Ford’s new Mustang is… a pure electric crossover, on sale in 2020. And its rebooted Bronco is the Defender-battering off-roader of your dreams. By James Taylor.
New car debrief – It’s Ford’s first proper EV, the Mustang Mach-E
It’s been 55 years since the original Ford Mustang and Ford Bronco were first revealed to the world. In 2020 there will be new versions of both – with very different stories to tell. The most seismic is the all-electric Mustang Mach-E. It may not be Ford’s first electric car (we’ve had an electric Ranger and Focus previously) but it is its first dedicated, ground-up, long-range electric car. Ford is a latecomer to the pure-EV party. Perhaps predictably, it’s kicking off with a premium crossover not dissimilar to Merc’s EQC or Jaguar’s i-Pace. Controversially, though, the Mach-E’s arriving in Mustang fancy dress.
A high-performance GT version will follow, targeting 0-62mph in less than five seconds
There isn’t a single Blue Oval badge anywhere on the Mach-E, only the iconic pony emblem cantering across its grille-free nose and tail. ‘We will have haters, for sure,’ Ford of Europe’s chief designer Murat Güler acknowledges. ‘I think it’s good to be polarising. It puts the car on the map.’
Aside from flag-planting, why has Ford chosen to overtly style and name its new EV crossover after the Pony Car so many people are passionate and protective about?
‘Mustang is something unique to Ford that no one else can do,’ says Dorit Haas of Team Edison, Ford’s EV strategy group. With hundreds of competitor battery-electric vehicles on the horizon, she argues, Ford needs to stand out: ‘If you arrive at the party late you don’t want to be shy.’
Whether reaching for the Mustang filter is an inspired move on Ford’s part or an application of live ammunition to its own foot will be decided by the buying public. But the car beneath the marketing would seem to be a very solid product.
Built on a brand-new modular platform (developed in house by Ford, and not part of its tie-up with Rivian), the five-seat Mach-E is available in both single-motor (rear-wheel-drive) and dual-motor (all-wheel-drive) guises, and with a choice of battery sizes: 75kWh or 99kWh. Estimated range spans 260 miles for a 75kWh all-wheel-drive car to 370 miles for a rear-drive 99kWh Mach-E.
Prices will start just over £40k in the UK, extending to £58k for a fully loaded First Edition variant. A high-performance GT version will follow, targeting 0-62mph in less than five seconds courtesy of an estimated 459bhp and 612lb ft. While EVs are largely new ground for Ford, its chassis engineers know a thing or two about making cars handle – both the Focus and the Fiesta are class leaders for driving fun – so the Mach-E is likely to be able to look after itself in the corners as well as zapping straight-line acceleration runs.
The interior is dominated by a huge, portrait-format touchscreen, incorporating a physical clickwheel at its base, for better control on bumpy roads. It’s supplemented by a slim, letterbox format screen for instrumentation ahead of the steering wheel. The Mach-E is the first Ford to adopt the latest Sync 4 interface system, which will be rolled out across the range.
The Mustang tribute decision came with the change from Mark Fields to Jim Hackett
The interface we try on an early pre-production Mach-E doesn’t have the slickness of Tesla’s Model 3 screen. But like a Tesla, the Mach-E’s interface and driving characteristics will be upgradeable via over-the-air updates. Ford is also working with Amazon on Alexa voice control, available in certain markets.
‘Software is key for Tesla and that’s why it’s a success,’ Ford EV guru Haas says, referring to Elon Musk’s products rather than his P&L. ‘That’s why we’re investing a lot into this and HMI because it’s what the customer needs.
‘When we test Teslas, people, especially teenagers, play around with the screen. In the past you opened the bonnet to see the engine – now it’s the screen. We have to learn from different customer expectations.’
There’s a huge amount of storage space in the cabin (‘For interior designers, an EV is a dream come true’, says designer Güler), and the standard of fit and finish is impressive for an earlybuild car. Worthy of a £40k start price? Nondescript steering wheel aside, yes – just about. There’s a nice mix of surfaces and textures, and a Bang & Olufsen sound bar is built into the dash (the double-bump cowling of which echoes old Mustangs).
While the Mach-E’s floor is relatively high, to accommodate the underfloor batteries, the driving position holds you relatively low, the intention being to mimic the driving position of a sports coupe. It will be interesting to see how it feels on the road. From the driver’s seat, your view incorporates the expressive front wheelarches, helping to get a sense of exactly where the front wheels are.
