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2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Test Drive Review
Ford aims for sportiness and emotion with its first mass-market electric car.
Eager to prove that it’s serious about electric cars, Ford applied the iconic Mustang name to its new electric SUV. The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is not only the first electric vehicle to wear the Mustang name, it’s also the first production Mustang model with more than two doors.
Ford has made electric cars before (the Focus Electric ended production just a few years ago), but the Mach-E is much more ambitious. It’s the first Ford electric car based on a dedicated platform, and aimed at a mass audience.
Ford believes style and sportiness will help it sell more EVs, but the emphasis on performance also puts the Mach-E in direct competition with the similarly-sized Tesla Model Y. As a small electric crossover, the Mach-E could also get cross-shopped against the upcoming Volkswagen ID.4 and Nissan Ariya crossovers.
Mach-E buyers must choose between rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD), Standard Range and Extended Range battery packs, and four trim levels— Select, California Route 1, Premium, and GT. Our test car was a sold out First Edition model, which is identical to the Premium trim level aside from cosmetic differences like red brake calipers. It featured the Extended Range battery pack and all-wheel drive.
Look and Feel
The Mach-E tries to draw a connection with the traditional Mustang coupe and convertible through its exterior styling. It may have four doors and a rear hatch, but the Mach-E still looks Mustang-like thanks to thin headlights, a long hood, and large (nonfunctional) oval grille. The taillights copy the look of the original Mustang items as well, and feature sequential turn signals. Also helping to reinforce the Mustang connection is a vibrant exterior color palette, including our test car’s Grabber Blue.
The interior of the electric Mustang is dominated by a massive infotainment touchscreen, which sits awkwardly suspended from the middle of the dashboard. A thin rectangular display serves as the instrument cluster (which displays speed “ground speed,” just like other Mustang models), while Ford’s standard rotary gear selector sits on the center console. This gives the interior a minimalist feel very different from most other Ford products, but very similar to Tesla electric cars, which was likely the idea.
Interior materials were of decent quality, and had a subdued look that matched the minimalist design theme of the cabin. However, some buyers may be disappointed by the lack of a leather-upholstery option in this price range. Even the top Mach-E trim levels get a synthetic material called ActiveX (with contrast stitching and textile inserts, on some trim levels).
First Edition models get unique trim elements, including red brake calipers, brushed aluminum pedals, and kickplates that say “First Edition.” These are the only real differences; the main benefit of the sold-out First Edition for buyers was that these models will be the first produced.
To live up to the Mustang name, the Mach-E needed to be sporty. So Ford made it RWD by default, and decently powerful as well. Even the base RWD Select model makes 266 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque, allowing it to get from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, according to Ford.
Ford offers a number of powertrain configurations, but the most potent is the AWD GT Performance Edition, which packs 480 hp and 634 lb-ft. Ford says the Performance Edition will do zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds—the same as a Tesla Model Y Performance.
Our test car sat somewhere in the middle. It had the lower-level AWD powertrain, which was still good for 346 hp, 428 lb-ft of torque, and zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, according to Ford. That’s quicker than the Audi E-Tron, and only 0.3 second behind the Jaguar I-Pace, both of which start at around $10,000 more than the Ford. That also makes the Mach-E First Edition (and the Premium model it shares a powertrain with), quicker than a base Porsche 718 Cayman.
The Mach-E handles corners pretty well, too. The steering was light on feel, but was very responsive, making it easier to set up for corners. The low-mounted battery pack gave the Mach-E a planted feeling, and the car felt surprisingly nimble despite the added weight of that pack. The taut suspension required for that handling prowess made for poor ride quality however, not helped by our test car’s 19-inch wheels (18-inch wheels are standard, while GT models ride on 20-inch wheels).
Ford gave the Mach-E three drive modes—Engage, Whisper, and Unbridled. Engage is the default mode, Whisper is the most efficiency-focused, and Unbridled is the equivalent of the “sport” modes found in many other cars. The differences between the three modes wasn’t great, which at least means you can leave the Mach-E in Whisper mode and not miss out on anything. You can also turn on fake “propulsion sounds” in Unbridled mode, which sound like a recording of an internal-combustion engine played through someone’s phone.
In addition to drive modes and noises, Ford lets you toggle between one-pedal driving and braking that feels more like that of a conventional car. In one-pedal mode, regenerative braking is aggressive enough for most braking situations, although the friction brakes were also well-tuned, with linear pedal feel.
Form and Function
The Mach-E is marketed as an SUV, but its packaging is more like that of a station wagon or hatchback. The driving position is fairly low to the ground, and the low roofline doesn’t exactly create a feeling of spaciousness (even with a panoramic glass roof). Granted, that’s also the case with the Tesla Model Y and VW ID.4, which are both decidedly car-like.
