Lee Iacocca introduced the Ford Mustang on April 17, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. In its first full year of production, it sold 559,451 units as it was propelled up the sales charts by Baby Boomers seeking their first real taste of freedom. Iacocca pegged it perfect.
“Our market researchers confirmed that the youthful image of the new decade had a firm basis in demographic reality,” Iacocca wrote in his autobiography, Iacocca. “Millions of teenagers born in the baby boom that followed World War II were about to surge into the national marketplace. Young adults between eighteen and thirty-four would account for at least half the huge increase in car sales that was predicted for the entire industry during the next ten years.”
Iacocca delivered exactly the right style and package, but much has changed in the intervening fifty-five years as cars’ dominance has been supplanted by crossovers and the auto industry prepares a transition from gasoline to electric and from human-driven to autonomous. Today’s younger generations have no connection to the Mustang’s past, crave utility more than gas-guzzling V8 power and no longer need two doors nor a big block V8 to flash from naught to sixty. We can do it with electricity.
Against a backdrop of the Detroit Youth Choir singing and rapping just hours before the L.A. Auto Show opened to journalists Sunday night, Ford Chairman Bill Ford ushered in the second chapter of the Mustang’s long legacy.
“At the first-ever Detroit auto show, Henry Ford said he was working on something that would strike like forked lightning,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company. “That was the Model T. Today, the Ford Motor Company is proud to unveil a car that strikes like forked lightning all over again. The all-new, all-electric Mustang Mach-E. It’s fast. It’s fun. It’s freedom. For a new generation of Mustang owners.”
It’s also a five-door crossover that kicks fossils to the wind, which I’m sure is causing simultaneous fits of outrage and intrigue among the Mustang faithful. Before you write your nasty-grams to Ford, you might want to know the top GT version can put shadows on Shelby GT500 bumpers, and with optional all-wheel-drive, can probably spin the 700 horsepower supercar into slippery weeds. It’s not even the first Mustang four-door or wagon either, as both were considered during the 1960s. I’m a traditionalist, but maybe we should give it a chance.
Base models employ a 75.7 kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack to produce 255 horsepower with rear- or all-wheel-drive, running 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds. Top models step up to a 98.8 kWh battery pack. Depending on how many wheels are powered and battery pack capacity, the car travels up to 300 miles between charges. It gains 47 miles range in 10 minutes on a commercial charger. Ford makes the point that the AWD system is optimized for both performance and poor weather traction, making it the first Mustang that can carry five passengers and blitz through snow. The Mach-E’s architecture will eventually lead Ford’s move into autonomous driving.
Despite its crossover silhouette, there’s no mistaking the Mustang’s famous facia, angry hoodline, upkicked rear haunches, and triple-barrel taillights. GTs roll on 20” alloys that fill those fenders completely. LED headlights, available tinted panoramic glass roof, and sides shaved clean of door handles carry it into the future.
Interiors maintain Mustang’s twin cowl dash design, but are focused on a small flat rectangular screen for instrumentation and a 15.5” tablet-style screen for infotainment. Ford’s next-generation SYNC can accept complex speech requests. Live traffic data and over-the-air software upgrades are part of the suite. We can assume the Mach-E will have all of the latest crash avoidance technology.
“The Mustang Mach-E wholeheartedly rejects the notion that electric vehicles are only good at reducing gas consumption,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer. “People want a car that’s thrilling to drive, that looks gorgeous and that can easily adapt to their lifestyle – and the Mustang Mach-E delivers all of this in unmatched style.”
Base models will start under $45,000 with 230 miles range. Spend another $5,000 to get 300 miles range. The GT is the quickest, but also gives up a little distance, reaching 230 miles between plugs. Expect that model to top $60,000. Deliveries begin their cascade in late 2020.
Ford could have styled a lozenge like Tesla and slapped some new-age name on its rump, but instead looked deep into its heritage to deliver an exciting performance-oriented crossover that fits into a very famous family. Some will think the Mustang Mach-E is sacrilege, but I think most will just want to drive it like they stole it. Place your reservations at ford.com.
Send your thoughts about the Mach-E to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com.