A 1000-mile staycation puts the EV and its keeper's marriage to the test - 21 September
To Norfolk again, this time on a family holiday that layered in the promise of sunshine and seaside with the potential for divorce if we ran out of electricity when we have a perfectly serviceable petrol car at home. Who knew trying to save the planet would be laced with such jeopardy?
If you'll forgive the spoiler, I remain happily married: we drove 981 miles in 10 days, encountering next to no dramas and spending considerably more time in queues for ice cream than waiting for the car to charge.
That was made possible by two new fast-charging hubs in the region, one run by Gridserve that I have waxed lyrical about before and one run by MFG (Motor Fuel Group), which is every bit as impressive in terms of the number and capability of its chargers, if a bit more like a traditional fuel station in its execution.
As a result, I knew that when we arrived in Norfolk from south-west London, I could top up in the time it took to take a break. And, later on in our holidays, when we drove from our base in Cromer to Snetterton to watch the British Touring Car Championship, or to the zoo near Lowestoft, or to Norwich for a day out, the option of a pit stop at Gridserve was always there and never a hassle or waste of time.
In between, we located a bank of four chargers in Cromer itself. They weren't fast at 11kW, but in the time it took us to go for a swim each evening, they would replenish 20-40 miles of range, which was usually the same or more than we had used on days when we didn't go trekking.
Throw in a few local attractions with free slow chargers and I quickly got over the one holiday mishap, which was a 50kW charger that I'd originally identified as our saviour for the trip but turned out to have been broken for nearly a year.
What of the Mach-E? You'll recall it's come in for something of a kicking in recent reports, most notably for its Buckaroo impersonation on uneven road surfaces, and it is notable that Ford recently brought news that 2022 model year cars have been facelifted with revised suspension to counter that. On smoother roads it's barely an issue, but get onto the wrong kind of surface and you'll soon be both shaken and stirred to the edge of your patience. Let's just say that I'm looking forward to learning how much of an improvement it is.
Otherwise, though, the Mach-E is a perfectly competent car and certainly good enough to make so many miles pass reasonably effortlessly. There's loads of storage, it's spacious enough for us all - including two children over 170cm in height - to travel in comfort, and it's refined in a way most electric cars are.
Of particular note was the amount we could cram into the boot - and that we could wedge what was left into the space under the bonnet, thereby keeping the cabin relatively free of clutter.
In the nicest possible sense, that made for a pretty unremarkable experience. Suspension aside, the Mach-E isn't a bad car: it just falls short of some newer competition, led by the Kia EV6, that has moved the game on. The hope must be that the latest model updates go some way to at least bridging that gap.
Feeling the warmth
No question, the Mustang badging makes the Mach-E stand out, prompting conversations and adding a little mystique.
Catching a cold
The tiny delay between push and response from entry buttons (rather than handles) is starting to grate as it gets colder and wetter.
The Mach-E's frunk proves useful - 14 September
What to call the recess under the bonnet of an electric car? Americans like 'frunk', as in front trunk, but we're not American. Regardless, it regularly proves useful. It's an odd shape and not enormous at 136 litres, but it comes in useful for either storing the charging cable or squeezing in the last few bits of loose cargo that would else roll around.
Its big touchscreen is a talking point - and for the right reasons - 7 September
These days, it's not enough for cars to be cars. In the era of the Tesla giant screen (with whoopee cushion functionality), there have to be eye-catchers and quirks that add a little surprise to proceedings, too.
Here, the Mach-E excels, from its own centrally mounted, portrait-orientated giant screen through to wild horse badging and more. The screen is a triumph. It's the first thing everyone comments on when they climb inside, it's intuitive to use and it allows for large, chunky functions that are easy to hit on the move.
Just about the only shortcoming is that the sole off-beat functionality I've uncovered is the option to play noughts-and-crosses (against the car or a friend) or do a spot of art in a format that reminds me more of my childhood on a ZX Spectrum than the modern world. Putting the Mustang badging front and centre and doing away with any Ford blue ovals is another smart move.
