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Ford's enticingly named electric family SUV gets mid-life suspension revisions and equipment tweaks

By staking one of its proudest sub-brands on one of its boldest model launches in decades, Ford risked plenty when it launched the Ford Mustang Mach-E in 2020.

So far, the Blue Oval's first all-electric production model has contributed plenty for its maker, helping to bring its showroom fleet average CO2 emissions down, and showing the world that this old car maker is ready to provide the zero-emissions motoring of the future. It demonstrated a willingness, also, to protect the dynamic character traits we expect of a Ford, even if it is an electric Ford.

Front grille may be entirely closed off and merely hinted at by an outline, but credit to Ford’s designers, because the overall effect is convincingly sporting and rather elegant. The active lower air intake isn’t quite so effective, mind

But the Mach-E has so far - on our continent, at least - failed to hit commercial success quite like some of its rival EVs. In 2021, its first full calendar year of European sales, it only just limped into the continent's top twenty most popular electric cars – which might explain why, in spring 2022, Ford saw fit to make some subtle but important tweaks to it.

The passage of time is making it easy to forget the fireball of controversy that engulfed the launch of this car. The idea itself wasn't the issue. Crossovers and SUVs are now without question the profit-making bedrock of almost every major car maker. So a volume-selling electric crossover, with the potential to drive down aggregated carbon emissions, is a sensible product to make. And, as the world’s fourth-largest car maker, Ford simply had to have one. The controversy stemmed from the fact that this first bespoke EV for the brand uses the Ford Mustang name.

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This car hasn’t, as many initially feared, replaced the eight-cylinder Mustang (at least not yet), but it’s certainly trading on that car’s legend. It’s difficult to think of any comparable strategy from another car maker, realised or not. Perhaps if Porsche decided to call the upcoming electric Macan the 911-E? We doubt that would go down too well either.

The Mustang Mach-E generated enormous interest at launch, not only via its impressive on-paper statistics but also through its styling and positioning. It’s not for no reason that Ford built more Mustang Mach-Es in Mexico in 2021 than it did ‘proper’ Mustangs in Michigan. And so, in a more global than European sense, the car has been selling well, while Ford continues to aim to make four in every 10 cars sold by 2030 an electric one.

What this test aims to find out is what sort of car the Mach-E really is, away from the controversy of its name. Is Ford’s first proper EV effort one it can be proud of?

The Mustang Mach-E line-up at a glance

The Mustang Mach-E model line-up started out, as the order books opened, layered by the size of the battery and the numbers of motors. Heading the line-up was the AWD Extended Range model, making roughly as much power as the Mk3 Ford Focus RS, and delivering it to the ground via an electric motor on each axle; but it was possible to have a dual-motor, four-wheel-drive car with a Standard Range battery also.

In 2022, however, the derivative line-up was slimmed and simplified, just as the range-topping, 480bhp Ford Mustang Mach-E GT arrived. Below it, you can now buy the car in lower-level Select trim (with one rear-mounted drive motor and 70kWh of battery storage) or Premium trim (with 91kWh of usable battery pack). Only the upper-level model can be had in dual-motor, four-wheel-drive form, although it’s possible to have the bigger-batteried Mach-E solely in rear-drive guise (like our test car) if you prefer. 

Upper-level Mach-Es can rapid charge at up to 150kW, while those with the smaller battery are limited to 115kW. The only major options package to consider is Ford's Tech Pack +, which adds a premium audio system, a powered tailgate and a panoramic glass roof.

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Version Power
Ford Mustang Mach-E Select 70kWH RWD 266bhp
Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium 91KWH RWD* 290bhp
FORD MUSTANG MACH-E PREMIUM 91KWH AWD 346bhp
FORD MUSTANG MACH-E GT 91KWH AWD 480bhp

*Version tested

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Ford Mustang Mach-e

DESIGN & STYLING

ford mustang mach e 2023 review  01 front tracking

Jason Castriota, who is now Ford’s head of design but in another life styled the Ferrari 599 GTB (2006-2012), talks about deploying the company’s 'family jewels' for the Ford Mustang Mach-E. The jewels in question are the Ford Mustang’s hallmark aesthetic cues, which go back decades and aren’t trifled with lightly: tri-bar tail-lights, the long, high bonnet, muscular rear haunches, a cab-rear stance and the angry headlight ‘brow’.

All can be found on this electric crossover, which also uses gloss black surfacing for the roof and lower body to trick the eye into seeing coupé lines on what is actually quite a large, tall car. All in, it’s an impressively faithful interpretation of the Mustang design DNA, whether or not you feel it should have been attempted in the first place.

