Compared: The New EV Hotness

We take a look at the two major debuts of electric crossovers at the LA Auto Show

Compared: The New EV Hotness

We take a look at the two major debuts of electric crossovers at the LA Auto Show

By Randy Lioz, Editor, Car-ED.com | November 2019


This week’s Los Angeles Auto Show saw the debut of two vehicles that portent a big future for a new segment, the all-electric crossover. While one was a production vehicle and the other a concept, both help to illustrate the respective visions of each of their brands of what the electrified future of the auto industry will look like.

One of the most hotly anticipated debuts of the week was the Ford Mustang Mach-E, a new vehicle that combines the sportiness of its namesake with the utility of a crossover, and the Mach-E’s electric drivetrain actually supports both of these missions. While there’s a flurry of current activity among luxury EV crossovers, especially from Europe, when the Mach-E hits the market in late 2020 it will likely be the first entry of decent size from a mainstream brand—the Hyundai Kona being too small for many buyers.

That likelihood depends on the timing of Volkswagen’s ID.4, another all-electric SUV from a brand that wants to own the EV space in the U.S. market. But the ID.4 will likely be positioned at the lower end of the market, a bit above the company’s Tiguan compact crossover, which starts in the mid-$20,000 range. For something more comparable to the Mach-E, VW buyers will have to wait for the next step up, the ID.5. That’s the vehicle that was previewed by the VW ID. Space Vizzion concept in LA, and it’s rumored to hit the market towards the end of 2022.

The general idea

The crossover utility has taken over as the default vehicle layout in the American market. The best-selling vehicles here are all compact CUVs, so any brand that wants to establish a major presence among electric vehicles would be wise hitch its wagon to an EV that reflects this trend. Luxury brands, like Jaguar, Audi, BMW and Mercedes, are getting in early, just as they’d done in the early days of the crossover itself. But mainstream marques have been slower to adapt, given the challenge of baking in a more expensive electric powertrain to the price of their vehicles.

With battery pricing continuing to come down, and with manufacturers reading the writing on the wall, showing them that the world is preparing to turn against internal combustion, the time seems to be right for a major volley of vehicles that combine the imagery, utility and ride height that Americans love about crossovers, with the advantages of electrics, like their efficiency in both energy usage and packaging, their high performance, and the positive ownership experience that many EV drivers report.

Both the Mustang Mach-E and the VW ID. Space Vizzion concept, however, take approaches that diverge from the classic crossover formula. As one might expect, the “Mustang” cuts a more coupe-like profile in homage to the car from which it borrows its badges. And the Space Vizzion concept is more of a wagon-ish approach, being a variation on the Vizzion sedan concept from recent auto shows. Rumor has it that the Space Vizzion will feature more SUV-like styling cues, like body cladding a là Subaru Outback, when it comes to the U.S. as the ID.5. The European version is likely to be more of a traditional wagon.

How about the power?

Also expected for a vehicle bearing the Mustang moniker, the Mach-E boasts some impressive stats. The base vehicle will have a rear motor powering the aft wheels, rated at 332 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. That’s 22 hp over the base Mustang coupe, and 67 lb-ft over, torque which will be available from a dead stop in characteristic electric motor style.

But wait, there’s more! If you want a faster electric horse, Ford will upgrade you to the GT version, which boasts 459 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. That first figure is nearly dead on the Mustang GT coupe’s 5.0L gas V-8, but it obliterates that engine’s torque spec by nearly 200 lb-ft. And you’d have to rev the gas engine all the way to 7000 rpm to generate the power that the Mach-E has from the word “go.”

Ford pegs the 0-60 time for the GT version of the CUV at under 4 seconds, and they have a performance edition that’ll bring it down to the mid-3s, whereas the lighter Mustang GT coupe can’t even crack the 4-second mark with its Level 2 Performance Pack.

The VW is a less gonzo vehicle, and its power numbers are actually dependent on its motor setup, with the base RWD version sporting 275 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, while the AWD version’s front motor contributes to an upgraded 335 hp. While it’s possible the Germans may do a hi-po version in the future, the more powerful setup sprints to 60 mph in around 5 seconds. Still, that’s impressive compared to a GTI, which needs about 6 seconds to do the feat.

For comparison’s sake, an AWD Tesla Model 3 gets to 60 mph in about 4 seconds.

Wait, aren’t EVs more about efficiency?

