The electric vehicle segment is growing at a relatively explosive rate. Though there were electric cars before Tesla, there’s no denying what the brand has done to grow the segment. Ford’s hotly-anticipated Mustang Mach-E showed up on the scene for the 2021 model year, and while it’s not Ford’s first EV (the late-90s Ranger EV and 2010s Focus Electric would like a word), it’s their first mass-market, “just drive it like a car” long-range electric vehicle.
I’ve driven plenty of EVs before, but not felt like any of them were a great fit for me. The Audi E-Tron felt heavy and lethargic, the Chevy Bolt had fickle climate control and wasn’t much of a road-tripper, and I just can’t get into Teslas past the initial flash and sizzle. So when Ford sent over a 2021 Mustang Mach-E Premium, with all-wheel drive and the extended-range battery, for a week of evaluation, I was excited. Maybe this one would be different.
What Is It?
This is a 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. It’s not related to the gas-powered Mustang coupe and convertible in the slightest, save for styling cues and pony badging stuck everywhere you might typically find a Ford logo. Ford choosing the Mustang affiliation implies the Mach-E is fun to drive, while cashing in on some big-time brand equity. Some enthusiasts hate the move, I find it brilliant. Several non-enthusiast shoppers have mentioned their interest in “the new electric Mustang” which is truly an easier model name to remember than a mishmash of alphanumerics.
Beyond the badging, the Mach-E is a fully-electric crossover that seats five. The most basic Mach-Es will drive the rear wheels, and all-wheel drive is optional on all trim levels. Horsepower, torque, and range all vary depending on the drive wheels and battery size you choose. My Mach-E Premium with all-wheel drive and the long-range battery produced 346 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque, and Ford claims a 270 mile range. The rear-wheel drive Mach-E loses some power and torque due to the lack of motor on the front axle, but can travel a rated 305 miles in exchange.
Despite weighing in around 4,800 pounds according to Motor Trend, the Mach-E Premium AWD Extended Range (whew) can claw its way to 60 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds. If that’s not fast enough for you, the Mach-E GT with Performance package can complete the same sprint in 3.5 seconds, thanks to another 134 horsepower and 206 lb-ft.
MSRP of my 2021 Mach-E Premium AWD Extended-Range was $56,400. Ford is currently still eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit on electric vehicles.
Hustling the Mach-E on Back Roads
My biggest concern with the Mach-E was its range. Ford claims 270 miles, but as with any EV, that range assumes perfect weather, minimal climate control usage, and a lighter foot on the throttle. How would the range hold up to a day of back-road driving with some friends?
To test this, I assembled some friends at, ironically, a gas station, and we set off on a route I’d planned. Including my trip from home to meet everyone, and the drive all the way home at the end of our day, the route covered 224 miles. We started on some four-lane highways, then went up and down the mountains through Shenandoah National Park before settling in to some flatter two-lane roads that took us to lunch in downtown Winchester, Virginia.
I don’t have provisions for charging at home, so I topped the Mach-E off at my local Electrify America DC Fast Charging station and snuck the “home charger” cord into a nearby household outlet in my parking garage. My day began at 100% charge with an indicated 244 miles of range. I reset the Mach-E’s range calculator using the big Sync 4 touchscreen, and that range figure jumped to 258 miles. Enough range, but only just. Let’s go.
Following my hour-long drive to meet everyone at Sheetz, the Mach-E told me I had 209 miles of range. Still plenty, but I was worried what full-throttle and other aggressive driving would do. I knew there were some charging stations along our route, but I hoped to not use them.
I gave the Mach-E several wide-open throttle runs away from red lights as friends tried to outrun me in their various rides. With the Mach-E in its “Unbridled” drive mode, it was quick enough to hang in a straight line, though I wasn’t walking away from anyone as much as I thought I would once we got off the line a bit. Blame the fact that the electric Mustang makes more torque than horsepower for that.
Once we hit the mountains, though, the Mach-E came into its own a bit more. I had enabled One-Pedal Driving, and was able to barely use the brake pedal. Lifting my right foot just a hair to slow the Mach-E for the next corner quickly became natural, and I established a rhythm easily. Lift off, turn in, plant your right foot in the carpet, ignore the tire squeal, and look through to corner exit as the Mach-E does exactly what you ask. The nose will tuck in when you lift throttle, and the car just pivots as you roll back on to the skinny pedal.
Yes, the Mach-E is heavy at nearly 5,000 pounds, but the whole thing works together very well when hustled. Much of that weight is due to the floor-mounted batteries, keeping the center of gravity low. Understeer is minimal, as is body roll.
I did wish for more heavily-bolstered seats, which are coming as part of the Mach-E GT later this year. Ford is aiming the “regular” Mach-E at the widest variety of body types possible, and the seats are comfortable enough but not very supportive when you’re mid-corner.
Suspension stiffness was the opposite of seat bolstering – ideal for back roads but a bit firm in the city. Again, the Mach-E GT will (potentially) solve for this with adaptive “Magneride” shocks. We’ll reserve judgement here, as shock damping isn’t everything for ride quality. Spring rate also plays a part, and it’s unclear if the Mach-E GT will have a revised rate.
Public Charging a-la ‘Plug and Charge’
My day of back-road fun started and ended at Electrify America stations. Ford has partnered with Electrify America to offer “Plug and Charge,” which stores your payment information on the FordPass phone app. This means, in theory, that you can pull up to an Electrify America station and simply plug the car in without swiping your credit card. The car will be identified, charging will begin, and you’ll be billed at the end of the session.
I attempted three DC Fast Charge sessions with the Mach-E, and Plug and Charge worked on two of the three. The first attempt failed due to a faulty charging bay, which has also given me hassles with other EVs. Using another bay worked flawlessly, as did my charge following the day of fun at a different station altogether.
While I didn’t have to charge after my back-road jaunt, I did promise to have the Mach-E juiced up for its transit to the next member of the media the following day. So, after a long day of curves and scenic views, I stopped at an Electrify America station on the route home. I had covered 190 miles and the Mach-E claimed another 60 miles of range remained. The hard driving had only eaten up eight extra miles on the “Guess-o-Meter” which I found acceptable.
Ford claims the Mach-E can add 61 miles in ten minutes, a claim I validated almost to the second when I stopped at the end of the day. It was just enough time to run in to a Panera across the parking lot, use the restroom and grab a drink for the road. Ford’s claim of “10% to 80% in 45 minutes” also appeared accurate during my fast charge efforts.
Ford is positioning the Mustang Mach-E as a direct competitor to Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y. Personal brand preferences aside, there’s plenty to like about the Mach-E, from styling to driving experience to build quality. It’s futuristic enough while remaining “normal-feeling” for folks who aren’t totally sold on EVs. Charging is quick and I’d have no issues road-tripping the Mach-E. Ford’s stated range is accurate as is charge time.
Of course, I’m excited for the more aggressive seats, fancy shocks, and bright Cyber Orange paint that all come with the Mach-E GT. But for normal people looking for a normal-ish electric car, the Mach-E hits the nail on the head while remaining more than fun enough to be pushed hard when things get twisty.
Is the 2021 Mach-E a Mustang? Well, Ford once had the cajones to call an 88-horsepower coupe with a three-speed automatic and a landau roof a Mustang, and society adjusted to that wheezy affair. Extreme purists’ jimmies will likely remain rustled, but the Mach-E is quick enough and handles well enough to be more than worthy of the Mustang brand.