Ford plans off-road electric Mustang

It’s one of the most iconic American muscle cars of all time, driven at full throttle by Steve McQueen in Bullitt and more recently by Keanu Reeves as John Wick. And it’s had its fair share of winning presence in car racing over the years, with successes in events such as the fabled Trans-Am series from the 1960s on.

It really excelled in races where brute power could be deployed to make the car go very fast, in nearly straight lines. Production versions of the Ford Mustang were, however, generally not well suited to rally driving, due to the car’s larger size and heavier build compared to typical rally cars, which were often smaller and more nimble. Whenever they have done well in rallying, it’s generally as a result of substantial modifications, such as upgrading the suspension, tyres and drivetrain to handle the rigours of off-road racing.

But now Ford is taking this coolest of cool cars off-road with the Mustang Mach-E Rally. Unveiled at IAA Mobility in Munich, this rally-inspired marvel is a bold stride into uncharted territories for EVs, promising off-road adventures on dirt roads. 

Donna Dickson, chief engineer of Mustang Mach-E, articulates the vision behind the new car: “We have always explored new areas of performance, and the combination of a rally-tuned suspension, dual motor electric powertrain, and wicked styling makes the Mustang Mach‑E Rally a different kind of performance vehicle that will excite customers chasing their next adventure.”

The comfortable interior of the Mustang Mach-E Rally belies its made-to-race credentials.

The Mach-E Rally boasts a tuned version of the Mustang Mach-E GT powertrain and targets an impressive 880 Nm of torque and 358 kW of power. Its lithium-ion battery, with a 91 kWh (usable) capacity, is set to redefine performance standards in the electric vehicle segment, according to Ford.

Ford has paid meticulous attention to the vehicle’s design and functionality. The Mach-E Rally sports a slightly higher suspension than the Mustang Mach-E GT, featuring specially tuned springs and MagneRide shocks. The 385mm front brake discs with red-painted Brembo-branded callipers are not just functional but also add to the aesthetic appeal. The car rides on gloss white 19-inch rally-style alloy wheels, which scream ‘rally’.

The vehicle’s underside is protected with shielding for the front and rear motors, and the door cladding and wheel arches are covered with protective film to reduce paint chips. The design also includes styled mud flaps and a recovery point for those adventurous off-highway escapades.

Ford’s promotional video shows the Mustang Mach-E Rally “raring to rally”.

A standout feature of the Mustang Mach-E Rally is the first-ever RallySport Drive Mode from Ford. This mode is tailored for off-road driving, adapting electronic control systems for better handling in loose corners and allowing bigger slides. Additionally, the new tyres enable the car to perform admirably in snow and other slick conditions.

Ford didn’t just rely on theoretical designs and simulations. To ensure real-world readiness, the Mustang Mach-E was rigorously tested on an all-new rally course at Ford’s Michigan Proving Ground, designed by rallycross veterans. The prototypes underwent 800km tests simulating rally-cross durability trials.

Aesthetically, the Mustang Mach-E Rally doesn’t disappoint. It features a dramatic rear spoiler inspired by the Focus RS, contrasting accents, a unique front splitter, and a black painted steel roof. The bold color palette includes Grabber Blue, Shadow Black, Eruption Green, Grabber Yellow, with Star White or new Glacier Gray as additional options. The interior complements the exterior’s rugged charm, with gloss white accents, distinctive Ford-designed performance seats, and “Mach-E Rally” debossed seating surfaces.

However, amidst the enthusiasm, there is some skepticism regarding its actual off-roading capabilities. Critics point out the vehicle’s low ground clearance and question its suitability for true high-speed rally racing.  Ford CEO Jim Farley enthuses: “It takes Mustang where it hasn’t been before – to gravel and dirt roads. Inspired by true driving enthusiasts, a driving experience like never before for the pure joy of driving.” Yet, the real-world performance of this electric SUV remains to be seen.

The Mustang Mach-E Rally is set to be available for order in early 2024, with deliveries following soon after. It is a bold statement of intent from Ford, but it is yet to be seen if this innovative vehicle will capture the market’s imagination and truly take the EV market in a new direction, off its current road.

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