The Mach-E’s an attractive car up close, with some nicely resolved surfacing, particularly along the bonnet and flanks. Where some EVs feature flush or pop-out door handles, innovatively the Mach-E features none at all, save for a subtle nub at the base of the B-pillars. The idea is that you unlock the car with your phone (although it does have a key for back-up), and there’s a security code you tap into the B-pillar’s touchscreen if you want to leave your phone in the car and go jogging, for example, or, in a more prosaic scenario, if your phone runs out of battery.
While ostensibly a crossover, the Mach-E isn’t huge. ‘It’s not quite an SUV, it’s not a hatchback – it’s something different – a little bit like a shooting brake,’ is how Güler describes it. The shape is peppered with Mustang hallmarks – not least its long bonnet-to-body ratio, the position of the A-pillar and the light graphics. ‘The tail lights use a horizontal line and three blades, but they’re not a straight copy of a Mustang’s lights,’ Güler says. ‘It’s like you’re a chef with a Mustang spice box – you have to use just the right amount.’
The decision to go down the Mustang tribute route came out of Ford’s 2017 reset, and the CEO guard-change from Mark Fields to Jim Hackett. Porsche’s SUVs, both of which overtly reference the 911 in their appearance, haven’t done it any harm. Can the same formula with Mustang DNA work for Ford?
Ford’s other new, retro-inspired 4×4 is the Bronco R, a dramatic Baja race truck that previews the return to the American market of the Bronco SUV, a no-nonsense off-roader that died in 1996 after a 30-year production run. The resurrected 2020 Bronco will launch in the spring, and the Bronco R, built to compete in the Baja 1000 desert race, is an early preview. Its bodywork was shaped by Paul Wraith, the same designer who has led the production Bronco’s styling, and the R directly previews the final design.
Why is Ford showing the Bronco as a race truck first? Partly because it’s the 50th anniversary of an original Bronco’s overall win in the Baja 1000 in the hands of Rod Hall (whose granddaughter Shelby Hall, a top off-road driver, is one of the new Bronco R’s drivers). But aside from being a timely marketing opportunity, the race truck has been created to stress test components for the production Bronco and inform the production car’s engineering. So they must be pleased it broke down and failed to finish the race – plenty to learn there…
Brian Novak, motorsports supervisor at Ford Performance told Drive-My: ‘It’s a purpose-built racer but with a significant number of production parts, particularly the frame, powertrain and most of the suspension mounting points, to test and prove the architecture.’
The R’s EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 and 10-speed auto gearbox are straight from the production car, as are the chassis and five-link rear suspension. The Bronco is an old-school body-on- frame construction, using the same T6 platform as Ford’s Ranger pick-up truck.
‘Part of the mission of Ford Performance is to translate what we learn from testing to the road teams. The Baja is so gruelling, and you don’t see its kind of challenging conditions anywhere else in America or at production proving grounds.’
While the Bronco R couldn’t be more petrol powered, don’t be surprised if the production version spawns a battery-packed variant or two. Ford’s Mach-E will spearhead a range of new EV and hybrid vehicles over the coming years, and a hybridised Bronco is more than likely – even if it isn’t set to come to Europe, more’s the pity.
PRICE From £40,270
POWERTRAIN Single e-motor (rear-wheel drive) or dual-motor (all-wheel drive), 75kWh or 99kWh batteries
PERFORMANCE Sub-8.0sec 0-62mph (single-motor), sub-7.0sec 0-62mph (dualmotor), 111mph
EFFICIENCY 0g/km CO2, 280-335-mile range (est)
ON SALE Now
Foxy suspension Bronco’s amazing long travel suspension is by Fox. The R was built by Ford Performance with the help of off-road racing specialists Gesier Bros and awesomely named Baja champion Cameron Steele.
Production Powertrain The Bronco racer’s V6 EcoBoost engine and 10-speed auto are straight from the production Bronco, as are some of the suspension components. You know how you always dreamed of leaning against your own Mustang as you gassed it up?
Flexible charging Ford promises a 31-miles-per-hour charging rate for its own Ford Connected home wallbox charger. The nav system helps pick out public charge points on the move, and customers can access and pay for chargers across 21 countries in Europe via one account using the FordPass app.
Trick pony The contrasting dark roof emphasises the coupe-like plunge of the C-pillar, helping the Mach-E look more like a Mustang in profile. Base models may get a bodycoloured roof, however, spoiling the illusion.
Mustang Mach-E Ford hasn’t been part of the initial post- Tesla battery-electric fightback by the big, established marques. But its first dedicated EV is now here – and it’s badged Mustang.
Reborn bronco The original Ford Bronco is one of the world’s iconic 4x4s – up there with Jeep, Land Rover and Jimny. Now Bronco’s back, initially as a desert racer but, in early 2020, as a production car too.