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Ford debuts 2021 Mustang Mach-E all-electric SUV with range of up to 300 miles per charge

Ford invests $500 million into Tesla competitor

A new horse is joining the stable. Ford's all-electric, Mustang-inspired SUV is finally here, revealed Sunday evening ahead of the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. Meet the Mustang Mach-E.

With this battery-powered utility vehicle, Ford is aiming to deliver a product that hits the EV market's sweet spot. Stylish, powerful and spacious inside, the Mustang Mach-E will also offer loads of technology, have an impressive driving range and deliver all that at a price that doesn't require robbing a bank to afford. But this wasn't always the plan.

Several years ago, the project started as "another compliance play," explained Jason Castriota, brand director for BEVs at Ford, speaking at a backgrounder event in Michigan earlier this month. "But we knew this wasn't compelling," he added, especially after watching other automakers struggle.

The uninspired electric cars offered by rival companies have been as unprofitable as they are dorky-looking. Ford's original plan to produce another forgettable, mass-market, battery-powered hatchback was quickly shelved, though perhaps not soon enough.

Castriota said Jim Farley, Ford's president of new businesses, technology and strategy, saw what they were doing and rebooted the entire program. Changing horses midstream -- yes, pun intended -- they decided to tap into the equity of Ford's most iconic products. "We need a new hero," Castriota said. And to cut through all the noise and clutter out there, "It's got to be Mustang." With more than 10 million sold over the last 55 years, there isn't a more iconic Ford around, save, perhaps, for the F-150, which will soon get its own electric variant.

Saddle up

"The day we decided this would be Mustang-inspired ... everybody lit up," Darren Palmer, Ford's global head of product development for BEVs, said while presenting at the backgrounder. To foal this filly, engineers had to create an all-new, dedicated electric-vehicle architecture.

The Mach-E also had to be wrapped in a design that does justice to the Mustang's heritage. To deliver, its nose was lifted, and the A-pillars were pushed rearward. Designers moved the wheels toward each end of the body, added strong rear haunches and fitted it with iconic three-chamber taillights, all in a bid to create a stylish, emotional product, one that just happens to be electric.

But make sure you know this is an SUV of the future, it's also got plenty of technology, not just retro-inspired styling. One of the first things people will notice, or perhaps not notice, is that the Mach-E lacks traditional door handles. Instead, you use electrically operated push buttons to get in. Special activators pop the doors open about 4 inches and then you can grab a handle hidden along the lip. All this supposedly improves aerodynamics and gives the vehicle a futuristic look, but it seems like a lot of cost and complexity for potentially very little benefit.

Read more about the Mustang Mach-E

 Another innovative feature is the Mach-E's front trunk, or frunk if you prefer. At just shy of 5 cubic feet, this space is designed to hold at least one piece of roller luggage but, cleverly, it's not carpeted and there's a drain plug at the bottom. This means you can load it with messy stuff and just hose it out afterwards. Palmer said, "We're tooling up a foam insert that will hold ice for four days," making the Mach-E a perfect vehicle for tailgating.

At the rear, this five-door Mustang's cargo hold provides 29 cubic feet of luggage space. Fold the rear backrests down and that figure swells to shy of 60. This means the Mach-E offers more interior storage volume than either the Jaguar I-Pace or Audi E-Tron, two major rivals (albeit carrying premium badges and pricing to match).

Mustang Mach-E World Debut by Ford Motor Company on YouTube

Technical details

This machine is built on a brand-new battery-electric vehicle architecture, part of an $11.5 billion investment Ford is making in electrification. Thanks to its low center of gravity and near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the Mach-E should be the best-handling SUV Ford has ever offered.

As for dimensions, its wheelbase measures 117 inches, which is just about 2 inches shorter than an Explorer's. The Mach-E's overall length clocks in at 186 inches, meaning it's more than a foot shorter than its three-row sibling.

Giving customers some welcome choice, a range of different trim levels will be available including Select, Premium, First Edition and California Route 1, as well as GT and a GT Performance Edition. Two different batteries will be offered in this vehicle. Both of the lithium-ion variety, the standard-range unit clocks in at 75.7 kWh and contains 288 cells. The extended-range battery has 376 cells and weighs in at 98.8 kWh. Both have a warranty of 8 years or 100,000 miles.

Naturally, the Mach-E's driving range will vary based on myriad factors, but Ford says a model equipped with the extended-range battery and rear-wheel drive should provide an EPA-estimated range of at least 300 miles.

As for powertrains, the base Mach-E features a single, rear-mounted electric motor powering just the aft wheels. Four-corner traction is also available, which adds a small motor to the front axle. GT variants feature a large electric motor at each end for maximum punch.

