Superficially, the 2022 BMW M4 Competition and 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT wouldn't seem to have a lot in common. One is a gas-powered German coupe that costs $95,345 (and starts at $75,695) and the other is an electric American crossover that goes for $69,800 (starting at $61,095). The EPA rates the BMW at 18 MPG combined and the Ford at 82 MPGe. Pop the hood on the BMW and you're confronted by a 503-hp 3.0-liter inline six crowned by strut braces. Do the same with the Mach-E, and you find a capacious frunk capable of transporting lots of shrimp.
But the Mustang does have a motor at the front axle, along with another at the rear that combine to make 480 horsepower. So then, we have a couple of all-wheel-drive performance cars that make around 500 horsepower. Seems like maybe they'd be equally quick, too?
We haven't tested the M4 Competition, but the rear-drive manual M4 ran to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, so we'd expect the all-wheel-drive Competition, with its eight-speed automatic and additional 30 horsepower, to knock a little off of that. We recently tested the Mach-E GT Performance Edition, which adds 34 pound-feet of torque (for a total of 634 pound-feet). Ford claimed a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds, but our testing landed a 3.7-second time. So, which would you rather have?
The BMW is clearly the finer thing, especially drenched in Isle of Man Green paint with a Kyalami orange leather interior. Its roof is carbon fiber, as are the shells of the $3800 M Carbon bucket seats. The color head-up display seems to fill half the windshield. Every detail is exquisitely considered, from the red M buttons on the steering wheel to the fabric straps you pull to slide the front seats forward. It's aimed at an audience that's accustomed to a certain level of frictionless precision in life. To which you might say, "Yeah, for nearly a hundred grand, I would hope it's nice." Well, it is.
The Mach-E, despite its electric powertrain, belongs to the American muscle car tradition. Which is to say, the top performance version of something like a Camaro, Challenger or Mustang could cost twice as much as the entry-level model, but it'll have basically the same interior. The GT Performance Edition does get Ford Performance front seats, but mostly the interior looks like any other Mach-E—spare, dominated by a 15.5-inch center touchscreen. The fabric across the dash is nice, but Ford obviously spent its budget in places other than the interior.
On BlueCruise, for instance. And MagneRide dampers that provide a glassy ride along with excellent body control. And an 88-kWh battery that provides a claimed 260 miles of range (we got 220 miles in our real-world 75-mph highway test). If the interior looks like it belongs to a car that costs $25,000 less than the M4, that's because it does.
On the road, it's no surprise that the BMW is more engaging. Pistons are pumping, gears are shifting, exhaust is blatting through quad pipes. Despite the all-wheel drive, you never really notice the front end is contributing. It just feels like there's endless traction as the turbo six rips through the gears. The Mach-E, on the other hand, almost feels like an old turbo Saab off the line. Even with all-wheel drive, 634 pound-feet of torque is a lot to manage, and the Mustang generates wheelspin and attendant torque steer at the front end. It could use a limited-slip differential up front, or a second motor. But that bit of drama is actually a welcome, unintentional dose of character. There may be no shifting gears, but you've still got to pay attention, especially when it's wet out. A good dose of throttle might send the Mach-E straining toward the nearest ditch, in the finest Mustang tradition.
Off the line, the Mustang feels like it has the edge. In the corners, the Mach-E will get torched, but that could be said of nearly any crossover up against an M4 Competition. Your consolation is four doors, a roomy back seat and a panoramic roof, counterpoint to the M4's usable but cramped rear buckets. The M4 is a hardcore sports coupe born of long tradition. The Mach-E is a new kind of family car that just happens to be able to crush you back in the seat so hard you should wait 30 minutes after eating before applying full throttle.
This is a tough decision. I used to own an E36 M3, and the M4 fires all the same synapses but with more than twice the power. The Mach-E is new, alien. It's incapable of generating nostalgia. But that's also what I love about it. It's a clean break, 634 pound-feet of torque telling your inner ear that this EV thing is gonna work out OK. So I'm going to look forward rather than backward on this one, with the price playing a role in my pick. Give me the Mach-E. With the money left over, you could buy a really nice E36.
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