Road Trip: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-e


Thanks to a friend's generosity and indulgence, I got to drive a 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-e EV to Bend, Oregon and back. Two days, 1000 miles. It turned out to be a great drive, with perfect (if cold) weather and a great chance to listen to a bunch of new music unearthed for me by "best of 2022" lists. 

The trip taught me a lot about the current reality of EV road trips. In short, the charging infrastructure today is janky AF. I had to juggle a gaggle of apps (A Better Route Planner, Electrify America, ChargePoint, as well as the Ford Pass app for the car) in order to figure out where I could charge *and* whether those chargers actually worked as advertised. It's hard to imagine having to vet my gas stations the way I'd vet an expensive restaurant, but that's what's needed for EV charging stations. I stopped at 5 different ones, and at none were all the chargers working. Some would charge, but only slowly. Others would charge for a few minutes, then quit mysteriously. And on several occasions, I narrowly avoided having to wait for a reasonably functional charger. It seems likely to me that we're heading into a real charger bottleneck period, as people buy EVs faster than the charging infrastructure can keep up. (Of course, this only applies to away-from-home charging -- if you can do all of your driving while charging at home, you can avoid all this.)

In contrast, I'd rate the car itself as pretty great. It's quick, quiet (quieter than the Tesla 3), has a good stereo (not Mercedes S550 or Porsche Panamera good, but the equal of the Tesla 3), and a good driver UI. The big central screen is easy to read, and the infotainment system is responsive and works pretty well. The Android Auto integration had a few glitches, requiring me to restart Spotify every time I connected, and refusing to route my phone calls through the car system, but I probably could have worked through those if this was my regular ride. 

I also really liked the steering wheel, which has actual buttons (as opposed to the horrible touch panels that are now afflicting EVs from European car makers). One glaring omission, however, is the lack of a pause/mute button for the audio. Come on! 

The hands-free "Bluecruise" system also gets high marks from me, when it worked. Apparently, the full hands-free experience only works on certain mapped highways, and in certain road conditions. That meant that on my drive, it would come and go at random. But when it worked, it did an excellent job. 

The price of current hands-free driving systems, however, is lots of nanny-bots, to ensure that you're not asleep or otherwise failing to pay attention (just in case the car needs you to take over). That's an admirable safety feature, to be sure, but not so much when the nanny-bot is confused by my sunglasses or hand position blocking it's monitoring sensor or when my travel mug obscures my face. Still, all in all, these "adaptive cruise with driver assistance, sometimes hands-free" systems sure do make long-distance driving less exhausting. In the city, no. On crowded city highways, no. But on the long, sparsely trafficked stretches in snowy Oregon? Yes. Oh yes, please. 

One final quibble -- the ride is surprisingly stiff. Not a problem on good interstate pavement. But a surprisingly rough ride for an SUV around town. I'm guessing this is a response to suspension requirements imposed by the weight of the batteries, and that Ford didn't want to resort to the more expensive adaptive suspensions that luxury car makers can offer (at higher prices). I'm told that this is a widespread complaint among Mach-e owners, so it will be interesting to see what Ford comes up with for future model years. 


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