We were amongst the first to get behind the wheel of the 2021 Mustang Mach GT and GT Performance for Ford's first-drive event last week in San Francisco and came away with a feeling that we've only seen the beginning of Ford's plans to continuously update and upgrade its plug-in pony-inspired crossover.
Ford's Mustang Mach-E has been a sales success for the brand so far, and the company has sold 18,855 units in the US through September. That places the Mach-E securely in the #2 spot for electric crossovers, trailing only the Tesla Model Y. Will the addition of the Mach-E GT and GT Performance versions help Ford maintain its sales lead over the Volkswagen ID.4? That's one of the questions we set out to answer in our Mach-E GT first-drive experience.
|2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT & GT Performance
|Dual permanent magnet synchronous
Mach-E GT: 480-hp 600 lb-ft torque
GT Performance: 480-hp 634 lb-ft torque
Mach-E GT: 270-mi EPA (est)
GT Performance:GT: 260-mi EPA (est)
Mach-E GT: 3.8 seconds
GT Performance: 3.5 seconds
Mach-E GT: $59,900
GT Performance: $64,900
While you might have to be a Mach-E enthusiast to notice the subtle visual differences on the new GT versions, they are there if you look. Let's start with the colors. Ford brought back Grabber Blue that has been previously offered exclusively on the First Edition Mach-E and added a new Cyber Orange Metallic, which in our opinion, is gorgeous.
Both versions of the GT get a new design to the faux grille area that Ford calls the Carbonized Gray Grille, and the lower sections of the front and rear fascia have been redesigned. Additionally, the front pony badge on the Carbonized Grille is illuminated.
The GT gets new sport contour seats and the GT Performance gets even better seats with aggressive side bolster and shoulder supports. The GT's seats are comfortable and supportive, but the seats in the GT performance are even better and will hold the driver securely in place during the most aggressive driving. There's also a "GT" Stamped on the center armrest, aluminum front door scuff plates, a Bang & Olufsen 9-speaker sound system, and a few other minor interior details but the upgraded seats & sound system are the most notable interior differences.
The Mach-E GT's "Carbonized Grille" compared to the regular Mach-E fascia
More power, better handling
First off for comparison, the extended-range AWD Mach-E delivers 346 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. The Mach-E GT has 480 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, the GT Performance has the same horsepower rating, but an additional 34 lb-ft of torque, achieved strictly through software enhancements.
The bulk of the extra horsepower and torque comes from a more powerful front motor. The rear motor on the GT and GT Performance is the same as it is on all Mach-Es; it's the front motor that's been upgraded. Unlike previous versions of the Mach-E, all Mach-E GTs are all-wheel-drive have the 98.8 kWh extended range battery; there's no standard-range battery or rear-wheel-drive options.
As you can see from the graph below, the power increase is substantial, and that's reflected in a much better 0-60 time. Both the GT and GT Performance come with wider 20" wheels (though they each have their own unique design) and 245/45 R20 tires, which is also a considerable upgrade from the standard Mach-E's 19" wheels with 225/55 R19 tires.
Tires have always been a weak point for the Mach-E with regards to pushing the handling limits, so we were happy to see both versions of the GT making serious upgrades.
|Mach-E Ext Range, AWD
|Mach-E GT Performance
Ford uses all-season Continental tires on the GT, and one might expect the extra rolling resistance combined with the additional power to bring the EPA range down from 270-miles (Mach-E ext range, AWD) but it doesn't. The GT Performance uses even stickier summer tires from Pirelli, and those will drop its estimated EPA range rating only 10 miles to 260, according to Ford.
Ford also upgraded the brakes and gave the GT red-painted performance brake calipers with 385-mm ventilated front rotors and 316-mm solid rear rotors. The GT Performance gets 385-mm front rotors with red-painted Brembo calipers and Continental rear calipers.
The GT Performance also gets Ford's MagneRide damping system, and we're able to confirm that system makes a huge difference. In addition to the approximate 50-mile on-road test drive, Ford set up an autocross track in a parking lot for us to have some fun with a Mach-E GT Performance and test out the MagneRide suspension. The extra power, combined with the improved rubber and advanced damping system turns the Mustang-named crossover into an outstanding performer, well, at least until you hit its thermal limit. And unfortunately, that's not too hard to do. Which brings us to the next added feature; Unbridled Extend mode.
Gallery: 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT
Unbridled 'kind-of' Extend
One of the challenges electric vehicles face is when they are driven to their limit, the batteries, motors, and power electronics heat up - a lot. When that happens, in order to protect the components, the vehicle will limit the power it delivers to the motor and reduce the amount of regenerative braking force it accepts, all in an effort to try to cool things down.