Rear LED light graphics are perhaps the most obvious nod to the traditional Mustang’s design, and the modules are cupped by pronounced rear haunches, which really do help to give the car that classic cab-rear, long-nosed look

The Mach-E sits on what’s known as the Global Electrified 1 platform – essentially a heavily modified version of the C2 platform that Ford also uses beneath the Ford Focus and Ford Kuga. It gives the car a footprint between that of the Polestar 2 and the Mercedes-Benz EQC, although closer to the latter, which the Mach-E actually outstretches in terms of wheelbase and matches to the millimetre for height.

As for weight, at 2010kg, the Mach-E is among the lighter electric cars of this size, which is perhaps why the longer-range version tested here totes 372 miles of WLTP range.

That’s made possible by the car’s 99kWh lithium ion battery pack, which lies across the floorpan of the car (91kWh of that capacity is usable). A lighter, less expensive 76kWh battery is also offered, which drops the claimed range to 273 miles - with the usable capacity of both versions having risen slightly as part of the car's 2022 update. Elsewhere as part of the car's early facelift, towing capacity increased to 1500kg for 91kWh versions of the car, while the car's DC rapid-charging calibration was refined for faster charging speeds.

Other than the battery, the only layout decision for owners is whether to stick with the single rear-mounted electric motor (as is the case for our test car) or have another on the front axle to give the Mach-E performance-enhancing four-wheel drive. With AWD and the bigger battery, the Mach-E makes 346bhp, although this falls to 290bhp when you subtract the front motor.

As for the suspension, the Mach-E uses MacPherson struts up front with multiple links at the rear. In standard cars, it's controlled by passive dampers and coil springs, although the range-topping Ford Mustang Mach-E GT is equipped with Magneride adaptive dampers for finer control and adjustment of ride and handling.

Having been developed exclusively by Ford of America, early versions of the Mach-E came in for criticism for poorly resolved close body control and an unsettled, fidgeting ride. Ford addressed that by reappraising the car's suspension spring and damper settings for the 2022 update. 

INTERIOR

ford mustang mach e 2023 review  10 dash

Push the dashboard-mounted button that starts the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the car emits a quiet but intense and throbbing musical motif that – and this simply has to be deliberate – sounds remarkably similar to the first bar or two of Harold Faltermeyer’s intro for the Top Gun theme. Look through the Ford Mustang-logoed steering wheel and you will also notice that it says ‘ground speed’ on the slim digital screen that stands in the place of a traditional instrument binnacle.

No, the Mach-E doesn't try quite as hard to tap into a certain cultural zeitgeist as the V8-engined Mustang, but superficial trappings are there to be noticed. These might irritate you; to us, it’s all harmless fun.

Chrome-effect dial for the volume is the only physical control for the infotainment, which makes you wonder why Ford has allowed this part to feel cheap

Word has it that this cockpit was originally going to borrow heavily from the Focus, but when Ford realised just how important its first ever ground-up electric car was going to be, that changed. Now, only some of the switchgear is obviously taken from the parts bin, although as a whole the place still falls some way short of the standards set by the Polestar 2 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 for materials variety and perceived quality.

True, there are fewer hard plastics in here than you will find in the Volkswagen ID 4 and the stitched ‘leather’ seats and woven dashboard trim elevate the Mach-E above standard Ford fare (as well they might, given the asking price), but the cockpit was never going to be the main event with this car, and that’s how it feels. Fit and finish aren't uniformly excellent, and visually the place is fairly drab.

Ergonomically, the picture is mostly good, although the bases for the electrically adjustable seats lack much in the way of tilting functionality (this is more irksome than it sounds) and are only very lightly bolstered. There is, at least, plenty of occupant space, not only up front but also in the second row, where scalloped front seatbacks help create plenty of knee room. Head room is truly superb, too, thanks to that deceptively high roofline, into which is built a panoramic roof that floods the cabin with light.

The interior was almost touched by Ford's 2022 update, although the Mach-E's automated cruise control system was improved.

Infotainment and sat-nav

How you feel about Ford’s next-generation Sync infotainment array in the Mach-E will depend on your feelings towards enormous touchscreens. The portrait-oriented 15.5in unit here is taken straight from the Tesla playbook, albeit retaining a useful physical dial for the volume. It will be a big, glossy, vibrant distraction to some but a useful and intuitive aid to others, because its size really does make it easy to flick through menus and get the functionality you want, as well as presenting information clearly.

What the Tesla doesn’t have that the Ford does is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, each of which works well on this system and can feed miniaturised sat-nav data onto the slim digital instrument readout.

The climate controls are then laid across the bottom of the screen. We would always prefer physical switches for climate, but the Ford’s touch-sensitive buttons are easy enough to use.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

ford mustang mach e 2023 review  02 panning

The Ford Mustang Mach-E’s three driving modes culminate in Untamed, which feels very much like its selection via the central touchscreen should be accompanied by a gruff, gladiatorial-sounding voiceover in an American accent.

