Ford Mach-E: It’s a Mustang, an EV (Yes), an SUV (Gasp), Very Quick, and the Future of Ford

LOS ANGELES — The 2021 Mustang Mach-E announced here Sunday night in Elon Musk’s backyard is a compact crossover that runs on electricity, for as much as 300 miles. There is no gasoline-engine option. More than that, Mach-E is Ford’s bet on the future shifting away from combustion engines, toward electrification, and toward driver assistance that becomes self-driving if the driver wants it and the technology is ready.

Mach-E is also the answer to the question of what Jim Hackett has been doing at Ford since taking over as CEO 30 months ago. Turns out he was rebuilding the company and chose to use the most beloved Ford name of the past half-century to be Ford’s stalking horse for electrification. It worked: There would not have been 500 journalists and fans in attendance if this was the 2021 Ford Escape Electric. Which is what this new vehicle might have been called before Hackett found Ford’s EV plans to be timid.

If this electrification push sounds like Ford is going all California and sucking up to environmentalists, relax. There will be plenty of combustion engine cars for decades to come, including traditional 2+2 Mustang sport coupes. Just not forever. And be warned that an electrified Ford F-150 is in the offing. Hashtag OMG.

What Exactly Is the Mach-E?

Here’s the nitty-gritty on the Ford Mustang Mach-E. It is a compact SUV able to fit four or five adults fairly comfortably in both rows of seats. It bears some Mustang styling cues from some angles. It. Does. Not. Replace. The. Mustang. 2+2. Sports. Car.

It is in prototype form now, solid and numerous enough to allow journalists to take part in test drives, but not numerous enough to let them drive on the test drives. The first versions arrive in fall 2020 and all five variants will be available by spring 2020. They will cost $ 45,000 to $ 65,000 plus options, every Mach-E will have significant driver assists, and some higher trims will have Level 2 self-driving on par with Nissan ProPilot Assist, possibly on par with Cadillac Super Cruise, the industry standard.

There are two battery sizes initially, driving ranges of 200-300 miles, rear or all-wheel-drive, and a performance edition that will blow the socks off the vast majority of the 10 million Mustangs built since 1964. None of which will make traditionalist Mustang fanboys any happier — it’s a freakin’ SUV, many will say (Ford agrees) — but at least they can commiserate with the Corvette fans appalled to see their pride and joy will now be a mid-engine sports car. As if that’s a bad thing.

On a brief ride around Hawthorne Airport, the prototype rode well on city streets. There was an occasional harsh jolt when the Mach E traversed a piece of less-than-smooth California highway. Ford probably should offer an adaptive suspension but will not. Inside the snug airport on a closed-off taxiway, the Mach E charged through a slalom course with very little body roll, and a 0-60 mph run that wasn’t timed suggests Ford will be able to achieve sub-4-second results with the more powerful versions.

It is reasonably roomy in the back seat, about what you’d expect from the current generation of compact SUVs that don’t cramp second-row passengers. Here’s how the Mach-E compares. While a vehicle’s size class is usually based on cubic feet of passenger and luggage space, a vehicle that’s 180-190 inches long is generally seen as a compact vehicle.

Ford Mustang Mach-E: 186″ long (117″ wheelbase) x 74″ wide x 63″ high, 32.5 cu. ft. cargo space

Ford Mustang: 188″ L (107″ WB) x 75″ W x 55 H, 13.5 cu. ft trunk

Ford Escape: 181″ L (107″ WB) x 74″ W x 66″ H, 33.5 cu. ft. cargo

In 2003, the tears of Porsche traditionalists fell heavily and stained their tassled loafers when the Porsche Cayenne landed here. SUVs now are two-thirds or Porsche’s US sales (sales shown for 2019’s first three quarters).

Will an Electric Mustang Ruin the Pony Car Mystique? (No)

Can Mustang fans gain solace from fans of competing sporting marques? Others have suffered imagined slights and survived: Porschephiles feared Armageddon in 2003 when the Cayenne SUV joined the family of Porsche sports cars. The Cayenne and Macan, the compact SUV that arrived in 2015, rank 1-2 in Porsche sales in the US while the cars run 3-4-5 (chart above). Without SUVs Porsche might be little more than an R&D company for other automakers.

At BMW, SUVs are 47 percent of sales through the first three quarters of 2019, up from 36 percent the year before, as sedan sales shrink in the US. And Chevrolet Corvette fans have their own crisis, that of the engine being moved from in front to midships, just behind the driver, for the C8 Corvette due early 2020.

No, none of these comparison cars are battery electric vehicles. But as those sporty brands pondered the future — in this case embracing SUVs and crossovers as legitimate upscale/sport vehicles — they decided the worst change be may the change where you stand still and watch the world sail past you.

