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Zero-emission Mustang range is crowned by the first all-electric fast Ford

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Back in 2020, while Ford was still whetting appetites and building interest in its first series-production EV, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, you might remember that it made a bit of a splash – and plenty of smoke – with a one-off, four-wheel- drive ‘demonstration vehicle’ called the Mach-E 1400. Driven at various events that year by drift ace Vaughn Gittin Jr, the car’s mission was “to showcase the art of the possible for an electric car”. With seven motors and nearly 1400bhp, it certainly did that.

Compared with prototypes, of course, production cars are born more out of the arts of the achievable and commercially viable. Our question this week, then, is whether Ford’s range-topping, road-going performance version of the Mach-E, the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, can follow in the wheel tracks of that 2020 prototype – or whether it will wilt in comparison.

The Mach-E looks better in the metal than in photos. I’m not sure if it looks like a Mustang, but I’m a fan of the way Ford has added visual drama to what might otherwise have been a pretty soulless-looking crossover SUV.

The Mach-E GT arrives in UK showrooms only about 15 months after the first right-hand-drive examples of its lesser sibling derivatives. Its price makes it a shade cheaper than its premium-branded performance EV rivals, although not nearly cheap enough to allow

for there to be any excuses if it falls short as a driver’s car. This is a fast Ford after all, the first zero-emission example of our electrification- enamoured era, and it’s a Ford Mustang to boot. Even without the smoky, track antics build-up, then, it would have had plenty of expectation to live up to. Some very talented rivals are already priced a little too close for comfort, namely those from the likes of Porsche, BMW and Tesla, while competition from Kia and VW’s ID brand arrives soon.

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DESIGN & STYLING

002ford mustang mach e gt side panning 2022

Most go-faster Ford ST and RS models are developed in Europe by the Ford Performance engineering team, but the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, like other Ford Mustang Mach-Es, was engineered and developed chiefly in the US.

It’s built in Ford’s assembly plant in Cuautitlán, Mexico, and it’s based on a model architecture that Ford calls its ‘Global Electrified 1’ platform, although it’s actually a modified version of the C2 platform that underpins the Ford Focus and Ford Kuga.

The door handles are actually micro-switch buttons that actuate a release mechanism that pops the door open. But the only thing to really grab onto is on the frame of the front doors, so it feels like you’re risking trapping your fingers when you get into the back.

The Mach-E’s mechanical layout, however, is nothing like either of those combustion-engined relations. The GT version, like other AWD Mach-Es, has a permanent magnet synchronous motor at each axle but, unlike less powerful AWD derivatives, the GT uses the same high-output drive motor at each end – and they’re the ones that, in rear- drive models, produce up to 290bhp.

Those motors draw power from the same lithium ion battery that any Extended Range Mach-E uses. It’s carried under the full length of the cabin floor but within the car’s wheelbase and has 99kWh of installed capacity.

And so, no doubt limited more by the peak output of the battery than their own potential, those motors produce a combined 480bhp here in the GT, and an even more serious-sounding 634lb ft.

The car is claimed to weigh 2198kg in running order, and our test car was exactly 100kg heavier still on the scales – and therefore more than 300kg heavier than the two-motor Tesla Model Y tested last month, which is something we can’t applaud.

The car uses specially tuned coil springs and anti-roll bars and gets Magneride adaptive dampers to help rein in its mass on the move. Its axles (struts at the front, multiple links at the rear) are only a few millimetres wider of track than those of any other Mach-E, though, as a result of those wider 20in alloy wheels, and the car rides only 11mm closer to the road.

Pirelli P Zero Elect tyres juggle grip against low rolling resistance. As on other Mach-Es, torque vectoring is exclusively electronic and by the braking of an unloaded inside wheel, although Ford says the car’s two- motor driveline biases up to 70% of torque to the rear wheels when in its most dynamic drive setting.

INTERIOR

014ford mustang mach e gt dash 2022

Roominess is one of the main draws of the cabin of the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, especially for those travelling in the second row, where the car offers plenty of head room and leg room for taller adults even with the optional panoramic roof fitted.

The ambience is pleasant, with some quite appealing textiles on its upper dashboard and door panels. The cabin could do with some extra performance flourish, though – perhaps some colourful accents or ‘GT’ detailing.

Grey cloth on the dashboard breaks up the surface quite effectively, but it’s among few appealing materials in a cabin that struggles for premium allure.

There are some eye-catching features but nothing that looks like chrome metal actually ends up feeling like it. Only when you interrogate the fixtures and fittings might you realise that you’ve actually got Ford Focus seats and a rebadged Focus steering wheel, as well as Focus parts-bin column stalks and other controls. They might pass muster on a £45k Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD, but they struggle to do so on something costing almost £70,000.

The driving position is straight and fairly comfortable if lacking some adjustability. Ford’s GT Performance seats have decent lateral support but leave your lower body neglected.

A downsized digital instrument screen ahead of the driver can easily be seen through the orbit of the steering wheel but conveys only a limited selection of information and isn’t as configurable in its layout as some drivers might like.

