by Gabe Beita Kiser
Back in the early sixties, the General Manager of Ford dreamed up what would become the iconic Ford Mustang; and with its launch in 1964, Ford showrooms were overrun with eager buyers. More than fifty years later, Ford has managed to keep excitement levels about the Mustang high, with the refreshed EcoBoost Fastback for 2020 making waves for its new High Performance package 2.3-liter engine, borrowed from the Ford Focus RS. While GT models and the fire-breathing Bullit variant regularly make appearances in true pony-car enthusiasts' dreams, the EcoBoost derivatives need to be lauded for their individual brilliance too. Like its ancestor from 1964, the 2020 Mustang EcoBoost is available in two powertrains for this model year, either the standard 2.3-liter EcoBoost default that produces 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, or the all-new High Performance EcoBoost Engine, which upgrades to a somewhat larger turbo compressor to make 330 hp and 350 lb-ft. Featuring as the most powerful four-cylinder ever fitted to a production Mustang, the 2020 Mustang EcoBoost seems more attractive than ever before and still faces off against its Camaro and Challenger rivals.
While styling for the 2020 Mustang remains the same, Ford has tuned the Ford Focus RS's brilliant EcoBoost engine to roar its way to the top of the rankings as the most powerful four-cylinder engine ever fitted to a Mustang with the new High Performance Package. Increased engine outputs, due to a larger twin-scroll turbo compressor, updated engine calibration, and a larger radiator, now number 330 hp and 350 lb-ft, with 90 percent of the available torque available from as low as 3,000 rpm right up to the redline. Additionally, a new EcoBoost Handling package throws in active dampers, a 3.55 limited-slip differential, 19-inch wheels, an active valve performance exhaust, and tires capable of handling all the enthusiasm a street-racer can legally dole out. The FordPass App is also now standard across the range, allowing remote connection to your vehicle, Roadside Assistance and numerous rewards and benefits.
The 2020 Mustang boasts a look that tends to polarize opinions, real enthusiasts obsess over it while some frown on the throwback to yesteryear styling. All-LED lighting in the front and rear includes signature headlights, turn signals, daytime running lamps, and available fog lamps. The sequential rear LED taillights on the back, and dual bright exhaust outlets with rolled polished tips barely manage to divert the eyes from the classic black trunk feature. The elongated hood boasts shark-like lines and vents that hint at the power beneath it, and body-color mirrors round off the sleek look of the vehicle overall. Prowling around on standard 17-inch wheels in the base configuration, and 18s for the Premium trim, a wide range of wheels can be optioned in various styles from 17 to 20 inches.
Thinking back to the original, Lee Iacocca designed the first Mustang to be only 180 inches long, asserting that it should weigh less than 2,500 pounds - making it a pony car rather than a muscle car. The modern offerings haven't really been able to stick to those specifications, with the 2020 Mustang weighing in at 3,542 lbs for either of the two available coupes. At 75.4 inches in width, and 188.5 inches in length, the most modern iteration is much larger than what the original designers had in mind. With dimensions generally on par with the Chevrolet Camaro, the Mustang isn't quite as large as genuine muscle car rivals like the Dodge Challenger. With a shorter wheelbase than most, the 107.1 inches between tires on the Mustang contribute to the limited cabin space and also hint at a nimbler ride.
Ten colors are available for the EcoBoost Fastback Coupe, including old standards such as Oxford White, Iconic Silver, Shadow Black, and Magnetic at no extra cost. The more exciting options include Velocity Blue, Race Red, Kona Blue, and the almost luminous Grabber Lime. Rapid Red will set you back $395, while Twister Orange adds $495 to your invoice price. Various tape stripes, hood and side strips, as well as the iconic racing stripe options, can be included by means of adding on a Wheel and Stripe Package for $895, or as individual highlights. You could also option on a painted black roof for $995.
With the focus on the EcoBoost range as the bulk seller, Ford borrowed tech from the Focus RS' engine and tuned the base EcoBoost to be more muscular. A beefed-up head gasket, larger twin-scroll turbo compressor, and a bigger radiator were added to kick out 330 ponies, 20 down on the Focus RS but 20 up on the base Mustang. The end result was impressive enough to warrant inclusion in the Mustang lineup by means of the all-new High Performance package for 2020. Still new to the scene however, the engine's official performance times haven't been released yet, but Ford assures us it can hit 60 mph in somewhere around 4.5 seconds, which handily undercuts the 275 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged Camaro LS's 5.4 second time, and even the 335 hp 3.6-liter engine which manages the sprint in five seconds flat. Upping the ante even more, Ford has increased top speed on the 'Stang to 155 mph with the Performance Package added. Even without the new performance enhancers, the Mustang's 310 hp 2.3-liter turbocharged motor offers 35 hp more power than the base Camaro and five more than the entry-level Challenger. With rear-wheel-drive as the default drivetrain, there's guaranteed to be oversteer on-demand should you turn off all the nannies, while all-wheel-drive options from Dodge will better suit cold-weather states.
