Back in 2005, Fightstar frontman Charlie Simpson walked out on stage at Reading Festival to a deluge of bottles filled with a yellowish liquid that was almost certainly not water. Perhaps they still associated him with Busted, but I remember watching the band stand strong for a good five minutes, wait for the crowd to run out of missiles, then proceed with their set as planned. It was one of the best sets of the weekend.
In many ways, I think Ford could probably see some parallels. When it announced that a new Mustang was on the way – and not only was it going to be electric but also an SUV – it must have known that a lot of keyboard warriors would be cracking their knuckles ready to send their metaphorical bottles of urine into the social media comments sections.
And so it came to be that any mention of the Mach-E was met with cries of ‘But it’s not a real Mustang!’ However, Ford has persevered with its revolutionary new model, which is full of big tech and impressive performance figures.
Bizarre analogies out of the way, if you try to ignore any association with the ‘other’ Mustang, there’s not much to complain about on paper.
SUVs have a tendency to look a little frumpy, but the Mach-E has sleek lines. It looks about as sporty as it’s possible for high-riding vehicles to look without resorting to the awkward SUV-coupe styling that’s become popular in the premium segment.
Then there’s the interior. I was concerned when Ford said it was going tech-heavy and premium with the Mach-E’s cabin, but it has absolutely nailed it. If you tried Ford’s premium Vignale models and weren’t impressed, this is on another level.
Clearly inspired by the Tesla Model 3, there’s a large central infotainment screen that controls most functions. The 15.5-inch display is crystal clear and the menus are easy to navigate, if occasionally slow to register touches.
The dial that’s embedded in the bottom of the display is a fantastic addition, too.
Then there are the numbers. We tested the all-wheel-drive extended range version, which means it has a dual electric motor setup making 346bhp and 580Nm of torque. The result is a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds and a range of about 335 miles.
First impressions of that range are good, too. With a full charge, the readout on the display showed just under 300 miles, and our motorway run to Wales – three hours sitting at around 70mph is not an EV’s happy place – saw the mileage drop at a reasonable rate.
And on the motorway, where the roads are smoother, the Mach-E is at its best.
There’s plenty of space for all passengers, the seats are supportive, and the suspension soaks up all but the worst cracks.
So far, so good. But here’s the thing… Once you get off the motorway, it’s just not that nice to drive. For a start, Ford has this odd steering feel where the wheel centring is quite aggressive, as if you’re working against an elastic band.
It’s just noticeable enough to be annoying. Out on the open brushland of the Brecon Beacons, where the roads are narrow and vary between sweeping curves and tight turns, you really feel the Mach-E’s weight, too. It’s difficult to get in a rhythm, and its size makes it tough to relax.
However, the biggest issue for me is the overly intrusive driver-assistance systems. The lane-keep assist is constantly tugging and twitching the wheel.
When you have a truck coming towards you on a narrow road and you’re fighting the wheel to let you put a tyre on the white line it’s not only annoying but unnerving.
The Skoda Enyaq is its closest rival in this company, and while it’s not as interesting to look at inside or out, the Czech EV is just a more pleasant car to drive. It’s not trying too hard, it’s just a solid family car.
There’s a lot to like with the Mustang Mach-E, such as the cabin, but one of the reasons we get the best of the best together in one place each year is because it highlights the small things. In isolation, you might forgive the Mustang’s inadequacies, but when you have it alongside those at the top of the class it really shines a light on them.
The Mustang Mach-E isn’t a bad car. The problem is that it’s good, but not great. If you do a lot of motorway miles and want a comfortable, long-range, value-for-money EV then you could do a lot worse. But if you want something to put a smile on your face, or regularly drive on narrow country lanes or in urban areas with rubbish road surfaces, you might want to look elsewhere. Your local Skoda dealer, for example…