It doesn’t liberate any extra power from the rear-mounted electric motor but does trim the damping effect on the accelerator, making it pleasingly responsive, although still not hair-trigger sharp in the fashion that Tesla prefers.

The Mach-E’s handling is more involving than other EVs, if not other Fords - but the car is certainly at its best-balanced in single-motor, rear-drive form.

The Mach-E also gives the driver the option of having a simulated driving sound pumped into the cabin, and Ford’s choice of tone is similar to that of the bassy Porsche Taycan, only with a burbling edge to it.

It’s not a noise the car does much to underscore in terms of raw performance. On a damp mile straight at Millbrook, our single-motor, rear-driven test car recorded a 0-60mph time of only 6.8sec, even though the conditions seemed to have no effect on the rear axle’s ability to get its power down cleanly. That time is only two tenths quicker than we recorded with the thoroughly unsporting Volkswagen ID 3, and while usefully quick, the Mach-E never achieves a level of acceleration even in the vicinity of what you might call exciting. That kind of pace is reserved for the AWD Mach-E, which is claimed to haul itself to 60mph in five seconds dead, making it competitive with the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3.

Our RWD Mach-E is more convincing once up and running, when the accelerator response feels intuitively tuned (certainly more so than that of the springy brake pedal, which appears overly sensitive at first but then needs more force than you’re expecting to have to deploy) and the motor provides sufficient propulsion for effortless overtakes.

Accelerating from 30mph to 70mph, the Mach-E is only half a second or so slower than the Toyota GR Yaris, which has an infinitely more impressive power-to-weight ratio. There’s also enough torque to ensure you think about how early you can deploy the majority of it on the exits of tighter corners, and the Mach-E certainly isn’t one of those cars whose chassis easily has the better of the powertrain.

RIDE & HANDLING

ford mustang mach e 2023 review  04 front cornering

In a class whose handling aspirations are modest, the greatest compliment we can pay the Ford Mustang Mach-E is that it is quite recognisably 'Ford’ in the way it goes down a road. Perhaps, if you squint, even recognisably ‘fast Ford’, particularly in RWD format, where the chassis goes without the stability provided by the AWD model’s front-axle electric motor.

A two-tonne-plus electric crossover it may be, but it’s one willing to look beyond the deadpan neutrality cherished by the likes of the Polestar 2 and one comfortable with even a little yaw, which is achievable with surprisingly little commitment from the driver, particularly in the wet.

High centre of gravity is really felt on downhill, off-camber corners and the lack of feel in the steering becomes uncomfortable

On relatively narrow tyres, there’s a playful side to the car’s dynamic disposition that stands it out among peers, which generally do little to build on the natural rear-drive layout that electrification often brings.

None of which is to say that Ford has gone overboard here. At 3.7 turns lock to lock, the steering is quite lazily geared, even by the standards of the class, and the off-centre response is tuned for confidence rather than outright response. A fair amount of body roll is also permitted, although the Mach-E rarely feels ‘loose’ to an uncomfortable degree, because the rate of roll is well matched with the elastic motion of steering, particularly at the kind of speeds you would typically manage along an interesting B-road.

Admittedly, you’re left with a car that’s more poised than agile and one that never shakes off its weight or softness. The Mach-E generates an enjoyable sense of flow and possesses reasonable handling accuracy – qualities shared with the ‘proper’ Ford Mustang. As one tester put it, there’s enough bite, accuracy and interest here that keener drivers might seek the Ford out in the same way that you might take the Jaguar I-Pace over the Audi Q8 E-tron or the Mini Electric over the Peugeot e-208.

A revelation? Not quite. There’s still too much weight and too little steering feel here for the Mach-E to ever truly get under your skin. The RWD merely does the basics well, and trades some all-weather traction and stability for freer dynamics.  Meanwhile, close body control and ride sophistication have only really progressed as far as satisfactory, even after Ford's suspension revisions. Cross an uneven surface and the car can porpoise a little over its rear axle and generally feel excited and a little easily upset by recurrent suspension inputs. When the road turns bumpy, this certainly isn't one of Ford's dynamic high points.

We had an interesting time on Millbrook’s Hill Route in the car, mostly because it was wet. You can’t rely on the Mach-E’s steering to tell you anything particularly useful, and yet the car seems to generate more front-axle grip than you think it might, because this RWD example’s tail could be brought into play almost at will.

Ford even seems to have been deliberately conservative with the accelerator response, to avoid shocking the chassis and bringing about unintended instability. The more subtle elements of throttle adjustability are unsurprisingly non-existent.

