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2020 Ford Mustang Review

LIKES
  • Lots of safety features for the class
  • Design plays of Mustang’s greatest hits
  • Magnetic dampers aid both ride and handling
  • V-8 sound and fury
  • A performance model for every taste
DISLIKES
  • 4-cylinder seems wrong to muscle-car fans
  • Cockpit would benefit from materials upgrade
  • Tiny rear seat
  • Automatic emergency braking isn’t standard
BUYING TIP
  • The new 2.3 High Performance Package makes a strong case for turbo-4 power against the appealing V-8-powered GT.


The 2020 Ford Mustang has natural agility, but new choices bring performance to every price point.

The 2020 Ford Mustang balances retro styling with thoroughly modern handling and a variety of engines and models to go with its coupe and convertible body styles. It’s a performance car bargain with a throaty exhaust note, agile moves, a decent ride, and a small but effective interior. We rate it a 6.0 out of 10 with the qualifier that higher-end models would rate even better.

Ford adds two new performance variants for 2020, the 2.3 High Performance Package and the Mustang Shelby GT500. They join Ecoboost, GT, Bullitt, GT350, and GT350R models. The 2.3 High Performance Package uses the engine from the Focus RS and handling bits from the GT’s Performance Package, while the GT500 is a 760-horsepower monster with dragstrip power and road course moves. Ford also updates the GT350R with suspension and steering tweaks that trickle down from the GT500's engineering. Finally, Ford makes its FordPass Connect app standard this year. The app lets owners connect to the car via their phones, check its status, locate it, lock and unlock the doors, and even start it remotely.

The modern Mustang takes a lot of its styling cues from the original Mustangs of the 1960s. The fastback body style, for instance, comes directly from those cars. Up front, the look is similar but more modern, with slim, horizontal headlights, a pouty grille, and a wide lower front fascia. Styling changes from model to model, and the new GT500 is the most extroverted of the group as its cooling requirements result in a big maw. It also begs for heritage-style stripes. Inside, the retro look doesn’t play as well, mostly because there are too many hard plastics. 

Every Mustang is a performer, with output ranging from 310 hp for its 2.3-liter turbo-4 to 760 hp for its supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 and 0-60 mph times starting below 6.0 seconds and dropping to 3.3 seconds. The turbo-4 makes its torque early so it never feels like it lacks for power, and it works well with either its 6-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission; the latter is the play for fuel economy. The new 2.3 High Performance Package makes a turbo-4 Mustang a worthy buy. In fact, with its light front it’s the most agile Mustang.

Traditional muscle car buyers will want a 460-hp GT, a 480-hp Bullitt, or a Shelby with V-8 power. They’re all progressively quicker, and they rock out with a bass-heavy soundtrack. These models and the performance packages they offer provide buyers with increasing levels of straight-line and on-track performance. The ride ranges from almost family-sedan soft to track-car hard, though the magnetic dampers soften the blow on even the best performers. A GT with the Performance Package and the optional magnetic dampers is a great grand tourer, while the new GT500 is a street, strip, and road course beast.

Inside, the Mustang has good room for two with comfortable and supportive front seats in most models. The base seats lack adjustments though, and the optional Recaro buckets are hard and narrow. Rear seat passengers will suffer no matter who they are, though the trunk is decently sized for a sporty car. 

The Mustang’s standard equipment is the usual array of power features, Bluetooth, and alloy wheels, but its one unique item is a line lock for smokey burnouts on every model. Premium trim adds leather, heated and cooled front seats, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, and a 1,000-watt B&O Play audio system.

The Mustang’s array of safety equipment is also unique among sports cars. While none of the active safety goodies come standard, several are offered, and the Mustang performs well in crash tests, too. 

Styling
The 2020 Ford Mustang blends its iconic 1960s roots with a modern sports car aesthetic.

The current Mustang plays off the successful formula of the 2005 model: retro cool in a modern form. The look has evolved since then, but today’s Mustang still has a 1960s vibe that looks current without living in the past. We rate the Mustang a 7 for styling based on its sleek, iconic exterior.

