Mountain Wheels: Ford’s Mustang Mach-E makes electric just about mainstream
I do not and cannot blame the revolutionary 2021 Mustang Mach-E for the disconnect between electric reality and admirable but still largely magical thinking, an issue that has become a cash-heavy, industrywide fever dream in recent months.
Nor do I blame Ford for attaching its most storied brand to its most mainstream all-electric vehicle, though that too is a controversial move.
So what’s this odd, futuristic blend of cutting-edge electric technology actually like? Well, that depends on a couple of things: your DNA-level ties to Mustang and your desire to move the needle on widespread acceptance and popularity of electric vehicles, despite some operational shortcomings.
Mustang’s Mach-E is an SUV, not a sports car. It gets tricky pop-open doors without door handles, a cabin-length UV/infrared-coated sunroof, a horizontally mounted 15.5-inch touchscreen in the middle of the spacey denim-look dash and a moderately sizeable trunk under the hood instead of an engine.
And with a body style that is sort of like a partially decapitated Mustang blended into a standard SUV body and shape (including Mustang’s nose, headlights and traditional rear brake lamps), it actually looks cool, not ugly or standoffish like many electrics or hybrids of the past.
Put together, it is indeed a quantum leap in technology, style and cross-genre presentation aimed at — I guess — the thin wedge of electric advocate/attention-seeking/muscle-car-loving SUV fans out there, primarily in warm-weather states. As my car distributor told me, “Well, that may not be your demographic.”
Here’s the deal, my mountain friends: I got the $51,200 premium model, with electronic all-wheel drive and a standard (not extended-range) battery. And then I got almost 2 feet of snow at my house on Lookout Mountain; no garage, no outdoor electrical plug. True to form, the Mach-E had the mildest all-season tires possible, like a midnight rental from DIA.
Despite what I had initially been told, it turns out that there is a very serious difference between the ultimate iterations of this electric car platform — a 300-mile range and power up to the equivalent of 600 horses — and the vehicle I gingerly fishtailed around my unplowed neighborhood, then later careened around canyons when the roads dried out.
My Mach-E had the equivalent of 266 horsepower and a smaller 68 kilowatt-hour battery, built of 288 lithium-ion batteries, rated for just 211 miles due to the extra demands of its all-wheel drive system. Add severe Colorado winter cold, and that range drops considerably; on the last of a series of intensely frustrating, invariably broken or out-of-network charging sessions at public Level 3 chargers in Golden, I got it up to just 129 miles of range.
And knowing that the sole, out-of-network Level 3 charger at the Walmart in Frisco is more often than not out of service, I did not push my luck for a mountain trip, though I know there are many Level 2 chargers around the county if you want to sit around for hours waiting for an even more austere charge. My feeling is that like most electric or hybrid vehicles, the Mach-E would significantly recharge on the ride down from the tunnel into Silverthorne. But even a 5-mile drive uphill from my last charging stop ate more than 6% of the battery capacity. Maybe in the summer this would all be different and less range-anxiety prone. For now, tow trucks are not part of my car review budget.
The good tech news is that the rear-wheel drive version of the Mach-E promises a 230-mile range, and the available extended-range batteries are said to push that to 270-300 miles of range.
Performance, once charged and set on dried-out pavement, was pretty impressive. Mach-E is absolutely silent, so much so that there’s the option of adding faux “propulsion sound” noises to remind you of Mustangness. There’s also three driving modes, giddily named Engage, Whisper and Unbridled, but no snow/low traction mode or any trappings of SUV off-road switchgear.
Lay into it, and the e-AWD version will hit 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds and cruise nicely on the highway. It also had engaging and frankly impressive SUV handling on a canyon drive, provided you don’t focus on the fast-dwindling power supply while cavorting.
Later this year, Ford promises GT and GT Performance editions with magnetic ride, Brembo electric-oriented brake calipers, 20-inch wheels and 0-60 as fast as 3.5 seconds.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.
Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.