How the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Compares to Tesla's Model 3 and Model Y
What separates Ford's new electric crossover from Tesla's affordable offerings.
The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E has broken out of its corral and has hit the ground galloping in its mission to expand the legendary Mustang lineage beyond gas-powered, two-door performance cars. This electric, four-door performance crossover not only will push against the very idea of a pony car, it chases an entirely different market segment altogether. Forget the Chevy Camaro—the Mustang Mach-E has Tesla's Model 3 sedan and upcoming Model Y crossover squarely in its sights, with pricing, dimensions, and performance capability similar to both. The low-slung Ford crossover splits the difference between the Model 3 and the Model Y crossover, and even though details on the Y are forthcoming, we know the Y will be based on the 3, so we're using that as a basis for our assumptions about it. So, set aside any angst you might be feeling over whether or not the Mach-E qualifies as a "real" Mustang, and instead focus on how it compares to its soon-to-be rivals from Tesla.
The Tale of the Tape
Line up the Mach-E, Model 3, and Model Y, and the three essentially shade on another. The Ford is 186 inches long and rides on a 117-inch wheelbase. Both dimensions are slightly bigger than the Model 3's 184.8-inch length and 113.2-inch wheelbase, though the Tesla is wider by 2.1 inches. Given the Model 3's sedan format, its lower roof height comes as no surprise (58.6 inches to the Ford's 63.0 inches). What is surprising is that the 3, which is definitely a car, sports similar ground clearance (5.5 inches) to the Mach-E, a crossover (5.7 inches of clearance); the sportiest Mach-E GT's ride height drops to 5.3 inches, too. While Tesla has not yet publicized dimensions for the Model Y, we expect them to be similar to the Model 3, only with more height. The two Teslas share a platform, and the Y is intended to be the 3's crossover/SUV sibling, and likely a more natural competitor to for the Ford.
Climb inside all three cars, and the story is much the same. The Mach-E offers 38.8 inches of front-seat headroom and 38.3 inches of rear-seat headroom; opting for the panoramic glass roof actually increases both dimensions slightly to 40.5 inches and 39.3 inches. Despite its lower roof height, the Model 3 offers similar headroom: 39.6 inches front and 37.7 inches rear with the standard roof, or 40.3 inches and 37.7 inches with the optional glass roof. The Model 3 seems better for long-legged drivers, considering its 42.7 inches of legroom up front versus the Mach-E's 41.7. Rear passengers, however, have more space in the Mustang, with 38.1 inches to the Model 3's 35.2 inches. Again, it's not yet known how the Model Y's interior space will compare, but we know it will be offered with a third-row seat, something the Mustang is not available with.
Practicality and cargo volume is one area where the Mach-E has the Model 3 beat. The Ford uses its bigger body to provide 29 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row, and 59.6 cubic feet with those seats folded. A 4.8-cubic-foot frunk (front trunk) boosts space a bit further, and that space apparently is not diminished on all-wheel-drive models, which add a second electric motor up front. Meanwhile, Tesla states the Model 3 has a 15-cubic-ft cargo capacity, but does not specify how that capacity is split between the trunk trunk and the front trunk. Tesla has said the Model Y will have 66 cubic feet of cargo capacity, presumably that is with its rear seats folded flat.
How Their Performance Stacks Up
Ford, like Tesla, will offer the Mach-E with multiple drive configurations and power levels. The entry-level "standard-range" Mach-E is rear-wheel drive, has a 75.7-kWh battery, and delivers an estimated 255 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque. It should be able to sprint from zero to 60 mph in the low six-second range, and travel about 230 miles between charges. Meanwhile, the standard rear-wheel-drive Model 3 and Model Y use an approximately 50-kWh battery and deliver some 283 horsepower and 307 lb-ft of torque, which are enough to shove the Teslas to 60 mph in the mid-five-second range. That is approximately the same performance as the standard-range, all-wheel-drive Mach-E, which uses the same 75.7-kWh battery as the base model but adds a second drive motor. Thanks to its additional motor, the AWD Mach-E's peak torque jumps from 306 lb-ft to 417; horsepower is unchanged at 255 ponies, and the car's driving distance is reduced to about 210 miles.
To get all-wheel drive on either Tesla, customers must purchase the long-range 75-kW-hr battery. The upside is 346 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, along with a 4.0-second zero-to-60-mph time. The long-range Tesla Model 3 can cover a comparatively huge 310 miles before recharging, too. Tesla estimates the Model Y with the same drivetrain configuration will scoot to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and have a 280-mile range. Opting for the larger of the Mach-E's two battery packs, a 98.8-kWh unit, ups the Ford's output to 282 horsepower and 306 lb-ft (rear-drive) and 332 horsepower and 417 lb-ft (all-wheel drive) and boosting driving range to 270-300 miles. Zero-to-60-mph acceleration times are about the same for the standard-range models.
