The heart and soul of the Focus RS lives on in a special, non-V8 Mustang.
As my most recent reviews also state, I had this Mustang during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 global pandemic. While there was no lockdown when I had this car, I still took necessary precautions.
For three years and eight months I owned a 2015 Ford Mustang GT with Performance Package, black leather Recaros, navigation, and of course a six-speed manual. My car was painted in Guard, a color that resembles Dark Highland Green of the Bullitt Mustang, and was only available in 2015. I worked with Ford to order it specifically how I wanted it. I loved my car. I sold it to my brother so that I could buy an un-purchased, brand new 2017 GT350 in August of 2018. Last year my brother sold that car to a close family friend who had always tried to buy it from me. Sadly, a few months ago, a car ran a red light and at 60 mph plowed into Ali, my ’15 GT. The car was totaled… but both occupants had nothing more than burn marks from the airbags, along with bruises from the seatbelts. The first Mustang I ever owned was a new 2008 Bullitt.
Not that half of that story matters when reading the review of a 2020 Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package. But I offer up the information to show that I know how a Mustang should drive and feel. And while I have only owned V8 Mustangs, I, unlike what seems many Mustang faithful, don’t have a problem with a V6 or 4-cylinder under the hood. If it goes well and handles properly, what’s under the hood doesn’t bug me in most cases. This car goes like hell and handles far better than a convertible should.
With the High Performance Package, you start out optioning a standard EcoBoost or EcoBoost Premium car, and add $4,995 to check the 2.3-liter High Performance Package EcoBoost engine options. This effectively squeezes in the 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque monster from the now deceased Ford Focus RS. However, while this Mustang still makes 350 lb-ft of torque, it is only able to produce 330 horsepower from the factory. Ford say that 90% of that extra torque is felt between 2,500 and 5,300 rpm (100% peak torque happens at 3,000 rpm), with a redline of 6,500. But, I recommend shifting between 5,000 and 5,500. More on that later. Also, all of the power and torque figures are if you’re using Premium gasoline. It is nice to know, though, that all Mustangs can run on as low as 87-octane, albeit with a reduction in power and torque. You can spec your car with either a 10-speed automatic, or a 6-speed manual. Yes, it is the MT82 that Ford have a current class action lawsuit going on. However, I should note that I had zero issues with the manual in my 2015 Mustang GT over a period of 54,000 miles before I sold it. And my press car also had no issues in the one week I reviewed it.
My test car came as a convertible with black cloth seats, and along with the $4,995 HPP box ticked, it had the $2,000 101A equipment group that adds a 9-speaker sound system, Sync 3, selectable drive modes with toggle switches, power seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, two USB ports, backup sensors, and SiriusXM, along with a few things that don’t apply on the HPP, such as all-season 235/50R18 tires with 18-inch machined-face aluminum wheels, and a body-colored decklid spoiler. This brings the total to $39,755. Adding an automatic adds an extra $1,595, which is more reason why you should stick with the manual.
If you’d prefer to not allow your stench to escape through the roof, with the same options, an HPP coupe drops the price to $34,255. Then you’re able to add the $1,995 EcoBoost Handling Package, which gives you 19-inch low-gloss Ebony Black painted wheels, Pirelli Corsa4 summer tires, MagneRide suspension, upgraded brakes, and the 3.55 rear axle with Torsen limited-slip differential. That brings the total to $36,250, which is still less than the convertible I tested. Should you opt for the coupe to get the Handling Package? I’ll discuss that more below.
AAA tested numerous cars for fuel economy and power increases when going from 87 to 93 octane. One of the cars they used was a 2017 Mustang GT. They got baseline power and torque figures on a dyno, and with Premium fuel the car made 1.6% more power and 1.8% more torque, but with a “marginal increase in the midrange.”
Opening either of the doors is typical Mustang. And sliding into the seat, again, it’s a Mustang. As I mentioned, my test car came with cloth seats, but if you have hairy pets, I’ll say you should think about opting for the leather seats. Firstly, because any hair that’s on your clothes is now embedded into the cloth seat you’re sitting in. I have two cats and two dogs. R.I.P. to my clothes and anything cloth I sit on. Secondly, while the seats are comfortable and work well for daily duties, I noticed that as the twisties get sharper and harder, you’ll be pulling yourself back into the optimal seating position after you’re out of the corner. For me, the bolsters just weren’t as up to the task. It should be noted that both my 2015 GT PP and current ’17 GT350 had/have Recaros.
Once you’re inside, engaging the clutch is typical Mustang, and a little soft for my taste, which is why in my 2015 I took the clutch return spring out giving the clutch a much heavier, tighter feel, and a less over-sprung kickback.
Starting the EcoBoost HPP releases a tone that isn’t a Mustang. It crackles to life in a low, meaty way that would make you think you were in a Focus RS if you were wearing a blindfold. But, I wouldn’t recommend wearing a blindfold and getting behind the wheel of any car. I’m not sure I’d even recommend doing it to a passenger as it could be a bit traumatizing. Sounding like a Focus RS is a good thing, but it’s an even better thing that it gives an eargasm while driving like a Mustang.
