The Chicago Auto Show is always one of my favorite auto shows to attend. It’s a more consumer-friendly and thus you get more seat time in cars. As someone who covers the industry, seat time and time with PR folks and product experts is invaluable. During CAS, I made a bee line to the Mustang Mach-E where there was a limited time of ride-along time given to journalists. It was at an indoor area of the convention center but I was still excited to at least see the inside of the Mach-E and to see just how torquey it might be.
As soon as I arrived, I had PR folks on my hip, as they knew who I was, as one of the most outspoken critics of the Mustang name being used on a crossover. I was expecting a less-than warm reception, but the Ford PR team was receptive and understanding of my stance. They did, of course, provide me with their version and their PR spin.
The most important part was, I was able to ride shotgun on a brief ride along inside of the McCormick Convention Center. It wasn’t the perfect first-drive situation, and I wasn’t able to drive myself. I rode with a driver who was trained by Ford Performance. And the Mach-E I sat in was a prototype model, since production hasn’t yet started.
First Impressions of the Mustang Mach-E
The interior reminded me a lot of a Tesla. First there’s a giant 15.5-inch touchscreen that dominates the center stack. It really resembled the same screen found inside a Tesla. Then there’s a long, horizontal tachometer/odometer that is located above the steering wheel. It was very aesthetically pleasing. The Mustang logo resides on the steering wheel reminding me of the big issue I still have with this vehicle.
The rest of the interior of the Mach E was sparse. Softish touchpoints were fine, but nothing special. Being that this was a prototype it’s hard and also unfair to form an opinion based upon that, as I’m sure production versions will change.
From a performance standpoint, I fully expected to like the Mach-E. I was never opposed to electrifying a Mustang. I am a fan of all-electric vehicles. They have crazy amount of torque and the acceleration is fun and instant. That was evident in my brief ride along as the acceleration inside on that floor let out some four-wheel squeak and the torque threw me back. You can get a sense for my enjoyment of the torque in this quick video I shot. I did notice there was rear torque bias in the performance, but again, that could’ve been related to being on a floor, indoors. Otherwise, the Mach-E performed as I expected it to. It was fun, as all Mustangs should be.
Other Features of the Mustang Mach-E
In addition to the big touchscreen, there are some unique features on the Mach-E that I got to experience up close. First, is the “frunk” which is the front trunk. There’s a drainage spout on the frunk which allows for it to serve as a cooler for tail gating. Ford has done some online marketing showing the frunk full of various items, including shrimp.
The push-button door handles were Tesla-like as well. I noticed several journalists struggling to figure them out, so there could be a learning curve when it comes to these gimmicky door handles. They add some style appeal, but from an intuitive/utilitarian standpoint my impression was less than stellar.
While I did not get an in-person demonstration, the Mach-E comes with a technology that’s a first for Ford. Using Bluetooth, your smartphone works as a key to unlock the Mach-E. Now this is a technology that interests me and I’m sure many other manufacturers will begin using similar technology. There was a spot for wireless charging for a smartphone, but this technology only works for certain smartphones.
Is the Mach-E a Mustang?
As the person who started the petition to change the name of the Mach-E to remove the Mustang logo, I am known at Ford (for good or bad). I appreciated Ford treating me fairly. I know they wanted to try to sway me and change my mind and my stance on the Mach-E. Certainly my time in it, although brief, helped open my mind a little.
The Mach-E has many features that Mustang enthusiasts will appreciate. It’s fast and torquey. The black roof gives it a fastback-style and vibe. The tri-bar taillights give a styling tip of the hat to the original Mustang. In some ways it looks the part. I’m not a fan of the grille as I saw it. Simply slapping a Mustang badge on it does not make it a Mustang. So, have I come around on the Mach-E as a Mustang? Not really. I feel it’s a fun, enjoyable vehicle. It’s viable for those who want an electric vehicle. The all-wheel drive is fun and some of the little quirks, including the frunk have some merit. But, it’s still a four-door crossover and that disqualifies it as a Mustang in my book.
Torque News EV expert John Goreham saw the Mach-E up close too and shared his thoughts here. See you in my next story in which I discuss Ford's SYNC 4 infotainment system and the purpose it serves vs just being a big fad.
Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. In addition to being a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, Jimmy has been published in a compilation book about children growing up with disabilities, where he shared his own very personal experience. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.