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Up close with Ford’s electric Mustang SUV, the Mach-E

Ford just pulled the wraps off of the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric SUV that promises Mustang performance with far more practicality when it gets released in late 2020. (Full details here.) It’s the company’s first long-range electric car, and the only other Ford vehicle to ever be called a Mustang — the latter of which already has people riled up.

It’s a bold move to take an iconic product and try to essentially turn it into a brand of its own, though I’d be willing to bet this electric SUV would have sparked much less interest if Ford had either leveraged another one of its badge names, or created an entirely new one. (Also, call me what you will, but I have a hard time being precious with a corporation’s words, especially when most corporations don’t seem to care about meaning anymore to begin with.)

Beyond the name, the Mustang Mach-E’s design has also felt polarizing since the vehicle first leaked the other day, and a lot of that attention has been paid to the front end. Instead of a traditional grille, Ford went and gave most versions of the Mustang Mach-E a nose that matches the SUV’s body color. We’ve seen this trend a bunch in electric vehicles — they tend to need less direct air cooling, so in many cases automakers have tried to get clever with the design — but this is one of the highest-profile EV launches to date, and so it’s under intense scrutiny.

Having spent some time around and in the Mustang Mach-E, both at the event on Sunday night and at a briefing a few days before, I personally think the new SUV looks way better in person than it does in any of Ford’s renders or press photos. I could take or leave the grille, though I do wonder if Ford overplayed its hand a bit by limiting the one metallic grille design it did come up with to the most expensive Mustang Mach-E GT.

Take away the Mustang badging and the tri-bar headlights and taillights, and I think Ford’s new EV looks a decent amount like some of its more luxe direct competition, almost like a cross between the Mercedes-Benz EQC, the Jaguar I-Pace (especially at the rear haunches), but with some BMW SUV shaping thrown in, too.



That sounds like a good place for Ford to be, as it’s targeting a price range of between nearly $44,000 to over $60,000 for the Mustang Mach-E. Federal and state electric vehicle tax incentives will help soften that blow, but this is undoubtedly a premium car.

Polarizing bits aside, what struck me the most about seeing the Mustang Mach-E in person is how much it already feels like a complete package, despite having a year to go until it ships. (Save for the software, that is, which wasn’t even close to working in the models Ford showed off Sunday night. Woof.) That’s a testament to the work done by “Team Edison,” the group inside Ford that has been developing the Mach-E since mid-2017 after pivoting away from a Focus-based electric car.

The Mustang Mach-E is screen-forward, but not aggressively minimalistic. It’s got a lot of interior space, head room, and leg room considering how the overall size of the car is fairly small as far as SUVs go. There are table stakes features (at least for techies), like USB-C ports and a wireless charging mat, and considered touches, like the big front trunk and deep storage space in the doors and center console.


The digital instrument cluster looks nice, but the 15.5-inch touchscreen’s software was not ready for the debut.

I also really love the slender digital instrument cluster, and the fact that this has a driver monitoring system (especially since Ford says it eventually wants to enable hands-free highway driving). I have had a hard time coming up with things I feel are missing, though I’m sure a few will surface after the haze of the LA Auto Show wears off and we all spend the next year thinking (and arguing) even more about this car.

Comparisons to Tesla are hard to avoid when it comes to electric cars, and the Mustang Mach-E is no exception. It’s hard not to immediately size Ford’s EV up against the forthcoming Model Y, which has similar specs and will be released on a similar schedule. I also couldn’t help but spend part of the night thinking about how Ford revealed the Mustang Mach-E at the same municipal airport hangars where Tesla unveiled the Semi and second generation Roadster just two years and one day before — and how we were right next to SpaceX headquarters, where Elon Musk will unveil Tesla’s “Cybertruck” pickup truck in just a few days.

(Shortly after the event ended, Musk tweeted “[c]ongratulations” to Ford for the new electric Mustang SUV. “Sustainable/electric cars are the future!! Excited to see this announcement from Ford, as it will encourage other carmakers to go electric too,” he wrote.)

But no matter what Ford’s Mustang Mach-E winds up being benchmarked against, or what fights people want to pick about its looks or name, I’m very glad this is the direction the company went as opposed to a slightly better electric Focus. That we’re already knee deep in these conversations and arguments feels like progress of a sort, as opposed to a few years ago when getting people to talk about electric cars, let alone feel something about them, felt like pulling teeth or just plain impossible.


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