The EcoBoost Fastback is equipped with a 2.3-liter inline-four engine that drives power exclusively to the rear wheels. Producing 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, the standard six-speed manual gearbox is carried over from the previous year model, undoubtedly leaving the burn-out kings and tire-squealing dragsters quite happy. Alternatively, a slick-shifting ten-speed automatic 'box is also available for those more focused on the daily drive. Switching the auto to shiftable mode retains the previous year's slight lag between gear shifts, and the manual remains the suggested option for those wanting increased engagement and shaper responses.
For the new High Performance package, total outputs of 330 hp and 350 lb-ft can be unleashed, with the manufacturer having also tweaked the torque curve somewhat, allowing the Mustang to deliver 90 percent peak torque from between 3,000 and 5,300 rpm. Take-off from a standstill can be as rubber-burning and severe as you want it to be, particularly with the line-lock function still in play, while passing maneuvers at speed are handled effortlessly. The only downside is the lack of aural pleasure - Mustang looks create a certain mental image and the four-cylinder sound emitted by the EcoBoost motor is somewhat of a letdown.
Pimping up a powertrain is one way to enthuse fans, but ensuring a smooth ride is another story altogether. With an alloy strut tower brace adding some rigidity to the chassis, Ford has been attentive to keeping turn-in on the Mustang sharp. Body lean and sway are managed by a front roll bar and a 0.9-inch bar in the back. Ford has gone the extra mile in terms of steering feel as well, dialing up the power steering with new calibrations that translate to excellent feedback which are necessary for track rats who want to get the most from the experience.
Add to that the new EcoBoost Handling Package, and you get the MagneRide dampers that adapt to road conditions at over a thousand times per second, resulting in a smooth and balanced ride. The Handling Package also equips a Torsen limited-slip rear axle and wider wheels for better grip, while the on-board stability control and various selectable drive-modes are available to control the 'Stang's manners - switch to either normal, snow/wet, sport, track, or drag strip to get the most out of your driving experience. With well-designed independent components, the Mustang offers a controlled, yet pliant ride quality, allowing you to pilot with confidence at the limits.
EPA estimates of 21/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined are claimed by Ford for the manual variant, while the auto manages ever so slightly better, at 21/32/25 mpg. With a fuel tank size of 15.5 gallons, the Mustang should manage 372 miles to a tank of gas if you opt for the stick shift or almost 388 miles for the auto. Not bad overall, with the Dodge Challenger coming in slightly below these estimates at 19/30/23 mpg; the 2020 Camaro offers up 22/31/25 mpg in its most efficient automatic guise.
Designed to seat four in the classic two-plus-two setup, all the glory is restricted to the front seats of the 2020 Mustang. While no one expects the back of a pony car to be luxurious or even spacious, the restricted rear seat carried over from the previous iterations remains a drawback. Getting in and out of the 'Stang is fine unless you are relegated to the rear, where some contortion and relevant grunting will be required. Still, two sets of LATCH connectors are included, although they are not easy to access. The base EcoBoost model features cloth-upholstered front bucket seats which are manually adjustable; fortunately, this is upgraded to more luxurious fare in the Premium trim, with leather-trimmed buckets that can be power-adjusted six ways, as well as having lumbar support. Heating and ventilation on the front seats are standard in the top-end trim, and the infotainment system upgrades from six-speakers to nine between the two models; the new FordPass Connect app is standard on both. Manual single-zone climate control in the base trim seems a little spartan while the Premium trim offers a dual-zone automatic setup instead.
The reality for owners and buyers of the Mustang is that the overwhelming majority buy it for thrills and status, and not for your daily school run or ferrying passengers about. As such, the front two seats are prioritized in terms of comfort and luxury, with the rear getting only minimal attention. Cloth seats on the base model are upgraded to leather on the top-spec, and with comfortably bolstered bucket seats for driver and front passenger, even long journeys will be fine. The Mustang offers brilliant legroom up front, and as a coupe with a sloping roof, ample but not excessive headroom. The rear is tight from every angle, and not much can be done with it, save for short joy-rides with your friends or for packing space for a track day out.
On the plus side, the driver gets optimal positioning, which can be adjusted extensively on the top-of-the-range model although not so much in the entry-level version. Visibility is good, though, and sliding into the front is no problem at all. Getting into the back seats is a whole different ball game, and we'd suggest sitting it out.