Most exciting (to us, at least) are the enthusiast-oriented Ford and Tesla models. For the Mach-E, that means the GT trim, which will be exclusively offered with all-wheel drive and the extended-range 98.8-kW-hr battery pack. The combination will be good for about 459 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque, chopping the Mustang Mach-E's zero-to-60 acceleration time to the mid-three-second range. Driving range is estimated at around 230 miles per charge. Meanwhile the Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Performance model uses a 75-kWh battery to generate 450 horsepower and 471 lb-ft of torque from its two electric motors, and hits 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds. Tesla rates that 3's range at 310 miles, and the forthcoming Model Y Dual Motor Performance model should boast identical specs, although its driving range likely will drop to under 300 miles. So, consider the top-level Mach-E-vs.-Tesla-Model-3/Y drag race a wash, at least until we test a Mach-E for ourselves.
Not all drag races pertain to acceleration—when it comes to electric cars, charging speed is nearly as important as the vehicle's speed capabilities. The Mach-E's basic trim will support up to 115 -kW DC fast-charging, while all other trims can handle up to 150 kW charging. Ford says that's good for 47 miles of driving range added in 10 minutes (on extended-range rear-wheel-drive models). Meanwhile, Tesla's V3 Superchargers peak at 250 kW of charging power, theoretically good for about 170 miles in 15 minutes of charging time on Model 3 and Model Y. Factor in Tesla's nationwide Supercharger network, and we'd throw the advantage to Tesla in this arena.
The Looks Department
Ford wants you to think "Mustang" when you see a Mach-E, but were its designers successful in instigating such a reaction? No doubt the team integrated classic Mustang design cues onto the Mach-E's humpbacked form. The triple-element head- and taillights, bulging rear haunches, and somewhat hexagonal grille are clear nods to today's two-door Mustangs. There is some debate over the elegance of the Mach-E's tall, narrow form, particularly the rear view, but the front is fairly sleek. The Model 3 and Model Y are both largely clean-sheet designs, albeit ones that pull liberally from the sexy, elegant design language established by the Model S sedan. In fact, placed side-by-side, Model 3 and Model Y look nearly identical save for their differences in height. Looks are in the eye of the beholder, so we'll leave this subjective judgment to you.
Inside the Mach-E, modern Mustang design cues such as the dual-hump dashboard are overwhelmed by a good amount of Tesla design theft, particularly the large, vertically oriented touchscreen smack dab in the middle of the cabin. (Although, at 15.5 inches, the Ford's display is about half an inch bigger than the Teslas' screens.) Ditto Ford's laying out the air vents in a single, horizontal row, which looks suspiciously similar to the Tesla Model 3's arrangement. Unlike the Model 3 and Y, the Mach-E mercifully includes a second digital display where the gauge cluster lives on normal cars; the Teslas force drivers to glance over at the central display for key information such as speed and even windshield wiper controls. Again, your preferences will guide your opinion on these cars' interior styling, but there's credit to be given for Tesla's originality (and Ford's apparent ripping off of that originality).
And, Finally, How Much Do They Cost?
The fact that Ford hasn't sold many all-electric vehicles is a boon to potential customers. That's because the Mach-E should be eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, which are applicable to the first 200,000 electric vehicles an automaker sells. Given how Ford's Focus Electric didn't exactly light up dealership lots, that means many, many Mach-Es will need to be sold before that tax credit runs out. So, early adopters beware: An entry-level Mustang Mach-E may have an estimated starting price of $43,895, but that drops to $36,395 when the credit is applied. Opting for the all-wheel drive setup adds $2,700, while the extended range battery puts $5,000 on top of that. Topping the range is the GT, which should start at around $60,500, about the same price as a GT350, but that drops to $53,000 after the tax credit.
Tesla has sold exponentially more electric vehicles than Ford, and as such its tax credits are expiring; at time of writing Model 3 customers can claim only $1,875 in credits if they take delivery of their vehicle by the end of 2019. That means the price of the Model 3, which in its most basic form can be had for about $37,000, doesn't come with much of a surprise rebate. The Model 3 Standard Range Plus starts at $39,490, the Dual Motor Long Range costs $48,490, and the Dual Motor Performance runs $56,990. For the Model Y, the starting purchase price for a Dual Motor Long Range model is $48,000. A cool $52,000 boys you an all-wheel drive Long Range, and $61,000 snags a Dual Motor Performance model. Those prices won't budge. Since Tesla's tax credits have nearly run dry, by the time the Model Y comes to market, it likely won't be eligible for any tax rebates at all.
Of course, many buyers won't delve too far into these facts and figures before making a decision. Ford fans seem likely to adopt the Mach-E, provided they're not too hung up on the "Mustang" thing to do so. Tesla followers and aspirants seem unlikely to abandon their cultish appreciation for that automaker's high-tech, upstart image for a muscle-car-ish crossover from a legacy carmaker. All of which is to say, we can't wait to line these vehicles up next to one another in real life, drive them back to back, and see which is best.