There’s a number of firsts here. This is the first mass-market car-maker’s first fully electric vehicle. It’s also the first dedicated electric car from Ford rather than the ‘electric version’ of a regular combustion-engined car. Plus the first electric car to bear the name ‘Mustang’ (though one suspects not the last) and the first time an electric car has adopted the alias and, to some extent, assumed the persona of a muscle car. Which, if you think about it, should essentially be its absolute antithesis, arch-nemesis even!
What do I mean by that, and how can that even be, considering that it’s part of the same family? Well, ever heard of the evil brother scenario? Except in this case the petrol-engined Mustang would be the villain (or so ‘EV-angelists’ would say) and the Mach-E is the good guy. Open the doors of the Mach-E and deer will prance out with joy, release the tailgate and a swarm of brightly coloured butterfly flutter away!
Electric cars have usually strived to project characteristics that set them firmly apart from the fossil-fuel-burning, Earth-polluting, smoke-belching, smelly and noisy beasts such as its very own traditional namesake. Historically the Mustang is the world’s best-selling two-door sports car, ideally employing a rabid V8 engine that runs on the remains of dead dinosaurs, snacks on cute little bunny rabbits and farts decadent excessive consumption from its tailpipes.
And the fact that the Mustang sportscar still demonstrates such defiance, smoking its tyres while even creating its own climate system at the sharp drop of a clutch, in a world chastised by flood and fire, is actually the reason I continue to pin a 68 Mustang-shaped badge on my chest, right next to my heart. Because I know what it desires.
Right now though, my heart finds itself at the wheel of this: a jumped-up 21-st Century Stang with an empty space in the front instead of an engine, four-doors, SUV-level height, MPV-level space and luxury, and zero-level toxicity. And you know what, I’m feeling a gentle tugging of the heartstrings already.
Perhaps because there is one more ‘first’ I haven’t yet flagged up when it comes to this new-age Mustang – and particularly my relationship to it. This is the first electric car that is not giving me ‘range anxiety’ – you know that fear, no, actually that dreaded certainty, that at some point your car is going to use up all its battery power before you get to your destination, or worse, are miles from a charging point… or a working charging point… or a compatible working charging point… etc.
And this particular Storm Trooper themed Mach-E (my take, not Ford’s) is not even the full-spec, range-topping extended-range version. Refreshingly it’s pretty much the entry-level model. Normally a base-model car is a spartan arid wilderness devoid of any buttons to play with. And that is the case here, except not really, because all the controls are on a house-sized tablet bolted onto the dashboard, possibly inspired by Teslas.
The cabin is not just clean, crisp and a pleasing mix of materials (canvas, carbon and leather) plus screens, but it also boasts enough space for six-footers to sit behind six-footers and for everyone to ride in comfort. The driver gets an elevated vantage point.
The boot may not be massive, but it’s more than adequate, especially as the floor is adjustable and then there’s always the ‘frunk’ – that’s ‘front trunk’ where the spare cables are kept instead of an eight-cylinder engine.
This £41,000 Mach-E is a rear-wheel drive only (there is an AWD version too from £47k) with a claimed 273-mile range (the flagship GT advertises 310 miles and costs £67k). Power is about 265bhp, torque is 430Nm, 0-62mph acceleration is in 6.9 seconds (under 5.0 for the GT) and top speed is 111mph. It has 18-inch wheels – more bulbous and cushy than the GT’s 20-inchers – hence contributing to a smooth all-absorbing ride devoid of the rigid harshness often found in cars laden with battery packs in the floor.
It’s packed with all the kit you’d expect with keyless entry, all the usual driver-assist systems including evasive steer assist, adaptive cruise control, wireless phone charging, parking sensors, reversing camera, decent stereo and of course driving modes.
The modes are Active, Whisper and Untamed – whisper around town, get active on B-Roads and if you’re really feeling rock and roll, hit untamed. All can be paired with single-pedal drive (so you barely need to use the brake pedal) and offer a sound propulsion – although there’s a big opportunity missed here not to offer the full fat glory of rampaging V8 acoustics piped through the internal speakers – I mean why the heck not?
Especially when there’s a hint of Mustang-ness in the drive, particularly this rear-driver as there’s a bit of squirming under full throttle and even a shimmy of the tail when slamming it through a bend. It shrink-wraps around you, never feeling as big as it is. Dare I say this: it’s rather entertaining as well as competent in grip and poise, even as it attempts to ape the ape-like antics of old skool cars, or is that ‘canned-Mustangness’?
Back to that evaporated range anxiety then; the one-pedal drive and regen is incredibly effective in recouping miles, and unlike most EV’s this one gets close to claimed figures in the real world, even when driven at a reasonable lick as any Mustang should be.
Which brings us back to that name. This is NOT a Mustang, not in my eyes, though bystanders who excitedly shouted and waved at me from across a central London street recognised it as a ‘Mustang’. Ford says it’s a Mustang and if you squint real hard, you can maybe see their logic.
On the one hand, they had to make a splash and a talking point of their first electric car – any other name and you may not even have noticed it. This way there was also a famous pony logo (there’s no Ford badge anywhere) and muscle car styling themes to borrow and steal from – love the tri-bar taillights!
Finally, this is the most the most backward-looking of the forward-thinking electric cars out there, both in terms of the personality injections it’s been taking (infused with classic musclecar DNA), but also in its driving appeal. In short, that aspect, combined with the impressive range, means that there is another ‘first’ – this is the first EV that this particularly paid-up petrolhead would seriously consider owning. As long as I could park it next to a V8 Mustang too!