-electric Ford Mach-E is not a Mustang in the true sense of the nameplate, but it probably will be soon. It does not rumble like a Mustang, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a Mustang. It’s a well-performing crossover car. In the United States, where it was named North American Utility Vehicle of the Year despite hardly anybody actually driving it, it’s considered an SUV, which is absurd.

I have a theory about this. Ford is very clear that it will no longer build sedans and coupes, forsaking them for the much more popular and practical SUVs and crossovers. The traditional Mustang remains in production, but as Ford pushes toward an all-electric future, the car itself is doomed and will probably die before the end of this decade. However, its name is too valuable to lose as a performance icon, so this Mach-E is a handing-over of the brand. Live with it.

So is the Mach-E any good? As we noted in our first impressions after a brief drive last year, yes, it’s very good indeed. It’s not the fastest, though the more powerful GT-Performance Edition will help fix that. It’s not the most practical, despite its hatchback. But it’s certainly not the most expensive.

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The basic Mach-E, which is really not very basic at all, lists for $50,495, plus $1,900 “Destination and Delivery” an taxes. There are three other trim levels that are configurable with regular or larger batteries for additional range, rising to the $82,995 of the GT-Performance. If you live in Quebec or British Columbia, you should be able to get rebates of $8,000 or $3,000, respectively, but the Mach-E is too costly to qualify for the federal rebate.

That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but it’s priced competitively with other pure-electric vehicles from the likes of Tesla and Polestar. The tester I drove was the First Edition, priced at $9,000 above the Premium trim. (Since it’s already sold out, I didn’t include it above as an option.)

An electric crossover bearing a Mustang badge may be heresy to some but the Mach E is a capable all-rounder with good performance when you want it. James Engelsman and Thomas Holland from Throttle House give the Ford high points for ride and handling, with the body shape making for a roomy cabin. The Globe and Mail

There’s a full lineup for the Mach-E, with options for rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, four different levels of horsepower from 266 hp to 480 hp and batteries with official ranges from 340 kilometres to 491 km. You can spend hours on the Ford website configuring a Mach-E to be just the way you want it.

Like any electric car, the Mustang Mach-E drives quite differently from its conventional namesake. There are no gears, so you just press on the throttle and let it whisk you away. The closest you get to blipping down a couple of cogs in readiness for a corner is by activating the one-pedal drive, which slows the car more quickly when you take your foot off the throttle before touching the brakes; this also helps recharge the battery.

The slowest Mach-E will accelerate from zero-to-100 km/h in 6.2 seconds, but my tester made the leap in 5.1 seconds, which was plenty quick enough. (The GT-Performance will do it in 3.7 seconds. For comparison, top-end electric Teslas and Porsches can do it in almost half that time if you pay more than twice as much for them.)

The drive is very smooth and responsive, though a bit stiff on a firm suspension. On country roads, I slopped my coffee on every bump. There are three different electronic drive modes, called Engage, Unbridled and Whisper, that let you feel the motor flex or relax with the touch of an on-screen button. Almost all the controls are on the large central touch screen, which is vertical like a tablet and similar to the huge screens on Teslas and Polestars. It’s an immediate reminder that this is an electric car.

A Mach-E with all-wheel drive and an 88-kWh battery comes with an estimated range of 435 km.

Jeremy Au Yeung/The Globe and Mail

The official range for the First Edition, with AWD and an extended-range 88-kWh battery, is given as an estimated 435 km, but when I collected the tester, it showed a range of 390 km on a 95-per-cent charge. When I charged it myself on a warm day after draining the battery, it showed a range of 309 km with a 100-per-cent charge.

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Clearly, there are many factors that will affect the potential range, which did prove itself to be a realistic estimate. At a Petro-Canada Level 3 fast-charging station with a half-charged battery, it added 50 km to its range in 10 minutes, charging at close to 100 kW, though it’s rated for up to 150 kW. At a Level 2 station, similar to one you’d install at home, it takes just over an hour to add 50 km to the range. You can also use a basic 100-volt outlet, but that’ll take forever.

