The Fast Facts:
— Ford has revealed a new electric crossover, the Mustang Mach-E, that goes on sale in 2020.
— It’s the first time the Mustang name has been used on anything but a muscle car.
— The Mustang Mach-E comes in both rear- and -all-wheel-drive, and can go up to 300 miles on a charge.
— It can add 47 miles of range in just 10 minutes on a high-speed charger.
— A high-performance GT version that goes on sale in 2021 will do 0-60 MPH in less than four seconds.
— Pricing starts at $43,895.
And just like that, the Blue Oval’s course changed. On Sunday night, Ford unveiled its all-new Mustang Mach-E at an event on Los Angeles, rolling out the electric SUV with the help of new brand ambassador, actor Idris Elba.
The sporty ride initially put Mustang fans on edge after its name was announced — they’re fearful the crossover would sully the brand — while at the same time energizing EV enthusiasts eager for carmakers to tap the performance potential of electrification. Now the car is here, and the masses will commence passing judgment immediately.
However, we caught a sneak peek at the new machine earlier this month, when Ford showed it off behind closed doors while detailing its accelerated (but still painstakingly comprehensive) gestation.
Work began in earnest in 2017, with the creation of “Team Edison,” named after the famous inventor and friend of Henry Ford. The development involved massive market research and a design process that made use of a new computer-aided design application that allowed for instantaneous alterations on the fly.
There are, of course, two key questions here: Is the Mach-E faithful to the Mustang’s heritage, and is it a decent EV? The answer to the former is complex, and goes to the heart of the challenge.
“This is Silicon Valley meets Route 66.”
“This became a massive point of tension within the company, as you guys can imagine,” said Jason Castriota, Ford’s brand director for battery-electric vehicles. “Not only are we talking about taking the Mustang and putting it into an SUV body style, we’re also talking a Mustang going electric. So what does that mean?”
Stylistically, it means the Mach-E echoes the lines of the famed pony car — currently enjoying enormous popularity and off-the-charts performance, the latter via its 760-hp Shelby GT500 variant — though it remains obviously a crossover. It has a low front end and sporty proportions — particularly the large wheels and the stretched dashboard-to-front-axle ratio — with design language that carries over from the coupe. This includes the front fascia, though it’s missing the typical grille, and the sculpting along the doors and fenders.
Despite the stouter dimensions, the parallels are indeed present, and seem to work in the vehicle’s favor. It looks good — not like a mere overlay of Mustang cues on a random SUV.
Conceptually, Ford’s research also suggested that the gearheads who value the Mustang brand may have more in common than originally thought with the tech geeks who groove on, say, Tesla’s ease of use and innovation.
“The Mustang customer is pretty unique. They like to challenge the status quo, and they love the freedom the power of the open road that the Mustang has always represented,” Castriota said. “When we looked at this new EV new customer — younger, tech-savvy, super progressive –we saw a lot of connective tissue between the two, particularly challenging the status quo. This is Silicon Valley meets Route 66.”
From a performance perspective, the car should be a fairly exciting ride, thanks to the low center of gravity typical of EVs and its own low profile. Expect that excitement to accelerate as you go up the options tree: initial models will have options for single-motor rear-wheel-drive and dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrains, with slightly larger motors in the stern to give the power delivery a hint of rear bias. 0-60 times will range in the mid-three-second-range to the mid-fives.
Time will tell if the stylistic and performance links between Mustang and Mach-E — and Mach-E and Silicon Valley — will actually sell electric cars. Previous attempts to spin the Mustang brand toward a new generation of consumers had decidedly mixed results; the notorious Mustang II, on sale from 1973 to 1978, arrived at a similar inflection point in the automotive industry, with an oil crisis that sent fuel prices skyrocketing (and fuel-economy standards even higher). That second-generation Mustang was far from a muscle car, competing with a new generation of small imports and offering anemic performance and handling.
Still, the Mach-E isn’t technically a new Mustang, but rather a Mustang-inspired SUV. As such, its competition is less sports cars than current EVs. At first blush, it seems well-made for the task. Evidence gathered during the preview suggests the car has the kind of deep-tissue engineering required for a fully-realized EV. This includes a new driver interface and infotainment system adapted from the new Sync 4 that’s more intuitive and dynamic than other variants, featuring a prominent physical dial to counter the all-touchscreen interfaces found in many cars these days.
The in-house-developed battery technology and the charging capabilities are also notably impressive. Ford has partnered with VW spinoff Electrify America to ensure it can tap the latter’s growing network of 150-kW chargers, enabling up to 47 miles of range for every 10 minutes on the plug.
The Mach-E will come in five different flavors, with prices starting at $43,895, before the $7,500 federal EV tax credit and other state and local incentives. The entry-level Select model will have either rear- or all-wheel-drive and 18-inch rims, with a targeted 230-mile range; the AWD variant will spring from 0 to 60 in 5–6 seconds. The Premium model, also available in RWD or AWD, will start at $50,600 before tax breaks; the rear-drive-only California Route 1 model will start at $52,400. The GT — not due until 2021, a year after the launch models roll out — will start at $60,500, offering AWD, 20-inch wheels and a mid-three-second 0-60 time. The First Edition will clock in at $59,900 with AWD and 19-inch wheels, as well as a projected 270-mile range and mid-five-second 0-60 time.
Power ratings will also vary, from 255 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque for the RWD Select up to 333 hp and 429 lb-ft for the First Edition. (The company hasn’t yet announced the GT’s specs.)
Ultimately, of course, the real question of how the car upholds the Mustang legacy won’t be fully decided until we get the car on the road to see how it handles — then see how the Mustang Mach-E GT performs once it’s released. If that car can muscle its way down a drag strip competitively with other performance EVs, including certain Teslas, the Jaguar I-Pace, and the Porsche Taycan, it’ll be able to wear the Mustang badge proudly. If it’s ultimately perceived as anything less, Ford may have another Mustang II on its hands.
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