2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost 2.3-Liter High Performance Package new car reviews

Is the EcoBoost Mustang still worth talking about now that the new Mach 1 has been announced? Let's answer that question with some technical specs.

Under the hood is a 2.3-liter, turbocharged inline-four good for 310 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque. However, the Mustang we got to drive came equipped with the optional 2.3-Liter High Performance Package, which bumps the horsepower to 330. That may be shy of the GT's 460 horsepower, but to put that into perceptive, that's only 20 horsepower short of the Focus RS—which shares its basic engine with the EcoBoost Mustang.

Another thing to keep in mind: We've seen what four-cylinder "base model" muscle cars are capable of before. Does that mean that the EcoBoost a good performance alternative, or is it better to just throw down a little more cash for the V8?

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J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

Okay real talk, y’all: I am 100% not sure how I feel about the Ecoboost Mustang. Like, if all there was was the EcoBoost variant, with the available 330hp and 350ft/lbs. of torque with the optional High Performance box checked, I’d say this was one of the best Mustangs ever, and a four-place grand touring pony car worthy of mention in the same breath as stuff like the BMW 4 Series.

But the GT exists. And that kind of screws everything up.

Yes, the GT is more expensive. Similarly equipped as a base-model plus performance package, you’re looking around $37k for an EcoBoost and $43k for a GT. So that’s more, but not a LOT more. If you’re financing, it’s about $70 per month, and for that extra $2 per day you get a tire-shredding 460hp V8 that only gets about 10% worse fuel economy and is only around 100lbs heavier.

So it’s difficult to discuss the merits of the Ecoboost without the specter of the GT lurking just off-camera, which is kind of a bummer because taken on its own merits the EcoBoost is a truly fantastic car.

First off, the interior of the S550-chassis Mustangs is such a radical improvement over the S197 cars it’s not even funny. The seating position and control layout is fantastic, feeling very much like a car you could blast down the autobahn in at 120mph all day, or do a track day then drive it home and have both activities be equally satisfying. Outward visibility is better than the previous cars as well, which is good because the hood feels longer and wider. Having a good view makes it easier to precisely place that big front end right where you want it.

The engine is a gem. A bit of a throwback in that it’s not sewing-machine smooth, but it’s also not harsh. The right mechanical sounds and feels come through the chassis to let you know the car likes you to wail on it from time to time. There’s hums, wooshes, snorts, all at the right level that add to the party when you want them to, but never get distracting when you just want to cruise and do errands.

I can nitpick the steering wheel a bit—the overly thick spokes make 9-3 hand positions awkward—but the wheel itself is sized and positioned nicely by modern standards, and connects to an excellent steering system that communicates well with the driver.

Indeed, one of my favorite parts of our 2012 Mustang GT project car was the excellent steering. For a big, heavy car, the steering made it feel nimble and tidy. And the newest generation of Mustang seems to have only improved on that feel and feedback. The steering has the right feel and ratio where you get the impression that your hands will never have to do more work than is necessary. For me, that’s a big part of getting me to like a car—even more than absolute numbers. And our demo EcoBoost didn’t even have the optional handling package with the trick magnetic shocks.

Our test car did have the 10-speed automatic, however, which shows just how good modern automatics are. Yeah, there were some shifting delays at certain throttle openings, but they were consistent, and nothing you wouldn’t get used to after a little seat time. While Ford’s 10-speed auto probably isn’t quite as track-capable as the ZF eight-speed, it’s darn good, and could probably be even better with a little digital tuning. It’s not great cold, though. In fact, the entire car likes to have some operating temperature in it before it starts performing properly. When cold, shift points feel fairly random, and power delivery feels inconsistent. Once things come up to temperature, though, the entire powertrain is slick and responsive.

So, I guess the whole point of this review is how much the Ecoboost is making me lust after a GT. It’s like a very well-cut trailer for one of the biggest movies of the year. It’s got lots of thrills and gets you very excited, but the most exciting stuff is left out.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

It feels like a Mustang. It looks like a Mustang. It even goes like a Mustang.

But does it sound like one?

