Payne, first drive: Mach-E GT flexes good ol’ Mustang muscle

Posted by Talbot Payne on October 12, 2021

San Francisco — Hustling over California’s twisted two-lane Pacific Coast Highway in a Mustang GT, I suddenly came upon a three-car moving road block. I flattened the right pedal. ZOT! The GT gulped the trio like a killer whale feeding on fish.

No downshift, no V-8 roar, no rear tail wag.

Say hello (and a quick wave goodbye as it disappears into the distance) to a different kind of Mustang GT — the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT. A kilowatt-guzzling hatchback SUV. Infused with the same wicked DNA as its gas-guzzling V-8-powered Fastback forebear, it’s even dressed in bright Cyber Orange to match Papa Pony’s Grabber Yellow.

This is the one we’ve been waiting for.

Ford Motor Co.’s Blue Oval has been chasing Tesla since the Palo Alto-based automaker wowed the world in 2016 with the Model 3 and changed the electric game with an accessible, lightning quick, Apple phone-simple EV that made even gas-drinking motorheads like me go weak in the knees (I bought one).

Ford dropped what it was doing and gave chase. Maybe it was enraged Tesla had stolen its iconic “Model” moniker to stake its claim as the Model T of the 21st century. Maybe it admired a startup for cracking the battery-electric code after Ford floundered with the C-Max and first-gen Escape Hybrid. Maybe both.

But Ford understood it would have to bring out its big brand guns to compete with Tesla’s mega-brand. The Mustang Mach-E was born and it slavishly followed the Tesla Model Y (a Model 3 in ute clothing) formula: 15-inch center screen, frunk, 300-mile range, remote app, $40K starting price.

The 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition is porky at nearly 5,000 pounds. But magnetic shocks and big Brembo brakes help keep it strapped to pavement.

When I got my hands on the new pony, I saddled it up alongside a Model Y and tested them toe-to-hoof. The Mach-E is very good — yet doomed to live in Tesla’s shadow. The apprentice to the OG. Mach-E sales are a modest 2,000 a month — outsold by Model Y, 6-to-1.

Mach-E GT is a different animal. Bringing years of muscle car experience to the compact SUV, veteran engineer Dave Pericak and his merry elves have layered Mach-E with Mustang muscle. Think 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds — equivalent to a Hellcat-fired $100K Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

Like the V-8-powered Mustang Fastback, Mach-E gets a steroid booster over its standard 346-horse, 428-torque sibling. Optimizing the same 88 kWh battery pack, the GT pumps out a Mercedes AMG 63-like 480 horsepower and a gob-smacking 634-pound-feet of torque when equipped as the Performance Edition. That’s right, a performance package just like the sports car offers: gummy Pirelli summer tires; active suspension; Brembo brakes.

The interior of the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition changes little from the standard Mach-E.

Out of a hairpin turn on Route 1, I nailed the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance (that’s a lotta names) and the beast pounced. I have driven these roads in a Mustang V-8 Fastback, but there is nothing like the ON/OFF electric torque switch of a big-battery EV. The Pirellis gripped like claws. The electric motor whined. The sky blurred like Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon jumping to hyperspace. Chewie, set course for the next galaxy.

Another hairpin rushed into view and big 15-inch front Brembos brought me back to earth. The battery-powered Mach-E GT is porky at 4,962 pounds (500 more than Tesla), but it’s low in the belly. With no V-8 anchor up front, the beast rotated nicely, the magnetic suspension working hard — in part to compensate for 2-inch narrower tires than a Merc AMG (EVs gotta balance stick with range-sucking rolling resistance).

To harness its nearly 2 ½ tons, the Performance Edition is stiffly sprung. Less enthusiastic drivers will prefer the standard GT.

The Model Y has similar thrust — 0-60 in 3.6 seconds — but is less intuitive in the corners compared to the crisp Mustang. GT debuts a Traction Control OFF button so you can hang it out more.

In Unbridled mode, the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition lets out a GRRRR sound -- and really gets down to business in the twisties.

In max Unbridled mode the ’Stang pipes a satisfying GRRRRRRR-owling noise into the cabin. It’s not the GT Fastback’s reptilian gurgle, but it’s a bit of Mustang soul. So athletic-minded is the SUV that it’s lower to the ground (5.1 inches vs. 5.8) than the GT Fastback.

I know, I know what you’re thinking. If Ford wanted to expand the Mustang sub-brand, why didn’t they follow Porsche and just make a meaty, more practical V-8-powered ute? That would have been glorious. Mustang should have done it five years ago like (aping Porsche) Jaguar, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and other sports car brands.

But that was then, this is now and EVs are the fashion (not to mention forced by governments). Even Macan is going electric, so rather than chase the tail, Mustang jumped the queue with the first performance SUV to run with Tesla.

It’s a niche segment of two for now. Model Y Performance and Mach-E Performance are right on top of each other at about $62K. A lot of coin.

Not a coupe: The 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition brings hatchback utility to the Mustang GT lineup.

Who will buy it? My motorhead pal Jim and spouse crave the Mach-E, and the GT badge is right in their wheelhouse — a daily driver next to an Audi RS5 hatchback and Ford truck.

Mach-E GT would naturally replace their BMW X3 M. Heck, the ’Stang beats the Bimmer to 60 mph by a half-second — for 10 grand less. It looks the part, too, with GT gaining a menacing black grille compared to the awkward traced mouth on the standard Mach-E. It says “GET OUTTA THE WAY” in a slower car’s mirror.

Where Mach-E GT falls short of the BMW — and Tesla — is on road trips. One reason why the feds take pity with a $7,500 tax credit.

With a claimed 260 miles of range (I, ahem, got just 60% of that while flogging the pony over northern California), Mach-E GT requires long recharging stops from an unreliable third-party charging network. Bimmer can whet its beak with petrol everywhere. Tesla’s reliable charger network is the brand’s secret sauce.

Tesla also brings its signature Autopilot system. Though Mach-E GT’s similar Blue Cruise system allows truly hands-free driving (a camera watched me to make sure I was paying attention), I found it less confident at lane-centering over California’s swoopy 101 four-lane. The Tesla (which asks that you keep a hand near the wheel) is remarkably precise — while offering cutting-edge tech like Navigate-on-Autopilot and auto-lane change.

It’s hard to compete with Silicon Valley’s iPhone on wheels. So Mach-E gets your attention the ol’ fashioned way — muscle car speed ‘n’ style.

The blank-face Tesla looks alien. Mach-E’s anthropomorphic fascia, muscled shoulders and fastback are as familiar as the screaming V-8 GT you coveted when you were 16.

And when you stealthily leave everyone behind at a Woodward stoplight, it won’t wake up every officer within a 10-mile radius.

2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, all-wheel-drive, four-door SUV

Price: $60,100, including $1,100 destination charge ($63,285 GT and $69,800 GT Performance Edition as tested)

Powerplant: 68-88-kWh lithium-ion battery driving single or twin electric motors

Power: 480 horsepower, 600 pound-feet of torque (GT); 480 horsepower, 634 pound-feet of torque (GT Performance)

Transmission: Single-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.8 seconds (GT, mfr.); 3.5 seconds (GT Performance); top speed, 124 mph

Weight: GT: 4,962 pounds (4,989 pounds, GT Performance Pack)

Fuel economy: EPA est. range, 270 miles (GT); 260 miles (GT Performance)

Report card

Highs: Ruthless acceleration; confident handling

Lows: Needs more interior definition; Performance model may jar a filling loose

Overall: 4 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

Comments are closed.