At first, it sounded like a bit of a whoosh. But under the layer of electronic hum, there was a light rumbling sound.
Low and smooth, the echo sounded through the cabin as the vehicle took off and I was pressed back into my seat as the driver tapped into the vehicle’s instantaneous torque.
Frankly, it was a bit disconcerting because you could hear the distinct engine noise, but you couldn’t feel it reverberating through the seats or floorboards.
Then again, the whole idea of an electric and SUV Ford Mustang is generally disconcerting.
But that’s exactly what Ford revealed on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show.
In addition to getting an early backgrounder on the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, I had the special opportunity to sit in the vehicle as well as take a ride in an early prototype.
While specs, photos and pricing were “leaked” before the official reveal, what the sensationalized stories couldn’t tell you is how beautiful the vehicle looks in person and what it actually felt like to sit behind the wheel or be a passenger as the Mach-E lunged gracefully through a slalom course.
Getting outside of my own head and the years of pony-car nostalgia nestled within, I have to say the whole experience – and the vehicle itself – was pretty darn cool.
Initially, Mach-E was supposed to be a compliance vehicle using the architecture from a European spec Focus. But somewhere around 2017, Ford Motor Co. decided to scrap compliance and go for cool.
“This could have been any other SUV,” said Kumar Galhotra, president of North America for Ford Motor Co. “But we looked at our own experience with the Focus BEV, and we’ve looked at other automakers with forced BEVs, and the answer was clear: We had to do something different. We had to do something only Ford could do.”
While the Mach-E is clearly an SUV with higher ride height and available all-wheel drive, it has the soul of a pony car with a ground clearance of 5.7 inches, sculpted design, sporty hug-your-body seats and more performance than a Porsche Macan.
Circling the vehicle, you can see the Mustang design cues from the shark nose, sweeping roofline and iconic sequential taillights. The pronounced rear haunch gives an athletic stance, and if you stand at the back and peer around the edge of rear fascia, the curves swoop seamlessly along the side for a sexy profile unmarred by door handles.
Instead, the handles are replaced with “e-latch” buttons that pop the door open. If you use your phone as the key, the driver’s door will also open automatically as you approach the vehicle with your phone in hand.
Because this is an electric vehicle, there is no traditional grille, but it has what Ford is calling “an implied Mustang grille” – which is especially noticeable on the GT version with a wavy, 3D pattern on the smooth, dark front face of the Mach-E.
The interior is just as striking as the exterior with the most polarizing item being the floating 15.5-inch screen that replaces any semblance of a center stack. All HVAC, vehicle and audio tuning controls are contained within the screen, but having learned from at least one automaker’s mistake, Ford kept a volume knob at the bottom of the screen.
The seats – both front and rear – are some of the most comfortable cushions I’ve sat on, and the side bolsters are unobtrusively supportive. The overall experience of sitting in a Mach-E seat is like stepping into a warm hug.
Plus, being true to its eco-conscious nature, it’s interesting to note that all the interior materials on the Mach-E are sustainable and vegan on every trim.
Mach-E will also debut the next-gen Sync 4.0.
In addition to having cool color graphics, the technology is predictive, and it learns the driver’s habits.
For example, if you always listen to talk radio in the morning and call your mom on your commute home, the system will give you “quick action” suggestions with the radio preset or call-mom buttons at the top of the screen at the appropriate times.
But the Mach-E isn’t just a pretty face with cool technology. It’s got the specs to back it up.
I can now confirm the information leaked was mostly real with a couple of additions and corrections. First and foremost, the standard-range (SR) vehicle will have a 75.7 kWh battery pack, and the extended-range (ER) vehicle will have a 98.8 kWh battery pack.
Then, the Mach-E lineup for 2021 will be as follows:
- Select ($43,895): RWD or AWD, SR battery pack only, 255 horsepower (RWD/AWD) and 306 lb-ft of torque (RWD) or 417 lb-ft of torque (AWD). The 0-to-60-mph times will be low-6 seconds (RWD) and mid-5 seconds (AWD).
- California Route 1 ($52,400): RWD only, ER battery pack only, 282 horsepower, 306 lb-ft of torque. The 0-to-60-mph time will mid-6 seconds.
- Premium ($50,600): RWD or AWD available, SR or ER battery pack available, 255 horsepower (SR, RWD & AWD), 282 horsepower (ER, RWD), 332 horsepower (ER, AWD) and 306 lb-ft of torque (SR & ER, RWD) or 417 lb-ft of torque (SR & ER, AWD). The 0-to-60-mph times will be mid-6 seconds (ER, RWD), low-6 seconds (SR, RWD) and mid-5 seconds (AWD).
- First Edition ($59,900): AWD only, ER battery pack only available, 332 horsepower and 417 lb-ft of torque. The 0-to-60-mph time will be mid-5 seconds.
- GT ($60,500): AWD only, ER battery pack only, 459 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque. The 0-to-60-mph time will be in the mid-3 seconds.
The range for each build is as follows:
- RWD, SR: 230 miles
- RWD, ER: 300 miles
- AWD, SR: 210 miles
- AWD, ER: 270 miles
- GT: 235 miles
In terms of charging the battery, Ford has said the Mach-E can go from 0 to 100 percent in as little as 9 hours using Level 2 charging.
While we only had a brief time to sit in and experience the vehicle in motion, it was enough time to understand Ford has something truly special on its hands. It was smooth over rough surfaces and handled the S-shaped slalom with ease.
Because this is an electric vehicle, the sound inside the vehicle is mostly manufactured. Inspiration for the sounds you hear come from things such as Christian Bale’s Batmobile, and at launch you’ll have three selectable modes that affect sound as well as driving efforts: Whisper, Engage and Unbridled.
Whisper is meant to inspire calmness and serenity, so it’s not surprising that the ambient sound reminds me of a white noise machine set to low, and the drive mode will be more smooth luxury than sport. Engage is the standard setting, and in addition to more (cough) engaged steering and throttle response, the sound pipes in a bit more – but to me it sounds kind of like wind rustling through trees.
Unbridled is full-on sport mode. Interior graphics change to copper, the steering gets stiffer, and the pedal map is completely different. Plus, the sound is more energetic – an electric hum, with a low rumble in the background.
Not quite what you’re used to from a Mustang, but more visceral than your typical electric vehicle.
From the outside, the Mach-E seriously sounds like the Batmobile speeding off to rescue the citizens of Gotham. It’s weird and cool at the same time.
One more thing to point out: Because this is an electric vehicle, it will have the option for one-pedal driving where you can use the accelerator for both propulsion and deceleration depending on the pressure applied to the pedal.
The bottom line:
This is not the Mustang enthusiasts know and love. But it is the Mustang an enthusiast could come to love. It’s fast and, from the brief ride I had, appears fun to drive.
The Ford Mustang Mach-E is now open for reservations and requires a $500 refundable deposit. Deliveries are expected to begin in late 2020 for Premium and First Edition models. The Select and California Route 1 will be available in early 2021, and the GT will bring up the rear in the spring of 2021.