That the car has no head-up display seems a suspiciously contemporary criticism to make, but you notice the omission because you find yourself consulting that 15.5in, central, portrait-oriented touchscreen display for everything from driver assistance controls to trip computer data, and that shifts a considerable amount of focus from the road ahead.

There are two cargo compartments. There’s a ‘regular’ boot at the rear, which is quite wide but only averagely long and deep. The lightweight canvas load-bay cover for it is too easily dislodged by bulky bags or boxes, popping up off its moorings to obstruct your rear-view mirror visibility.

There’s also a smaller ‘frunk’ under the bonnet, which is quite shallow and is at least half-filled by the car’s two charging cables. Still, even if those cables are all you keep in it, it’s useful to have. The one frustration is that, like so many EV makers, Ford makes you use either the car’s interior bonnet release or an icon on the central infotainment screen to release the lid.

A button on the key fob would be so much more convenient, and when you will be likely to need your charging cable on an almost daily basis, access really ought to be easier than this. 

Ford Mustang Mach-E GT multimedia system

Ford has sought to avoid one of the criticisms we level at cars too reliant on touchscreen consoles by grafting a large volume knob straight onto the bottom of the Mach-E’s 15.5in, portrait- oriented infotainment system. You can’t miss it, but you don’t use it much because there are volume shortcuts for the stereo (which sounds quite potent) on the steering wheel. Still, your passenger might be grateful to have it, and so were we.

The Microsoft-developed Sync 4A system is fairly easy to use once you learn to navigate it via the shortcut buttons around the edge of the screen, but hitting one at arm’s length, in a moving car, still requires too much concentration for our liking. Likewise, navigating through several screens to find a particular function toggle isn’t as simple as all that. The trip computer data is displayed here too; we’d prefer it in the instrument binnacle.

The system offers wireless device charging and wireless smartphone mirroring, both of which work consistently well.

017ford mustang mach e gt screen 2022 0

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT’s American development roots became evident on the day of our test in one slightly disappointing respect. Ford claims 3.7sec 0-60mph standing-start potential for this car in its marketing literature, but only in the small print does it clarify that the claim is on the basis of the North American industry-standard ‘one-foot-rollout’ measurement (which dates back to drag-strip timing, when the clock would only start running on a car once it had moved by a foot or so).

Tesla makes acceleration claims for its cars on the same basis, as do other brands. But for those of us for whom zero really does mean zero, this car can’t quite be considered supercar fast – and especially not when tested over repeated exertions.

The GT’s uprated Brembo brakes sit behind 20in cast alloy wheels of a bespoke and intricate design for the range-topper. They deliver a slightly widened track compared with that of lesser Mach-Es.

We timed it at a two-way-averaged 4.2sec to 60mph from rest, and it needed just 3.5sec to get from 30-70mph. This is clearly a fast car in outright terms, then, and it certainly feels like one when you first bury the pedal at everyday speeds and feel all of that torque surge in.

But there are limits to the amount of time the car’s battery can sustain applications of peak power. Ford has already admitted, in response to independent road tests carried out in the US, that five-second full-throttle bursts are all the GT’s battery’s cooling capacity can handle, and that power and torque are electronically restricted after that time.

And you can see evidence of as much in our roll-on ‘kickdown’ acceleration increments: the GT needed almost twice as long to accelerate from 70-90mph (once its motor power had been capped) as it needed to get from 50mph to 70mph just an instant before – a much greater differential than could be explained by rising aerodynamic drag.

It would be easy to overstate the impact of this restriction on the everyday appeal of the Mach-E GT. You notice it during full-power benchmarking on a test track, especially during circuit driving, when the battery is only able to meet the most intensive performance demands you can make of the car for a handful of laps before dialling back the power supply (see Ride & handling).

In daily driving, though, when opportunities to use full power for more than five seconds are most likely to be limited, you might never notice it happening. But when rival EVs offer better stamina, we can’t let it pass without some demerit.

On the road there are a few other shortcomings to weigh against the Mach-E GT’s instant and considerable performance muscle. A slightly spongy brake pedal, which is unintuitively tricky to modulate at low speeds, is one of them, as is the contrived, digitally synthesised ‘engine noise’ that the car generates in its sportiest Untamed driving mode

The lack of any switches or column paddles with which to easily adjust battery energy regeneration as you drive is another bugbear. In all those respects and a few others, the Mach-E GT doesn’t show the carefully executed standard of finish of the best fast EVs. 

RIDE & HANDLING

003ford mustang mach e gt rear cornering 2022

This is not a car without a handling trick or two up its sleeve, but it can’t quite escape the shadows cast by its size and heft. The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT never feels like a naturally poised, seriously adhesive or truly engaging driver’s car, and that’s hard to excuse in something priced and positioned as it is and that inevitably stands to be compared with cars that don’t have matching failings.

A modern fast Ford should have more alluring tactility and finely honed precision in its controls than this, as well as better close body control and better steady-state cornering balance. The GT only really gets part of the way towards carving out a truly sporting identity in these respects, and the blandness and lack of definition in its steering and brake pedal add an unwelcome mundanity to your interactions with the car.