Even compared to the Tesla (full interior measurements for the ID.4 aren’t available yet), the Mach-E falls short on interior space. The Model Y offers more headroom and legroom in the first row and rear seats, and is available in a three-row, seven-seat, configuration.
The Model Y also offers more cargo space with the second row folded, at 68.0 cubic feet to the Ford’s 59.7 cubic feet. Tesla doesn’t publish a cargo-space figure with the second row in place, but the Mach-E sports 29.7 cubic feet, which is more than the Audi E-Tron offers, at least. The Mach-E also has a 4.7-cubic-foot front trunk (frunk).
In the narrow space between the front seats, Ford managed to squeeze a decent-sized storage bin, which sits under a flip-up armrest. A large, flat, area beneath the touchscreen is perfect for storing smartphones. It has a grippy rubberized surface, and a wireless charging pad. Ford also included USB ports for both the first and second rows.
The Mach-E is one of the first Ford vehicles to get the automaker’s new Sync 4 infotainment system, which includes wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and capability for over-the-air (OTA) software updates. The main infotainment touchscreens measures a gargantuan 15.5 inches, while the instrument cluster measures 10.2 inches. SiriusXM 360L with satellite radio a six-speaker audio system are also standard, while Premium, GT, and First Edition models get a nine-speaker B&O by Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The 15.5-inch touchscreen is one of the Mach-E’s signature features, but its size is the only noteworthy thing about it. Instead of individual menu pages, almost everything is displayed at once, making for a text-heavy and unattractive design. Individual blocks of text are fairly large, making them easier to read at a glance, but with so much text on the screen it’s also hard to know where to look. If this was the setup Ford wanted to use, it didn’t need a screen this big.
The bottom of the screen essentially takes the place of analog controls. Ford included a large volume knob, but touchscreen icons and sliders handle all climate controls. While these icons are located right where analog buttons would normally be, we felt it would have been easier to press buttons than manipulate the screen when adjusting temperature.
Because it just launched, crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) aren’t available yet for the Mach-E.
Standard driver-assist features include automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, post-collision braking, a reverse sensing system, reverse automatic braking, adaptive cruise control with automated lane centering, traffic-sign recognition, and evasive steering assist. A 360-degree camera system is also standard on higher trim levels.
The Mach-E is also slated to get Active Drive Assist, which builds on adaptive cruise control to enable automated acceleration, braking, and steering on designated stretches of divided highway. Ford has said drivers will be able to take their hands off the wheel in certain situations, while a driver-facing camera will monitor for distraction.
Active Drive Assist will not be activated at launch. Instead, cars will ship with the system’s hardware, and customers can pay $600 to have the software added via OTA update at a later date (Ford expects it to be ready by third-quarter 2021). Active Drive Assist is standard on the California Route 1, Premium, and First Edition trim levels, and part of a $3,200 package on the Select trim level, which also includes a 360-degree camera system, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.
With the basic adaptive cruise control system, our test car kept pace with traffic reliably, and its automated lane centering was one of the smoothest we’ve experienced in a vehicle from a mainstream brand.
The Mach-E is competitive on range, but doesn’t set new standards. The 68-kilowatt-hour Standard Range battery pack gets an EPA-estimated 230 miles of range with RWD and 211 miles with AWD. The 88-kWh Extended Range pack allows for 300 miles of range with RWD and 270 miles with AWD. Keep in mind that the AWD Tesla Model Y Long Range has an EPA-estimated 326-mile range, while the VW ID.4 Pro is rated at 250 miles with RWD, and a base price that undercuts the entry-level Mach-E Select.
DC fast charging is standard, with a maximum charging rate of 150 kilowatts. Ford uses the Combined Charging Standard (CCS), which is becoming the default for non-Tesla electric cars. With fast charging, Ford says it’s possible to go from 10% to 80% battery capacity in 38 minutes; it took 36 minutes for our test car to go from 22% to 80% on a cold day. Ford also includes a cable that allows the car to plug directly into a 240-volt home outlet (the kind used by large appliances) for Level 2 AC charging, so if you have one of those, you won’t need a dedicated home charging station.
While a sub-$40,000 base MSRP has become the holy grail for many EV advocates and automakers, Ford decided not to bother. Pricing for the Mach-E starts at $43,995 for the base Select trim level with RWD and the Standard Range battery pack. Our First Edition test car—which had AWD and the Extended Range pack—had a $59,400 sticker price. The Mach-E GT trim level starts even higher, at $61,600. The Mach-E does qualify for the full $7,500 federal EV tax credit, however, and may qualify for state and local incentives, depending on where you live.
The Mach-E isn’t priced competitively with other mainstream electric cars, but it also aims to offer more than just basic transportation, bringing a bit more style and sportiness to the table. In that sense, it is a lot like the original Mustang. It’s also a good alternative to the Audi E-Tron and Jaguar I-Pace, offering more range than those two luxury models, with similar crossover packaging, at a lower price.
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