First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (2023)

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (1)

Every so often a car comes along that is so interesting, so ‘I need to drive that’, that car scribblers like us become impatient. As such, last week’s launch of the new Ford Mustang Mach-E was technically not a first drive for the extended Stuff Motoring team. Intrepid reporter David McLeod drove one in the UK in 2021, and I sampled a grey import last year.

The Mach-E is not necessarily a subject of curiosity because of any ‘Tesla killer’ rhetoric, or even because of its somewhat controversial name. It’s a big deal because it's the first proper take at an electric car by one of the largest, most recognised car brands on the planet. It’s a big deal.

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (2)

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Ford has dabbled in electric cars before via the Focus Electric. But this Mach-E is its first serious, ground up entry in the segment. Specifically, the Mach-E plays in a very similar ball pit to the Tesla Model Y. The pair of American plug-ins are very similar in size and price, and they both fancy themselves as being a little more zesty behind the wheel than the average commuter EV.

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In marketing buzzword terms, the Mustang Mach-E is meant to be a more athletic, dynamic take on electrification – a cheque Ford is so confident won’t bounce that it slapped its most iconic badge to the tailgate.

The use of the Mustang name has been a bitter pill to swallow for some diehard blue oval enthusiasts, in the same way that the introduction of the Cayenne was a curveball for Porsche nerds way back when. But sometimes the right decision isn’t the most popular one. The Cayenne flourished and became a vital cornerstone of Porsche’s line-up. Maybe the Mach-E will one day do the same.

The Mach-E starts at $79,990 for the base rear-wheel drive, single-motor 198kW/430Nm 75.7kWh grade. Pricing booms to $109,990 for the all-wheel drive, packing a larger 98.7kWh battery, dual motors, and buckets more power (258kW/560Nm). You can add the RTR pack to either for an additional $9,000. And then at the top of the tree is the Mustang Mach-E GT – a 358kW/860Nm, $124,990 alternative to the Model Y Performance.

Range across the trio of models is rated at 440km (RWD), 550km (AWD), and 490km (GT), with the same models rated to hit 100kph in 6.1 seconds, 5.1 seconds, and 3.7 seconds, respectively.

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (3)


Given it’s been part of the motoring news zeitgeist for years at this point, most of you will be very familiar with the Mach-E’s looks.

SUV silhouette with a black roof that aims to make its side profile appear more coupe-like. Mustang-like character lines on the side lead to bold rear haunches. Traditional three-bar Mustang tail lights. Subtle black cladding and side skirts. No grille, but the outline of the Mustang’s familiar motif. And, barring a little logo at the top of the windscreen, not a single Ford emblem.

It all comes together rather well. The Mustang certainly attracted plenty of stares and comments during our day with it. In an SUV segment with plenty of homogenous looking entrants, the Mach-E successfully stands out.

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (4)


There are certain things we’ve come to expect from Ford’s cabins – good seating position, a focus on soft surface touchpoints, high spec, and space all rating high on the list. By and large, the plug-in Mustang follows the formula to a T, with a few interesting quirks.

The Ranger-esque 15-inch portrait infotainment display comes with Ford’s latest Sync interface and works well, although it could probably benefit from a bit more tilt to make buttons at the bottom easier to see and select.

Behind the steering wheel is a narrow, letterbox-style 10.2-inch digital cluster (both screens are standard in all models). A bit small on first look, the slimline display makes more sense the more you use it. It’s refreshing to see a simple digital cluster that isn’t crammed with gimmicky graphics.

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (5)

Shock horror, the boot is certainly bigger than any Mustang before it, boasting 402 litres of storage space. There’s also 100 litres of space in the ‘frunk’ – a helpful addition that is still oddly absent from some mainstream EVs. Rear legroom is excellent, too, aided by an almost completely flat floor.

On the road

To give the Mach-E a fighting chance to prove it deserves the Mustang name, Ford held the bulk of the launch at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park. Slalom, drag racing, and track laps all gave the Mach-E an opportunity to show whether it’s a proper driver’s car, or just another EV crossover.

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (6)

Those who’ve read our prior Mach-E musings will know that we rate its handling chops highly. But, throwing it into greasy, low-grip situations on track gave us a whole new level of appreciation for what it can do. As it turns out, yes, the Mustang Mach-E is a bonafide driver’s car.

It’s to be noted that the all-wheel drive Mach-E we drove for most of the day was an ‘Irish spec’ that we won’t get in New Zealand. Mostly identical to our local stock, its main difference was the combination of the smaller 75.7kWh battery with all-wheel drive.

Our repeated swift runs through the slalom were particularly illustrative, as our speeds and slip angles grew with each run. The Mustang, particularly on its standard rubber, is quite fond of hanging its tail out – and keeping it out – under power. The Mach-E’s platform and genuinely rear-biased all-wheel drive drivetrain are capable of generating proper thrills whilst being balanced and predictable.

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (7)

It’s undeniably heavy, and you can feel that sometimes. But, that weight also gives the Mach-E a low centre of gravity, adding to its chuckable nature. As far as EVs in this price bracket go, this would have to be one of the most well sorted on the market.

The launch wasn’t just about the standard all-wheel drive Mach-E, either. We also had the chance to hurl the rapid Mach-E GT around the track.

Some $15k more than the mid-spec all-wheel drive, the GT is leagues quicker in a straight line. Throw in the fierce bite of its Pirelli rubber and its stiffer suspension tune, and you get a compelling, hot EV. Admittedly, it’s also quite a bit pricier than its direct rival; the $100,900 Tesla Model Y Performance.

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (8)

Away from the track, we also drove the all-wheel drive Mach-E on motorway and rural roads. In this more relaxed setting, it’s still evident that this is more energetic than the average EV SUV. Its steering rack is quick, its damping communicative without being too firm. The regenerative braking is present, but quite subtle compared to its peers.

Which would I have?

The Mach-E I’m most curious about, perhaps annoyingly, is the one we didn’t get to steer; the entry-level rear-wheel drive. If you don’t need that 500-plus range figure, the base model is a solid pick and the best value of the bunch once you consider its Clean Car rebate.

It has the potential to be even more fun than the AWD, too, thanks to all the power being sent to the rear. The question that remains outstanding is whether the 60kW/90Nm deficit between it and the AWD is big enough to spoil the fun.

Bonus images

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (9)

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (10)

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (11)

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (12)

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (13)

First drive: Ford Mustang Mach-E (14)

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