Why Mustang fans should be thrilled about the Ford Mach-E
Alex is a New York based automotive writer and content producer. He drives a '08 Mustang GT/CS when not driving everything else.
After teases, spy shots, and the whole thing being leaked by the automaker’s own website, the sheet was finally pulled off of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, a four-door battery electric crossover at this year’s LA Auto Show.
This has… not pleased everyone.
Most of that has to do with the “Mustang” part, which I can understand. Since its debut, my social media feeds have been flooded with stories about this car as well as enthusiasts in a state of incredulity that they cannot reconcile. “Why would they call this a Mustang?”, they lament. Well, I’m here to tell you why: because we’re still talking about it.
It was a masterstroke of marketing, and we fell for it. Don’t feel bad, though, it’ll be fine, and I’m going to explain why Mustang fans should be thrilled about the Mach-E.
A 'Stang by any other name
Let me state some things right up front: Mustangs? I like ‘em. I’ve had one for 11 years and I’ve been lucky enough to have driven most iterations of them. So I understand how trotting the Mach-E out in front of the world and stating it's a Mustang would make folks go cross-eyed.
We can address some concerns right off the bat. Does this replace the Mustang proper? No. Does this sully the name of the badge? No, neither my Mustang nor yours is somehow “lessened” by the inclusion of the Mach-E into the fold. Does this mean Mustangs will be electrified in the future? Well, probably, but stick with me, I’ll get to that in a moment.
The great blue and white hype
Let’s rip this bandage off first: Is this a Mustang? The short answer, to the annoyance of most is that yes, it is a Mustang because Ford called it that whether we like it or not.
However, I did have an opportunity to get up close with the Mach-E and give it a once-over. Having seen it in person, do I think this thicc four-door crossover embodies any of the more ambiguous qualities we associate with the Mustang? Nah.
Ford can imbue it with all the Mustang design cues they want and talk in circles about how this has the same “spirit” of the car, but simply put, I can’t see anything “Mustang” about it. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. What it’s called is the least important part of the car, but it’s all we can talk about right now – mainly due to the marketing.
The folks at Ford aren’t dumb. They have hundreds if not thousands of people to run this decision by and I have to believe they were not only aware of the furore this branding would cause, they were counting on it.
Ford said they opted not to simply make a zero-emission car for compliance reasons, so they really leaned into the Mach-E’s development to make it a significant part of the lineup. Even though battery electric vehicles are on the rise, they’re still not being welcomed with open arms by everyone, so it’s easy to assume that it if the Mach-E was going to have a fighting chance, its marketing would have to not only make an impact, but have a lasting effect. “Why did they call this a Mustang?” Because no-one will be up in arms about this if you called it the new Flex – that's why.
Ford knows the Mustang has a deeply passionate following and of course they’ll utilize it, even if that means riling up that fanbase. They know people will get angry just enough to have a frenetic discourse about it but be content with the fact that they’ll still have it both ways; you who are angry lose nothing as the Mustang you know and love stays the same, but thanks for getting the word out. They played the game and did it well. Did it work? Well, I just wrote 600-odd words (and counting!) about it and this article will join the multitude out there about the same subject, so yeah, I guess it did.
"Now that we've got your attention.."
With all that said, separate the car completely from the Mustang marketing miasma, and you’ve got a pretty compelling BEV from a major American automaker. You can take or leave the looks, but as far as numbers go, the equivalent of 459 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque and around 300 miles of range sounds pretty good to me. Throw in some decent driving dynamics and it’s a package that’s hard to argue with. Pricing starts at $43,895 but will goes as high as $60k for the GT iteration. This puts it right up against the upcoming Tesla Model Y, which will most likely be its most direct competitor (similar cars like the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-Tron demand a higher price).
The inside makes use of the freedom of space the platform allows, so it’s roomy for four passengers and offers significant headroom. Its spartan interior doesn’t look barren, just streamlined, and the full panoramic glass roof further supports the airy feeling of the cabin.
The 15.5-inch tablet centerpiece is a showcase for Sync 4, the latest iteration of Ford’s infotainment operating system. This promises to be more user-friendly than ever before and able to store a driver’s learned preferences in user profiles, but like the driving impressions, that’ll be something we’ll have to wait a while to see in practice. Indeed, the build on the Mach-E I saw seemed to be in such a pre-pre-pre-alpha stage, I don’t think the basic interface was operating at a near-functional level.
What does the Mach-E sharing stable stalls with our beloved pony car mean for the brand overall?
For now, it probably won’t have much to do with our traditional coupe, apart from cross-sharing small things with it and the rest of the Ford lineup, such as Sync 4 and minor design cues to make them all uniform.
It does however bring us a step closer to the electrification of the Mustang proper, and that might cause a few people to bristle. As I mentioned before, Ford knows that the Mustang fanbase is incredibly protective of it, and makes its decisions around it carefully. That doesn’t mean they won’t innovate, though. And as the market moves towards more prolific electrification, the blue oval will be compelled to go with the flow. It’s doubtful it will happen overnight, if previous behavior is any indicator – look how long they held on to the Mustang’s live rear axle.
Sorry if that last bit is a bitter pill to swallow, though I think more people are upset about putting the Mustang badge on a four-door crossover than anything else, frankly. The good news is, including the Mach-E future-proofs the Mustang brand, in a way. Its success is the Mustang prime’s success, and that means more Mustangs for us all. Nothing is set in stone, either. If it fails, it can be clipped away just as easily as it was added on.
Either way, we have the better part of a year to argue about it more, and I’m sure that this time will be used to hammer “it’s a Mustang, it’s a Mustang, it’s a Mustang” into our heads by the FoMoCo branding beast.
It’s up to us if we choose to listen but either way, it’s immaterial. I’m interested in seeing what the Mach-E is made of when there’s a chance to get behind the wheel. If the Mustang part of it still bugs me by then, that’s nothing a couple strips of duct tape can’t fix.