Why I Bought My Mustang Mach-E: Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal Tech Columnist

Needing a second car for her family and intrigued by a "computer on wheels," WSJ tech columnist Joanna Stern put the Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Y and Hyundai Ioniq 5 to the test.

We Have A Winner! Mustang Mach-E
We have a winner!. Photo: Wall Street Journal via YouTube

And, Why She Leased It

Editor’s Note: This story was condensed from Joanna’s video for the Wall Street Journal and her interview with Kara Swisher documenting her decision-making process.

She’s not a car person, says Joanna Stern, but she does cover technology and computers. So when it came time to buy a second car for her family — her other car is a Volvo — an electric car was a natural. “I heard EVs were computers on wheels,” she told Kara Swisher on the Pivot podcast.

So, she decided to evaluate a number of electric cars as she would a computer or a phone. She figured out what she wanted and needed — under $60,000, longer battery range and enough space for her family— and identified a group of 5 that she would consider: VW ID.4, Kia EV6. Hyundai Ioniq 5, Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y.

She tested each for a week and compared the key elements: Charging speed, charging technology, user interface screens, semi-autonomous driving and driver assistance features. From there she narrowed the field to 3: the Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Y and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Why cut out the VW and Kia? “I didn’t like them as much,” she said. The VW’s range wasn’t as good and she didn’t like as many of the features of either car. She really liked the driver assistance in the Tesla 3 and Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Related: 13 of Our Absolute Favorites, the Best Electric Cars, Hybrids, and PHEVs

The 3 Finalists Hyundai Ioniq 5, Tesla Y And Mustang Mach-E

The 3 Finalists Hyundai Ioniq 5, Tesla Y and Mustang Mach-E. Photo: Wall Street Journal via YouTube

Cars… Or Computers?

“Tesla sucks the romance and design out of cars,” Kara said as she interviewed Joanna about evaluating the electric cars. Just a couple of years ago, Kara bought a Chevrolet Bolt. “No innovation in screens in cars,” she said of Tesla. “Why can’t it be a more beautiful design? I’ve seen high end, Mercedes, BMW, they are beautiful. It’s creative. I would have bought a Tesla, but didn’t want to sit in it, it left me cold as a car.”

Joanna agreed that interiors are important. “In old footage of car commercials they never used to show the inside of the car, which is kind of crazy since that’s the thing the drivers are looking at the most. They always showed the outside of the car; now that’s changed and you want the  inside to feel comfortable and familiar.”

And then, Kara shared this gem: “People get in my Chevy Bolt, they ask ‘what is this fun little car’? You can feel it, it has a kinetic feel of color, of beauty, it’s adorable. It was very inexpensive, in the $30,000 range. The sexlessness of [Tesla] a Ken doll of a car, no genitals.”

But back to Joanna and her shopping journey…

Related: Why Brittany Bought a Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid Electric SUV

Joanna On The Track In The Mustang Mach-E

Joanna on the Track in the Mustang Mach-E. Photo: Wall Street Journal via YouTube

Test Driving the Final 3

Once the final three were chosen, Joanna and her team took the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the Tesla Y and the Mustang Mach-E to Lime Rock Park, a raceway in northwestern Connecticut. This allowed them to give each car a solid road test, compare mileage range, power usage and charge speed side by side, and then on the track, evaluate acceleration, handling and braking.

And, they could all evaluate the interior features of each including the user interface and details that elevate the quality of life in an electric car.

She liked the Ford and Tesla multimedia tablets, but didn’t like the Hyundai Ioniq 5’s screens as much.

And while she liked Tesla’s navigation software better — Ford’s felt like a 1995 version of Mapquest, she said — she liked that it had wireless Apple CarPlay. While Tesla allows you to sign into certain apps, it does not support CarPlay. Ultimately she decided that Ford and Tesla tied when it came to multimedia.

In the end, it boiled down to this: “There’s just one tiny question to ask yourself here: which company are you going to trust with your life?” The computer in your car is your co-pilot; if you plan to use the driving assist features, you have to trust the computer to do the driving.

During her test drive, the Tesla kept taking over the wheel, which eroded her trust. Joanna found Blue Cruise, which lets you take your hands off the wheel when driving on on closed highways, was “easier to figure out and more informative.”

Related: Electric Cars and Winter Driving: What You Should Know

Checking Out Tesla'S Fart Mode

Checking out Tesla’s fart mode. Photo: Wall Street Journal via YouTube

Ford or Tesla: Not an Easy Decision

Every morning “I kept waking up and thinking, Ford or Tesla? Ultimately, Ford keeps a lot of the traditional things you know about a car, but doesn’t go as far in the direction of Tesla, getting rid of all those buttons and knobs and screens,” Joanna said.

She also said her wife is not the best driver — which she said with love — and there was something more comfortable about driving the Ford with its more intuitive driver set up. The Mustang Mach-E featured wireless Apple CarPlay and a driver display screen as well as the main multimedia screen, which made her feel even more confident.

She also liked Ford’s driver assistance features, such as Blue Cruise. “It’s clear what is happening to me in the Ford,” which gave her a sense of comfort and confidence, no matter who is behind the wheel.

Joanna also liked betting the future on the Ford, with its developing technology and that the company is now partnering with Tesla to take advantage the company’s charging network.

Still on the fence, she called tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee. He didn’t recommend a non-Tesla brand “if you’re going to road trip,” since Tesla’s vast charging network makes long distance travel easy. But he also said “We are at the beginning of the electric car curve.” With quickly changing battery capacity and advancing technology, electric cars will be much better in 3 years. Joanna should lease rather than buy an electric car, he advised.

“So, I leased a Mustang Mach-E,” she said.

Floating Her Electric Car Journey With Her Audience

“It was shocking to me Wall Street Journal readers responded ‘Tesla is the superior car’ and say in parentheses, ‘I don’t like Elon Musk.’ I didn’t want to factor those politics into this decision,” she said. She wanted the best car for her and her family. And to Marques’s point, in a few years will Tesla and Rivian come down in price? As her kids grow and needs change, she’ll probably also find her needs in a car will change too.

We Have A Winner! Mustang Mach-E

We have a winner!. Photo: Wall Street Journal via YouTube

So How’s It Going?

“Its only day 2, I’m liking it so far,” she said in August. Though, “my 6-year-old was upset I didn’t get the Tesla because it doesn’t fart.” One of Tesla’s ‘Easter Eggs’ is fart mode, a novel software trick that will make any small kid giggle.

However, Joanna quickly realized where the electric car life breaks down: Public charging. So, she went on a mission to test DC fast chargers in LA in a Rivian, and found that 40% were not working. Compatibility issues between different cars and chargers, as well as hardware and software issues, are common. It’s best to charge where you can plug in for a long time at a level 2 charger — at home, at a hotel or at work.

Charging at home was Joanna’s strategy from the start. She planned to by a wall charger and for travel, a CCS Tesla adapter when it’s available because well, “I’ve always dreamed of having a dongle to charge my car.”

Car Shopping

Need a new car? Whether shopping for a new car or a used car we recommend using our car shopping service

Tire Shopping

Need new tires? We recommend Tire Rack

Car Repair

Need to get your car repaired? We recommend Repair Pal. Exclusively just for Girls Guide to Cars readers, call (877) 323-1708 to speak to RepairPal Car Genius for FREE automotive repair advice and if needed to find the right shop for you!

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss