2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Pack first drive: The case for going turbo

Performance cars aren't always about brute force. After all, what good is tremendous power if the car doesn't know how to use it? That's why I like the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost with its new High Performance Package option. Not only does it give the turbocharged 'Stang a power boost, it comes with the upgrades necessary to deliver it precisely.

The High Performance Package doesn't use a retuned version of the Mustang's 2.3-liter turbo-four engine. Instead, it borrows the 2.3-liter turbo engine from the Ford Focus RS, which has been reworked to fit a rear-wheel-drive application. The RS' engine can handle higher revs and more pressure, so it's been outfitted with a larger turbocharger, pushing out 22 psi of boost, compared with the base Mustang's 18 psi. The result is 332 horsepower -- 22 more than the standard EcoBoost Mustang -- and a healthy 350 pound-feet of torque.

But the numbers only tell part of the story. As they say in comedy, it's all in the delivery. The HPP Mustang pushes out peak torque between 2,500 and 5,300 rpm. Even better, the torque curve is flat from 3,000 to 4,000 rpm, and the engine can produce 90% of its horsepower at a sustained 6,500-rpm redline.

That means there's a ton of power no matter where you are in the rev range, and no matter the gear. Go hard in first gear and you'll hit 40 miles per hour before you need to upshift to second. Ford says the HPP Mustang can accelerate to 60 mph in the mid-4-second range, on its way to a top speed of 155 mph -- a 34-mph increase over the base Mustang, assuming you have the space to hit such a v-max.

Of course, winding the Mustang out in every gear will wreck your fuel economy. The HPP Mustang isn't particularly efficient, but Ford says it's still capable of returning an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon combined.

The High Performance Package is available on both the Mustang EcoBoost coupe and convertible. If you really want the best experience, you can add an optional handling pack on top of the HPP upgrades that gets you a larger sway bar, Torsen limited-slip differential, MagneRide dampers and sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa 4 tires. It's a $1,995 option on top of the $4,995 HPP upgrade, and unfortunately, my test car doesn't have it. Womp womp.

Nothing better than a beautiful day and a convertible car with a manual transmission. 

Emme Hall/Roadshow

But again, the HPP treatment isn't just about power. For that $4,995 price, you get strut tower bracing, a non-Torsen (read: not as good) limited-slip differential, sticky-but-not-super-sticky Pirelli P Zero tires and the larger front brakes from the Mustang GT. The car's electronics have been recalibrated to relax the stability control's need to intervene, and the antilock brakes and five drive modes are slightly less buttoned-up for more hooning fun.

With Sport+ mode engaged and the adjustable steering set to Track, the Mustang attacks a winding backroad with gusto. At 3,758 pounds, the Mustang Convertible is still a heavy car, but it corners with outstanding poise, and the flat torque curve means I can keep the engine boiling in second gear through a long series of back-and-forth curves.

Unfortunately, the four-cylinder Mustang doesn't sound particularly good. It's best in Track mode, where I can hear a few throaty backfires when I upshift at redline. But I have to reset the exhaust programming every time I start the car; no matter what, the Mustang defaults to Normal, where it sounds like a fart in a coffee can.

Visually, the Mustang HPP gets a larger front splitter, belly pan and brake cooling ramps, all of which come from the Mustang GT's performance package. I like the old-school red, white and blue badging on the gloss-black grille and rear fascia, another part of the HPP upgrade. Inside, drivers get two additional gauges, on for oil pressure and another for turbo boost. HPP Mustangs also get a chassis-numbered plaque on the dashboard.

The High Performance Package is available on both the coupe and convertible Mustang.

Ford

The EcoBoost Mustang gets a fair amount of speed-shenanigans technology, including Line Lock for the best smoky burnouts, as well as a suite of track apps like lap and acceleration timers, a brake performance meter and launch control. Infotainment tech is managed by Ford's excellent Sync 3 multimedia system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the HPP Mustang can be had with blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.

The 2020 Ford Mustang starts right around $27,000, and my convertible test car with the High Performance Package comes in at $40,260, including $1,095 for destination. If you're thinking of picking one up, definitely spring for the $1,995 handling package, if only for the superb MagneRide dampers.

The burning question is, why get a HPP Mustang when a base, 5.0-liter GT costs roughly the same amount? It's a fair conundrum, after all -- it's hard to argue against the GT's 460-horsepower V8.

Honestly, I prefer the balance and dynamics of the less powerful but better-handling HPP Mustang. What this car lacks in outright power it makes up for with better on-road manners. Ignoring this package just because it doesn't have a V8 would be a big, big mistake.

A few extra gauges and a chassis-number plaque are added to HPP Mustang interiors.

Ford

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