Quick Spin

I rode in the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E to find out if it's worthy of the Mustang name

Ford has delivered on the promise to debut a new all-electric SUV.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

There are no coincidences in the automotive world, so it was no surprise that I found myself riding shotgun in a 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle prototype in front of SpaceX and Tesla's offices in Los Angeles. Ford's all-electric crossover is their most ambitious electric vehicle project to date. With styling, range, and debut location, they proved that they are targeting Tesla and their customers.

The Mustang Mach-E is, according to Ford, 100-percent Mustang. For those who are used to seeing the Mustang as a sports coupe with rear-wheel drive, an electric crossover with available all-wheel drive bearing the Mustang name might be eyebrow raising.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The Mustang Mach-E has many exterior design attributes usually reserved for the Mustang coupe.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

That skepticism is one of the many reasons why, during a secret reveal ahead of the global debut, Ford shuttled me around Hawthorne, California in one of the Mustang Mach-E prototypes. The company was out to prove to me that they built a vehicle worthy of the Mustang name.

The model Ford put me in was the Mustang Mach-E Premium all-wheel drive, extended range model. That EV runs to 60 mph from a standstill in a hair over 5 seconds. Because electric motors make torque immediately, the car pushes the driver and passengers relentlessly back in their seat as they make that run. The torque makes the car feel faster than it is.

For folks who want to go faster, the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance trim should do that same run in around 3 seconds. When the GT Performance goes on sale in early 2021 (late 2020 for the other models), the quickest accelerating Mustang you'll be able to buy will likely be electric.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E interior seats cabin The cabin of the new model is spacious.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

On a route around Hawthorne, I was able to experience the car's on-road manners. Even though it was an early prototype, the cabin was quiet. That's in part due to the lack of a motor but also because of the car's three performance modes for the Mach-E – Whisper, Engaged and Unbridled. In Unbridled mode, which is what I experienced, the car allows computer-generated internal combustion engine-like sounds to flow into the cabin when accelerating hard.

Unlike the Jaguar I-Pace's piped-in growl, the Mach-E's sounds natural for a performance car. It doesn't exactly sound like a gasoline-powered car, but it adds a soundtrack to the spirited drive that this author doesn't find obtrusive. In Whisper mode, the car is relatively silent.

Cornering, at least from the passenger seat, felt relatively flat. The low center of gravity of the battery pack helps a ton. Right now, there is no adjustable suspension system, like MagneRide, that is available on other Mustang models.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E infotainment screen steering wheel dashboard Ford has simplified the interior of the car in a very Tesla-esque fashion.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Mustang Mach-E takes many interior cues from Tesla design though many elements are unmistakably from the Ford team. There is a large, center-mounted screen that handles most of the controls of the infotainment system and vehicle functionality. Interestingly, while the center screen handles most of it, there still is an instrument cluster to provide vitals – something Tesla has done away with.

Display vehicles had gobs of space inside, including numerous of storage cubbies for nearly everything. Fit and finish were solid for vehicles this far along in the process and it felt more Tesla Model 3 inside than Mustang.

The new infotainment system supports routing based on how long you'll sit at a charger and which chargers you need to stop at – basically what a Tesla does. Another first for Ford is support for both wireless Apple Car Play and wireless Android Auto.

Additionally, the Mustang Mach-E has truly hands-off Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. It'll be an over-the-air update after launch for customers, but there are cameras in the car that watch the driver to make sure they are paying attention. If they are, and the roads are digitally mapped, the Mach-E will handle most of the driving duties for the driver. The system is very similar to how Cadillac's Super Cruise technology works and is not hands-off.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E rear seat back sunroof moonroof panoramic vegan leather The rear seats of the Mustang Mach-E offer more legroom than what you'll find in the Jaguar I-Pace.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It's difficult to determine how good a car is going to be based on a ten-minute ride in the passenger seat. However, it is obvious even after that little time that Ford checked all the right boxes during the development of their new EV. This is likely the first viable mainstream competitor to Tesla, and Tesla should consider themselves put on notice.

In short, the Mustang Mach-E should have performance similar to the Jaguar I-Pace or Tesla Model 3, but with more rear seat headroom than the I-Pace, and better reliability. It looks far more attractive than the Nissan Leaf or anything the Korean automakers are doing, and since it'll be available in all 50 states, you'll be able to purchase and repair it in a town near you, just like what you could do with an F-150.

Ford has teamed up with Microsoft to study traffic congestion.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Computers are everywhere. We wear them on our wrists, carry them in our pockets, and rely on them to function in a modern world. As computing evolves, automakers like Ford are using high-level technology to work to solve everyday problems.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker has partnered with Microsoft to simulate the impact thousands of vehicles traveling has on congestion. They're early in to the project, still developing the quantum computing aspects of the project, which will take the problems of today and scale them to predict the problems of tomorrow. Then, the two companies will use the information to dive deeper into possible solutions to those problems.

"Quantum computing has the potential to transform the auto industry and the way we move," said Julie Love, senior director of quantum computing business development, Microsoft. "To do that we need to have a deep understanding of the problems that companies like Ford want to solve, which is why collaborations like these are so important."