At its most basic level, it makes the Mach-E stand out, to the extent that I've probably never driven a car that passers-by want to know more about. On another, it elevates the Mach-E as something special and goes some way to justifying the £40k-plus asking price that perhaps a humble Ford couldn't do so easily.
The third standout that I will highlight is less of a success, however, and revolves around an attempt at answering a question that I'm not sure anybody has asked: reinventing the door handle and door lock.
In the case of the handle, the Mach-E has small, round push buttons, with a curious pull hanging just below the window line. Aside from small laughs at the expense of those unfamiliar with the car trying to fathom it out, they do nothing beyond provide a slightly irritating talking point.
The door lock - essentially a digital version of an old-school combination lock accessed by pushing illuminated buttons down the side of the door frame - is just odd. Again, it gets people talking, which may be both the point and enough to justify its presence.
But my experience suggests that you use it once, wonder why you didn't just blip the keyfob and then spend every trip hoping that nobody asks why on earth your car has numbers printed down the side of it. Maybe that makes me sound like an old man rather than an excited millennial, and maybe that means I've missed the point, but to my mind it smacks of trying too hard.
Overall, though, I like that Ford has tried to be a bit different. Sure, some efforts are bigger hits than others, but I would have been even more disappointed if Ford had tried to enter a new era without a few flourishes. There is time to learn - even if that means making a few mistakes along the way.
Instant air-con is a joy in an EV, with the cold air pumping far quicker than in an ICE car.
Is that the laundry?
On start-up, the Mustang must give its fluids a pump. It sounds (briefly) like a washing machine on a cycle.
A ride in the Mach-E's sportiest variant prompts a ride rethink - 24 August
You might recall that I've moaned about the harsh ride of my Mustang Mach-E. Well, a back-to-back drive with the faster GT variant made it feel like it's sitting on a cushion. Whichever of the variable settings you choose in the GT, the ride is as ridiculous as its £72,750 price. If you want a Mach-E, the lower-end model is definitely the one to go for.
At long last, our man has no reservations about using an EV for long journeys - 17 August
I've driven a lot of electric cars for a fair few years now, yet despite never once having hit a problem with range or charging infrastructure, no matter how remote my destination, I have to confess that there have been times when I've opted to take a combustion-engined car instead, just for the absolute peace of mind of removing one more potential hassle.
Now I find my mindset changing. Yes, it has taken years, and yes, I'm fortunate to have had the choice, but whereas once I had to sell a 500-mile trip to west Wales as an adventure to convince myself it was worth doing, now I have no hesitation.
Familiarity is the key, of course, not just of what's available on my routes and at my destinations but also from knowing who the most reliable charging providers are and generally just having the confidence (and wherewithal to confidently navigate Zap-Map) to understand where I might hit trouble, always make alternative plans and realise that if I do hit trouble, the network is usually good enough to get me out of it.
What strikes me as interesting is that this moment of enlightenment has come while I've been at the wheel of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, which by most measures is a fairly decent but mediocre EV, good enough to sell well but setting few benchmarks (if any, beyond perhaps the range offered by the Extended Range version) in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
It perhaps helps that I'm writing this as the nation is gripped by a heatwave, although the upside of getting better efficiency is sometimes offset by the need to run the air-con.
As a guide, though, the 200-ish miles of range indicated while running the heated seats and other ancillaries in the depths of winter has been replaced by a peak of 269 indicated miles following some especially frugal outings and hot-weather charging.
Even so, I would say that absolute confidence in getting 200 or more real-world miles, combined with today's rapidly improving charging network, marks the point at which I've shifted to being happy to head out whatever the circumstances.
Sure, 100 miles each way is rarely going to be enough to get me anywhere of significance and back, but 25 minutes at a rapid charger (or a brace of stops of half that time) is enough to add a further 50% of mileage and stretch its range into the scope of a sensible day trip.
Tactics for stretching out the available mileage apply to all cars; turning off air-con or heaters adds a remarkable 10-20% straight back, travelling at 65mph rather than 70mph gives 5-10% back, while just focusing on driving more smoothly and carrying as much speed as you can is worth another 5%.
It's basic maths, of course, but it's remarkable how little time travelling a few miles per hour slower costs you.
