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First Drive: The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Brings Attitude and Edge to Track-Inspired Performance

Robb Report
Robb Report
 2021-10-15
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Following last year’s debut of the Mustang Mach-E electric crossover, Ford has now unleashed the GT that, like its namesake muscle-car counterpart, offers more power and track-inspired performance. Despite protests from some hardcore fans that “this isn’t a Mustang,” the Mach-E GT (starting at $59,995) brings more attitude and edge to a vehicle that designers and engineers honed for the present-day customer who needs sport-utility functionality, but doesn’t want to burn gas.

The GT version uses the extended battery pack from the standard Mach-E and the larger motor on both axles (found only on the rear of the latter vehicle) for a total output of 480 hp and 600 ft lbs of torque. The power train also gives it the ability to cover zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. What’s more, the GT sits 10 mm closer to the ground than the introductory model, giving it a lower center of gravity and a more planted stance. And range for the base GT is estimated at 270 miles.

On a test drive through the San Francisco Bay Area, our Mach-E GT kept pace with the myriad Teslas on the road as we cruised Highway 101 through Marin County, alternating between full control of the wheel and Ford’s new Blue Cruise system, which allows stints of hands-free driving using the adaptive cruise control and lane centering features. Ford’s system is not as smooth as GM’s Super Cruise (soon to be updated to the more sophisticated “Ultra Cruise”), but it’s still a welcome relief in stop-and-go traffic or during long drives on well-marked highways.

Yet with all that instant electric torque on tap, we preferred to stay fully in charge, goosing the throttle to briefly pull past a dueling Nissan GT-R and Dodge Challenger (with aftermarket exhausts whining like angry leaf blowers.), Needless to say, we glided silently by as they duked it out in comical cacophony.

The model variant to get, though, is the GT Performance Edition (for a $5,000 premium), which bumps up peak torque to 634 ft lbs and adds MagneRide adaptive suspension, bigger front brakes and 20-inch wheels with specially developed Pirelli summer tires. That version boasts a zero-to-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds, but range is reduced to 260 miles.

On a winding portion of Highway 1, from Stinson Beach to Sausalito, the Performance Edition handled its weight well, especially in “Unbridled” (sport) mode. That setting presented a comfortable yet firm ride that minimized body roll and kept us planted on decreasing-radius and off-camber turns. Contoured sport seats, designed exclusively for this edition, held us in all the while.

When it comes to the Performance Edition, the efforts of engineers were best put on display by way of a dusty parking lot that was transformed to an autocross course at the edge of San Francisco Bay. On this testing ground, Ford specialists had us switch over to a GT-exclusive setting called “Unbridled Extend,” which manages power output to give more continuous, sustained performance in a track environment. This setting won’t give you the fastest lap, but it will give you a few consistent ones. Unbridled Extend reduces traction control and stability control, remaps the accelerator response and shifts the front-to-rear power bias from 50/50 to 60/40, in favor of the rear.

Sliding the Mach-E GT Performance Edition around on the autocross makes it clear just how much Ford has tried to keep the model a spiritual member of the Mustang family. We wouldn’t call it nimble, but the weight distribution keeps it balanced, and the combination of the stiff chassis (with the battery pack integrated) and sport-tuned suspension keep it fun and predictable lap after lap. Of course, that’s only if you brake in plenty of time for turns. Push it, and you’re reminded that it’s still a very heavy car.

If we have any complaints, it’s with the upright tablet that serves as the Mach-E’s central screen. While some automakers choose sleek horizontal displays, or at least more elegantly integrated tablets, the Mach-E’s interface looks like a stuck-on afterthought. And navigating menu functions isn’t always intuitive. However, Ford says it wants to incorporate customer feedback by keeping tabs on social media and other channels, so while the tablet might not change anytime soon, the company can tweak software-based functions through cloud-based data and over-the-air updates.

The Mach-E does keep pace with competitors when it comes to mobile integration, with the ability to use a cell phone as a key and its provision of a dedicated app that gives drivers instant access to charging status, range, tire pressure and other vehicle information. Also on the mark is the optional B&O premium audio system, offering pristine sound without competition from engine noise, although the vehicle does offer a synthetic acceleration sound in the cabin, which you can turn off.

Each new Mach-E includes a two-year membership to Ford’s Blue Oval charging network, which allows owners to pay on multiple charging platforms with a single account. Ford representatives say the program gives drivers access to the largest public charging network in North America, one that comprises 19,500 stations. The marque is also relying on connected vehicle data to deploy teams around the country to physically seek out problematic chargers and keep their charging maps up to date.

According to Ford, all 2021 Mach-E examples are spoken for, but orders for 2022 iterations are now being accepted. We’re eager to see how the GT will stack up with Rivian ’s all-electric R1S, especially since Ford is an investor in Rivian to the tune of $500 million. For the time being, however, the Mach-E GT, with its sporty looks and even sportier performance, is one of the most exciting crossovers on the road.


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