The 2020 Ford Mustang takes its cues from the fastback Mustangs of the late 1960s. The roofline and rear side windows are clearly influenced by those cars. The front end isn’t as upright, as the nose is tilted back and the grille drops down into a frown. A flared lower front fascia makes the car look wide and planted, while sleek, horizontal headlights provide the most obvious cue that this is a modern car. 

Character lines run over the hood and along the top and bottom of each door. The front fender line flows into wide front wheel flares, which are complemented by even wider flares at the rear echoed by a bulge at the top of the fender. 

In back, the Mustang has C-shaped taillights that recall the 1968 Mustang Shelby GT500’s sequential taillights. Different Mustang models offer a variety of rear spoilers with looks that vary from lip spoiler to aftermarket bolt-on to racing wing. Choose what you like, but we advise restraint.

Different Mustangs also offer different styling touches. The Bullitt has chrome window surrounds and a blacked out grille, performance models get more front-end cooling, and the GT500 has a large gaping maw and begs for stripes along the top and/or sides.

The look inside is also retro, but it’s let down by an overabundance of frumpy hard plastics. The twin-binnacle look of the instrument cluster is now only hinted at, but the gauges still have an old-school look. The available digital gauge cluster offers a choice of screens and still manages to fit with the theme. 

Moving up the price ladder brings some premium trim, like contrast stitching, padded surfaces, and carbon fiber on the dash, doors, and gearshift. More of this type of care would be appreciated, especially in the high-end cars.

Performance
Every 2020 Ford Mustang is nimble and quick, and Ford offers several higher rungs on the performance ladder.

Four-cylinder Mustangs have the power of the V-8 from a decade ago, and the Focus RS engine in the new 2.3 High Performance Package is even better. Ford offers four V-8s that amp up the fun. On top of that, the Mustang is more agile than ever, with more grip and real track capability. We give the Mustang an 8 for performance for its ready power, agile handling, and communicative steering, and the performance variants deserve even better scores.

For 2020, Ford offers a pair of 2.3-liter turbo-4 engines. The base version produces 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, while the version in the 2.3 High Performance Package makes 330 hp and the same 350 lb-ft of torque but with a fatter torque curve. The base engine can launch the Mustang from 0-60 mph in less than 6.0 seconds and Ford says the High Performance version cuts that to the mid 4s with the 10-speed automatic, which keeps the engine in the meat of its power band. 

The 2.3 High Performance Package teamed with its available Handling Package creates the most-agile Mustang, but not the quickest around a track. These packages benefit from bits from the GT’s Performance Package and even the GT350 and they turn the Mustang into a sporty alternative to a Honda Civic Type R. The suspension tuning and 200-pound weight savings of the 2.3 High Performance Package make the already direct steering more precise, and the car shifts its weight from side to side more readily than V-8 performance models. Aside for ultimate power, the only downside is traction. While the 2.3 High Performance Package comes with summer performance tires (in fact, it’s the only way to get them on a 4-cylinder Mustang), they aren’t as sticky as the best tires available for V-8 models. For about $38,000, the 2.3 High Performance Package is a viable alternative to the GT.

Ford Mustang GT performance
The Mustang GT draws buyers for two reasons: power and sound, and it excels at both. The GT’s 5.0-liter V-8 bellows and rumbles as it spins up 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque that rockets the car to 60 mph in a tick unter 4.0 seconds. We’d opt for the 6-speed manual with its fluid throws and downshift rev-matching, even though it’s about a half second slower to 60 mph. The 10-speed automatic works fairly well, too, but it can get confused about what gear it should be in. It needs more tuning. 

The Mustang Bullitt adds 20 horsepower to the GT, and appeals for its movie-inspired looks and an even richer engine note.

A base GT has a compliant ride that can sometimes bound over bumps and competent handling that gets loose in tight turns. It costs about the same as a Mustang with the both the 2.3 High Performance Package and the Handling Package. Compared to that car, it offers more power but less agility. Those who want the V-8 with better handling have numerous choices. Buyers can move up through the Performance Package, Performance Package Level 2, GT350, GT350R, GT500, and GT500 with the Carbon Fiber Track Package. 
The Performance Package tightens up the handling and it’s the last stop before the tires and suspension tuning go full force into track territory. The good news is the magnetic ride dampers keep the Mustang from being buckboard stiff. We recommend them to help settle the rear end and contribute to flatter, sharper cornering. 

