First Drive: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

History hasn’t been kind to Chrysler over their decision to use the goodwill earned by their most popular brand to dress up their most lowly. The execrable “mall-rated” Dodge Caliber-based Compass and Patriot represent a low point in Jeep’s storied history and one best consigned to the scrap heap. So you’d think Ford would have taken note of this when bestowing the iconic Mustang badge upon their four-door, electric powered crossover.

If you ascribe to the theory that “no publicity is bad publicity” well then, the new Mustang Mach-E’s launch certainly didn’t go unnoticed. Marketing minions aren’t known for subtlety when it comes to capitalizing on past successes, but surely “Mach-E” was a pretty cool name on its own. Was it really necessary to saddle a new vehicle with 55+ years of history and the collective anger of generations of fans?

Nevertheless, the very first Ford designed on an electric-only platform has generated a lot of interest among prospective buyers looking for a Tesla alternative. There’s a lot of pressure on the Mach-E to succeed, as it will test the waters for an eventual all-electric F-150 debut. Brand loyalty may make it difficult to accept such a radical departure from traditional gasoline power–particularly when it comes to trucks–or it may just make the transition easier for the die-hard faithful.

Ford’s serious enough about the Mach-E that it’s available in five models and nine different trims. There are two battery options; a standard 75.7 kW hour, or an extended-range 98.8 kWh. The Mach-E has an official maximum range of 475 kilometres if configured with extended range battery and rear wheel drive. Spec the same vehicle with the smaller battery, and the range drops to 355 km. Adding all-wheel drive reduces range to 340 km or 425 km with the extended range battery. However, testing conducted by the U.S. Environmental Act proves those numbers are actually on the conservative side by about 15 km per model. A 459 hp GT model will arrive later, whose 0-100 km time of 3.5 seconds makes it the second fastest Mustang next to the GT500.

Aside from a similar topline and Mustang-inspired taillamps, the Mach-E shares absolutely nothing with its namesake. A rounded, compact crossover, the Mach-E has the arched, swooping roofline that would have a German car company insisting it’s a coupé. I have to admit that the alien “grill-delete” look is starting to grow on me.

My tester is an AWD model with 346 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. I’m reminded that it’s a pre-production model when I ask about the range readout of 347 km at 100 per cent charge and that the software calculations aren’t entirely accurate.

The interior is comfortable and pared down. Two freestanding screens interrupt the stacked planes of the dash, a horizontal one behind the wheel replacing traditional gauges, and an enormous 15.5-inch vertical infotainment screen dominates the centre stack. Embedded in the bottom of the massive touchscreen is an honest-to-goodness rotary volume knob. Ford’s revised SYNC 4 connectivity interface can apparently learn each driver’s preferences, and allow them to create a unique profile instead of having to navigate menus to launch apps or functions. It also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Mach-E comes with Ford Co-Pilot360 2.0, a suite of active safety features, including intelligent adaptive cruise control, blind spot information, and pre-collision assist.

Like most of its ilk, the Mach-E moves forward effortlessly, gathering momentum in a linear whoosh. The suspension feels firm, but not rigid and absorbs bumps and road imperfections.

First Drive 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

First Drive 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

The cabin is quiet and feels well insulated, if not the same level of refinement as the Germans, it’s at least on par with competitors Tesla Model Y, Hyundai Kona, or Kia Niro EV. There’s ample head and legroom, and backseat legroom is near the top of its class. The battery pack’s placement under the vehicle’s floor leaves cargo space uncompromised: trunk space is 821 litres, increasing to 1688 litres with rear seats folded. The front trunk, or “frunk” is a useful 136 litres.

Steering feels on-centre and well-weighted, but delivers little feedback. There are three driving modes: Whisper, Engage, and Unbridled, accessed through the touchscreen, and these alter steering feel, accelerator response and ambient lighting. “Engage” is the Normal, everyday mode, infusing the cabin with serene blue lighting and encouraging efficient driving via the dynamic cluster’s EcoMode display.

“Unbridled” takes the place of Sports Mode, with sharper steering, a boosted performance sound, orange lighting, and enhanced throttle response with G-force and acceleration in the driver’s display.

“Whisper” is akin to Comfort Mode, with light steering, smooth throttle response, brake traction control on wet or slippery road surfaces, and a low gear for easier deceleration on downward inclines without overusing the brakes. A One Pedal Drive toggle is available in all three modes, lifting at the lights to come to a stop while conserving the brakes.

First Drive 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Mach-E’s base price of $50,495 makes it a pretty compelling choice, priced thousands lower than Jaguar I-Pace or Audi E-Tron, while offering more range. The similarly priced Tesla Model Y will probably be its closest competitor and has the advantage of an established charging network. Ford’s promise of an Auto-Pilot like hands-free system to be available soon via download, takes aim squarely at Tesla’s “self-driving” claims.

Unfortunately, the Mach-E’s base price is greater than the $45,000 required to qualify for the federal green incentive, however, it’s still eligible for a $3,000 rebate in British Columbia, and $8,000 in Quebec.

The Hyundai Kona and Kia Niro are both smaller and slower, however, their inclusion of a lower priced gasoline model in the lineup qualifies them for the federal incentives.

Still, for long-time fans of the Blue Oval, the Mach-E just might be the vehicle that finally nudges them to take the plunge into EV ownership.

The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

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