Frankly, these days it’s very difficult for an electric car to stand out from its competition. Conventional vehicles have engines that feel different for their number of cylinders, and transmissions that vary with their number of cogs or even belts, but an EV has only a motor, directly-driven wheels and all its heavy battery weight low down, beneath the floor.

The Mustang Mach-E stands out because it feels truly futuristic with its modern cockpit, and everything just seems to work well together. It appears simple, but it’s far more complicated than most of us could ever imagine.

Tech specs

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E
  • Base price/As tested: $50,495 / $72,245, plus $1,900 Destination and Delivery, plus taxes
  • Motor: Permanent-magnet motor with 68- or 88-kWh battery
  • Drive: RWD or electronic AWD
  • Range: RWD: 370 – 491 km; AWD: 340 - 435 km
  • Alternatives: Tesla Model Y, Polestar 2, Audi e-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace

Looks

The Mach-E is really not an SUV, despite its hatchback and prestigious award.

Jeremy Au Yeung/The Globe and Mail

The Mach-E has “a sporty, beautiful silhouette that delivers an incredible shape rarely seen in SUVs,” says its chief program engineer. It’s rarely seen because it’s really not an SUV, despite its hatchback and prestigious award. It’s an attractive vehicle in its own right, but people want to buy SUVs, not cars, so Ford can call it whatever it wants.

The press release says that “the Mach-E is instantly recognizable as a Mustang, thanks to signature elements such as its long, powerful hood, rear-haunch design, aggressive headlights and trademark tri-bar tail lamps.” I’d counter that nonsense by saying it’s recognizable as a Mustang because it has a Mustang logo on the front grille cover and on the steering wheel, and that’s it. Let’s just appreciate it and move on.

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Interior

The Mach-E's cabin has a sophisticated, premium feel.

Jeremy Au Yeung/The Globe and Mail

The cabin is airy and beautifully appointed. There’s a mesh fabric over the top of the faux carbon-fibre fascia, and the entire premium feel is more Volvo than Ford. The panoramic one-piece sunroof is gorgeous but doesn’t come with the basic trim. The floor is flat thanks to the lack of a driveshaft tunnel, and the transmission selector is just a dial on the centre console, so the only thing that’s obtrusive is the 15.5-inch central tablet-style touch screen.

All the screen buttons are digital, of course, which makes them a bit fiddly to operate while driving, though I could usually hook a finger onto the edge of the tablet for stability. The exception is the volume dial for the (very good) sound system, which is a traditional rotary knob integrated into the bottom of the screen. Clever.

Performance

Quick but not too quick. Responsive but never jerky. Flat around the corners, thanks to McPherson struts up front, an independent multilink suspension behind and all the weight from the heavy batteries beneath the floor. What else is there to say?

Technology

It’s all here, of course, and it all works very well. There’s nothing important missing from any of the features offered by other makers, except perhaps for the greater autonomy of the Teslas. However, Ford will introduce its BlueCruise hands-free driving technology later this year in the Mach-E and the F-150, which will be done over-the-air as an online upgrade. This is a similar system to GM’s SuperCruise, which works on pre-mapped roads to take over much of the actual driving. How many owners of traditional Mustangs would want that?

Cargo

The Mach-E has 822 litres of cargo space with the rear seats up.

Jeremy Au Yeung/The Globe and Mail

If they’re going to call it an SUV, they might as well give it some space. The rear seats are tight but not uncomfortable, like a good coupe, and there’s 822 litres of space behind the rear seats, expanding to 1,689 litres when they’re folded down. There’s even another 140 litres in the front trunk, beneath the hood.

The verdict

The Ford Mustang Mach-E is a lovely and practical car to drive that’s competitively priced against other performance-oriented electric vehicles. Don’t go thinking it’s an SUV – and it’s definitely not a Mustang – but give it time, and maybe the name will grow on you.

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