Road Test Review – 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium – What’s In A Name?

When Ford first announced that it was creating an electrified version of the Ford Mustang, the world held its breath, waiting to see what Ford had up its sleeve. What ensued was perhaps one of the most controversial and yet hotly-anticipated unveilings ever, with the 2021 Mach-E appearing as a futuristic all-electric CUV. This, in turn, started a fierce debate over whether it could indeed be considered a true Mustang and whether the Mach-E was riding on the credibility of a legendary muscle car to achieve its aims. The Mach-E’s stay here in the office proved to be a very enlightening experience. It certainly opened us up to the prospect of a utility-focused alternative in the Mustang lineup.


Sc-Fi Styling Still Has Strong Mustang Family Resemblance

When you first look at the Mach-E’s exterior styling, you might think it has nothing to do with the Mustang, with the futuristic shape adopting a utility-focused profile that incorporates many curves and angles. But look closer, and some of the muscle car character does shine through. The front fascia has no traditional grille assembly, but the downturned headlights and the sloping hood line are clear pages out of the Mustang’s playbook. 

The side profile is typical CUV but the doors are opened by push button release with a handle-shaped protrusion serving as a grip to help occupants move them open or closed. Our Premium grade tester also came with optional 19-inch wheels, which helped enhance its street presence though buyers looking to truly replicate this experience will have to upgrade to the GT or the First Edition to get bigger hoops.

The rear styling is where the Mach-E does lose some ground. Unlike the front fascia, the rear looks like it was designed by a phone in committee, and as a result, it looks a bit cluttered. The Mustang-style taillights look like a crude copy and paste job and the rear bumper has an unsettling disjointed look to it which is partly due to the cheap-looking plastic lower trim piece. That’s a shame since the roofline does a nice job transitioning into the rear roof-mounted roof spoiler and is perhaps our favorite exterior design highlight on the Mach-E. 


Simplicity Defines Mach-E Cabin

Slip inside the Mach-E cabin, and you immediately realize that this is far from any typical Mustang interior to date. This is partly due to the massive 15.5-inch infotainment screen as well as a smaller digital instrument cluster. The infotainment screen is Ford’s attempt at besting Tesla in this regard, and we think it’s a good first attempt. The screen has software that’s easy to use, and Ford designers even added a traditional volume knob to improve usability. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also come along for the ride which allows the SYNC equipped system to cater to a wide range of mobile devices. 

The result is a system that comes very close to beating Tesla’s best, but it also comes up short in a few areas. The volume knob could be sturdier; we had some lag between inputs, and accessing some of the menus (including the drive mode selector) requires more steps than necessary. But those are minor quibbles, and Ford reps promise that future Over The Air (OTA) updates will ultimately address some of these issues.

The rest of the interior is simple and clean, with our tester preferring to take a minimalist approach when it comes to cabin design. There’s not much bright trim here, with the monotone interior plastics creating a borderline Teutonic feel. We liked the splashes of “ActiveX” faux leather present and even the cool speaker style fabric that snakes its way from one end of the dashboard to the other. A large fixed glass panel also stretches the full length of the roof, and while it’s a non-movable piece of glass, Ford engineers did add a tint on the inside portion of the glass to help prevent the occupants from getting broiled on hot sunny days.

As for Ford’s novel vegan-based leather seats, the ActiveX material looks premium and upscale, but we think it can’t quite match what you get from an animal, with the bolstering in the lower back not delivering the right amount of support and the material feeling too squishy in some spots. That said, the interior is still a very comfortable place to spend time in, and we’ll give Ford props for taking some of the Tesla Model Y’s strengths and using them to make the Mach-E’s cabin stand out in its own right. 


A Unique Breed Of Mustang Performance

The Mustang Mach-E already has the futuristic styling and the slick interior technology needed to make it stand toe to toe with a Tesla Model Y. Still. The Mustang badge also makes you expect a certain amount of performance pedigree. So how does it measure up? That ultimately depends on your expectations of what a performance model should be. However, the Mach-E immediately makes you know that this is a very different breed of pony. While our Premium example was not as powerful as the 480 horsepower GT variant, it still wields 290 horsepower which was enough to launch our example to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.

Acceleration is smooth, and the electrified powertrain has a very playful demeanor. This is especially apparent when placed into sport mode which wakes up the Mach-E’s software and shows its wild side. In addition to this impressive amount of performance, this particular flavor of Mach-E has the second-highest overall driving range (300 miles in rear-wheel-drive guise), with only the Calfornia Edition’s 305 miles of range per charge topping it. Our tester also proved to be very good at attracting attention. People sometimes literally walked right up to it to ask us questions and have their own glimpse of Ford’s futuristic tomorrow.

Handling will be very familiar to Mustang owners, too, with the steering feeling nicely weighted and the suspension doing a good job of soaking up all but the harshest of bumps. There’s some noticeable body roll that’s present, but only when you push the Mach-Ee to its limits which is where the laws of physics and a 5,000 plus lb curb weight make themselves felt. Our lone complaint centered around the brakes, which were a bit too eager to grab to the rotors, and it made pedal modulation hard at times. Here’s hoping that the GT’s firmer suspension tuning (as well as its upgraded brakes) will help solve some of these problems.


Bringing The Range Wars To Tesla’s Door

As far as how the Mach-E measures up in the broader range wars, the electrified CUV manages to be right in the thick of it with rivals. While this is partially dependent on trim and equipment, select versions of the Mach-E have more range than some of its rivals. The Jaguar I-Pace can travel up to 234 miles before it needs a charge, while the Kia Niro EV can travel up to 239 miles. The Volkswagen ID.4 is a more potent threat, with VW reps claiming that the recently launched EV can travel 250 miles on a single charge though it’s nine miles short of matching the Chevrolet Bolt.

Our all-wheel-drive-equipped tester is capable of going 270 miles on a fully charged battery. Still, during our time with it, the highest figure we ever saw was 205 miles, partially due to running the heating system to account for some cold weather during the first half of its visit. As for the Tesla Model Y, it’s still the mileage champ with both the Performance Edition and the Long-Range getting 303 and 326 miles respectively on a single charge. 


Value Quotient

Pricing for the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium starts at $47,000,  which gets you a rear-wheel-drive example. This also makes the Premium the second least expensive model in the family with the $42,895 Select model serving as the base flavor.  Our tester arrived with larger optional wheels but while its pre-production status kept us from finding out the exact price, calling around to some local dealers in town revealed that an example equipped like our tester would end up being just under $50,000 before any tax credits, fees, or even markups are added in.

So at the end of the day, is the 2021 Mustang Mach-E a legit member of the Mustang family? As mentioned, it will depend on who you ask. Some will scoff at the notion of a CUV being sold alongside its traditional muscle car brethren. But if you’re a buyer that’s looking for a Tesla fighter that can bring electrified performance, practicality, and unmatched name recognition? The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E might be worth a serious look