Ford takes aim at Tesla with electric Mustang SUV

Posted at 9:29 PM, Nov 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-17 22:29:02-05

Originally Published: 17 NOV 19 22:11 ET

    (CNN) -- On Sunday, Ford unveiled its new all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover SUV. With its emphasis on affordability and performance, the newest member of the Mustang family appears to be a pointed attempt by Ford to take on Tesla.

One thing that Ford has apparently learned from Tesla is that boring electric vehicles don't sell.

The Mustang Mach-E GT Performance models will get an estimated 459 horsepower, Ford claims, from two electric motors, one powering the back wheels, the other powering the front. They should be able to go from zero to 60 miles an hour in roughly 3.5 seconds, a time similar to a Porsche 911 GTS, according to Porsche's web site. The Tesla Model 3 Performance, meanwhile, produces 450 horsepower and will share much of its engineering with the upcoming Model Y SUV.

Prices for more basic versions of the Mach-E will start at about $45,000. The most expensive version will be the Mach-E GT Performance Edition, which will start at about $60,000. Those prices are similar to Tesla's Model Y, which will range from $47,000 to $60,000.

For the time being, Ford's electric vehicles still qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit, Ford executives said. They expect Mach-E buyers will be able to get that full tax credit for at least the first year it's available.

Ford expects Extended Range versions of the Mach-E with 332 horsepower to get an EPA-rated range of at least 300 miles. The standard range version will go about 239 miles on a charge, said Ted Cannis, Ford's director of electrification. (Prototype vehicles are still undergoing testing and refinement, he said.)

Even with that standard range battery pack, Cannis said, the Mach-E will accelerate more quickly than a Porsche Macan SUV. (Generally, battery packs that provide higher range also provide more performance.) Two-wheel drive versions of the Mustang Mach-E will be rear-wheel drive, like the Mustang coupe it's modeled after. Rear-wheel drive is considered ideal for a performance-oriented vehicle.

Overall, the Mach-E will have the best driving dynamics of any SUV Ford has made yet, Cannis claimed.

"It's a freaking rock star," he said.

Some Mustang fans have expressed dismay over the application of the Mustang name to an SUV. But Ford executives insist Mach-E truly deserves the galloping pony logo.

Since there's no engine, electric vehicles don't need a long hood, but the Mustang Mach-E has one. That's a classic performance design cue, but it also helps maintain the Mustang family resemblance. It also has a black rooftop, no matter the paint color on the rest of the car, creating the illusion of a low sloping roofline. The taillights spread out horizontally to increase the perception of width, and making the vehicle seem more planted and stable like a sports car.

Unlike most electric cars, the Mach-E even makes a distinctly audible sound because, Ford designers explained, sound is an important part of the Mustang experience. The Mach-E doesn't make a V8 burble, though. The artificially created sound, which can be heard both inside and outside the vehicle, varies to match the Mach-E's acceleration and speed, like an actual engine sound would. The Mach-E's sound resembles an amplified electric motor whir, but with a hint of a rumble.

The SUV will have three selectable driving modes: Whisper, Engaged and Unbridled. Things like the responsiveness of the steering wheel and accelerator pedal, as well the vehicle's interior lighting, the graphic design of the gauges and the volume of the motor sound will change based on the mode selected.

The Mustang Mach-E also has an enormous central touch screen, similar to the screens in a Tesla. Unlike other touch screens, though, the Mach-E has a volume knob mounted on the screen. That was one thing, Ford designers found, for which people really preferred a knob.

The Mach-E doesn't have traditional door handles or, for that matter, any door handles at all in the back. The doors are unlatched using electronic buttons. The front doors also have tiny black winglike projections to provide finger holds to pull the door open.

Like Teslas, the Mach-E will also be able to receive over-the-air software updates to improve things like performance and entertainment options.

One feature that will later be added using an over-the-air software update is the ability for hands-free driving on the highway, Ford executives said. That will be similar to General Motors' Cadillac Super Cruise system and Tesla's Navigate on Autopilot. (Autopilot does not allow for extended hands-free driving, though.) Executives did not say when that would be available.

Ford recently announced the creation of a large network of electric vehicle charging stations across the US that can be accessed using a smart phone app. The network was created by allowing different charger networks to accept payment directly through the Ford app. When completed, Ford said, the charger network will have over 12,000 charging stations.

The Mach-E, which will be built in Mexico, will be available next fall, Ford said. The GT Performance Edition will be available in the spring of 2021. Those in Europe and the United States who are interested in buying a Mach-E can make a refundable $500 deposit immediately, though.


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