Electrification won’t make a Mustang worse. It makes the Mustang faster. “We’re looking at mid-three-second 0-60 [mph] times,” said executive chairman Bill Ford Jr., speaking of the Mach-E Mustang, which looks like a Mustang from some angles and also bears some resemblance to a BMW X4/X6 or Mercedes-Benz GLC coupe/SUV. By the way, there could in the future be a traditional Mustang 2+2 coupe powered by electricity.

As for performance EVs, veteran journalists who’ve driven early Porsche Taycans, the $ 150,000 EV sports car, generally say it is the quickest, best-handling Porsche. Ever.

Originally, Ford planned to build a front-drive “compliance car.” Then-new CEO Jim Hackett pushed Ford to be bolder. Black lines were the original design. Red lines are the Mach-E: lower and longer hood, sleeker windshield, longer wheelbase. And plenty of room for people and cargo.

From Compliance Vehicle to Exciting EV

If this was a Ford Escape EV intro, The New York Times wouldn’t have put the story on Page 1 Monday.

Making this vehicle a Mustang is a stroke of genius by Ford management. (For those who disagree: that’s why we have the Disqus comments button below.) What became the Mustang Mach-E started out as, essentially, an electric Ford Escape, a “compliance vehicle” to keep Ford on the good side of environmentalists and government. Pretty exciting, huh? CEO Hackett early in his tenure reportedly decided an Escape EV wasn’t inspiring enough and pushed the company to shift direction well into the design process and create a sleeker battery-electric crossover/SUV that would carry the Mustang name. Focus, for its part, has three versions with the 2019 fourth generation: gasoline combustion engine, hybrid, and (for 2020) plug-in hybrid with up to 30 miles of battery-electric range.

To get the car to market in 2020, engineers and designers on the project (called Team Edison) did more computer modeling and skipped some clay models (time-consuming and costly) until later in the design phase. To emulate the volume knob that would be bonded to the bottom of the 15.5-inch center stack display, they used pieces of cardboard and a Keurig single-serve coffee cup for an early mockup. (Ergonomics warming: The actual volume knob is just as slippery to the touch. Too many automakers have given up on grippy rubber-covered knobs.) From early sketches to clay models to corporate approval to ordering the projection tools, the period was about a year.

Ford’s research turned up buyer confusion: Many believe electric vehicles need gasoline, caused by the uncertainty of what’s a battery electric vehicle versus plug-in hybrid versus hybrid. They doubted how well an EV would be in snow or cold weather. They suspected automakers’ hearts weren’t 100 percent behind EVs and believed some efforts were to comply with rules and statures. They feared being stranded, not knowing how to find charging stations, and waiting a long time to recharge the batteries. All that led Ford to conclude it needed to work with a loved nameplate, which meant Mustang or F-150, and Mustang is what was chosen.

Did it work? Buyers will decide in a year. Meanwhile, the Mach-E intro as a marketing event was a smashing success.

Ford opened its configuration/order site on Sunday. A $ 500 deposit, refundable, holds your place in line.

The cockpit of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E.

Trim Lines and Features

These are the five trim lines or model variants. Batteries are 75.7 kWh hour standard range (SR) or 98.8 kWh extended range (ER). All cars have a big electric motor in back; all-wheel-drive Mach-Es have a second, smaller motor up front. Power ranges from 255 to 459 hp, torque from 306 to 612 pound-feet. The range runs from 210 to 300 miles. Peak horsepower, torque, and acceleration all depend on whether you have rear- or all-wheel-drive, and even on the battery size. The bigger battery with 12, not 10, battery modules can deliver more peak power to the motors. Most trim lines will do 0-60 mph in the mid-5 second range with all-wheel-drive, about a second more with rear-drive only. The GT targets mid-3-second acceleration. Ford’s pricing notes potential tax savings, including the federal $ 7,500 tax credit, separately where Tesla’s large-type pricing already deducts it.

Mach-E Select, $ 44,995 (including $ 1,100 shipping), due early 2021, and rear or all-wheel-drive. DC fast charging is up to 115kW; the others charge at up 150kW.

Mach-E Premium, $ 51,700, late 2020, and rear or all-wheel drive.

Mach-E First Edition, $ 61,000, all-wheel-drive only, with a limited edition Mach-E delivered in late 2020.

California Rt. 1 Edition, $ 53,500, early 2021, the extended-range battery only, rear-drive only, and equipped for a range of up to 300 miles.

Mach-E GT, $ 61,600, spring 2021 (the last Mach-E to ship), the highest performance Mach-E, all-wheel-drive only, the extended battery only, and capable of 0-60 mph acceleration of around 3.5 seconds. Information on packages will be released later. This is the one Mach-E that has acceleration on par with the higher-end combustion-engine Mustangs.