That’s the beauty of electric vehicles: they can develop impressive power even while using much less energy doing it. A Tesla Model 3 can go over 300 miles on its 75-kWh battery, giving it a roughly 130-mpg equivalent rating, according to the EPA. The Ford and VW haven’t been evaluated yet, but the companies have made some statements about their batteries and range that give us clues to their eventual ratings.

The Mustang Mach-E, for example, will have different levels of batteries, just as Tesla does, with the 76-kWh base unit good for a range of 210 to 230 miles, depending on drive configuration. The more expensive long-range model will boast 99 kWh and 270-300 miles of range, though the GT Performance Edition will use its electrons more rapidly, apparently only getting 250 miles from that pack. Given that it will weigh more, it’s not surprising that the Mach-E is less efficient than a Model 3, but these numbers suggest it’ll still get the equivalent of around 100 mpg.

The VW’s efficiency will likely fall between that of the Ford and the Tesla. The company has said its concept vehicle has an 82-kWh battery pack, with a range of “up to 300 miles.” We talked to the vehicle’s lead designer, Daniel Scharfschwerdt, on the show stand, and he told us that the final version would likely have multiple range choices like its competitors, with a reasonable assumption being the low-200s.

While Ford published a chart with ranges for all its drive, performance and trim configurations—9 in total in typical domestic fashion—we would expect VW to have a simpler lineup of options.

How big are these vehicles?

Both of them fall within the range of compact to mid-sized 2-row utilities that you’ll find in the current market. The Mach-E is a bit smaller than the Ford Edge in length and width, though its roof sits 5 inches lower and its wheelbase is about 5 inches longer, making for a much sportier stance.

The electric crossover plays a fun trick with its roofline, combining a fastback-style roof rail sweep with a jutting rear spoiler execution that sits above the rear wheels and enables more SUV-like headroom for the rear passengers.

The VW Space Vizzion concept is longer—a full 9 inches beyond the Mach-E—and lower by about 3 inches, while its wheelbase and width are similar. One gets the sense that VW couldn’t quite abandon its oh-so-Euro love of wagons to accommodate the American market, but felt that the Vizzion is  just chunky enough that it’ll play well here with the added rugged cues.

The Ford has spots for 5 people inside, while the VW in concept form only has 4 chairs, though it’s likely the fifth will be added for production.

Okay, tell me about all the cool stuff!

Happy to! Let’s start with the styling. The Mustang Mach-E translates Ford’s pony car styling as successfully as one might hope to a rakish crossover. The grille is a pretty subtle evocation of the Mustang front end, but the rear end hits you over the head with its triple vertical taillight elements and coupe rear deck, along with rear diffusers on the GT version. The front end has more to play with, though, so the lower models go with an aero grille-less execution that would look at home on a Tesla, while the GT sports a textured panel that calls back to the vehicle’s roaring forebears, and even a deep chin spoiler to let you know that it really wants you to take it to the track.

VW’s design obsession is less its sporting past and more the future of automotive lighting. The ID. has interesting lit elements all around, including the door handles, which are simply pressable panels that would glow when the car is ready to be opened. Those handles connect visually with a lit fender stripe and a line of lighting that stretches across the entire front end like a unibrow—but much more visually pleasing. The VW badge is also lit up, as are elements in the lower fascia, which reflect the organic-feeling geometry of the vehicle’s tail end.

Scharfschwerdt chatted with us about the design challenges, which were considerable given strict U.S. safety regulations around lighting. But he said that the concept’s execution was quite close to what the company will be bringing to production, with some tweaks of course. The door handles will get more intuitive to use, he said, when told that your author’s flush-mounted Model 3 door handles need to be explained to every Uber and Lyft passenger who gets into the car.

Okay, but I’ll spend most of my time inside!

So true, so it’s important that these vehicles present a pleasant oasis in which to ride. One trend that’s evident from both is the centrality of their info screens, a big nod to the success of the Model 3. Just like that car, these vehicles present occupants with a touch screen of around 15 inches hanging off the dash. It’s an acknowledgement that the screen is now the central element of focus inside a vehicle, so you’d better put it prominently front and center.

VW has set its screen horizontally, like Tesla’s newer models, while Ford has decided a vertical look is more its taste, which does reflect the slightly more traditional bent of the Mach-E. Also unique to the Ford is its multi-function dial set into the bottom of the screen, which can adapt to whatever you’re doing on the screen at the moment. Ford seems to have baked in all the best features of its Tesla inspiration, like cloud-connected map searches, smartphone gestures and over-the-air update capability. But it also seems to do some things better, like more intuitive voice queries and more customizable time windows for pre-set charging, which our Model 3-owning friends pine for.