That might be the only issue here. The EcoBoost engine makes plenty of steam–figure at least 310 with the turbo engine, 330 as tested here–and while there’s plenty of exhaust note, it’s just not that traditional V8. Like, if the V8 Mustang never existed, you’d like be like, Hey, this sounds pretty good. But it's no secret that V8-powered Mustangs are a thing.

Do you care about the non-V8 exhaust note? If so, look at the V8 models.

But if not, there’s a lot here to like here with the turbo engine. Lotta torque. The limited-slip diff comes standard. The spec sheet shows forged crank and rods.

And it looks and acts like a Mustang. Feels like one, too, down to the big doors, long hood and splashes of hard plastic across the interior. It does all of the Mustang stuff very well. (Well, except sound like a small block Ford.)

Is it a BRZ competitor? To me, at least, it’s a different animal. The Mustang is, simply, a larger beast.

But it’s a darn fine beast. That automatic box works very well in manual mode. Shifts are crisp and clean. And it'll run on the rev limiter if you let it.

The powerband doesn’t dip. Great steering. Then add the traditional Mustang styling both inside and out.

If you like your coupes with a slight old-school vibe, even if stuffed with new-school tech, definitely check out the current turbo Mustang.

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BlindPirate
BlindPirate Reader
7/9/20 6:29 p.m.

Had a 300 hp V6 Mustang. Compared to my usual Miata or even mid 90s Z28 it was a rocket ship. Got it to handle ok too. But after a bit it gets in the back of your head what 400 hp GT would be like .

Snowdoggie
Snowdoggie Reader
7/9/20 6:32 p.m.

An Ecoboost Convertible is my daily driver. Not sure I need more than 310 hp to get to work. 

11GTCS
11GTCS Reader
7/9/20 6:57 p.m.

I’d like to try one to see what the feel difference is.   Sound wise it wouldn’t be a contest, I imagine the lighter weight over the front would be a handling bonus.   Having close to 400 lb. ft. of torque with the 8 is like crack to me after a lifetime of cars with “adequate” power though.  Maybe that should be a minor confession...

No question that over 300 HP and the potential for 30 MPG is pretty sweet for a daily driver. 

Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/9/20 6:57 p.m.

I don't understand why Ford doesn't put the full 350HP Focus RS version into the Mustang and call it the SVO. They could charge a premium and it would sell as long as it has a bi-level spoiler.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise SuperDork
7/9/20 7:06 p.m.
11GTCS said:

   Having close to 400 lb. ft. of torque with the 8 is like crack to me after a lifetime of cars with “adequate” power though.  

Agree 100%. I need nothing more than a low powered Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit to get me to work and do 99.99% of everything I need. However, needs and wants are different in life. I don't sit at home, drool over Yaris, or Fit, or 4 cylinder Mustangs. My own prejudice aside, I am sure the 4 cyl ecoboost is amazing. But to me if I want a Mustang, I rather have the 5.0L Coyote. Bargains in the 1-2 year old market place. 

BlindPirate
BlindPirate Reader
7/9/20 7:17 p.m.

A 300 hp Mustang is more than enough on the street. 300 hp and close to 30 mpg is a pretty good combination, that's why I got one. For me it was just after a year or so it lost it's luster because there was something better out there. A Miata has far less power, but it is the most powerful Miata you can get. I know this isn't rational.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
7/9/20 8:09 p.m.
mr2s2000elise said:
11GTCS said:

   Having close to 400 lb. ft. of torque with the 8 is like crack to me after a lifetime of cars with “adequate” power though.  

Agree 100%. I need nothing more than a low powered Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit to get me to work and do 99.99% of everything I need. However, needs and wants are different in life. I don't sit at home, drool over Yaris, or Fit, or 4 cylinder Mustangs. My own prejudice aside, I am sure the 4 cyl ecoboost is amazing. But to me if I want a Mustang, I rather have the 5.0L Coyote. Bargains in the 1-2 year old market place. 

Exactly. Assuming I was going into the office at the moment, the best commuter would be a used Leaf.

I only drive about 40 miles per week most of the time.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
7/9/20 8:12 p.m.