There’s a common elastic feel to the way Fords have steered over the past decade or so, but the Mach-E GT has too much speed- dependent variability of weight. It’s light below 25mph, much heavier thereafter. A simpler tune would have been better.

It does steer quite directly, though, and remains fairly composed at speed. And, like so many sporty Fords, it can really rotate towards an apex. Ford’s torque vectoring software acts in surprisingly exaggerated fashion in the car’s Untamed driving mode, braking the inside rear wheel in order to send a hit of torque to the outside one if you accelerate towards the apex.

That process in itself makes the car’s cornering attitude particularly throttle adjustable in the early phases of a corner, and all the more so if you choose to disengage the GT’s electronic stability control, in a way that is at least reminiscent of the last Ford Focus RS.

Since it weighs so much, however, and since it doesn’t have as much mechanical grip as the Focus RS could muster, the Mach-E GT can’t ultimately change direction or carry speed nearly as convincingly as an RS product, or even a good Ford ST, might. Once the ‘point and shoot’ corner entry is over, it offers little to keep you interested.

Comfort and isolation

There is a background restlessness about the Mach-E GT’s ride, and an unwillingness to settle either on motorways or rural roads, that make it wearing to drive over long distances. A certain firmness at low speeds turns into a predilection for jostle and pitch on more patchily surfaced A- and B-roads.

It’s certainly more clearly evidenced when the car is in its sportier driving modes, but it can be felt in the milder ones, too. You could say that many of the undesirable dynamic traits of a quite hardcore performance car are here to be catalogued, but in many ways they only lead the Mach-E up a blind alley.

The 20in wheels and Pirelli tyres Ford has chosen create some quite abrupt ‘bump-thump’ noise over sharper intrusions, but surface noise is at least partly filtered, and wind noise is contained well enough. The driver’s seat, meanwhile, is too short in the base to be ideal for the longer- legged, and that base adjusts only for height rather than pitch.

Ford’s driver assistance systems offer good support in start-stop traffic jams, but the GT’s lane keeping assistance system is too prone to dropping in and out to be depended on without annoyance, even on the motorway. 

Track notes

The Mach-E GT’s body control and brakes hold up well enough during fast circuit driving, but its battery doesn’t. Our test car managed four laps of the MIRA dry circuit before its performance level dropped appreciably, presumably as a result of too little cooling for the battery pack. Ford could argue, quite reasonably, that it doesn’t see this as a track-day car, and GT customers may agree: but when rival EVs don’t suffer the same problem, it’s noted as a black mark.

The car’s torque-vectoring tricks, which prove fairly effective on the road, don’t work as well at the limit of grip, when the car’s front axle generally runs wide before the rear one can pivot around it. The GT can be coaxed into oversteer on a trailing throttle, but limit handling feels a little unnatural and unpredictable when you reapply power. 

Ford mustang mach e gt track notes

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

001ford mustang mach e gt front tracking 2022

Ford asks for a little over £66,000 for a Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, in a market in which both a range-topping BMW i4 M50 and Tesla Model Y Performance are a few thousand pounds less, and an entry-level Porsche Taycan only a few thousand more.

It seems a bold – possibly foolhardy – positioning, even for a car with a Ford Mustang badge. And while Ford can argue that a fulsome equipment level, commendable residual values and a distinguishing range are all selling points in principle, they may not be in real-world use.

Spec advice? Ford makes this simple: pick a colour you like, with or without a glass roof (which leaves decent second-row head room in any case). But think about whether you’d be better off with a cheaper Extended Range RWD.

Our test car returned 2.6mpkWh on our 70mph touring economy test, which suggests that its longer-distance commuting range might be around 230 miles. That’s about 20 miles shy of the Model Y we tested, despite the Tesla having 15% less usable battery capacity than the Ford. We can blame that extra 300kg for most of that.

Like other Extended Range Mach-Es, the GT will charge at up to 150kW on a DC rapid charger (which is as fast as you’re likely to find at most UK charging sites). A 10-80% motorway services recharge could be possible, infrastructure permitting, in less than half an hour.

VERDICT

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The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT is good enough to drive, competent enough in a wider sense and eye-catching enough to carve out a place in the electric performance car market. It’s spacious and versatile, with decent range and usability, but other than for a bigger dose of roll-on thrust, it leaves you wondering why you might spend a £20,000 premium on it above any of its showroom siblings.

You don’t expect a luxury-level cabin or world-beating quality feel from a fast Ford, but you do expect a convincing sort of driver engagement, top-level handling appeal and some playful charisma. The Mach-E GT makes gestures in those departments, but they mostly feel tokenistic. It’s fast, in a slightly qualified sense, and it handles quite well at times. But you don’t get out of it wanting more of anything it does.

This isn’t the emphatic statement of intent we were looking for from a company that’s now forging ahead to an electric future that, we like to think, could contain as many great real-world performance cars as have its past few decades. For now, we’ll just keep on hoping.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.