The first question before any test drive is always this: how much?
That comes before I ask: Is this car fast, well-mannered and agile, versatile, convenient, reliable and safe?
It’s also important to ask: Is it pretty enough to make me cry?
And is it something of a ground-breaker, an historic triumph for the history books? With “yes” comes a bonus point.
For me, everything starts at the sticker. In this case, it reads $90,690 with taxes, fees and a bundle of options. For that you get the best version of the EV (electric vehicle) that Consumer Reports says is the best of its breed, and a best-seller, a car so much in demand, Ford Motor says it will triple production of the Mach-E at its Cuautitlan, Mexico assembly plant by next year.
No one saw this coming, not Ford, not Elon Musk, who, if you could turn away from his Twitter feed, might have been unhappy to see the Mach-E replace the Model 3 as CR-s top-rated EV this year. (Ford has just reopened the order banks, by the way. Naturally, there’s a price increase; the base model now starts at $51,495.)
The tester was the Mach-E GT; base price $83,495. Range: 418 km, estimated. All-wheel drive? Yes, thanks to dual electric motors, one for each axle. Power? Crazy: a 91-kWh battery and 480 hp/634 lb-ft of torque. That nails down 0-100 km/hour in 3.7 seconds.
My tester also had the very best self-driving tech Ford has to offer: Ford Co-Pilot360 Driver Assist Technology (standard for all Mach-E models), along with BlueCruise hands-free driving and a 360-degree camera.
This package of options adds $2,545 to the base sticker. It’s Ford’s answer to Tesla’s Autopilot. You can scratch your nose, or whatever while driving, but a camera monitors your face to ensure you’re paying attention to what’s ahead – not watching a movie or having a doze, even if you’re cruising a Hands-Free Blue Zone.
There is plenty of gee-whiz built into the Mach-E, and it’s not the numbers I’m talking about. The curvy, muscular shape is delightful and evocative, but the average folks who don’t care a whit about kWh or 0-100 km/h time always notice things like doors that pop open when you push a button high on the trailing edge. Or the Mustang silhouette that lights up the ground at your feet when you approach.
Inside, the huge, centre-mounted LCD touchscreen swipes like your smartphone, putting all sorts of information, systems and features at your fingertips, and in your eyeline. The 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system is Freebird-capable, there’s a useful wireless phone charging pad, front and rear power points, various storage spots and well-done Activex perforated seating surfaces with metal accents. The seats deliver above-average comfort and support.
As a driving machine, the Mach-E GT is something of a bullet on four rubber wheels. It’s in Model S territory which is enough to make anyone in a petrol supercar weep with envy. In motion, the Mach feels substantial, yet quick in corners, especially in the most aggressive drive mode.
Yes, you can punch up any of three self-evident choices: Unbridled, Engage, Whisper. Unbridled firms up the ride and flattens out the cornering and is for someone who almost never would bother to go Blue Cruising. What you get with the other two is obvious.
This car is tall and wide, though the cabin is not as cavernous as the EV powertrain and exterior dimensions suggest. The front seating area is generous, but the rear seating and the cargo area are both tighter, relatively.
And to be frank, 418 km of range is borderline mediocre. We’re talking the range of a Chevy Bolt, not the 629 km of the best Model S. Ford also needs to up its charging game. DC charging capability is rated up to 150 kW. A Hyundai Ioniq can do 300 kw.
A 150-kW charge means you can get juiced to 80% from 10% in about 18 minutes. That’s good. But if you can find a functional fast, fast charger and have the right EV, you might be able to do that in, what, 12 minutes.
So, Ford has more EV work to do. But the Mach-E is an excellent start.