Every Mach-E comes with FordPass Connect (onboard telematics), Phone as a Key (PaaK), 15.5-inch touchscreen, a 10.2-inch LCD instrument panel, and Sync 4.0 infotainment. The cars will also have three personas — “whisper,” “engage” and “unbridled” — that use fewer or more graphics and bright colors, depending on the driver’s mood or driving style.

Evasive steering assist adds steering effort to the driver’s inputs in situations where sensors detect a possible collision that can be avoided by turning the wheel.

Solid Driver Assists, Level 2 Self-Driving

The Mach-E offers significant safety features in three packages called Ford Co-Pilot which a) gives Ford a single distinguishing term for its advanced safety and driver-assist features and b) confuses the heck out of buyers because it all sounds alike. Here’s our attempt to make sense of it all. Basically, you get everything on the middle three trim lines, Premium, First Edition and Route 1, and you don’t get the surround camera/parking assist Co-Pilot package on the cheapest, Select, and sportiest/most costly, GT. The confusion aside, Ford provides an exceptional level of safety features standard.

Ford Co-Pilot 360 2.0 is the basics: pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection and braking, blind spot detection (Ford terminology: blind spot information system) with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, auto high beams, post-collision braking, reverse sensing (rear sonar), reverse brake assist, and rear-view camera (mandated by the feds).

Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0 adds driver assists: Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control that is full-range (stop-and-go) lane centering (that is, beyond lane departure warning and beyond lane keep assist), speed sign recognition, and evasive steering assist.

Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology has Active Park Assist 2.0 that finds and parallel parks (also backs into perpendicular-parking spaces) and a 360-degree camera system.

As self-driving software gets better, Ford says it may be possible to do over-the-air updates that give the car additional degrees of autonomy. Where the various Co-Pilots combine to keep the car centered in the lane and a fixed distance behind the vehicle ahead, as long as the driver’s hands are lightly on the wheel, more autonomy might be possible. The Mach-E already integrates an eye tracker that tells if the driver is watching the road. With that hardware in place, the driver might no longer need to keep hands on.

Ford includes a simple charging cable for 120/240 volts, will sell you a 48-amp / 240 volt Level 2 charger (photo) that Amazon will install.

Charging Options, Help From Your Phone

Ford put a lot of effort into making charging as effortless as possible short of robotic arms that plug the charger in for you. The car comes with a Ford Mobile Charger for 120 and 240 volts that adds 3 or 22 miles of charge per hour, respectively. Ford cut a deal with Amazon to supply and install a 240-volt Connected Charge Station that delivers up to 32 miles of charge per hour and this is the one you want for an overnight refill of the near-empty 98.8-kWh, 376-cell extended range battery. Ford expects the majority of charging will be done from home

Additionally, a Ford app for your phone called Power My Trip shows how far you can go with the juice you have left, finds charging stations and charger types, and for long trips, maps out stopping points optimized so you have enough power to get to the next recommended station with power to spare. Then on the final leg home, it can recommend how much (how little) charge you need. Unless you have free charging at work, the cheapest charging is at home.

Ford also has set up what it calls the world’s largest charging network. Ford isn’t building stations that way that Tesla did. Rather it cut deals with many of the largest charging networks including Electrify America, to find available chargers and then set up a single billing process.

Bill Ford Jr., the company’s longtime champion of the environment: Electrification has come to the point that cars can be green and fun to drive.

Mach-E Puts Ford in a Good Place

55 years of Mustang. Now electrified.

Ford spent the last couple of years getting out of the sedan business, which may or may not be a mistake. Millennials may be turning to sedans because you do the opposite of what your SUV- or minivan-loving parents did. Now it’s looking good. The F-Series pickup is closing in on 1 million sales a year. Much of its SUV line has been recently refreshed. Sync no longer sucks. The Lincoln brand is finding its way with the focus on luxury rather than trying to outdo the Europeans on performance; while Lincoln is soaring, Cadillac is having challenges finding a formula that attracts buyers.

Support for change comes from both the CEO, Hackett, and the executive chairman, Bill Ford Jr., great-grandson of Henry, and the company’s longstanding supporter of cleaner cars and a cleaner environment. Speaking at a Detroit business event earlier this year, Bill Ford said, “When we first started talking about electrification, there was this thought that there had to be a trade-off. It was either going to be green and boring and no fun, or really exciting but burn a lot of fossil fuels. Electrification has come to the point that you can do both.”

The Mustang Mach-E may or may no win over long-time Mustang partisans. They’ll still have combustion-engine Mustang coupes for years to come. Now they’ll have the option of a far roomier Mustang that carries five people and a lot of luggage if they want another Mustang in the garage. Meanwhile, by linking electrification to one of its two most iconic models, Ford is changing its perception to being a company that wants to sell electric cars that are fun to drive, roomy, and high performance.

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