Mock Mustang is a darn nice electric SUV as long as you aren't going anywhere
By Jim Bray
Electric cars are all the rage these days, or probably would be if more people would buy them without coercion or other people's money. We're promised – well, beaten over the head with – an inevitable electric future, even though it appears few have given thought as to from where the electricity to charge these vehicles will actually come.
Yeah, we're led to believe the power will appear magically, where in reality it's coming generally from coal, natural gas, hydroelectric or nuclear sources. But at least it isn't filthy oil, right?
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I've only driven a couple of electric cars over the years, from the silly little Mitsubishi iMiev I spent an interminable few days with in 2012 (it was like a $32,000 Toyota Yaris, only not as nice as the real Yaris) as well as some quick drives in a couple of electric cars at AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year Testfest. I liked their performance as cars – the instant torque, for example, is quite intoxicating – but felt that until they get the prices down and the ranges up they'd only be curiosities.
Well, now, after being beaten over the head by governments concerned with sucking up to loudmouthed liberals and the blissfully unaware, pretty well every carmaker is ponying up (no Mustang pun intended, of course) to the Altar of the All-electric Car. This is because they want to stay in business.
Including Ford, with its new Mustang Mach E, which is really not a Mustang at all but which is a pretty nifty mid-sized SUV. And it's all electric to boot! It's pretty darn good to drive as well.
The problem, and this is an electric vehicle thing, not a Ford-specific thing, is that you can't drive it anywhere other than as a commuter vehicle – at which it will excel. But if you want to take a road trip, either plan for a lot of extra time sitting on your bum waiting for it to recharge, or have the Mach E helicoptered to your destination so you can use it as a commuter vehicle once you get there via a regular car.
Think I'm kidding? Read on.
The Mach E comes with a grille and a bum that are reminiscent of the Mustang but that's about it as far as family ties to the original pony car. From the side it's a handsome and modern vehicle, possibly the most attractive in Ford's stable right now (naturally, your mileage may vary). And inside it's even nicer, right up to its LCD screen that is the entire centre stack, and its exquisite Bang and Olufsen audio system, which not only sounds lovely but which also rocks.
That audio system is perfect for an electric vehicle such as this because the Mach E itself is so quiet (no engine noise, just road and wind noise) that the audio system really has a chance to excel. And it sure does! I wish it had a disc player that would handle high resolution audio discs, but most vehicles don't do that anyway, so I can't fault Ford for not including it.
Fortunately, I keep some high-resolution files handy for such emergencies…
The seating position is very good and I didn't have any issues with the driver's seat (I often find Fords aren't designed for the perhaps unique shape of my left cheek) and it's easy to find a perfect driving position for the power/memory seat. There's decent room in the rear, too, though no third row is available.
Mach E's are available in Canada in Select, Premium, California Route 1, and GT Performance Edition trim levels. The first one promises power equivalent to 266 horsepower (rear wheel drive or eAWD) with a range of 370 km (RWD) or 340 km for the all-wheel-drive version. Torque is claimed at 317 lb.-ft. (standard range, RWD) and 428 for the eAWD version.
Ford Canada's sample Mach E wore the Premium all-wheel-drive badging, with the standard battery, and it tipped the fiscal scale at about $62,245.
The top line GT Performance Edition version claims 480 HP (extended range) and 634 lb.-ft. of torque. Its range is claimed to be 418 kilometres.
Then there's the real world. Those range claims are under optimal conditions, like outside temperature (are you using the air conditioning or heat?), your driving style (do you keep the pedal to the metal?), the weather (is it snowing?), and whether or not you leave with a full charge – the latter of which I found impossible during my week with the Mach E: it would get up to about 80 per cent and then quit.
The vehicle comes with everything you'd expect in a modern car, from air bags to electronic nannies (the latter of which you can shut off). The centre stack LCD is a wonder of clean design and function – I hope some of the competition is looking – and Ford's Sync continues to be one of the best such interface systems I've used.
One wrinkle is that it may not let you use it when the vehicle is moving, though there's also a "I'm the passenger" choice that comes up and lets the passenger wreak havoc on the LCD. I don't know if it's connected to the passenger seat occupant sensor (so it knows there's really someone sitting there, rather than the driver lying about it), but it works. And though the system is a tad slow, it works well and it'll even show you the charging stations ahead on the road.
That feature came in particularly handy when my best friend, Les, and I decided to see how the Mach E worked on a road trip.
Now, depending on the length and frequency of your commute, you could probably drive the Mach E all week and only charge it on the weekend, which makes it a great choice if that's how you drive. And it comes with a charging adapter you can use to plug it right into the outside plug on your house. I did this before taking the vehicle back, and it went from 60 per cent charge to an indicated 100 per cent in about 14 hours.
Alas, it lied about the 100 per cent: about a second after I fired it up post-charging, the charge level meter on the dashboard dropped right back to 80 per cent. I also couldn't get it past 80 per cent using the "real" chargers that are cropping up in increasingly numerous (but not nearly numerous enough!) places.