The knock-on benefit is how much less stressed you feel about life, too. Once you're over the fear of being stranded and trust in the range and charging infrastructure, driving an EV is an undeniably calmer, more relaxing experience, thanks in part to the quietness but also because it rewards smoother, calmer driving so obviously. Every poll says this, but it's worth reiterating: once you switch, you're unlikely to want to go back.
All of this adds up to a growingly obvious conclusion: after a period of catch-up and with much still to do, the charging infrastructure is approaching good enough now for the number of EVs on the road. And the number - and capability - of EVs on the market are good enough for most drivers to make the switch.
Both sides of that equation need to keep moving forwards at pace, of course, but in my experience the barriers are coming down fast, and the naysayers - of whom there are still many - are very much in need of trying the technology before they dismiss it.
The pony badges work, attracting attention and questions that an everyday Ford wouldn't get.
It's a scorcher
An all-black car in this weather? No surprises that on hot days it's hotter than the sun inside.
Charging happy - 27 July
London to Norwich and back, over about 320 miles. I worried right up until I learned of Gridserve's new facility in the region, with 36 charging points, 22 capable of charging at 350kW - far in excess of the Ford's 107kW maximum. I stopped, went to Costa, checked a few things on the (free) internet and returned to find the car full again. Amazing.
Are you sitting comfortably? We're most definitely not - 13 July
Let me just get this out of the way so I can write about other things until I have to say goodbye: the Ford Mustang Mach-E's ride is verging on terrible, to the point that it makes the car unpleasant to live with.
For a while, I thought it was the wrong side of that critical line, but with experience and by adjusting the settings, I've found a happier place.
The problem stems from a brittle set-up that I suspect was engineered in an effort to make a big SUV live up to the Mustang name. I'm not sure a Ford in my life time has been sold with so little suspension sophistication.
And while the firmness does lend it a pseudo-sporty edge, I soon get fed up with my head playing Buckaroo on a motorway run or dealing with the constant undamped pitter-patter of driving down an uneven road. Part of the answer is selecting the Whisper driving mode.
The suspension doesn't adjust on the standard Mach-E (it does on the GT, which warrants its own entry in the book of terrible Ford set-ups), but this setting dampens the sharpness of the steering and throttle, and the result is that when the car bounces and thuds, your resultant movements don't exaggerate the impacts.
I suspect, too, that familiarity will ease the issue. It may be a completely unscientific theory, but I do believe that over time you subconsciously start compensating for a car's quirks, bracing your body a bit more against wobbles, and changing your seating and steering position.
I've done a few thousand miles in the Mach-E now, and the roads that once left me wondering what had gone wrong are now traversed in relative anonymity. Rightly or wrongly, I can at least say that I've come to terms with this undoubted shortcoming, which is how I would explain why there appear to be many, presumably happy, Mach-E drivers on our roads.
The pity is that Ford went this way in the first place. Yes, it would have left it open to accusations of being like everyone else if it had copied the generally softer, lazier weightings of most of the opposition, but these traits suit the laid-back karma of driving an EV.
The Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 have nailed it, their supremacy so clear that they are providing a halo effect for all future electrified products from the Korean brands. In contrast, good though the Mach-E may be, these shortfalls mean questions about Ford's electrified future remain.
The giant touchscreen looks like a gimmick, but its scale and font sizes suit my middle-aged eyes.
Get a grip
Swapping door handles for push buttons seems like a solution to a problem that didn't exist
Fun in the sun - 6 July
Hello, sunshine. In the depths of winter, when the Mach-E's heated seats and air-con were on a lot, I was struggling to get an indicated 200 miles of range from it after a full charge. Now, with the ambient temperature closer to 25deg C for a few days, it's closer to 270 miles. That makes a huge difference to where I would consider using it.
Welcoming the Mach-E to the fleet - 22 June 2022
It's a sign of the times that running this Ford Mustang electric SUV has elicited as many questions, queries and coos of intrigue as had it been a coupe powered by a V8.