Cloth front bucket seats are standard in either Ebony or Ceramic for the EcoBoost base trim, paired with optional Silver Arrow aluminum instrumentation highlights. The Premium allows for leather in Ebony, Ceramic, or Tan, or an upgrade to Ebony leather with Alcantara inserts, which - for $1,195 - also equips the Carbon Sport interior. Premium leather in Ebony, paired with Showstopper Red or Midnight Blue stitching can be added with the $2,200 Equipment package. The same color schemes are also available in Recaro premium leather for $1,595, and a Linked Graphite aluminum finish can also be optioned on for a unique look.
Not too much attention is given to trunk space on cars like this, but the Mustang has nothing to be ashamed of either way - with 13.5 cubic feet of trunk volume available, Ford has ensured it can show up the Camaro's 9.1 cubic feet, although the larger Dodge Challenger takes the cake with 16.2 cubic feet available. For the Mustang, the rear seats flip down in a 50/50 split as well, meaning cargo space can be extended. And with the rear seats being almost redundant anyway, increasing space for more track kit, emergency extras, and cooler boxes for a day out is ideal.
Small-item storage is limited to two cup holders for the front occupants, a center console with a full armrest, seatback pockets, and a door pocket on each of the front doors. The glovebox offers illumination and locking options, but is not particularly large.
On the base EcoBoost coupe, a single-zone manual climate control, two-way manual front passenger seat and four-way manual driver's seat are standard. This gets upgraded to leather-trimmed seating and power-accessories on the Premium, as well as adding dual-zone auto climate control, but this can also be equipped optionally on the base trim. An auto-dimming rearview mirror, an illuminated glovebox, and keyless entry with push-button start are standard inclusions on the entry-specced vehicle. The Track Apps interface provides real-time performance metrics on the instrument cluster and is also standard across the range. A rearview camera is the only standard driver-assist, with the Ford Safe and Smart package needing to be added on for advanced driver assists like pre-collision assist, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping alert on both models. A reverse parking sensor system gets added to the Premium trim at least.
A basic infotainment system is present in the bottom-rung Mustang, and - although not particularly impressive - it does what it needs to do. Equipped with the SYNC system and a 4.2-inch LCD screen, it includes enhanced voice recognition, an AM/FM stereo with MP3 capabilities, and six stock speakers. SiriusXM can be added optionally, or you could opt for the more posh sound system offered on the Premium as standard, which replaces the standard sound setup with nine speakers, an amplifier and the more advanced SYNC 3 system. This equips a larger eight-inch capacitive touchscreen, navigation, smartphone integration, including both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A voice-activated touchscreen navigation system with pinch-to-zoom functionality can be optioned as well, as can a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system with a subwoofer and HD Radio.
Freshly launched, there haven't yet been any recalls for 2020 model Mustangs, while 2019 variants were only subject to one recall pertaining to a blank instrument cluster not being able to display necessary information. As a brand new model, the 2020 Mustang has yet to be rated by J.D. Power but is otherwise covered by a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, three-year/36,000-mile full warranty, and five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan.
The NHTSA has given the two-door 2020 Mustang a full five-star overall safety rating. The IIHS has not yet rated the latest model year, but with predominantly Good scores from the 2019 model, it can be assumed that safety scores will remain high, with only the small front overlap test yielding less than perfect scores.
A full complement of eight airbags is equipped across the 2020 range, including a glove-box-door-integrated knee airbag, driver's knee airbag, dual front airbags, side-impact bags, and side-curtain airbags. Additionally, electronic stability control is included from the base model, and all the bits and bobs from the Personal Safety System, such as seat belt usage sensors and front crash severity sensors, are included. Not much gets added on by default in going one-up to the next trim level, and driver aids like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking need to be optioned on by means of the Ford Safe and Smart package ($1,000).
We're willing to bet that just by reading this review, you're probably halfway to buying a Mustang anyway - and if you're looking for confirmation, then this is it. The 2020 version of the old standard is even better and more fun to drive than before. The upgrades to the engine and handling system are worth every penny, making this already attractive package even more appealing. If you're looking for a daily driver or something with packing space and a back seat for the kids, this may not be the right choice. But with high safety ratings, improved performance, and powerful styling, the 2020 Mustang is just right for the enthusiast, the hardcore supporter, and the track-fan who sees themself as a wannabe-Ken Block. The lack of V8 noise aside, the EcoBoost 'Stang delivers a sharp driving experience that doesn't do the badge any disservice.
The 2020 EcoBoost coupe is available in either the Fastback or Premium Fastback derivatives, with the entry-spec model having a base MSRP of $26,670 in manual guise with the stock 2.3-liter engine equipped. If you want the automatic gearbox, you will need to shell out $1,595 more. For the Premium, $31,685 is the base MSRP with the same add-on prices applicable. This excludes licensing, registration, taxes, and Ford's $1,095 destination charge.
