At the 2018 NAIAS, the only things of interest to driving enthusiasts were announcements by Ford. In contrast to announcements of trucks (only of interest as tow vehicles for our track cars), and luxury cars (which we may use as a daily but not for performance driving). There just wasn’t much else of interest at NAIAS this year, unfortunately. No Supra, no C8, no S2000, no 2019 Camaro. Except for Ford, which started with the Edge ST (which we have very mixed feelings about), then showed us the 2019 Mustang Bullitt and previewed the 2019 Mustang Shelby GT500. Excellent work, Ford!
But the future is changing rapidly… the performance world is going to have a different landscape – and this is not to be feared. Tesla, for example, has three products in production which are of great interest to enthusiasts for multiple reasons: first they perform extraordinarily well, and second their technology points the way to the future for all cars, performance cars included. Electric motors provide literally instant maximum torque from 1 RPM to the maximum RPM of the motor as well as great horsepower. Remember that a Tesla S can be optioned to be the fastest 4-door car in the world. But what the world needs as the transition to fully electric takes place is purposefully built performance vehicles that more people have access to. Vehicles that will help owners understand the benefits… vehicles that are of interest to performance buyers and can be bought/leased with a reasonable income. To Ford, that means the upcoming hybrid gas/electric Mustang, and while specs are not yet announced we might surmise that this would be a 2.3 liter EcoBoost engine, with an electric motor sandwiched between the gas engine and the transmission, yielding perhaps another 30-40 HP and 50-75 lb-ft of torque. The technology already exists for this: for example Infiniti introduced such a system for the G37 sedan several years ago and Ford’s own original hybrid Escape pioneered the technology for Ford. The resulting Mustang would be heavier (weight of the electric motor and a small battery in the trunk), but would also provide the power of a small V-8 with a very wide and flat torque curve from idle to redline, and the ability to fun purely on electric motor for short distances.
But this upcoming Mustang will only demonstrate a gas/electric hybrid solution. This is an interim and short-term solution as the world moves to fully electric in the longer term (European and Chinese governments are already in the process of banning sales of gas and diesel engines later in the next decade, and the State of California is also considering such legislation). The world needs more experience with a purely electric vehicle. With 11 Billion dollars committed to the development of a full range of both gas/electric hybrids as well as pure electrics, these are coming from Ford (and other major manufacturers) in the next couple of years. So now let’s discuss the benefits of a flag bearer, a vehicle to tie the benefits of pure electric vehicles to the emotions of driving enthusiasts. This wouldn’t be an electric Mustang (not for another 10-15 years), and this wouldn’t be an Explorer (not yet – an all-new Explorer is only a year out). But how about cross-breeding the DNA of both to produce a performance SUV? One that would be fun to drive, fast, safe, with great handling (since the battery and electric engines provide an inherently low center of gravity)? Enter the “Mach 1” project, a fully electric performance SUV in development by Ford’s “Team Edison”. Ford has provided what they term an “inspirational” video to explain the concept, but without a press release.
It’s a freak electric storm which cross-breeds these two vehicles… we don’t get to see the result – yet. And the production name will not be “Mach 1”. Ford made that clear this week after a serious backlash from Mustang enthusiasts since the Mach 1 name is “sacred” – and because they misinterpreted the idea behind this project. The name is used for inspiration only because the original Machs were fast, comfortable and daily drivers. And in current consumer preference daily drivers means SUV.
Because the resulting vehicle will be a 2020 product, we may see this cross-bred product at the 2019 NAIAS. We’re looking forward to it then. And as Ford’s own Jim Farley says: “Can a battery electric vehicle stir the soul?” We shall see…