Models fitted with the extended-range battery pack and all-wheel drive should pack 332 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque. GT and GT Performance Edition models are even more muscular. They will be graced with an estimated 459 ponies and a whopping 612 lb-ft of twist. They'll also feature MagnaRide suspension and a driving range of around 235 miles.

Standard GT models should be about as quick as a Porsche Macan Turbo. GT Performance Edition variants will be even fleeter, offering acceleration comparable to a 911 GTS, blitzing to 60 miles per hour in the mid-3-second range. The all-wheel-drive, non-GT variant with the big battery is expected to run about like a Porsche Macan Turbo, hitting mile-a-minute velocity in around 4.3 seconds.

Further setting the Mach-E GT apart from lesser models is a range of equipment. It will get a unique grille design, forged wheels spanning 20 inches, special sill trim and a different suspension tuning with MagneRide dampers, plus a host of small changes inside.

Some of the pleasure you get from driving a high-performance car is the noise it makes. A husky exhaust sound or open-element air filter can heighten the experience. Ensuring the Mach-E delivers an emotional drive, Palmer said there will be no "fake sounds." What it'll do instead is boost the noises this SUV's powertrain already makes, producing something that's "complex, multitimbral" but also authentic. The last thing they wanted to do is pump fake V8 exhaust sounds out of it. If you were worried about that, your concerns are, thankfully, unfounded.

A big-ass screen and lots of room

The one thing you will not miss inside the Mach-E is its infotainment screen. This portrait display measures a massive 15.5 inches and has a special, physical control knob. Originally, Ford was going to offer a screen that was a little over 12 inches in size, but the company determined that wasn't enough.

This touch-enabled panel is home to a brand-new and still-unnamed infotainment system. When asked, company spokespeople declined to name it, though it could be a member of the Sync 4 family, Ford's next-generation multimedia system. Designed to be as intuitive as possible, this setup nonetheless has a relatively simple overall layout. When paired with a smartphone, it can adapt to drivers as it learns about their habits and routines. For instance, if you call your spouse after work each day, it can have your spouse's contact card queued up and ready to go. If you always use turn-by-turn directions to navigate home, that may automatically pop up, too. Your four most frequently used things are displayed on the lower portion of the screen for immediate access. 

The Mach-E's dashboard features the same double-brow design that's been used in Mustangs since, well, forever. It's not as pronounced as in the standard model, but it is fitted with a soundbar that was inspired by Bluetooth speakers.

Moving rearward, the Mach-E is surprisingly spacious inside. Palmer is 6 feet, 6 inches tall and he has no trouble sitting in the back seat. He even has a couple inches of headroom left. 

Pricing and availability

It's unclear how the Mustang faithful will respond to this EV, but maybe once they see the design, features and price, they won't totally blow a gasket. The base Select trim level will start at $44,995, including a $1,100 destination fee but excluding the $7500 federal tax credit. Ford said it expects that discount to remain in full effect for about a year after the Mach-E goes on sale; then it gradually steps down to zero. The Select comes standard with rear-wheel drive, 255 horsepower, and a range of around 230 miles. All-wheel drive costs $2,700 extra and reduces range to 210 miles.

The next step up is the $51,700 Premium trim, which will be the first to go on sale. It mirror's the Select's battery and drivetrain options, with RWD standard and AWD also costing $2,700. But the Premium is also available with the Extended Range Battery for $5,000, which boosts power to 282 horses when RWD (or 332 with AWD) and range to 300 miles (or 270 with AWD). The $53,500 California Route 1 Edition uses the rear-drive extended-range setup, also delivering 300 miles of range.

Finally, there is the limited-run First Edition model, which gets unique colors and options and starts at $61,000, and the performance-oriented GT, which has its own styling cues and starts at $61,600. The First Edition uses the same extended-range AWD setup as the Premium trim, but to go along with its name, the GT uses a dual-motor AWD setup that makes 459 horsepower and rockets the Mach-E to 60 mph in around 4 seconds, according to Ford. The downsides? Range for the GT will only be around 250 miles, and it won't be on sale until spring 2021. There also will be a GT Performance Edition that will surely be more expensive -- that's the one that achieves Ford's mid-3-second 0-60 claims.

This machine should offer more range and a significantly lower price than other EVs like the Jaguar I-Pace or Audi E-Tron, though Tesla's Model 3 and Model Y are much closer competitors.

You can reserve one of these all-electric Mustangs starting today; just plunk down a refundable $500 deposit. The car will launch at some point next year, with the GT version following in 2021. That's a ridiculously wide window of time, and a lot can change between then and now, but it looks like Ford's hard work is going to pay off.

Palmer and other members of the Mach-E teams are palpably excited. "This is the future of this company," he said. "We're all in on electrics," and the Mach-E is just the first one.

This article first appeared on CNET.com

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