Firstly – as it’s on everybody’s mind – no. The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is not a Mustang as we know it. It does not usher in feelings of Automotive Americana, feature the drama of a baritone exhaust, or exhibit much of a mechanical connection between the car and the driver. Not to mention, the rear seats are entirely useable for most shapes and sizes. That’s not very muscle car-like, is it?
That’s not to say that the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is not a standout participant in the breakout segment of new electrified performance vehicles. Nor is it to say that it doesn’t deserve a strategic role in the Mustang family. For example, we doubt president-elect Joe Biden and his cabinet will do much of anything to advocate for the high-octane future of the 760 hp Predator V8 engine found in the S550 Mustang Shelby GT500. Something has to be done to make sure that vehicles like the GT500 can continue into the future for people to enjoy them for years to come. As such, the new Mustang Mach-E is here to bring balance to The Force, to attract new customers to Ford, and to help the Mustang brand flourish in today’s socio-political climate.
We’ll go as far as to say that the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is likely to be looked back at historically as the what the first-generation Cayenne did for Porsche: abrasive to the purists – at first – but ultimately a very positive product decision that made the iconic German brand bigger, stronger, and rich enough to roll out hypercar programs like the 918 Spyder.
And it’s striking to look at, if we’re honest. Just as any Mustang is. Overseen by Jason Castriota, who can otherwise be described as our generation’s Giugiaro, the shape of 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E could be right at home in 2031 just as it is now, with near-concept-car-like details inside and out. The interior is a monochrome back in this case, but the dash and door panels are accented by a well done fabric that does its best to humanize the cabin, which is otherwise minimized to a massive tablet-style center screen, and a sensible driver’s display. The latter of which the Tesla Model Y does not have.
Activating the Mustang Mach-E is like turning on a Playstation 5 for the first time. There’s a sense of sophistication and wonder happening at once. Though, at the end of the day, the rumble and drama of a Coyote V8 will have more presence to it. But the two experiences are apples and oranges, and both are enjoyable in their own right. To that end, the synthetic propulsion noises of the Mach-E kind of sound like Ford recorded the exhaust note of a Mustang GT, handed the clip to Tiesto, who then created an EDM remix of what used to be captive explosions. This sound can also be dialed between a maximum volume pumped through the speakers, or muted to utter silence. The silence, on-demand, is golden. But there’s no doubt that the spaceship sounds add a sense of drama that the Mustang team was surely aiming for.
Concerning Ford’s aim, we’ve all heard by now how the Mustang Mach-E is for all intents and purposes a Mustang, but there’s one particular – bygone – fun Ford that fans the flames of fervor: the Focus RS.
What Ford has created, ladies and gentlemen, is a fully electric hot hatch. One not too small, nor too big. And one that offers a rather clever hands-free driving assist feature.
Consider the following: the Ford Mustang Mach-E actually sits lower than some hatchbacks currently available on the market, such as the Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Yes, just ask Jason Fenske. That’s of course to say nothing of the Mach-E’s delightfully superior center of gravity, thanks to much of the vehicle’s weight sitting below the seats, as that’s where the 68-88 kWh battery pack is located. This gives the Mustang Mach-E dramatic cornering capabilities, while weight transfer under heavy acceleration and braking is predictably neutral. Without overdriving it, the five-door Mustang rotates around its axis with surprising amounts of athleticism around a quick cone course, considering the ride is none too harsh in the least (and some stickier tires would really do wonders here). But it was on the same serpentine streets surrounding metro Ann Arbor that we once pushed a Focus RS through its paces where we really drew the handling comparisons between the two.
The Ford Focus RS is also capable of a 0-62 (100 kph) time of a scant 4.7 seconds. The Mustang Mach-E Premium we tested can do the same deed in 4.8 seconds, thanks to 346 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, found with the AWD Extended Range variant (and it’s That 0-60 time will drop to 3.8 seconds with the upcoming Mach-E GT, launching this summer.
Both have five doors. Both have all-wheel-drive. The prices of both float(ed) around $40,000. Both can scoot off the line. And yet the Mustang Mach-E brings with it more utility and a much more livable driving experience than the Focus RS, which had about all the same ride comfort as a bar fight.
Where the Focus RS was basically maxed out from the factory, the Mustang Mach-E is just getting started. In fact, shortly after our time with the exciting EV, Ford announced an upcoming Mach-E GT Performance Pack, which promises to out-accelerate other jackrabbits like the Porsche Macan Turbo and performance variants of the Tesla Model Y. Although, if maximum driving range is what you’re after, you’re best landing on the current offerings, such as the California Route 1, as the performance versions of the Mach-E will see a drop in range.
We’re not here to tell you if the 211-300 miles of EPA estimated range across the Mustang Mach-E family is amicable or not. That’s truly up to you to decide. But no matter what Mach-E you choose, you’re not just getting the first electric Ford Mustang, you’re getting the first Mustang performance hatchback.