Both vehicles, the Ford and the VW, have floating center consoles with two-level storage, and customizable interior lighting, a feature that carries over from Mustangs. But VW’s use of interior lighting is much more focused on conveying information to the driver, with a system called ID. Light. While the car is stopped the LED light strip across the dash can inform about things like the lock state and charging state of the car, and as you’re driving it’ll give you cues for navigation turns, incoming calls and even a warning to slam on the brakes. It does this all using recognizable colors and patterns.

The Volkswagen’s interior is also highly sustainable, with leather-like surfaces actually composed from something called AppleSkin, a bi-product of apple juice production. The Mustang Mach-E’s more traditional approach reigns inside, with no mention of unique seating materials, but a visual call-back to the Mustang coupe’s dual cowl dash.

In terms of space, EV advantages abound. Both vehicles are more spacious inside than an equivalent gas crossover, and their cargo hauling is up as well. It’s likely that both will have front trunks (“frunks”), and Ford has even published the size of its frunk (4.8 cu. ft.) and declared it has a drain plug so it can double as a cooler for tailgaiting.

The Mustang Mach-E will have a 29 cu. ft. cargo hold, which doubles to 60 with the seats folded, while the VW in concept form only has 20 cu. ft. in back, with no word on volume with the seats down. Still, the concept did have a neat trick up its sleeve with 2 electric longboards hidden under the load floor. Getting rid of those for production would probably reclaim a decent amount of space.

One more cool feature to mention on the Ford: autonomous driving capability. The system will only operate, like Tesla’s Autopilot, at Level 2 autonomy letting the driver leave control of speed and direction to the vehicle, but still needing to pay attention, and it’s intended for highway use only. Ford says it’ll be available on Premier and GT trims, but the feature won’t actually be active until the company is comfortable with its algorithms. Expect it to gain more capability over time, though, through over-the-air updates.

But can I find a place to charge it?

All this cool stuff would be moot if there were no way for most people to live with these vehicles. And many drivers worry about electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Where is it? How do I access it? How fast can I charge?

With Ford launching its EV broadside by the end of next year, it’s put a lot of focus on making sure to answer all those questions. The American company is shouting from the hills about having the largest network of charging stations in the country in the form of its FordPass network, though in reality it’s actually a series of other charging networks, like Electrify America and others, using Greenlots tech to make it all seamless. Ford has also said that you get two years of “free access” to the network, though this isn’t the same as free charging.

Still, this move goes a long way to address the advantage that Tesla has built over the rest of the industry with its proprietary network of high-speed chargers, since FordPass will include DC fast chargers. Since drivers will be able to just pull up and plug in, rather than fiddling with credit cards and worrying about network membership, the experience will be better than even gas stations. And with most EV drivers charging at home anyway, owning an EV is that much closer to hassle-free. This move extends the convenience to even those who can’t charge at home.

With VW owning the Electrify America network, it’s only natural that its vehicles will have full access, though the company hasn’t said much on the topic.

Both VW and Ford, though, have been eager to talk about charging speeds. Ford has said the Mach-E will be capable of charging at a rate of 47 miles in just 10 minutes, with the ability to go from 10% to 80% charged in just 38. VW is talking even faster charge times, with an 80% fill in a half hour. The tipping point at which most drivers feel an EV is more convenient to own than a traditional car seems to be rapidly approaching.

So who are these vehicles really for?

VW ID. Crozz Concept

Well, each of these EVs looks well-positioned to give Tesla’s upcoming Model Y compact crossover a run for its money, with great mixes of the tech and sportiness that have made that EV startup so successful. If you’re looking for more of the latter, the Mustang Mach-E will definitely be your go-to, and you’ll be able to get your hands on it in about a year’s time, at least for the Select model. You can put down your $500 deposit here. If tech and efficiency are your priorities, you may lean more towards the VW ID.5, but for that you’ll have to wait another couple years while Mach-E drivers are all up in your face, since the VW will launch in late 2022 as a ’23 model. But feel free to check out the smaller and cheaper ID.4, based on the ID. Crozz concept, which should launch around the same time next year as the Mach-E.

Pricing for the Ford starts—before accounting for the $7,500 federal rebate and any state credits—at $43,895 plus destination for the Select, and will rise to $60,500 for the GT, which will be available in the Spring of ’21. Pricing for the VW ID.5 will be revealed closer to its launch.