The shifter slides into first easily, and rowing through the gears is no different than any other non-Shelby Mustang (the upcoming Mach 1 will use the Shelby GT350’s Tremec TR-3160), with a light but direct throw into each gear as you get rolling. The ride of the EcoBoost High Performance Package is compliant and not too bouncy over rough surfaces. I would love to see what the extra Handling Package would do to this car, but I suspect that with the convertible it would become too uncomfortable. However, at no time did I think this droptop EcoBoost needed any more in the handling department.
Tipping the scales at 3,758 lbs, the HPP EcoBoost doesn’t feel as heavy in every day driving. I thought it would have been about 200 fewer pounds. It feels nimble on initial turn-in, the front end being lighter than the V8 by a little, and it hides the weight well when pushed hard through corners. This doesn’t surprise me too much, though, as my 2015 GT felt lighter the harder you drove it, and it weighed 3,704 lbs, similar to this EcoBoost convertible. This is no doubt a lesson they learned dissecting BMW M cars over the years.
It’s weird for me to look down and see between 22 and 24 mpg as my average fuel economy for a tank of fuel. My GT averaged 18.5 mpg over 54,000 miles, and my Shelby averages 17.4 in just over 16,000 miles. The EPA estimates the Mustang EcoBoost HPP achieves 20 city and 27 highway, respectively, with the 6-speed manual, for a combined of 23 mpg. The 10-speed automatic only does 1 mpg better on the highway. So, when faced with the decision of automatic or manual, just choose the manual.
The harder you drive the more fun the car is. I was surprised how little flex and roll there was in the chassis and body when you are absolutely getting on it. The tighter the twisties get, the more you enjoy the experience. Sure, I doubt it’s as tight as the coupe, especially one with the optional handling pack, but no one this side of a professional racing driver or chassis engineer will tell much of a difference. Not enough of one to take this off your short list to buy, anyway. And when you are really ragging on it, heel-and-toeing is easy, although the stock clutch is too springy for my taste, like I said earlier. Coming out of a corner the tires grip well, and the car stays planted. You can get the rear to wiggle, but more so if you want it to. It’s easily controlled with your right foot, and steering is direct and well weighted, even for an electronic system. Ford have done a good job here.
From a dig the car easily hooks up and takes off with maybe a little drama, depending on your launching skills. There is a healthy amount of power and torque down low, and in almost every situation the speed of the car feels about on par with what my 2015 GT was doing with 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Just make sure, whether you’re in a straight line or driving the hell out of it in the corners, to shift before 5,500 rpm, otherwise you hit the wall where you feel like you’re not really gaining any speed. Funny, because even though my 2015 GT had a 6,500 rpm redline, like the EcoBoost HPP, shifting before 5,500 was absolutely ideal. They are more similar than you’d think, since they share a gearbox and the exact same gear ratios.
Driving with the windows up and the top down it is easy to have a conversation with your front passenger, but the stereo system does not cope well when the top is dropped. Even with nine speakers, the sound is lost. With the top up I can report that it is very much like most other soft-top convertibles: a little noisier, which is to be expected. But, I would definitely recommend keeping the top down as often as possible, simply because of that meaty turbo four goodness as the exhaust crackles and pops when both slowing down and downshifting.
I’d like to take a quick second to talk about some of the things I didn’t like. One: I would prefer to have seen the calipers painted, even as an option. They are a nice size for the wheels and they should be shown off. Two: The controls on the steering wheel are reversed from how they are on my ’17 Shelby and my 2015 GT. The volume and track control used to be on the right, and now it’s on the left. Now that isn’t at all the end of the world, it’s just something that would take me a minute to get used to, that’s all. And last thing: I’m not a huge fan of the carbon fiber-looking sticker stripes on the hood. Three of the most pointless things are all I don’t like about this car.
I posted on the Mustang subreddit a photo of the EcoBoost HPP Mustang, and the question I got that every car reviewer gets, “Would you buy it with your own money?” So, would I? Yes. Even though my current daily is a 2017 GT350, I wouldn’t hesitate to add a High Performance Package Mustang EcoBoost to my stable. Maybe even as a convertible. But why have two Mustangs? Well, both cars are so radically different. The heart and soul of the Focus RS lives on in the sounds and some of the emotions of this Mustang, while the GT350 is, what I call, the poor man’s 911 GT3, or a GT3 starter kit.
The 2020 Mustang EcoBoost HPP is the rawest non-V8 factory Mustang you’ll drive. And if you do take your head out of your ass and say it’s okay that it isn’t a V8, then maybe you’ll understand its unique sense of purpose and enjoyment that makes it more fun for not being a V8. If you’re in the market for a used Mustang GT, check out the EcoBoost High Performance Package. And if you’re looking for a new Mustang, I don’t see how this one can disappoint. It’s what the EcoBoost should have been from the start.