If you own a Ford Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition, congratulations: you own the second fastest Mach-E. The title holder on that front – for about two years and for the indefinite future – is the Mach-E 1400, a mutant race car designed to show off and scare people. Its usual caretaker is Mustang construction drifter and impresario Vaughn Gittin Jr., whose tuning house RTR Vehicles collaborated with Ford to create the thing. And so it has seven motors, about 1400 horsepower, and enough downforce that rolling on a dime would probably flatten it like it was left on train tracks. Ford let me drive it after lying a bit on my resume. Did I say I raced Le Mans? I meant I raced against a Pontiac LeMans once in my Honkey-Tonk Bracket Brawls and Crawdad Raffle. Sorry for the confusion.
And so they strapped me into the driver’s seat Mach-E 1400, a not-obviously skeptical Gittin Jr. shotgun, and sent us on the indoor road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway. If you’ve never been there, just imagine blind corners with decreasing radius and many walls. There’s a bend where it looks like the track actually ends in a wall, but at the last moment it’s as if the Road Runner has painted a section of track that bends to the right and you slip to through. Anyway, nothing wrong with the fact that “the place was insufficiently technical”.
Ford tuned the car to maximize its chances of returning to the pits safely. On the one hand, they adapted it for a long time, to smooth out the wild acceleration. Properly suited for a track like this, they said, it would pull the inside front tire off the ground when exiting corners. So the front was rated for 150 mph and the rear for 130 mph, speeds we wouldn’t come close to hitting on the short straights. They also skewed it to feel more rear-drive than usual, meaning an undisclosed number of front-end horsepower was shelved. (Of the seven motors, three are in the front and four in the rear.)
But still, it’s a car that did a 10.4 second quarter mile and surely could be a waste of time if it was actually set up as a drag car (you know, like without the fenders that generate more 2300 pounds downforce at 160 mph). But it’s built for on-road antics and drifting, as evidenced by the giant handbrake to the right of the steering wheel. The nickel-metal battery with a gross capacity of 56.8 kWh is sized for 45-minute thrill rides, which means a few laps at a time interspersed with pit stops to change passengers. They say it’ll bypass Virginia International Raceway just fine, a claim we’d like to test at the next Lightning Lap. When the Mach-E 1400 is plugged in to charge, it circulates external coolant through thick braided hoses, making it look like Vecna in its lair on stranger things. Hopefully we’re not going to visit the upside down.
Going off to the pit lane, Gittin Jr. encourages me to do the race driver’s swerve, sawing the steering wheel back and forth to clean and warm up the tires, followed by a hard stop to heat up the brakes. The immediate first impression is that the steering is heavy. It will become even heavier momentarily.
I was warned of the high steering effort when the front end is loaded into a corner, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the practice imposed by the Mach-E 1400. The first corner is a long right, and I hardly add enough lockout because the steering feels like it’s trying to stir a vat of lead pudding. The problem is that the power steering is hydraulic but powered by an electric motor that spins at a constant speed. So around the pits the attendance seems appropriate, but it never increases. Trail braking into a fast turn, the front end loaded with downforce and weight transfer, you feel like someone trying to turn a bulkhead latch on a submarine taking on water, veins pop out of your head as you muscle another inch of lock. These front slicks are the size of the rears of a GT3 race car, and the car weighs 5260 pounds. During my commute, my heart rate jumps to 171 beats per minute, and not just from excitement. This thing is a workout.
It’s also extremely fast. There’s never room to open up for more than a few seconds, as the straights fade away as the whine of the diffs mounts high. TO WRITE ! Brake, fight the alligator steer, SCREEEEEE, brake. In the absence of a shifting or thundering internal combustion soundtrack, the speed is deceiving. That said—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—it doesn’t quite sound like 1400 horsepower. It feels about as fast as the fastest electric four-doors, like a Lucid Air or Tesla Model S Plaid. Ford claims the car’s Yasa P400R motors are capable of 215 horsepower each, but actual output depends on battery state-of-charge, and they haven’t tested it on an AWD dyno yet. So the 1400 moniker is really a target rather than a spec.
In any case, it bypasses a track. There are a few places where the walls are far enough away that I feel comfortable pushing it, and when those big slicks come loose, everything is gradual and controllable. It’s a big car, and even though it’s set up for vicious cornering, the rear doesn’t feel like it wants to take the lead. (It would undoubtedly be different in its drift setup, with the front driveshafts removed.) In steady corners, there’s staggering grip. It might be a heavy race car, but it’s definitely a race car.
I don’t do enough laps to really understand the braking points, so I prefer to brake hard and early. The Brembo brakes are firm and pull the Mach-E briskly, but they have their work cut out for them. The front rotors are 15.0 inches, gripped by six-piston calipers, and the rears use 12.3-inch rotors and four-piston calipers. These are the same brakes found on Ford’s Mustang GT4 race car, so they’re certainly sturdy, but a GT4 is said to weigh 3406 pounds and have a seat. So this car, with a front passenger, imposes those brakes with an extra 2000 pounds, give or take a light lunch. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that when we pull into the pits, smoke billows from the driver’s side rear wheel. I ask if there was a stuck caliper, and the answer is no. Maybe the rear could use a set of those front brakes as well.
And that’s part of what this car is all about: learning how to make an electric vehicle go fast and survive. It’s a work in progress, but the idea is that lessons learned from this project could carry over to production cars. The Mach-E 1400 is a science project, development mule and carnival hell ride all in one. This may be the first 1000 horsepower electric Mustang I’ve driven, but I doubt it’ll be the last.