The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is a more serious performance car than the new Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally. It makes more power, hits 60 faster, handles its grip better and is built for far more sustained abuse. It even charges faster and brings a variety of fun new ideas to the table. Ask me to vote for one of these two similarly priced electric performance cars with my brain, and it’s the Hyundai by a mile. But my heart belongs the Mach-E Rally. It’s not the best electric performance car ever, but it’s the one I’d have.

For all but the most hardcore track-day enthusiasts, it’s the one I’d recommend, too. It isn’t serious. It isn’t severe. It is dirt-kicking, mud-splattering, smile-stretching fun. It’s playful, emotional and silly, all those things we real car enthusiasts worried an EV would never be. And at $61,890 with destination, it’s a good deal, too.

(Full Disclosure: Ford flew me to Seattle, Washington and provided two nights of lodging in the local Hyatt. They covered meals and transportation during the Mach-E Rally event, and provided access to the DirtFish Rally School and its slate of instructors.)

Gallery: 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally First Drive

If you want to try sliding around in the dirt, it’s a great option. For experienced rally drivers, though, there is a catch.

What Is It?

The 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally is an extra package on top of the GT trim. It gets the same 480 hp and 700 lb-ft as the revised 2024 GT with the optional Performance Upgrade, thanks to a new Ford-built rear motor borrowed from the F-150 lightning and a revised front motor. Yet instead of being built for on-road performance like the GT, the Rally is built for loose-surface, high-speed shenanigans. Think Subaru WRX or GR Corolla but electric, not the Ioniq 5 N. So far, that’s a space Mach-E Rally has to itself, and it aims to set a high bar for whatever follows it. 

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Base Price $61,890
Output 480 hp
Maximum torque 700 lb-ft
Speed 0-60 MPH 3.4 seconds
EV Range 265 miles
Drive Type Dual-motor AWD
Charge Time 10-80% in 36 minutes (150 kW)
Battery 91 kWh Lithium-Ion

To survive the added abuse, undulations and impacts of rallying, the Rally gets a 1-inch lift, standard MagneRide shocks tuned for off-road body control, rally-optimized springs, underbody protection for front and rear motors, a Focus-RS-inspired rear spoiler, fog lights integrated into the grille fascia and awesome white rally-inspired wheels. There’s also a cover over a new front recovery point, so you can tug the Mach-E free should you end up send it ass-first off the trail.

On dry pavement, Ford says it’ll do 0-60 in 3.4 seconds. That’s 0.1 seconds slower than the GT with the Performance Upgrade, but you won’t miss the extra pace. 

How Is It As An EV?

The Mustang Mach-E is the third-best-selling EV in the country, and it’s not hard to see why. It was a great EV from the start, and Ford has done a good job of steadily improving it in areas where it matters.

All Mach-Es get significant range bumps for 2024, and most models have received substantive price cuts to fend off competition from the Tesla Model Y, among others. 

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally First Drive

The longest-range Mach-E you can buy for 2024 is the Premium RWD with the Extended Range Battery at 320 miles. But because the Rally adds more aggressive Michelin CrossClimate 2 rubber, a higher ride height and an AWD drivetrain, it’s less efficient. It can go an EPA-estimated 265 miles on its 91 kWh battery, which is 15 miles less than the comparably powerful GT version does with the same pack. Still, that’s better than the Ioniq 5 N, which goes just 221 miles on a charge thanks to its smaller battery and ultra-sticky tires.

Charging times for the Mach-E are less impressive than for the Ioniq 5 N or Kia EV6 GT, though, as the Mach-E has a 400-volt-class architecture rather than the Korean cars’ 800-volt setup. Still, you can charge from 10-80 percent in 36 minutes, per Ford, with a peak charging rate of just over 150 kw. In our testing, a Mach-E Premium AWD Extended Range did the deed in 25 minutes, a bit ahead of Ford’s estimates and roughly on par with cars like the Tesla Model Y. And unlike Hyundais, Kias, VWs or Chevies, the Mach-E already has access to Tesla’s Supercharger network, making reliable fast-charging infrastructure far easier to come by. 

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally First Drive

In between charging stops, the Mach-E Rally is a quiet and comfortable cruiser. Despite its chunky, rally-focused tires, it doesn’t make much road noise, and my tester had no squeaks, rattles or noticeable quality issues. Plus, rally cars tend to have softer setups to deal with undulations on dirt roads, and the same is true here. That means that the Mach-E Rally deals with bumps and potholes better than the GT.

Plus, it’s got BlueCruise, Ford’s hands-free highway driving assistant that you can get on any Mach-E. It isn’t as good as GM’s industry-leading SuperCruise, requiring a bit more supervision for lane changes and in stop-and-go traffic, but it makes highway commuting a breeze. I’d happily drive the Mach-E cross country.

How Is It As A Rally Car?

For most people, driving a rally-oriented car on a loose surface is going to be a much more fun experience than driving a performance car hard on the road or on a race track. The magic of driving happens at and beyond the limit of a car’s grip, when you have to solve problems quickly using information you’re receiving from your butt, hands, eyes and ears all at once. In modern cars, that limit is so high on dry pavement that inexperienced drivers cannot ever safely explore it. That’s double true in an EV with 700 lb-ft of torque.

