Driving the Ford Mustang Mach-E 1400 Race Car

·7 min read
Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver

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 the past two years and for the indefinite future—is the Mach-E 1400, a mutant race car built for showing off and scaring people. Its usual custodian is drifter and Mustang-building impresario Vaughn Gittin Jr., whose RTR Vehicles tuning house collaborated with Ford to create the thing. And so it has seven motors, 1400 or so horsepower, and enough downforce that running over a penny would probably flatten it like it was left on the train tracks. Ford let me drive it after only a little bit of lying about my resume. Did I say I’ve raced Le Mans? I meant that I raced against a Pontiac LeMans one time at my local Honkey-Tonk Bracket Brawls and Crawdad Raffle. Sorry for the confusion.

Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver

And so they buckle me into the Mach-E 1400 driver’s seat, a not obviously skeptical Gittin Jr. riding shotgun, and send us out onto the infield road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway. If you've never been there, just imagine blind decreasing-radius off-camber corners and lots of walls. There’s one corner where it looks like the track actually ends at a wall, but then at the last moment, it’s like the Road Runner painted a section of track bending off to the right and you slip through. Anyway, no complaints to the effect of “the venue was insufficiently technical.”

Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver

Ford did set the car up to maximize its chances of making a safe return to the pits. For one thing, they geared it long, to take the edge off the savage acceleration. Properly geared for a track like this, they said, it would pull the inside front tire off the ground on corner exits. So the front end was geared for 150 mph and the rear for 130 mph, speeds we wouldn’t come close to attaining on the short straights. They also biased it to feel more rear-drive than usual, meaning that an undisclosed number of the front-end horses was sidelined. (Of the seven motors, three are up front, and four power the back.)

But still, this is a car that ran a 10.4-second quarter-mile and could surely knock some time off that if it were actually set up as a drag car (you know, like without wings that generate more than 2300 pounds of downforce at 160 mph). But it’s built for road-course 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, meaning a few laps at a time interspersed with pit stops to switch passengers. They say it’ll get around Virginia International Raceway just fine, a claim we’d love to test at the next Lightning Lap. When the Mach-E 1400 is plugged in to charge, it gets external coolant circulated via thick braided hoses, making it look like Vecna in his lair on Stranger Things. Hopefully, we won’t visit the upside down.

Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver

Heading out on pit row, Gittin Jr. encourages me to do the race-driver swerve, sawing the steering wheel back and forth to clean and warm up the tires, followed by a hard stop to get some heat into the brakes. The immediate first impression is that the steering is heavy. It’ll get even heavier momentarily.

I was warned about high steering effort when the front end is loaded in a corner, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the workout imposed by the Mach-E 1400. The first corner is a long right, and I almost don’t add enough lock because the steering feels like trying to stir a vat of lead pudding. The issue is that the power steering is hydraulic but powered by an electric motor that spins at a constant speed. So around the pits, the assist feels appropriate, but it doesn’t ever ramp up. Trail-braking into a fast corner, the front end loaded up with downforce and weight transfer, you feel like someone trying to spin the latch of a bulkhead on a submarine that’s taking on water, veins popping out of your head as you muscle another inch of lock. Those front slicks are the size of the rears on a GT3 race car, and the car weighs a claimed 5260 pounds. During my drive, my heart rate goes to 171 beats per minute—and not just from excitement. This thing is a workout.

Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver

It's also extremely quick. There’s never room to go wide-open for longer than a couple seconds, as the straights just vanish while the gear whine from the diffs ramps up in pitch. SCREEE! Brake, wrestle the alligator that is the steering, SCREEEEEE, brake. With no shifting or thundering internal-combustion soundtrack, the speed is deceptive. That said—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—it doesn’t really feel like 1400 horsepower. It feels about as quick as the quickest street-legal electric four-doors, like a Lucid Air or Tesla Model S Plaid. Ford says the car’s Yasa P400R motors are capable of 215 horsepower each, but the actual output depends on the battery's state of charge, and they haven’t yet tested it on an AWD dyno. So the 1400 moniker is really a target rather than a specification.

Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Jamey Price for Ford Perfomance - Car and Driver

In any case, it sure gets around a track. There are a couple places where the walls are far enough away that I feel comfortable pushing it, and when those big slicks break loose, it’s all gradual and controllable. This is a big car, and even though it’s set up for vicious turn-in, the rear end doesn’t feel like it wants to take the lead. (That would doubtlessly be different in its drift setup, with the front driveshafts removed.) In steady cornering, there’s staggering grip. This may be a heavy race car, but it’s definitely a race car.

I don’t get enough laps to really figure out the braking points, so I err on the side of braking hard and early. The Brembo brakes feel firm and haul down the Mach-E in a hurry, but they’ve got 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 from Ford’s Mustang GT4 race car, so they’re certainly stout, but a GT4 is said to weigh 3406 pounds and has one seat. So this car, with a front passenger, taxes those brakes with an extra 2000 pounds, give or take a light lunch. It’s maybe not surprising, then, that when we pull back into the pits, smoke is pouring from the driver’s side rear wheel. I ask if there was a stuck caliper, and the answer is no. Maybe the rear end could use a set of those front brakes too.

And that’s part of the reason for this car—learning how to make an EV go fast and survive. It’s a work in progress, but the idea is that lessons accrued from this project could filter down to production cars. The Mach-E 1400 is a science project, a development mule, and a carnival hell ride all in one. This might be the first 1000-hp electric Mustang I’ve driven, but I doubt it’ll be the last.

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