When rush hour happens and congestion picks up, it's not uncommon for drivers to use various apps to change their route using traffic apps like Waze. However, these apps often route drivers the same way, creating congestion on side streets. Ideally, new computing would work to balance those routes to allow the least amount of congestion possible on all streets.

Dr. Ken Washington, Chief Technology Officer, Ford Motor Company described the problem and possible solution in a recent post on Medium.

Simply put, it's not feasible to have traditional computers find the optimal solution from a huge number of possible route assignments in a timely manner. That's where quantum computing can help. Essentially, existing digital computers translate information into either a 1 or a 0, otherwise known as a bit. But in a quantum computer, information can be processed by a quantum bit (or a qubit) that can simultaneously exist in two different states before it gets measured. Upon measurement, however, either a 1 or a 0 appears randomly and the probability for each is governed by a set of rules called quantum mechanics.

This ultimately enables a quantum computer to process information with a faster speed. Attempts to simulate some specific features of a quantum computer on non-quantum hardware have led to quantum-inspired technology — powerful algorithms that mimic certain quantum behaviors and run on specialized conventional hardware. That enables organizations to start realizing some benefits before fully-scaled quantum hardware becomes available.

The partnership between Microsoft and Ford started in 2018 to specifically focus on reducing traffic congestion in Seattle, a city undergoing tremendous rapid growth that is confined in its footprint by waterways and mountains.

The collaboration tested numerous scenarios in their efforts to solve Seattle's traffic congestion, with as many as 5,000 vehicles. Each vehicle in the scenario had 10 different route choices. In 20 seconds, computing software weighed each of those suggestions and delivered a route that resulted in a 73 percent improvement in total congestion compared to traditional route suggestion methods. The result was an eight percent drop in the time of the commute.

Ford remains hopeful that future advances in quantum computing will further the company's mission to work to reduce congestion.

Mazda has introduced the CX-30 for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Mazda

Fresh off the launch of the redesigned Mazda3 last year as the first model in the Japanese automaker's seventh generation of design, Mazda has introduced the 2020 Mazda CX-30. The model is a crossover, or a high-riding hatchback (six of one, half a dozen of the other), that resides adjacent to the Mazda CX-3 in the stable.

On the outside, the Mazda CX-30 features similar design characteristics of the Mazda3 including rounded styling that grabs the light and moves it along its body without the aid of creases. Sharp angles reappear at the very front and back where the CX-30 sports very Mazda-like design including neat rounded taillight housings and metal accents at the front that jut out abruptly from the car.

2020 Mazda CX-30 The front of the CX-30 is more rounded than many other models in its class.Photo courtesy of Mazda

Every CX-30 is powered by Mazda's 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine that has class-leading 186-horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Front wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are also standard. All-wheel drive is available.

The spirit of Mazda DNA lives in this crossover. While its competitors are often knocked for delivering numb steering and a disconnected drive experience, the CX-30 has none of that. Especially when equipped with all-wheel drive, the model takes to winding roads with ease allowing for a drive experience that doesn't feel like a compromise.

The car's interior is plush for its segment and right in line with recent offerings from Hyundai, Nissan, and Kia. Still, there are some questionable materials choices like the sticky faux leather dashboard covering and flimsy speaker housings on the doors. The overall aesthetic is simple and straightforward allowing for the driver to focus on the purity of a driving experience. How very on-brand.

Mazda's proud of the new seat engineering in the Mazda3 and CX-30, and they should be. The front seats are comfortable, even for long spells, and easy to get into position. Rear seat passengers have a very limited amount of legroom to work with making this crossover best for empty nesters or young professionals.

2020 Mazda CX-30 The back side of the Mazda CX-30 is more interesting than the front.Photo courtesy of Mazda

Despite lacking active noise control technology, the CX-30 delivers a fantastically quiet ride. When you want to turn up the volume on the available 12-speaker Bose audio system, you'll be thoroughly impressed. The engineers have a true winner with this system, which excelled in enveloping the passengers with pure sound.

As tested, the car came with heated front seats, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-inch digital gauge display, 8.8-inch infotainment screen, and head-up display. The screen is nestled in the same style dashboard cubby that it is in the Mazda3, which meant that the bottom of the screen may be unviewable depending on your height and seating position.

The current version of the car's infotainment system is easier to use than the last and the resolution of the screen is greatly improved over the last-gen.

It has a reasonable amount of cargo capacity for its class, with a number of suitcases easily able to fit in the back.

The car's safety technology is unobtrusive and its adaptative cruise control was quick to respond to changing conditions.

2020 Mazda CX-30 The interior of the CX-30 features premium materials that would be at home in much more expensive models.Photo courtesy of Mazda

Mazda is billing this crossover as being for activity-focused individuals. That includes an Off-Road Traction Assist button that performs many of the typical light off-roading duties crossovers need assistance with, including traction control and hill descent control. Its functionality is not unlike similar system that are found in the Toyota RAV4 or Subaru Outback.

The 2020 Mazda CX-30 has a value-focused starting point of $21,900. Its most premium model, which fits in with the Acuras and Infinitis of the world, comes in around $28,000. That's right in line with many of the less well-appointed and less engaging crossovers and SUVs currently on the market.

Buyers looking at the Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3, and Buick Encore, among others, owe it to themselves to cross-shop the CX-30. It's really a job well done.