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally First Drive

Yet any midwesterner knows the best way to learn is to find a snowy parking lot and let it rip. Snowy lots, wet skidpads and muddy dirt trails—loose surfaces— all drastically lower the amount of grip your tires can find, meaning the fun, slidey action happens at 15 or 25 mph, rather than 65 mph. That means you can keep up with the car, and learn to smoothly transfer its weight. In the Mach-E Rally, the process is a hell of a lot of fun regardless of your experience level.

The car manages its weight spectacularly well. It rewarded me for using the brakes to load up weight on the front axle, turning in early and letting the car rotate as I steered on the throttle. Even with the stability control on, it let me get silly with it, only intervening when I had too much steering angle in or was too aggressive on the throttle. In RallySport mode, it let me really hang loose, giving me enough leeway to pull big drifts on the muddy corners of the DirtFish rally school.

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally First Drive

The car never struggles for power. In fact, the much bigger problem was reigning in its massive torque shove. The smoother I was with the pedal, the faster I went. It was a delicate, rewarding experience, but one that only lasted for about 10 total minutes spread between two courses. I felt like I could have gone all day, finding more time as I smoothed out my inputs and learned to better tuck its nose tight around the bends.

Yet one problem kept cropping up.

Loosey in the Slick without Diffs

The back end is sliding loose. I’ve got the wheels turned left on the right-hand curve, opposite lock, dialed in. The nose is straightening as the car regains its grip. That’s not what I want, though. I want to keep the same steep steering angle, leaving the wheel where it is and steering only with the throttle, a key part of rally driving. And the Mach-E just won’t let me.

Go for the throttle any time you have significant steering angle and the car will pull power. That’s true in RallySport and—I later learn from a Ford engineer—even with stability control off. I keep sliding anyway and, finish my three-lap, two-minute stint. After a few do theirs, the unforgettable smell of hot brakes lingers in the staging area like a brussels-sprout fart. And it hits me. 

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally First Drive

This thing doesn’t have a diff. A core piece of rally or racing kit, a limited-slip differential (LSD) limits the difference in speed between two wheels on the same axle. That’s crucial, as an “open diff” will naturally route power along the path of least resistance. So if one tire is in the mud and starts spinning, well, there’s no resistance left. All of the power goes to the wheel without grip—which can’t use it—and almost none gets to the wheel with traction. The wheel with grip gets no power, and the one without it spins wildly in the slick, a trick not-so-lovingly called a one-wheel peel. It’s a waste of power and a time sucker, so more serious performance cars like the Ioniq 5 N use an LSD to ensure that the wheel with traction always receives usable power.

The Mustang Mach-E Rally does not have a limited-slip differential.

Instead, it tries to emulate one with its brakes, a common trick among most modern open-differential cars. It will nip at the corner losing traction, increasing resistance at that wheel and thereby forcing the power to the other, grippier side. This approach has a few disadvantages. The first is that it can overcook your brakes, or at least increase their degradation, limiting how long you can go hard before the car needs to cool down. Given that the Mach-E GT is already known for pulling power, and the smell of brakes in the air and the fact that the pro-rally-driver hot laps involved a few discreet car switches between stints, I think it’s safe to say that the Mach-E Rally is not built for long stints close to the limit. 

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally First Drive

The second disadvantage is that brake-based systems are less predictable and more limited than a true LSD. They can’t manage all the Mach-E’s power reliably enough to always deliver the power the driver asks for. This is why—even with stability control off—the Mach-E will still pull power or cut it completely in certain circumstances. It’s not a safety measure, at least not one for the driver or occupants. It’s for motor protection, according to an engineer on the Mach-E Rally development team. If there was a one-wheel peel, it’d overspin the motor and potentially damage it, so the Mach-E has to prevent that from happening.

For most drivers who just want to fool around on a dirt road, then, the Mach-E Rally is more than up to the task. But if you’re a modded Mitsubishi Lancer Evo or WRX STI rallycrosser looking to go electric, expect to have some of your sessions cut short. The Mach-E can’t slide as hard or endure it for quite as long.

Early Verdict

But I’m not a loose-surface pro, and I can’t imagine ever taking a street car down a dirt road fast enough for long enough to outrun the Mach-E’s cooling and brake system. I’d likely use this car as a daily driver, with occasional blasts down dirt roads or through snowy parking lots. The Mach-E is a blast in any of those circumstances, with enough on-road prowess to make it a fun canyon car, too. It may not be built to tackle the Nürburgring, but I don’t go to the ‘Ring. Like most Americans, I go to work, and the gym and occasionally out to the sticks for hikes, climbs and camps. 

2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally First Drive

For this lifestyle—the honest lifestyle of the average American—I can’t think of a better performance car. Sure, the Ioniq 5 N is sharper, but it’s a stiffer road car, and too low-slung for any serious work in snow or dirt.

The Mach-E Rally has enough space for a camping trip, enough endurance for a run up the ski mountain and enough clearance for that backcountry camping site. Yet it’s a smooth, quiet and refined daily driver, with all of the technology you’d ever need. Then, when you do find that perfect moment, when the stars align and the road—be it on an on-ramp, a logging road or a gravel path—is clear, it’ll leave you laughing like a maniac.

Proof, then, that the rally car has a bright future in the electric era. I just hope the next one comes with a proper diff.

Contact the author: mack.hogan@insideevs.com

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