“Any car-maker can electrify a car. Only Ford can electrify a Mustang.” That’s the – admittedly quite good – line from Stuart Rowley, President of Ford of Europe. He was talking at the European debut of the Mustang Mach-E, which took place in London. And he has a good point: even when it comes to launching cutting-edge technology, having something with the heritage of the Mustang in your stable counts for an awful lot.
Whether or not the the Mach-E counts as a true Mustang, however, is a more contentious issue. One thing that can’t be disputed is that the arrival of this car demonstrates a major shift in thinking from Ford, which is now fully embracing an electrified future. That means we’ll see all kinds of hybrid (mild, full and plug-in) cars in 2020 and beyond, as well as a bold strategy for pure battery electric models. How bold? Judging by the Mustang Mach-E, Ford is going all in.
WHY GO ELECTRIC?
A major reason for this is Ford’s desire to avoid heavy fines for not hitting CO2 emissions legislation. Not that it should be blamed for that – the car industry’s path has long been set by the need to meet legislation. Where Ford is showing ambition is in the nature of the electric cars it is choosing to build, which it insists must be aspirational purchases.
“Tesla demonstrated there’s a market for aspirational electric cars,” says Darren Palmer, Ford’s Global Product Development Director. “But we wanted to do things our way, in a way that’s authentic to Ford. We wanted a sporty SUV, because that’s a very hot segment and we had to play in a place where there’s money. We know that electric cars are not cheap but they can be great value.”
As part of the team that first brought the Mustang to Europe, Palmer knows the significance of the car – and its place in Ford’s history – inside out. And he’s says that using the name for the Mach-E was an obvious decision : “The Mustang is the best-selling sports coupe in the world. So why wouldn’t we start there if we are making an aspirational performance car?”
THE MUSTANG MACH-E UP CLOSE
We were given a chance to see a couple of late-prototype versions of the Mustang Mach-E electric car up close. The jury is still out on just how closely aligned this electric Mustang SUV could ever be to the legendary petrol-powered Mustang sports car. But the designers have certainly worked hard to transfer some design cues (most obviously in the rear lights) to this 4.7m long vehicle. As a result, and combined with the car’s sheer size, there’s plenty of road presence.
Inside, the connection is less obvious. If anything, it’s an assortment of themes that are fast become staples for an electric car that stand out more than anything overtly Mustang. For example, there’s an enormous 15.5-inch central touchscreen, a digital speedo, and all but a scattering of physical buttons. It’s not quite minimalist in the Tesla sense, but compared with Ford’s other cars it’s certainly heading that way.
Also typical of an EV is that interior space seems more generous than the exterior dimensions might suggest. Carrying four adults won’t be a problem, and at 402 litres the boot is a decent size.
Nor does there appear to be much to groan about when it comes to ride comfort. On a very brief passenger ride around London, the Mach-E feels taut but not too firm for British city streets (European versions have been tuned differently to US models). It’s hard to say more than that for the time being, particularly with this being a prototype. But rest assured that Ford’s mission has been to make the Mustang Mach-E feel sporty and fun to drive.
It should also shift. The top-spec model is said to cover the 0-62mph sprint in less than five seconds. We managed to passenger for the briefest of acceleration runs in a closed-off section of an underground car park, and sure enough the Mach-E felt suitably potent. With dual motors delivering four-wheel drive, it also leapt off the line without any fuss. For any more than that in the way of dynamic impressions we’ll have to wait.
Back above ground there was tangible excitement from bystanders as the Mustang Mach-E slipped through London traffic. It’s a car that has captured both imaginations and valuable orders – Ford reports that the limited run of First Edition Mustang Mach-Es has already sold out. As further encouragement, one Ford dealer in Amsterdam is said to have taken 40 reservations, all from people who are new to Ford, and who are on average 10 years younger than the company’s typical customers.
The potential range from a full battery is said to be from 260 to around 370 miles, depending which model you go for. As ever, the distance you’ll actually achieve will be closely linked to driving style, but clearly Ford is aiming high. On a suitably rapid charger (the Mach-E can accept up to 150kW) you should be able to charge the battery from 10% to 80% capacity in around 40 minutes.
Clearly, a lot of the key ingredients appear to be in place for Ford’s all-new electric SUV. The strong early demand also suggests that the way in which Ford is tackling the move to electric, both from the car itself and the way it is branded, is already paying off. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if the driving experience is going to fulfil the early promise.
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