In fairness, the Mach-E is much like the ‘real’ Mustang in this sense: it’s no great communicator but is willing to mess around and happy to keep you on your toes, albeit with a higher centre of gravity, more weight transfer and more body movement overall. We suspect there’s a reason why you can trim the traction-control intervention but can’t switch off the stability control.

Comfort and isolation

There are some exceptionally refined electric crossovers around, but they tend to sit in the more expensive, upper echelons of the category – the likes of the Audi Q8 E-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC, with prices that start with a seven.

In the sub-£60,000 clique, the standards remain rather a lot lower in terms of sheer rolling refinement, and no manufacturer seems to have yet cracked the code perfectly.

The Polestar 2, Tesla Model 3 and Mercedes-Benz EQA: all are quiet enough on the move but also have that slightly reactive ride quality that hybrid or ICE alternatives at this price generally manage to avoid, although the Volkswagen ID 4 does seem to have made good progress. Tuning suspension to compensate for anything up to 500kg of batteries clearly isn’t easy.

On its passive dampers, the Ford does nothing to raise the average score of the class. In fact, it probably lowers it a touch. Ride quality isn’t outright harsh (how, you might wonder, could it be with those 60-section tyre sidewalls and suspension rates that permit plenty of roll during cornering), but it is constantly busy, and faintly coarse, as though the 18in wheels are proactively hunting out blemishes on the road. Only on perfectly surfaced stretches can the chassis settle and the Mach-E finally shows the polished, loping high-speed gait we want from this kind of car.

In terms of acoustic isolation, wet roads made direct comparisons difficult, although at a 70mph cruise, our microphones showed cabin noise to be one decibel louder than that of the stiff-chassised Volkswagen Golf R, which doesn’t reflect brilliantly on the Ford.

Given the money being asked and the Mustang name, we would also want more sculpted front seats, which wouln't only offer more support than the fairly flat standard-fit items but would surely prove more comfortable over distance, too.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

ford mustang mach e 2023 review  04 front cornering

If you’re after an electric crossover, there are good reasons why the Ford Mustang Mach-E would slot very easily into your day-to-day life. Chief among those reasons is driving range.

Tested in pre-facelift form with 88kWh of usable battery capacity, the car returned consumption figures that suggest you can expect at least 250 miles of autonomy in real-world mixed driving conditions. At a steady 70mph, that increases to closer to 280 miles, and the 5.2mpkWh figure the Mach-E returned at 50mph translates to an outright range of more than 450 miles.

The Ford is expected to retain 5% less of its original value than the Polestar 2 or Tesla Model 3 over three years. Even so, 50% isn’t bad going

These figures put the Ford right at the upper end of range performance versus direct rivals. Residuals for the Premium RWD car are also competitive, and the Mach-E is very well equipped across the board, although prices reflect all of that. Cars like the Volkswagen ID 4 and Nissan Ariya, which are comparable with the Ford in most ways, are now considerably cheaper at list price.

As for other reasons why you might not go for the Ford, you will from time to time as an owner throw envious glances at similarly priced EVs that offer comfortably more performance. The Tesla Model 3 will be one of those cars, and Tesla’s Supercharger network also makes its spacious junior saloon an easier car to use for longer trips.

The Mach-E may possess 150kW charging potential, but plenty of rivals now charge more quickly. However, in this respect, the Ford faces only the same hurdles that so many other electric cars not made by Tesla face, and they don’t tout its impressive range.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Ford Mustang Mach-e

VERDICT

ford mustang mach e 2023 review  21 static charging

Strip away the historical namecheck and semi-evocative styling cues and what does the Ford Mustang Mach-E leave you with? In short, an encouragingly good full-size electric car in some ways and one that clearly makes an attempt to bring some discernible dynamic personality into a class that’s generally lacking.

In longer-range RWD form, Ford’s first proper EV doesn’t dazzle with warp-speed acceleration. In fact, the powertrain is unremarkable other than for the driving range it provides. It is the chassis that brings a least a little driving satisfaction, with its appreciable playfulness when the moment takes you.

Worthy of the name? Perhaps not, but still quite a likable effort

Outright fun? Like its rivals, the Ford is too heavy for that, too unsettled over testing roads, and its steering too synthetic; and yet it's still one of the more pleasing driver’s car of its ilk.

Fears that the Mach-E would be very much style-over-substance are further dispelled by what is a truly spacious and airy cabin, even if the look of the place is somewhat unimaginative and perceived quality a rung or two below what you will find in European rivals.

The Mach-E is nevertheless good enough in these respects, and by dint of its strong usability and Ford’s approach to dynamics, to deserve the consideration of plenty of EV adopters; although its fairly high prices, which it struggles to justify across the board, mean it will need surprisingly well-heeled buyers.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Ford Mustang Mach-e

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Ford Mustang Mach-E First drives