2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT First Drive – What’s Wrong With a Four-Door Muscle Car?


Image: Gabe Ets-Hokin

Remember that scene in the famed 1968 shoot-em-up Bullitt where Detective Bullitt, after surviving a harrowing car chase up and down the streets of San Francisco, a chase that ended in the fiery deaths of some black-suited bad guys in a Dodge, went and picked up his Saint Bernards from the dog groomer and then took his daughter and her boyfriend to lacrosse practice in his four-door Mustang GT crossover electric vehicle?

You don’t remember it (unless you regularly attend Phish concerts) because Ford has never built a four-door ‘Stang before the Mach-E, and it certainly has never built an all-wheel drive pony car, and for the love of Pete, ‘ol Henry’s namesake most certainly has never built such a thing with the “GT” moniker, the label it reserves for its most throaty, hairy-chested, terrifying torque-monster of a street ‘n strip muscle car. 

Until now of course. I submit the Mustang Mach-E GT, pumping out a gajillion horsepower and a bazillion lb-ft. o’ torque, and what has two giant thumbs and got to drive such a device on his favorite Northern California backroads? This guy.

(Full Disclosure: Ford hosted me at a swanky resort and stuffed me with as much food and booze as I could safely absorb in 20 hours. I also received a ballcap (which I will give to my friend Al) and a nice notebook that I wrote about three pages of notes in and then added to my growing collection of nice notebooks with three pages of notes each.

Ford’s Mustang Mach-E GT team invited the motor press to come and learn about the new model and drive it on the stellar roads north of San Francisco, in rustic West Marin county as well as a jaunt at an autocross set up on the old Alameda Naval Air Station on the other side of the Bay. The purpose of the junket was to not only show off the characteristics of the souped-up EV but to also relate how Ford will improve the EV experience and jump into the electric future.

There aren’t a lot of cosmetic changes to the GT models (which come in base and Performance Edition trims). They both get 20-inch wheels that are one inch wider than the other Mach-Es (245/45R20), and the  Performance sits 10mm lower and has machined-face wheels with specially developed Pirelli summer tires. Both cars get red-painted Brembo calipers, and there’s a palette of bold color choices in case you really like talking to police officers.

Image: Gabe Ets-Hokin

There are some nice surprises inside, though. The cars get special interiors with sport-contour front seats and aluminum dash appliqué. The seating material isn’t leather, but Active-X and Miko, which are apparently better than leather and should make vegans (and cows) happy. The seats include metallic stitching and the Performance comes with perforated material, but though the seats have standard heaters, there is no cooling option. Aside from the metal scuff plates on the doorframes with “GT” logos, the GT’s interior is much the same as the Premium Mach-E’s.

The big differences are in the hardware and software. The GT is only available with the 88 kWh battery and AWD, but the batteries have been “enhanced” to enable more power. A lot more power, in fact — there’s a roughly 30 percent boost in power, from 346 horsepower in the standard AWD to 480 in the GT. Torque goes up to 600 lb-ft., 634 in the Performance (the extra torque is in the front motor, Future Electric Vehicles Program Director Dave Pericak told us). The Performance gets an additional drive mode, Unbridled Extend, that allows more battery cooling for high-performance operation, specific AWD tuning to allow for unique front/rear weight bias, different traction control, and even enhanced feedback sound. 

Image: Gabe Ets-Hokin

What it means is Ford claims the GT can go 0-60 in 3.8 seconds (3.5 ticks for the Performance) — a claimed tie with the Tesla Model Y Performance. Estimated range sinks down to 235 miles, just five more than the standard-range rear-wheel drive, and in actual use, it’ll be much less than that until you get bored with blasting off of stoplights and increasing-radius turns like John freakin’ Glenn.

It’s not just about more power. The Performance gets MagneRide suspension on all four corners. What’s MagneRide, you ask? I asked Dave Pericak that, and before my mind wandered off into ADD land, I think he explained that the dampers are filled with metallic fluid (the technical term is “magnetorheological,” which should be said in a Sean Connery accent for maximum enjoyment) that reacts to computer-controlled magnets to alter its viscosity and therefore control damping and rebound speeds.

