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Test drive: The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT aims to be an electric muscle SUV

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The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT is the kind of car designed for drivers who like to keep their eyes on the road and hands upon the wheel, but you can skip the hands part sometimes.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition has a 480 hp all-wheel-drive system.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition has a 480 hp all-wheel-drive system.
(Ford)

The new highest performance version of the all-electric, compact, low-riding SUV is one of the first Fords available with the new BlueCruise highway driving system, which can center a vehicle in a lane and control its speed without any driver input.

It uses a camera and sensors around the car along with built-in 3D maps and GPS to operate, and only asks the driver to pay attention, just in case.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT can acelleraate to 60 mph in under four seconds.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT can acelleraate to 60 mph in under four seconds.
(Ford)

BlueCruise makes sure they do by using a facial recognition system that can tell if their eyes are open and whether they’re trained on what’s ahead rather than on some clever billboard for a law office passing buy.

It’s similar to GM’s Super Cruise and currently operates on over 100,000 miles of highway, but more are coming along with additional semi-automated capabilities.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT offers Ford's hands-free BlueCruise driving system. 

The Ford Mustang Mach-E GT offers Ford’s hands-free BlueCruise driving system. 
(Ford)

It’s a good co-pilot that takes the edge off on long, boring trips and does a good job as long as the road doesn’t get too curvy. My main critique is that it could be quicker to give notice when there’s a road coming up that it needs you to take over on.

But the Mustang Mach-E GT is plenty quick.

It has an all-wheel-drive system rated at 459 hp, which compares to the V8 Mustang’s 460 hp, and a walloping 600 lb-ft of torque that blows the coupe’s 420 lb-ft away. In true muscle car form, Ford basically stuffed two of the rear electric motors from the 346 hp versions of the Mustang Mach-E into it to amp it up.

WATCH: MUSTANG MACH-E GT PROGRAM DIRECTOR DAVE PERICAK ENTERS THE FOX GARAGE

The Mustang Mach-E GT’s 0-60 mph acceleration time of 3.8 seconds is about a half-second quicker than the Mustang GT’s and can be improved to 3.5 seconds with an available Performance Edition that increases the output up to 480 hp and 634 lb-ft. The model also adds stronger Brembo brakes, a computer-controlled MagneRide suspension, and 20-inch wheels with summer performance tires.

I tested a regular 2021 GT near the end of last year, which is nearly identical to the 2022 model that starts shipping in February, save for the new standard black roof and $2,000 increase in price to $63,095. The driving range is rated at 270 miles per charge, which puts it in the middle of the Mach-E lineup. A black “grille” is the most obvious design change that sets it apart from its stablemates.

The interior is largely the same as theirs, however, with dual digital displays and handsome trimmings, but it gets a set of heavily bolstered sport seats with suede-like upholstery to hug you better in the turns.

The Mustang Mach-E GT features unique sport seats.

The Mustang Mach-E GT features unique sport seats.
(Fox News Autos)

The Mustang Mach-E GT’s performance is as grin-inducing its specifications suggest and will even chirp the tires when you floor it, despite the all-wheel-drive traction. More impressive is how it handles the twisties, despite tipping the scales at nearly 5,000 pounds.

The vehicle is very balanced at the limit with a welcome touch of tail-happiness dialed into the all-wheel-drive system. A little powerslide is even possible if you push it.

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For those who like to do that sort of thing a lot, the Mustang Mach-E GT has a special setting called Unbridled Extend that’s programmed for long sessions at a racetrack. It reduces the maximum power and cranks up the cooling to deliver consistent performance, but will only activate under certain temperature and battery state conditions. In the few December days that I had it, there were only a few times when I could get it to work.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I’d use it that much as an owner. While it would be fun to take the Mustang Mach-E to a racing circuit for a couple of laps to see what it could do, it’s not really the sort of vehicle you buy for that intended purpose. Also, the power drop noticeably reduces that kick in the pants thrill that’s one of the best features of an electric performance car.

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You’re better off skipping Unbridled Extend and taking it for a short trip down a drag strip, where the Mustang Mach-E can embarrass a few gas-burners and can hold its own against a Tesla Model Y Performance, the closest thing to an American electric muscle SUV rival it has today.

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2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT

Base price: $61,000

As tested: $63,285

Type: 5-passenger, 4-door, all-wheel-drive SUV

Drivetrain: Dual electric motors with single gear.

Power: 459 hp, 600 lb-ft torque

Range: 270 miles per charge

MPGe: 84 combined

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