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You Can See the End of the World from Here

Published on Sat, Nov 23, 2019

By: Brian Kennedy

At the LA Auto Show, the world started to make its last dip to destruction, made obvious by the display of something called the “Mustang” Mach-E. Scare quotes? Well deserved!
Above: Ford unveils its Mustang Mach E, an all-electric, four-door, crossover SUV, at the LA Auto Show (Nakano)

This car is called a Mustang, but it misses the boat in various and notable ways. First, it’s a four-door. Second, it’s got very few Mustang styling cues. Third, it’s electrified, though that could be forgiven. It is the new era, after all. But for long-time Mustangers, it may not feel that way.

Labeling a non-Mustang a Mustang reminds some people of the 1974-78 era, when the Mustang was built on the Pinto platform, way downsized, and at times not even available with a V8. A time when sticker packages replaced actual horsepower.

Will the new Mustang Mach E go the way of the much-maligned Mustang II? (Nakano)

The “this is not a real Mustang” pronouncements worked their way deep into the hobby, with many car shows, for years, not having a class for the Mustang II, as it was properly called. Try to find one of these models now, and you’ll see—they disappeared from the earth due to lack of support in the aftermarket which made them hard to restore. The fact that everyone else who loved Mustangs scorned those who would “waste” (so judge-y, I recognize) their time restoring one of these exacerbated the problem.

Note, by the way, that the first-generation Mustangs were built on the Falcon chassis, an economy car just enough retooled and just cleverly enough advertised to change the course of automobiling forever. And the Mustang did that, starting on April 17, 1964, so having an econocar base was not in itself a scourge on the brand. It was more that the 1974-78 models were so, well, so un-muscular compared to what the Mustang had become by the end of the first generation in 1973.

But since purists and car buyers aren’t always the same people, what happened in the mid-70s? Consumers bought the car in volumes not seen since the early (mid-1960s) years, when the Ford factories pumped out about half a million units a year.

People still have those cars, and they treasure them. But will that be the future of the Mach-E? One camp, the enthusiasts, would yell a resounding “NO!” while the other camp might point to the fact that Porsche and Jaguar have SUVs in their lineups, and that 1980s cars are now becoming collectible. Things have changed, in other words.

And the world hasn’t ended. But Ford is tempting it to with their new offering.

The volume projections for this Mustang Mach-E aren’t quite as lofty as those the early  cars achieved. The Mach-E will be available next year, though it’s not quite clear when, and will be fully rolled out in all its trim and tech configurations by Spring 2021. Those who do things way ahead might want to know that they can put a $500 deposit down now to reserve their space once production starts. The SUV will be available in a number of configurations with prices from the mid-40s to the low 60s.

Horsepower numbers for the various models range from 225 HP in rear-wheel drive form to more than 450 and the availability of AWD. Range is in the mid-200-mile range to more than 300 with some models.

Maybe this won’t be so bad. But is this a Mustang? Even Porsche had the good sense to give its four-doors and SUVs distinct names from “911,” Cayenne and Panamera. Jaguar edged their coupes and SUVs closer by going with I-Pace for the electric model. But they wouldn’t have called their SUV an F-Type.

Note the Mustang-esque three-bar taillights of the Mach E (Nakano)
Note the Mustang-esque three-bar taillights of the Mach E (Nakano)

OK, so Ford claims styling cue crossover. It’s hard to trace with the eye. You do notice the three-bar taillights, but those resemble the Peugeot 3008 SUV’s as much as they resemble the ones on the Mustang Fastback. To say it another way, those  on the Peugeot actually look more Mustang-like than the ones on the Mach-E.

This might be a darn fine electric car. It might compete favorably against higher-priced rivals like the Tesla Model 3 or upcoming Model Y and the already mentioned Jag. Its tech looks quite over-the-top, and Ford promises continuing development as autonomous driving tech develops, according to their video-and-presenter presentation given at the LA Auto Show.

But it’s not a Mustang, and Ford made the wrong decision in calling it one.

Mustang Mach-E. To paraphrase the tagline given for the car’s 1994 reinvention: “It is what it was. And something else.”

Ford says the GT version of the Mach E will do 0-60mph in about 3.5 seconds – which will make it quicker than the 2020 Mustang Shelby GT350, but not quicker than the new GT500 (Nakano)

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