These turbos seem to have good torque curves which should make them fun.  The fact that it’s “300 hp” doesn’t mean much to me though.  I had a 300 hp rental Camaro a couple years ago.  V6 VVT.  Unless you were really after it like a total hoon it felt very lazy.  I was not impressed running it up to Big Bear.  My old ‘94 LT-1 with only 275 hp FELT much more stout.  California gas maybe?  

 

 

Ranger50
Ranger50 UltimaDork
7/9/20 8:18 p.m.

I want to really like it, I truly do. But when a few more dollars gets you a v8 and a few more thousands and a call to Lebanon Ford gets you 750hp that is actually quite daily drivable, delivered to your doorstep, financed, and warrantied....

Patientzero
Patientzero HalfDork
7/9/20 8:27 p.m.

I currently have an Ecoboost Fusion as my daily and my wife drives the F150 but works from home.  I drive 100 miles per day.  I'd much rather have the Mustang but really only have the Fusion as a backup for my wife to haul the kids around if I take the truck and racecar someone.  The Mustang just wouldn't be practical for my situation.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
7/9/20 8:36 p.m.
A 401 CJ said:

These turbos seem to have good torque curves which should make them fun.  The fact that it’s “300 hp” doesn’t mean much to me though.  I had a 300 hp rental Camaro a couple years ago.  V6 VVT.  Unless you were really after it like a total hoon it felt very lazy.  I was not impressed running it up to Big Bear.  My old ‘94 LT-1 with only 275 hp FELT much more stout.  California gas maybe?  

 

 

That's the torque, check out the torque curve on this engine.

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 UltraDork
7/9/20 8:57 p.m.

There's a guy local that autocrosses an Ecoboost Mustang. It is impressive, does better than you would think it would. Even with the new driver that's driving it. While not as fast as the V8 Mustangs it does seem to corner better. It's had me daydreaming about using the drivetrain in a smaller lighter car, should be even better. Been daydreaming about one of these in an old Mustang II Cobra, replacing that heavy anemic V8. Or MGB GT, Opel GT or maybe even a Spridget.

MrChaos
MrChaos SuperDork
7/9/20 9:03 p.m.

my issue is for $7k less you can buy a base manual gt.

Patientzero
Patientzero HalfDork
7/9/20 9:48 p.m.

In reply to MrChaos :

Where are you coming up with that?

$32,255 vs $37,075 right now on the Ford website.  

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UltimaDork
7/9/20 9:55 p.m.

I constantly daydream about this drivetrain in a 4 door car that is E46 sized.

JBinMD
JBinMD New Reader
7/9/20 11:43 p.m.

I honestly wish that the new Mustang was available with the 2nd gen 3.5L ecoboost V6.  I would prefer that over the 2.3L or the V8 every day of the week and twice on Sundays.  

secretariata (Forum Supporter)
secretariata (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
7/10/20 12:33 a.m.

I think this engine/trans combo would be sweet in a Factory Five 33 coupe with the 10 speed auto.  I had the superlust for a FF33 when they first hit the market, but then I sat in one at a GoodGuys show and realized how small the footbox was.  If you have a left foot and 3 pedals in a FF33 you have to be either riding the clutch or LF braking, because there is literally nowhere that foot can be.  I wear an 8.5D and couldn't figure out where to put my left foot...This is making me reconsider a FF33 once I retire in a few years...

MrChaos
MrChaos SuperDork
7/10/20 6:29 a.m.
Patientzero said:

In reply to MrChaos :

Where are you coming up with that?

$32,255 vs $37,075 right now on the Ford website.  

I constantly see base gt's with manuals for 29k

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
7/10/20 7:22 a.m.
MrChaos said:
Patientzero said:

In reply to MrChaos :

Where are you coming up with that?

$32,255 vs $37,075 right now on the Ford website.  

I constantly see base gt's with manuals for 29k

This is thread about the EcoBoost HP package, not the base GT. So yes, for $8k less you could get a GT. I promise this Ecoboost won't sell at MSRP either. Mustangs are always discounted, except GT350/500 type special editions......and actually because of what's going on, they are now. 

For example, this isn't a HPP car, but it's already marked almost $3k off MSRP. And I bet you could knock off another $1-2k without much effort. 

https://www.metrofordofokc.com/new-Oklahoma+City-2020-Ford-Mustang-EcoBoost-1FA6P8THXL5146179

 

Same dealer even has basically the same new car, but a '19 Ecoboost Premium for even less than the base '20.

