2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package Review by Rob Eckaus +VIDEO
Stylin' With Efficient Performance
By Rob Eckaus
San Francisco Bureau
THE AUTO CHANNEL
In the world of crossovers, SUVs, trucks and the declining sedan, the Mustang is one of the few domestic coupes but it happens to be the best selling sport coupe globally. Flavors start with the Ecoboost 4 cylinder turbo engine to an absolute monster 760 horsepower supercharged V8. This 2020 model features the Ecoboost performance package which ups the horsepower to 330 and combined with the 10 speed automatic, makes for a quick yet efficient driver.
Having reviewed the GT a couple years ago, curiosity was high for the four cylinder. The absolute base price is $26,670. But add in the Premium technology and luxury features, plus the High Performance engine package and it is $37,290. Add $1,595 for the aforementioned 10 speed automatic.
Although the styling of the current and 6th generation is familiar, it still looks good and crisp. The front end really didn’t need a revision yet received a minor refresh. This one was finished in Iconic Silver which received several compliments despite the shape being well known. It also had an interesting hood stripe on each side of the center raised area, almost hiding the raised portion. No doubt the high hood is a requirement of pedestrian impact standards in Europe requiring spacing from hood to top of the engine (intake manifold). Maybe pop-up hood system Lexus uses to allow low hood lines, and better aerodynamics might make its way into mainstream cars someday. At a greater expense, of course.
Overall it was fun to drive. The broad feeling today's domestic muscle cars seem to have when turning is offset by its perfect steering ratio that assured proper hand position even in tight ninety-degree turns. As part of that cornering, it had minimal lean and when too much power was applied the traction control and 3.55:1 ratio limited slip differential worked together noticeably, but not so forward progress was severely restrained. You just knew it was working vs. the forward head toss from deceleration of a poorly and aggressively programmed system.
It’s a quiet car when the appropriate exhaust mode is selected, but the ride is on the busy side on less than smooth roads. Only harsh over severe bumps, your butt knows exactly what was going on with the road surface. The magnetorheological shocks included in the $1,995 EcoBoost handling package would have resolved that nicely.
The engine had no discernible lag and the programming with the 10 speed was nearly flawless. It doesn’t sound good at all in Standard, Sport and Track modes so the first thing done was selecting Quiet mode as well as Quiet start-up. But sound is subjective so it may appeal to others, just not fans of V-8s and high revving exotics, Subarus, tractors, Harleys and EVs…..
The transmission had a couple harsh shifts when cold from Park to Drive and a couple instances of jerkiness but if a quirk, it wasn’t a big deal. Thinking about it now, its kind of nice to know when a car is warmed up by being informed mechanically as well as digitally. But besides that, it’s a great travel companion, and it never seemed like it had too many ratios, including in the foothills of Cascades. Although, when manually downshifting as learned with the in-house 8 speed auto, initial double taps are best to drop down two ratios at a time when decelerating downhill.
The efficiency was documented during it’s stay. All the factors on a two day road trip: Passenger, laptops and overnight bags, very welcome cooled seats on their highest setting the entire time, near triple digit temperatures with obligatory AC use, one stop for gas, other stops for food, dinner search, snack and drinks, photo ops, and highway hooliganism with cruising speeds from 75 to 80mph saw 25.4 mpg over 506 miles. Not bad at all.
One instance of that trip demonstrated what 330hp, 350lbs ft torque and a 10 speed automatic could do. A Kia Stinger GTS that appeared similarly loaded decided to see how they compare. After an initial hit and getting us a car length in front, the Kia did a slow but decisive walk past us. It feels like a high 13 second, 100mph car. Maybe quicker with a sticky track and cool weather. The Focus RS had 350hp from the same engine but Ford says 90% of the torque is available at 2500rpm
There are a few quirks of what is now considered a surprising lack of refinement. The hood still requires a prop rod and in hot weather the hood lip and rod are too hot for bare hands to deal with that procedure. It’s the sport(y) model yet the caliper covers were an unfinished dark gray. They beg for the standard issue red, or at least a gloss black with the logo and/or name on them. The available wheel selection is nice, why shortchange it with calipers that are plain?
The somewhat retro interior theme continues in 2020. The standard seats are comfortable despite not having double digit adjustment claims. If the lower cushion could be extended further under the legs or a manual adjustment, that would be better, but not a deal breaker.
There’s plenty of room for the left knee, the dash doesn’t come down low on the left side like many cars. The toggle switches are funky in that they only toggle up, not downward. The one for adjustable steering effort needs a downward ability to toggle exhaust modes versus going into the center display screen via steering wheel buttons.
Outward visibility isn’t nearly as bad as the Camaro, but the hood is too flat and high so it’s hard to judge front end placement so there’s even more emphasis using the side mirror as a reference. A parking camera would be very welcome. Especially when on a gravel road in the Sierras while cresting a hill trying to find a parking spot for a hike. Returning with a very dusty car, it was while dusting it off I noticed the clear protectant wrap applied to the rear fenders, only because of the dust collecting along the edge.
Also sun visors haven’t seem to evolved much in 40 years, when it was deployed on my left, doing a fast left-hand turns, it smacked me in the head. Talk about a speed monitor! It could also use larger mirrors but who looks back in a Mustang?
Coupes represent a personal freedom even during this era when sedan sales are falling to crossovers and SUVs. The Mustang Ecoboost High Performance package offers a stylish and comfortable choice with a good balance of economy and performance. It offers a nice introduction to the fire breathers further up the model line-up when urge for sound and fury becomes budget acceptable.