Image: Gabe Ets-Hokin

Why is this better than the standard orifices and fluids of an old-timey suspension? MagneRide’s electronics can make damping changes up to once per millisecond, which means the suspension can perfectly adapt to road speed, surface condition, temperature, and fluid degradation. Please don’t tell Dave MagneRide was developed by Delphi when it was a GM subsidiary.

Ford also wanted to let us know about EV stuff in general. First, the blue, ovoid people say they are all in with the EV stuff — they have three new battery plants with 45 gigawatt-hours of capacity each (an $11-billion commitment) and have partnered with Redwood Materials to figure out how to recycle used battery packs. 

Image: Gabe Ets-Hokin

Ford also wants its customers to experience “effortless” charging, whether at home or away. The Mach-E comes with a charge plug that is either level one or 32-amp level two (which allows 20 miles of additional range per hour of charging), a nice advantage over most included car chargers. Away from home, there’s the Blue Oval charger network, which includes Greenlots and Electrify America to give its customers access to 63,000 charge plugs at 19,500 stations nationwide.

Image: Gabe Ets-Hokin

How many of those are actually working or unoccupied at any given time is hazy, of course, but Battery Electric Vehicle General Manager Darren Palmer told us Ford has a dual commitment to its customers: “We’re going to grow the network and we’re going to … audit the customer experience,” which may (or may not) give desperate non-Tesla EV owners hope that a cross-country EV road trip can be completed without it turning into a real-life version of the popular video game “Oregon Trail.”

We’ve provided ample driving impressions of the Mach-E in prior stories, so I’ll focus on the extra power, beefed-up brakes, and Performance Edition suspension and handling. You’re probably not surprised to hear the extra juiciness makes the car insanely fun, (especially on an autocross track) but it wasn’t what I expected. The last insane-speed car I drove was the Lexus IS 500, and I loved the way the power built and how the midrange hit you like a lightly padded polo mallet. The GT’s power, on the other hand, is less dramatic, if no less impressive. It gave me the confidence to make passes I’d usually only try with a fast motorcycle. Downhill, uphill, mid-turn — it doesn’t matter. Stomp the pedal and you’re gone.

But the GT is a heavy car at 4,962 pounds (the PE is 4,989) and no amount of power, weight-bias balance, and high-tech suspension can mask that. Those cool-looking Brembos seem to do the trick, and all the software worked well together to make the car fun and easy to drive, but it’s such a workout to get through tight, twisty, bumpy roads that it made me wonder if that wasn’t the origin of the term “muscle car.” The MagneRide and lower ride height on the Performance made for noticeably better handling, with less bouncing and body roll, but both iterations of the GT still felt like what they are — big crossovers, not nimble sports coupes or sedans. That sound system, tho…

Image: Gabe Ets-Hokin

The Mustang Mach-E GT starts at $59,900 and goes up to $68,395 if you want the panorama glass roof (you do). After tax credits and other incentives, it gets down into the low $50Ks.

“A $51,000 car that outperforms every one of my childhood hero cars” gushed Darren Palmer. Not a bad point, but so is the Model Y Performance. I liked this car a lot and even took it home to see if it would fit in my garage (it did, barely). It’s just $4,000 more than the Premium extended battery AWD, which makes it a bargain compared to that car, but not compared to the $36,000 (after incentives) Select, which is a pretty nice car and has a similar range.

Some of us here at TTAC think the Mustang Mach-E isn’t a real Mustang, while some of us do. I won’t cast my lot with either side, but if the Mach-E is a real Mustang, the GT is a real GT, a big, powerful, comfortable, and good-handling car that will reward an engaged driver with its thoughtful development and fun driving characteristics. If I wanted that kind of power out of an EV I’d seriously consider it the next time I want to chase a Dodge Challenger over Potrero Hill.

[Images © 2021 TTAC/Gabe Ets-Hokin]

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