The 2021 Wards 10 Best UX winners are being revealed in random, non-alphabetical order one per day until Nov. 3. This is the fourth winner profile. Winning design teams will receive their trophies Nov. 17 during Automotive TechWeek in Novi, MI., where winning vehicles will be on display.
When it comes to user experience, Ford Mustangs tend to be about one thing: performance muscle.
But the new, battery-electric Mustang Mach-E changes all that.
This isn’t to say the Mach-E doesn’t provide a high dose of driving exhilaration. It does that in spades, as we noted in awarding it a 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems trophy earlier this year. It’s just that with the Mach-E, there’s so much more.
For starters, there’s the interior. The Mach-E doesn’t get the typical battery-electric vehicle design treatment, where costs have been obviously chiseled out from cabin materials and features to offset the expensive battery onboard.
And, unlike other Mustangs, it has a back seat that isn’t a penalty box. As we pointed out in designating the Mach-E a 10 Best Interiors winner for 2021, it’s “the sharpest BEV interior yet.”
But the surprise and delight doesn’t stop there. And that’s why we are making the Mach-E a triple crown winner, designating it one of our 2021 10 Best UX award recipients as well.
It all begins before you even enter the car. Lights flash on approach and puddle lamps in the shape of the vehicle’s pony logo illuminate the ground at night.
Once inside, screen graphics come to life, as shooting stars morph into the form of a galloping Mustang. A press of the start button triggers another display of the Mustang logo on the all-digital instrument panel.
The eye-grabbing centerpiece is the car’s 15.5-in. (39-cm) touchscreen that hammers home the point that this is no standard-issue Mustang.
It not only is a striking focal point, it’s also highly functional and packed with features that make for a unique and custom driving experience – things such as automatic ambient lighting (pictured above) that changes colors depending on what drive mode is selected and a multitude of personal settings that automatically configure the vehicle for each individual driver.
The vertically oriented center touchscreen is designed around the Sync 4 operating system, so it works quickly. And its logical layout, crisp graphics and flat architecture – you don’t need to go through multiple screens to find what you’re looking for – mean it’s super easy to use.
Bluetooth connectivity is among the quickest we’ve experienced. There’s also a Wi-Fi hotspot and USB connections front and rear.
Apple CarPlay is wireless, and there’s an easy-access wireless charger nestled into the center console. As an added bonus, your smartphone can be used as a key to start the vehicle and control functions and personalized settings – a first for any Ford model.
The voice system is quick and accurate and doesn’t require exact phrasing to do things like change the radio station or find a point of interest through the navigation system.
And speaking of the radio, the Bang & Olufsen system, with its sound-bar-like speakers positioned along the IP above the vents, looks as good as it sounds.
The center screen is complemented by a configurable digital instrument cluster (pictured below) that features crisp gauges and readouts on range, state of charge and other key driving functions.
Storage capacity is another attribute not normally identified with a Mustang, but there’s plenty here in the Mach-E, including space enough in the center console for a purse or bag.
And the car replaces the engine up front with a frunk (pictured below) that is drainable and functions as a cooler during a tailgate.
There’s a full complement of advanced driver-assistance system technology in our $56,200 all-wheel-drive tester as well, including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, pre-collision assist, cross-traffic and blindspot alert.
Another plus: Our test Mach-E was equipped with the Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 Prep Package, which means it will be eligible for the even more advanced Blue Cruise Level 2-plus highway pilot system in the fall.
The capper to it all is the various power modes available – Whisper, Engage and Unbridled – and the corresponding engine-like propulsion sounds that go with them.
And at 300 miles (480 km), drivers won’t often have to sweat the range, especially because the navigation system will signal it’s time to stop for a charge if needed to complete the programmed route.
Wards 10 Best UX judge Christie Schweinsberg sums it up best. “It’s chock full of infotainment, ADAS features and surprise and delight,” she writes on her scoresheet. “I’d say it’s a pretty good deal.”