Don't sleep on the four-cylinder Mustang.
Fans of muscle cars like the Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang will tell you these cars need to have a V8 engine under the hood in order to be fun. The Camaro and Challenger may be topics for a later time but we recently had a chance to sample a few different versions of the EcoBoost Mustang, which is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder rather than a big V8.
The 2.3-liter engine produces 310 horsepower (or 330 with the new performance package) and 350 lb-ft of torque. These numbers are higher than the V8 Mustang from just a decade ago and in a few key areas, the EcoBoost Mustang is actually better than its V8 sibling. We aren't saying the V8 is a poor choice but you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't at least consider buying the EcoBoost. To prove our point, we've come up with five ways the EcoBoost Mustang is actually better than the V8. (Note: we are only talking about the 5.0-liter V8 GT model, not the Shelby GT350 or GT500)
For the 2020 model year, a base EcoBoost Mustang will set you back $26,670 or $31,685 for the Premium trim level. By comparison, the V8 GT model starts at $35,630 or $39,630 for the Premium trim. That's a saving of nearly $9,000, which makes a huge difference when factoring in your monthly payment. In fact, you can opt for the more luxurious and well-equipped EcoBoost Premium and still pay around $4,000 less than a GT model without any of the added features like leather heated and ventilated seats, navigation, and improved interior materials. If you value features over performance, the EcoBoost is definitely the better option.
Fuel economy may not be the number one concern for most sports car buyers but after a few trips to the pump with a V8 Mustang, you may be wishing you at least considered the EcoBoost. The EPA rates the EcoBoost Coupe at 21/32/25 mpg city/highway/combined with the 10-speed automatic compared to 16/25/19 for the GT model. In our real-world testing of both engines, we easily averaged in the mid-20s driving the EcoBoost but could barely squeeze out double digits driving the GT. This discrepancy may be due in part to our propensity to mash the accelerator in the GT but either way, the EcoBoost is far more efficient.
For the 2020 model year, Ford has added a new 2.3L High-Performance Package, which increases the output of the EcoBoost engine to 330 hp. It also gives a broader torque curve, delivering 90 percent of peak torque between 2,500 and 5,300 rpm. On top of that, there's a larger turbo compressor, a larger radiator, engine and transmission recalibration, and active quad-tip exhaust system. Underneath, the handling has been improved with four-piston fixed calipers, an alloy strut tower brace, and a limited-slip differential. With all of these changes, the Hi-Po can hit 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds go on to a top speed of 155 mph.
The Package also includes various exterior upgrades to let people know you aren't just driving a normal EcoBoost Mustang. It is quite pricey at $4,995 but the EcoBoost Hi-Po handles better than a base GT without the Performance Package, so it is worth the added cost.
The EcoBoost Mustang is not as powerful or fast in a straight line as the GT model but it does feel more nimble through corners. Opting for the four-cylinder results in around a 200-pound weight savings under the hood and you can feel it when you toss the Mustang around a tight bend in the road. The Mustang GT feels much heavier at the front while the EcoBoost is lighter and feels more like a European or Japanese sports car. If you prefer the feeling of agility and finesse over brute power, the EcoBoost is a better choice.
We are not going to argue that the EcoBoost Mustang sounds better (or even as good) as the V8. The Mustang GT is loud enough to wake the dead and the V8 rumble is nearly impossible to match. If you prefer the sound of a V8, go ahead and get the GT but the EcoBoost makes an interesting sound all of its own. With the optional performance exhaust equipped, the EcoBoost can go from silent to raucous, making cool boost noises and burbles from the exhaust. Fans of tuner cars will love the sound of the EcoBoost and enjoy its high level of tunability on the aftermarket.