Our road trip was planned to take us from Calgary to Rocky Mountain House, a distance of just over 200 kilometres. Easy Peasy for a vehicle claiming range of 340 kilometres "minimum," and we found a charger at, ironically, the Rocky Mountain House dealer that sells Chargers (a Dodge dealer…). I even phoned them to make sure it was really there, since I'd already discovered that another purported charging location in that city no longer existed.
Actually, that was pretty funny: I phoned the dealership and told the receptionist our plan and asked her if there really was a charger there. She said there was, and that it was a really good deal. Of course, she thought I wanted to buy a Dodge Charger, but once we got that bit of confusion dealt with all was well.
We headed out, confident that we'd make it to RMH easily and have nice, leisurely lunch while the Mach E recharged. Our route took us up highway 2 to Red Deer, a route that also offered charging stations in Innisfail, supposedly, and Red Deer (definitely).
I wanted to see how it drove as a "real car" so drove it as if it were. I confess to having exceeded the posted speed limit (the car, other than its battery level meter, really seemed to like that). It was also quite cool and raining hard. But so what? This is a mainstream vehicle, is it not?
Alas, by the time we were getting close to Red Deer (138 kilometres from my house, according to the always-reliable and believable Go Ogle) we were down to 20 per cent charge and the vehicle was advising us to find a place for it to imbibe some amperes. So, using the Mach E's display, we found the one closest to us and stopped there.
And there began the frustration. It was at a Shell station that, fortunately, had a McDonald's attached to it. Fortunately? Well, unlike the charger I had used that morning before leaving Calgary, I couldn't just stick in a credit card at this Shell; I had to download an app and that was a real pain! My phone wouldn't let me access the app store via my data plan, so I had to head over to the handily-placed McDonald's to exploit their Wi-Fi. That worked, and so did the app, but the process slowed us down by at least 10 minutes (a one time pause, I'm confident) and that was before we even started charging the Mach E!
We finally got it charging, then about 40 minutes later we returned to find an 80 per cent charge (there's that number again!) and resumed our journey.
But we'd been stung by the lack of usable range and decided not to risk going all the way to Rocky, opting instead to stop at Sylvan Lake (which turned out to be great because we found a lovely pub in which to have lunch).
The trip back to Calgary was under clear skies and at a more sedate pace. Yet before we hit Calgary city limits, we were back to 20 per cent again and the vehicle wanted juice, so we decided to return to the charger I'd used that morning and have a nice dinner at a place near there while it recharged.
That took the better part of an hour. And we got to 80 per cent charge.
Here's something I don't hear about much: how much does it cost to actually recharge the thing?
Not counting the charge I gave the Mach E before we headed out on our road trip (because you don't count an already-full gas tank as part of your trip's gas consumption), charging in Red Deer and again back in Calgary cost me $59.77, including taxes.
How does that compare with a gas engine? Well, about a week later, my dear wife and I headed back to Sylvan Lake for our wedding anniversary, to have lunch at the same great little pub. I didn't have a review car that week, so we took my 2005 Audi A4 Avant quattro V6 (which burns premium gasoline) and followed the exact same route – and as it turned out the weather was exactly the same, too.
The trip both ways consumed half a tank of premium which, depending on fluctuating gas prices, generally runs me 30-40 Canadian dollars if I fill up at Costco. This time it was just shy of 40 loonies. It was, therefore, cheaper to drive my gas-guzzling environment-raping sports wagon than it was to take the Saviour of the Universe represented by "clean" electricity.
More fun, too, since my car is lowered and performance-oriented (though my wife being along for the drive kind of evened that out…) whereas as nice as the Mach E is it's still not a sports car.
What do you call an electric vehicle that's more expensive to fill up than a supposedly gas guzzling German station wagon? A Watt Waster? An Ohm-wrecker? A Volts-waggin'?
I don't mean to tar the Mach E with this brush because it's probably no better or worse than other electric vehicles of its ilk. And to be fair, the Mach E would make for a terrific commuter vehicle or for just doing your regular driving close to home.
But that's the issue. Electric vehicles not only have to work on their range, they also need to work on the recharging time. Rocky Mountain House shouldn't have been more than about two hours from my house but thanks to the range issue we spent far more than two hours and only got to within some 60 kilometres of where we'd planned to go. Not a compelling proposition for someone mulling the purchase of an EV.
And let's forget about how "zero emissions" electric vehicles are. Sure, the vehicle itself might be when it's turned on, but how many emissions went into mining the metals and other components and how much is the electrical generating plant emitting? And where do you think all the plastic comes from?
Sorry, Saint Greta, you've either been played or are one of the seemingly increasing group of useful idiots.
On the upside, Ford's website does offer you a lot of tools to help you plan your life with the Mach E, including route planning and range estimates. Just remember that they're ESTIMATES, not guarantees.
Overall, caveats considered, I really liked the Mustang Mach E. It's a very nice vehicle, it's pretty great to drive and the instant, massive torque is enough to make one drool. Heavily. I think it's my new favourite Ford product.
But, like its competitors, it ain't a panacea for eager Gaia worshippers.
Copyright 2021 Jim Bray