Ford Has Their Very Own Tesla Fighter

2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium Ext Battery

Price: $82,445 CAD

Colour: Vapor Blue Metallic

Japanese automakers were often accused of being mimic artists back in the 60’s and 70’s. They quickly proved they were far more than that and in short order took a leading position in the auto industry. I firmly believe Ford were paying attention to that history when they decided about how they were going to tackle Tesla and their invasion of battery powered EV’s. The 2023 Mustang Mach-E is so much like a Tesla you would be forgiven for assuming it was one upon first glance. There’s nary a Ford badge anywhere on this thing and the infotainment-centric interior does bear a striking resemblance to the ground-breaking company’s existing product. Much like the Japanese carmakers from many years ago however, Ford wasn’t content with simply copying what their competitor has done, they’ve improved upon it.

I’m going to get this out of the way up front. Yes, the Mustang Mach-E is in desperate need of a decent set of door handles. The tabs on the front doors and the whole button release thing that unlocks the doors is supposed to be clever and innovative but it most certainly won’t age well. I’m not an expert in aerodynamics (I know you’re shocked), but I’m almost certain a good low-profile, conventional door handle wouldn’t destroy the range on any EV. This obsession with hiding the handles on so many cars is really leading to some absolutely silly choices. I’ll accept the 1.5% reduction in battery life for something that simply works.

Tesla vehicles were a revolution in many ways when they really hit their stride with the Model S over a decade a go (how time does fly). They were the first to jam every bit of the cars functionality into an oversized iPad nailed to the center console and haven’t budged since. Ford had the opportunity to take the central idea and improve upon it by adding strategic tactile buttons and knobs where they best suit the function required (such as HVAC controls). Instead, they simply added them as a fixed section on the bottom of their version of the aforementioned screen. While this works it isn’t intuitive and that’s why it’s such a common criticism of these types of cars. What I hadn’t even considered until this test drive was what happens when you are driving the car in a deep freeze (-10 degrees Celsius) and the screen doesn’t fire up for a full 2 minutes. I’m sitting in my driveway freezing my man bits off and I can’t fire up the heat or warm the steering wheel or my backside because all the controls are locked behind the screen that won’t work!

I haven’t spent an enormous amount of time in Tesla cars (they don’t loan their cars to media), but I am familiar with the incessantly austere interiors they insist on putting in their vehicles. Add to this the often questionable plastics and cheap interior trim bits and you get a car clearly designed by tech nerds and not car designers. This is where Ford really makes the Mach-E shine. If you remove the screen from the conversation the interior of the Mach-E is a nice place to be. It looks like a normal car made of normal materials. The color choices are good, and everything seems to be robust and screwed together pretty well. There’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned build quality (I know not all Ford vehicles are renowned for their build quality, but I assure you, the Mach-E is a good one).

There’s a lot of debate at the moment around the seeming dip in demand for EV’s. The hysterical stories of discounts and cuts to production are endless and if you believe what you hear EV’s are done. We should immediately start sinking more oil wells as soon as that skirmish in the middle east sorts itself out. EV’s aren’t going anywhere but I will agree with the idea that they’re not for everyone. I’m a fortunate man who bought my detached home many years ago when normal people were able to afford such things. As a result, I’m able to charge my car at home and it suits my lifestyle just fine. To put myself in the shoes of car buyers who live in situations that don’t allow for home charging I set up about attempting to charge the Mach-E commercially during my time with the car. The results were disappointingly mixed at best. I successfully charged the car three times during a 7-day period. I had to visit 7 different charges to get these 3 charging sessions. I can’t say if it was the chargers or the car that didn’t want to get it done but I struggled mightily to get this thing the juice it needed. It was also very cold and for whatever reason the Mach-E would not be rushed when I did successfully plug it in. I saw charge rates anywhere from 22-62 kw/h and since this Mach-E is fitted with the extended 91 kw/h batter pack, it took almost an hour and a half to charge the car from 32% to 80% (imagine my mirth when the car told me it would take an additional 1hr 12mins to fully charge the car to 100%). I know Ford is adopting the NACS charging standard beginning with 2025 production, and I sincerely hope this will solve the charging dilemma non-Tesla drivers face. That being said, I’m skeptical that Tesla can integrate the technology from so many other carmakers to work as seemingly with their chargers as they do with their own. Time will tell.

I mentioned earlier that the test vehicle I had is fitted with the optional 91 kw/h extended battery pack. This is a $13,000 CAD option that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. That is an abusive amount of money to increase the battery capacity by approximately 25%. I can get a decent used car for those dollars and it would leave me the 70k I’d pay for the rest of the Mach-E to finally get that face transplant I’ve been angling for. If the Mach-E had delivered incredible range maybe there would be a case for going this route, but it barely hit 375kms on a full charge from 100%. It was very cold during the week I had the car, but I won’t accept this as some sort of excuse. In fact, it’s an even stronger indictment of the limitations of battery powered EVs. If manufacturers are going to quote lofty range numbers when they advertise their cars, they really should start adding a massive asterisk or two regarding temperatures and the effect this has on those numbers because it’s unfair and deeply misleading to would-be customers.

I know I’ve been hard on the Mach-E and for good reason. That being said, it’s not a bad car. Not in the slightest. It’s actually quite a good car. Putting the EV talk aside, as an SUV to live with everyday it’s very capable. That cold winter weather I keep prattling on about also delivered about a foot of snow in a very short period of time. The Mach-E (fitted with snow tires) bombed around town without missing a beat. The AWD system was very adept at finding traction and the vehicle always felt stable. In fact, it almost took the fun right out of the snow. I tried desperately to spin some rooster tails of snow in fresh powder and the car immediately cut the power to nearly nothing regardless of the position of the accelerator. This is very useful at keeping the car out of a ditch but not much fun when you want to get a little loose.

I like the look of the Mach-E as well. It’s a handsome little brute. I could do without all the shiny black trim but only time will teach the industry how bad an idea that is for an exterior cladding option. Otherwise, it’s a very sharp looking car. The aggressively tapered roof doesn’t make the backseat unusable as there was plenty of headroom and leg room wasn’t an issue for anyone I hauled around in the back.

For a first attempt at a proper EV, Ford got a lot right with the Mustang Mach-E. Those doors will drive customers crazy, and the lack of real controls is disappointing. EV’s aren’t for everyone and if you live in Canada or Minnesota, you need to factor in their limitations. That being said, these limitations aren’t exclusive to Ford and they have still made a very good car. It’s much better than anything offered by Tesla and I’m hopeful Ford learns from the mistakes made here and improves this and other electric offerings in future generations. Remember Ford, door handles are a good thing.

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