 

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
7/10/20 7:55 a.m.

My concern with hi output small engines is durability. Sure it's 330hp, but if it eats head gaskets and turbos 70k miles at $3-5k I'm out. Large non-boosted engines seem to last longer with less hassle. And tend to be smother, more low end torque, more tolerant of lower octane fuel.

calteg
calteg Dork
7/10/20 10:08 a.m.

Don't care, the exhaust sounds like a long fart into a wet paper bag and no amount of money can make me forget about it

D2W
D2W Dork
7/10/20 10:23 a.m.

My oldest son had a 2016 GT. Fabulous car, good handling, lots of power. Life got in the way, and living in our four season climate, he decided the payment was too much for a part time car.

Now he is in a better place with no snow. He bought a 2018 base 4 cylinder with 6 speed. Bought it last fall, end of the model year deal for $20K. He has since put on the suspension package from ford, ford's tune to take it up to 330HP, and added a 285 square tire setup. He is right at $23.5K now.

Now I am an old muscle car guy and normally would agree with what most were saying above about having the V8. However, I just got my first  chance to drive it over the 4th of July weekend. Color me impressed. It sticks like glue, and has plenty of power. It revs so fast I was constantly hitting the rev limiter. Would I still buy the V8? I would if money were no object, but for the money I would have this car over any miata/brz/370Z ect. 

 

Dave M (Forum Supporter)
Dave M (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
7/10/20 10:45 a.m.

The boostang wins the speed for money argument, particularly once you factor in the discounts.  It makes the wrong noises, and personally I think the it's too darn big, but if you want a cheap fast 2+2 coupe it wins.  The Camaro is not as discounted and the BRZ/86 is not as fast.  I would guess a GTI or Veloster are frequently cross-shopped.

Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter)
Brake_L8 (Forum Supporter) Reader
7/10/20 12:51 p.m.

I got to drive an EcoBoost Mustang HPP late last year, with the six speed. Holy cow it was a good, fun car to throw around some Maryland back roads. Felt very European and eager to turn in, compared to the V8 Mustangs I've driven. I really really really like and want V8 noises out of a Mustang, especially if I were to buy one... but it's plenty of power, handles very well, and great on fuel. Hard to argue against that.

Snowdoggie
Snowdoggie Reader
7/10/20 1:17 p.m.
Dave M (Forum Supporter) said:

The boostang wins the speed for money argument, particularly once you factor in the discounts.  It makes the wrong noises, and personally I think the it's too darn big, 

Not if you drive to work on the freeways of Dallas surrounded by full sized pickups and SUVs pushing 80. My Miata was just too small for that. A Mustang or Camaro is as small as you want to go. 

TreDeuce
TreDeuce New Reader
7/11/20 11:08 p.m.

I owned a new SVO back in the day and should of kept it. I was excited when the Ecoboost came out and while the drive train was desirable, and the envelope and interior was a slam dunk, the heavy sedan like demeanor of the Mustang even with the Ecoboost was hard to swallow.

The problem for the Mustang, for those who really like top of the game handling, is the Camaro in any guise.  On handling, I won't compromise.  The best like car for the money gets the nod if it handles great and is fun to drive. Sure, some cars can put down the numbers in various handling tests, but how it feels, and is it a dream to drive, and do you always confidently know where you are at with its dynamics, that is the winner for me.   The Camaro is more than the sum of its parts and that is a hard act to follow.

  I have got no dog in the silly Ford versus Chevy nonsense. The best car wins. Ford, though, commendable in this recent effort, just fell a bit short.  I'm not interested in boulevard cruisers. 

And regarding MPG. A properly driven Ecoboost will get mid 30's to near 40-MPG. Some have exceeded 40-MPG.

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
7/12/20 6:29 a.m.

I had a right seat ride as an instructor for a student with a plain 2.3 Ecoboost Mustang two years ago. After a weekend riding in it I wouldn't spend the extra for a V8 model. Unless your main interest is doing big burnouts at some point the HP level becomes one of diminishing returns. The Ecoboost 'Stang is a wonderfully balanced (if portly) pony car.

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