That in itself answered one doubt I had before I had driven anywhere. Purists may despair, but it seems the vast majority of modern motorists subscribe to the belief that the 'Stang moniker exists to intrigue, excite and push boundaries rather than sit solely on a fuel-guzzling muscle car (prior, presumably, to becoming extinct in fairly short order).
That's a relief for me (and, of course, Ford), because it could easily be a distraction from what is, on paper at least, one of the most innovative and important new Fords in a generation, and to all intents and purposes the brand's first proper electric car.
Coming late to the electric party, as Ford is, this is also a car with which it needs to land a Fiesta, Mondeo or Focus-like sucker punch. Should the Mustang Mach-E slide into the depths of automotive purgatory alongside the Ecosport, B-Max or second-generation Ka, it won't threaten just the Mustang name but potentially Ford itself, such is the importance of establishing itself as a key player in EV market.
The good news is that reaction has so far been good, from our own four-star road test verdict through to impressive sales figures around the world. In perception terms, at least, Ford is now considered - just about - on the pace when it comes to EVs.
With respect to both, however, after more than 1500 miles at the wheel of this already well-run-in Mach-E (it arrived with 8000 miles on the clock), I already have a strong sense that this is a car that will reveal its characteristics - both good and bad - over a prolonged period.
One that I will highlight straight away, as I believe most drivers will notice similar in a short space of time, however, is the ride quality. I've seen it described by one overenthusiastic commentator as "beautiful", but I simply can't concur. In anything other than its mildest setting,
it's everything from unsettled to downright uncomfortable. Bumps and thumps nag away at your neck and torso to the point that even my passengers brought it up and I started to wonder if I could live with it.
Switching to the so-called Whisper setting has brought respite, however. It's still far from perfect (and that in itself is a sad phrase for me to write, given Ford's reputation for ride and handling superpowers), but it's on the decent side of manageable, if still far, far from beautiful on any road of any type that I've put it down. Maybe that moment of enlightenment will arrive at some point, but I doubt it.
My time with the Mach-E will shine a broader light on the challenges of running an EV in the UK today. Believe all the headlines and you will think that I'm in for a miserable old time seeking out working chargers, fast enough chargers and more. The truth is that so far, even on my longest journeys, I've not had a single problem.
Adding a touch of jeopardy to that statement is the fact that we have opted for the Standard Range model, rather than the Extended Range one that offers 379 miles of official range, which tops Tesla's best, and has set a string of headline- grabbing records including an efficiency rating that equated in the real world to about 500 miles of range if driven especially carefully.
That means I have an official 273 miles of range available, which equated to around 180 real miles when it was really cold and wet but, following the first serious signs of summer, is now closer to 225 miles.
A worry? As I say, not yet: with driveway charging overnight on hand, so far it has been more than enough for 90% of my journeys without ever having to stop; and enough for all of my journeys with an increasingly easy- to-find rapid charge.
One of those typically adds 100 miles in 20-30 minutes, depending on the charging rate, both from the charger and as a consequence of the charge state and condition of the car's battery.
Given that this decision to stick with the Standard Range model has also saved an estimated £15,000 (a price that includes upgrades beyond just battery size, it should be noted), I'm comfortable for now that it was the right one. Regular long-distance drivers might think differently.
All of which sets me up for an intriguing few months. Like almost every (perhaps every) electric car on sale today, the Mustang Mach-E isn't perfect. What we need to decide is whether it both goes far enough to be a credible family SUV and demonstrates enough glimpses of what Ford might achieve in future to justify its ongoing place at the top table of mainstream car makers.
I'm not precious about the redeployment of historic model names, but I do wonder if the Mach-E is special enough to look at or drive to deserve association with the 'Stang. Maybe it's just the anonymous specification of our long-termer, but the sense of occasion quickly dissipated once I was behind the wheel, to the point that comparisons with the Volkswagen ID 4 are inevitable. Let's hope Jim can find a fun side to it.
Specs: Price New £42,530 Price as tested £42,530 Options None
Test Data: Engine AC synchronous, permanent magnet electric motor Power 269bhp Torque 428lb ft Kerb weight 1,993kg Top speed 111mph 0-62mph 6.9sec Economy 2mp/kWh, 273 miles of range Faults None Expenses None