When the Mach-E first came out we noticed that when pushed hard for a prolonged time, you could easily hit the vehicle's thermal limit and enter into a reduced power mode. Ford also knew that so they began working on a solution that would allow Mach-E GT owners to get more out of their vehicles before they face thermal limiting. They named the solution Unbridled Extend mode.
When the Mach-E GT is in Unbridled driving mode, the driver can then select to activate Unbridled Extend mode which will reduce the regenerative braking force, and slightly reduce the amount of power sent to the motors. Unbridled Extend doesn't make the vehicle faster, it actually slows it down a little, but in doing so it's supposed to allow the driver more time on the track before the vehicle overheats and enters into reduced power mode.
However, when we had our track time, we were directed to do only two hot laps and then do one cool-down lap before handing the car off to the next driver. They would then do one slow lap to learn the track before they could do two hot laps. Plus, there were two cars, so each car still had 5 minutes or so in between runs to cool off. Was Ford being too conservative or do they still have some work to do on Unbridled Extend? I personally believe it's the latter.
I love that Ford is addressing this issue, even though most Mach-E owners will rarely if ever, hit the vehicle's thermal limit. You really need to drive the vehicle hard, or at a high speed (over 100-mph) for a while. However, the Mach-E is a Mustang - at least that's what Ford tells us, and with the Mustang name comes some obligations. One of which is having the ability to perform at a high level for prolonged periods of time for autocross and other track events.
Just because the Mustang Mach-E is a crossover doesn't mean it isn't expected to be a performance car. If that was the case it shouldn't have been given the pony nameplate. Unbridled Extend is a good start and we're pleased that Ford has taken up the challenge of reducing thermal limiting, but they still have some work to do - it needs to work even better than it currently does. If I can overheat the Mach-E GT Performance in less than 5 minutes of track time then it's not a good track car, unless all you do are short one-lap races.
We also learned that Ford will soon be making two important improvements to all Mustang Mach-E's through OTA software updates. First, they will be increasing the usable battery capacity on the extended range battery pack from 88 kWh to 91 kWh. Opening up the extra 3 kWh will add about 12 miles of range to the vehicles. Ford tells us they are confident that allowing customers to access the additional battery won't contribute to faster battery degradation.
Secondly, they are going to be improving the DC fast charging curve. We've previously reported that while charging on a DC Fast Charger, the Mach-E's charge rate drops to its level 2 charging speed of 11 kW once the state of charge reaches 80%. The charging rate of all EVs slows down as the SOC increases and usually after 80% it slows down even more.
However, the Mach-E's charge rate after 80% is about the worst we've ever seen, so it's good to hear that Ford will be improving it. We're told once the new charging software is installed, the vehicle will hold a relatively high charge rate until 90% SOC, at which point it will slow down considerably.
The GTs got the Blues
BlueCruise, Ford's hands-free highway ADAS is now available on the Mach-E GT and GT Performance. It's a $1,900 option and comes with Ford's Co-pilot360 Active 2.0 Package. BlueCruise can be activated on highways that have been mapped, which currently includes over 100,000 miles of divided highways that Ford calls "Hands-Free Blue Zones".
I was able to activate BlueCruise and it worked very well on the sections of the highway that allow it to be enabled. However, not all of the sections of the highways I drive on were Hands-Free Blue Zones, so the system couldn't be activated for my entire highway drive. Until all the roads have the precise mapping completed, it's hard to get too excited about BlueCruise and other ADAS systems like GM's SuperCruise that rely on mapping, because you can't simply turn it on and use it without checking to see if it will work on the routes you need it to. It really needs to work when you want it to, not only when it says it can.
Is the GT worth the extra cost?
Unbridled Extend mode notwithstanding, the Mach-E GT and GT Performance are serious performance upgrades from previous Mach-E versions. At a base MSRP of $59,900, it's only a $4,100 premium over the Extended range AWD Mach-E. As long as it's within your budget, that makes it a no-brainer in our book. Acceleration-wise it really feels just as fast as the GT Performance and the better tire & wheel combo improve the handling even without the upgraded damping system.
For an additional $5,000 (a $64,900 MSRP) you can get the GT Performance the MagneRide suspension, different wheels with stickier tires, but you also lose a lot more range because of those tires. If you don't take your car to the track, I personally think the GT might be the way to go. But if top performance is your thing and you have the coin, the GT Performance is probably the best handling Mustang that I've ever driven and it's also the fastest.
*Note: In the video, I quote the estimated EPA range figures that Ford provided us with at the first-drive event which were lower than what the official EPA range figures arrived at.