Ford’s Mustang Mach-E electric SUV is great, but Tesla still has one big advantage

Amazingly, not much did.

In fact, Ford’s engineers and designers have done a fantastic job capturing the Mustang’s muscular acceleration and good handling and packaging it into a car that is not a two-door, rear-wheel-drive, petrol-powered pony car. It was a huge piece, and they carried it away.

While the version I was driving was a First Edition, not the powerful Mach-E GT that won’t be available until later, it was so much fun that I had to keep reminding myself to take it easy a bit – cops, you know – just like I do when I drive a V8-powered Mustang GT coupe.

The Mach-E can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in about five seconds, according to Ford, and that seems fine. There are faster SUVs, but it is fast enough. Driving on a winding country road, the Mach-E curves beautiful. It is balanced and does not lean too much to the side. The petrol-powered Mustang coupe drives very well, but it’s not exactly a nimble sports car with ultra-precise steering, and the Mach-E shares that personality. It might be a little meaty, but it can dance surprisingly well. Perhaps driving on a racetrack would reveal some flaws, but especially for an SUV, it felt great on the open road.

The steering, which gets stiffer and more responsive as you progress through the different riding modes – Whisper, Engaged and Unbridled – may have felt a little numb, but again not that different from the Mustang coupes. The brakes felt good, although I held up the Mach-E One pedal driving so I didn’t have to use them much. On one pedal ride, by lifting my foot off the accelerator, the car slowed as if I was gently pressing the brakes. As I lifted, the electric motors spun, pushed by the wheels instead of the other way around, and the energy they generated that way was put back into the batteries.

It is a common feature of electric cars. In the Mach-E it’s a bit clunky at low speeds, often with a “thump” when the throttle is lifted, but it’s smooth and fun at higher speeds. (The slow-speed clumsiness can be reduced with later software updates, a Ford spokesman said.)

The 346 horsepower First Edition Mach-E I drove had a base price of $ 50,000, not including a federal tax credit of $ 7,500. The First Edition models are already sold out, but Premium all-wheel drive models offer the same performance at a slightly lower price. Prices for lower powered versions start in the $ 40,000 range. The 480 horsepower Mach-E GT will be available later for a starting price of $ 60,500.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E offers respectable functionality, while still being as pleasant as a Mustang should be.

For Mustang buyers who were used to a car with 460 horsepower and a V8 engine that cost $ 36,000, those prices may seem off. But this is an electric crossover SUV with optional four-wheel drive, four doors and five seats.

In terms of price, range and power, the Mach-E focuses clearly the purpose of the Tesla Model Y and Ford is pretty good. The Tesla Model Y Long Range goes 326 miles on a charge, and Tesla claims the same zero to 60 acceleration time as the Mach-E for the same starting price.

The Mach-E has a few issues, however. First, the exterior door handles – or exterior door knobs – seem pointlessly high-tech and fussy. I understand that having nice, smooth buttons saves a bit of aerodynamic drag, but I’d still rather just grab a lever and pull it to get into my car.

Also, as good as the Mach-E is, there is still one area where Tesla still has a big advantage. Tesla has a huge and user-friendly network of chargers. Ford has its FordPass app, which gives access to many other electric vehicle chargers, even more than Tesla has. But there is a big difference between an EV charging network and a lot of different chargers you can use. Tesla chargers are consistent in their design, which makes them easy to find, and they are consistent in how they work. And they almost always work.

Even with the help of the FordPass app, chargers were often difficult to find, in part because I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. They can also be confusing to connect to. Chargers from different companies work differently with the app. In some cases, it was not necessary to use the app to charge the SUV. In other cases it was.

Most people who buy a Mustang Mach-E, like most Tesla owners, will have a charger installed in their homes, and it will usually easily provide for their charging needs. Publicly available chargers are useful for enabling long journeys. But they provide peace of mind to those considering buying an EV and based on my experience with Tesla’s chargers and (so far) Ford’s, the advantage remains with Tesla.

As for the SUV itself, however, Ford scored big on that point. The Mustang family should be proud of its newest member.