The Ford Mustang EcoBoost coupe is available in two trims, either the standard Fastback guise or the top-end Premium Fastback edition. Both models are powered by a standard 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, and both are available as either manual or automatic, with the main differences being cosmetic and in terms of creature comforts in the cabin.
The base Fastback model is equipped with 17-inch Sparkle Silver-painted aluminum wheels, cloth seats, the basic six-speaker audio system with a 4.3-inch infotainment screen and SYNC entertainment, remote keyless entry, push-button start, and manual seat adjustment. Driver aids are pretty much non-existent unless optioned on additionally, with only a rearview camera included at this point in the range.
The top-of-the-range Premium Fastback offers a bit more, with leather-trimmed seats that are heated and ventilated for front occupants, a dual-zone climate control, and the more impressive nine-speaker audio setup paired to SYNC 3. Rear parking sensors are at least standard here, although not much else changes on the interior. 18-inch wheels and selectable drive modes get added to this trim.
Additional packages for the 2020 model year are significant, with the addition of the dialed-up High Performance package and the new EcoBoost Handling Package alone.
Equipping the EcoBoost High Performance package outfits the 2.3-liter performance-oriented EcoBoost engine with a larger turbo compressor and radiator, as well as updated engine calibration to make 330 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque -yours for $4,995.
Add to this the Handling Package, for 19-inch by 9.5-inch aluminum wheels with Pirelli Corsa4 summer tires, the superb MagneRide damping system, premium brakes, and the Torsen limited-slip rear differential, and you are ready for your own amateur Gymkhana session. This package costs $1,995.
Ford Safe and Smart is a must-buy to add the suite of driver-assist features that include pre-collision systems with automatic emergency braking, high beam headlamps, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and rain-sensing wipers for $1,000.
There's also a variety of cosmetic bundles to add on, including a Carbon Sport Interior package for the top-spec model at $1,195; also, a Premium Plus package for premium leather trim, Linked Graphite aluminum interior trim, voice-activated touchscreen navigation, and a 12-inch LCD digital instrument cluster can be had for $2,200.
Although many may be lured by the thunder of the V8-powered Mustang GT, we reckon getting the EcoBoost is key to a sharper experience, particularly with the new EcoBoost Performance Package. To make the most of it, we'd also recommend the Handling Package, ensuring the additional performance is put to good use when the straightaways end and the turns begin. Between the two trims, the Premium is the pick of the two. It's not only the more luxurious option with leather interior, heated and ventilated seats, and at least a few basic driver aids, but it also boasts a better infotainment system with SYNC 3 and nine-speakers, as opposed to the rather bland stock setup on the basic Fastback. Keep the six-speed manual transmission for the fun-factor, and you will be experiencing thrilling drive quality, daring performance, and genuine Mustang presence - as long as you don't have more than one passenger to share it with.
The original rival to the pony-car is the Chevy Camaro, which enters the fray with a base model sporting a 2.0-liter turbo-four, capable of producing 275 hp, although a 335 hp 3.6-liter V6 is also available. Famous for kicking out power and being able to handle it well, the Camaro offers supple and satisfying handling, balanced steering and confident cornering. Suffering from the same issue as the Mustang in terms of limited safety features as standard, the Camaro also manages to outdo the 'Stang in a "who has the least usable space" competition, with utterly awful cargo space and rear legroom. The Camaro does come standard with lots of features though, where the Mustang requires quite a bit of optioning on to get up to the same level. Still, the Camaro just doesn't have the pizazz of the 2020 Mustang, and with rumors of the Camaro's discontinuation in 2023, we'd much rather invest in the Mustang either way.
Pony car vs bona fide muscle car, the Dodge Challenger doesn't enter the arena as much as it smashes down the gates and tears into the competition. Also sporting a range of updates for the 2020 year, the base model that compares to the Mustang Fastback range still doesn't make quite as much of an impression as its more powerful stablemates do. With a standard 3.6-liter V6 under the hood, the Challenger produces 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque, which - even without the new high-performance engine on the Mustang - falls short of the Ford's abilities. Still, the Challenger offers a standard seven-inch touchscreen, one of the most user-friendly infotainment systems in the segment, as well as Apple Carplay and Android Auto as standard, which the Mustang requires you to option on. The Dodge also has the benefit of an actually useful rear seat, with more space available for passengers thanks to its much bigger, heavier body. To its detriment, though, this negatively affects its ability to get off the starting line fast enough to manage competitive performance times. While both are great fun to drive, the Challenger suits the daily drive better and is less of a honed performance tool than it is a big muscly bruiser. The Mustang does it the other way around - let it live at the track, and have the added benefit of looking suave on your way to work. Go for the Mustang if your aim is to use it as a driver's car.