Mustang. The mere mention of the name conjures up images of sleek two-door coupes with thunderous V8s cruising down American boulevards.
So, obviously, when Ford set about naming its new all-electric SUV the famous pony car moniker was the go-to choice.
I’m sure Ford’s marketing people will disagree but using the Mustang name seems unnecessary and potentially damaging to the fabled badge. Ford says it gives a connection between old and new, representing a continuation of the muscle car’s “freedom and performance” but the Mach-e is a very different beast.
What’s more it’s good enough to succeed on its own merits without piggybacking on the success of its predecessors.
For a start, it’s a triple world record holder. The actual car I drove - an extended range, rear-wheel-drive model - was used to complete the famous John o’ Groats to Lands End run with the shortest charging time, the fewest stops and the lowest energy consumption. It managed to complete the 840-mile run with just a single charge of 43 minutes and 13 seconds. On a separate run on the same route it eked out 6.5 miles/kWh.
Mustang Mach-e performance, range and charging
Those records were set by hyper-miling experts who use every trick in the book to squeeze the maximum range from an EV. In the real world, Ford says this 91kWh version of the Mach-e will cover 379 miles on a full charge, offering official consumption of 3.7miles/kWh. Ultra-fast 150kW charging should allow a 70% charge in 45 minutes.
As ever, such figures can be dramatically affected by things ranging from driving style and roads to the weather but over several hundred miles of driving in cold weather and without trying to conserve energy I saw an average of 3.5 miles/kWh. That’s not bad for such a large vehicle and on par or better than rivals like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Skoda Enyaq, Audi Q4 e-tron and Tesla Model Y.
Different versions of the Mach-e offer a decrease in range for an increase in power. The dual-motor all-wheel-drive version offers 346bhp and up to 335 miles while the the 480bhp Mach-e GT cuts range to 310 miles. Both are quicker from a standstill but the single motor’s 290bhp still feels perfectly punchy thanks to the way it delivers its power and 0-62mph in seven seconds isn’t too shabby for a five-seat SUV.
Three driving modes - Active, Whisper and Untamed - modulate performance but the driving experience in any setting is refined and sprightly. The single-pedal driving feature works so well you’ll almost never touch the brake pedal and there’s a sci-fi-like “engine” note that varies in intensity depending on the throttle position and driving mode.
On the road the Mach-e is quiet and stable and compared with some rivals offers a more lively interaction with the driver. But it’s still a 2.2-tonne SUV with over-assisted steering, so don’t expect Jaguar I-Pace-type miracles.
You’ll also need to limit your expectations of the ride quality. At higher speeds the Mach-e’s composure is acceptable but at lower speeds it’s jittery and sharp-edged, especially compared with something like the Jaguar or Q4 e-tron.
Ford says the Mach-e’s looks pay homage to the “regular” Mustang through its tri-bar tail-lights, long bonnet and shaped grille area. There are definite visual similarities but that’s where the connection ends. There’s no getting away from the fact that the Mach-e is a tall, chunky and slightly awkward looking SUV, even if the clever use of roof colours and window shaping gives the impression of a coupe-like profile.
There’s also no escaping some unnecessary “futuristic” touches. For instance, Ford has reimagined the door handle as a weird vestigial plastic hook that protrudes from the A-pillar like a broken piece of trim. To open the car you have to press a touch-sensitive button above the handle. At least those in the front get handles. Rear passengers have to press the flush-fit button then wedge their hand in the small gap that appears, praying that a gust of wind doesn’t slam it back on their fingers.
The futuristic touches continue inside but to much better effect. First off, a massive 15.5-inch touchscreen dominates the middle of the dash - in complete contrast to the slimline instrument panel atop the steering column.
I was sceptical at first about the huge central screen but it actually proved very user friendly. The most used and most useful information is easily accessible and there are clear, well-placed shortcuts for key functions. I’m generally not the biggest fan of touchscreens but I got on with the Mustang’s far better than in some other vehicles.
Even more appealing to me was the neat sliver of digital instruments directly in front of the driver that gives key info - speed, range, battery charge and ADAS status - without unnecessary layers of configuration and options. It adds to an overall pared-back feel that’s in evidence around the cabin, with minimal physical controls or embellishments. On the up side that makes the five-seat interior feel spacious, on the down side it means it’s a faintly uninspiring place to sit.
Our test car’s fabric finish to parts of the dashboard and doors was a nice alternative to swathes of plastic, but in other areas the components shared with the Fiesta and Focus felt a little low-rent for a £50,000 car. If you can look past that, there’s good space in the wide, flat-floored cabin and plenty of smart storage options as well as a 402-litre boot and 100-litre “frunk”.
The Mustang Mach-e has a hard job to do. It has to carry the weight of its famous name while also being Ford’s flagship vehicle on the march towards an electrified future. While its links to the past are tenuous and the interior doesn’t have the quality of premium European rivals, the Mach-e does a good job of being a practical, efficient and enjoyable electric car that’s more than good enough to succeed on its own abilities.
Ford Mustang Mach-e Extended Range
Price: £47,580 (£52,330 as tested); Motor: Single 216kW synchronous motor; Battery: 91kWh; Power: 290bhp; Torque: 317lb ft; Transmission: Single-speed, rear-wheel-drive; Top speed: 111mph; 0-62mph: 7 seconds; WLTP range: 379 miles; Consumption: 3.75 miles/kWh; Charging: Up to 150kW