Go for Performance Pack Level 2 and the GT becomes a track slayer with tenacious grip on massive tires. It traces consistent, unwavering lines through sharp corners, puts its power down at corner exit, and has the big Brembo brakes to handle the pounding of a track day. For about $46,000, it delivers performance near the level of the Shelby GT350. 

Mustangs with 2.3 High Performance Package and the two GT Performance Packages move beyond the muscle car realm to become true sports cars.

Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and GT500
The Shelby GT350 Mustang and Shelby GT500 push into the performance stratosphere of supercars. The GT350’s flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter V-8 doles out 526 hp with a raucous sound that’s part Ferrari and part NASCAR. The new GT500 is even crazier, with 760 hp from its supercharged 5.2-liter V-8. 

Both of the Shelbys take the same approach as the Performance Pack Level 2 to achieve fantastic on-track performance: big sticky tires grip the pavement, magnetic dampers keep the tires on the ground and balance ride with handling, and additional braces add body rigidity. Both also benefit from extra cooling, and the GT500 has the largest iron brakes on any coupe.

Comfort & Quality
The front seat is the place to be in the 2020 Ford Mustang, especially in the sonorous V-8 models.

Sports cars often forego some of the safety features that buyers expect in other segments. The 2020 Ford Mustang goes against that grain by offering those features and performing well in crash tests. We rate the Mustang a 5 for safety for its crash-test scores.

The 2020 Ford Mustang earns a perfect rating of five-stars overall and five stars in every crash test from the NHTSA. Few cars get perfect scores across the board.

The score isn’t perfect from the insurance-funded IIHS. The 2020 hasn’t yet been tested, but the 2019 model scored the best score of “Good” in all tests but the small-overlap tests, in which it received a score of “Acceptable.”

Standard safety features include six airbags in convertibles and eight in coupes. The coupes add side curtain airbags, and all Mustangs get a driver-knee airbag and a glove box-mounted airbag. 

All Mustangs offer active safety equipment, but it isn’t standard. These features include adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, driver attention alerts, and blind-spot monitors. Some rivals have none of these features.

The Mustang is also easier to see out of than its main rival, the Chevrolet Camaro. In fact, the outward view is pretty good in all directions, though the rearview camera helps with the view out back.

Safety
The Ford Mustang crash-tests well and offers a good set of active safety features, though none are standard.

As Ford prunes its car offerings it expands its Mustang lineup, especially in terms of performance choices. The variety of options and the performance value across its spectrum of offerings earn the 2020 Ford Mustang a 7 on our features scale.

The Mustang is available in turbo-4 Ecoboost and V-8-powered GT, Bullitt, Shelby GT350, Shelby GT350R, and Shelby GT500 models. All but the Shelbys and Bullitt come in base or Premium trim. The Shelbys and Bullitt are coupes, while the rest are offered as coupes or convertibles with a power soft top.

For about $27,000, Ford outfits a base Mustang with power features, keyless ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Ford’s Sync infotainment system with a 4.2-inch center screen, Bluetooth, a wi-fi hotspot, LED headlights, a six-speaker audio system, and 17-inch alloy wheels. A line lock that lets drivers lock the front brakes to do smokey burnouts is also standard.

The new 2.3 High Performance Package upgrades to a more-powerful version of the turbo-4 and 19-inch wheels on summer tires. It also gets an active exhaust, a strut-tower brace, heavy-duty front springs, larger brakes, a larger rear sway bar, a larger radiator, an “engine spun” aluminum instrument panel, a gauge pack, the GT Performance Package’s front splitter and belly pan, a hood accent stripe, and a decklid spoiler. On top of that, buyers can get a Handling Package with grippier summer tires, wider wheels, magnetic dampers, larger brakes, and a Torsen limited-slip rear axle. 

We’d opt for the power and sound of the GT, which comes standard with 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, power front seats, LED fog lights, rear parking sensors for about $38,000.

The Premium package for both the Ecoboost and GT adds leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, and a nine-speaker, 1,000-watt B&O Play audio system.

Premium buyers can get a digital instrument cluster, navigation, a heated steering wheel, and a remote starting.

Ford has a pair of Performance Packages for the GT. The base version has 19-inch wheels with summer tires, Brembo brakes with six-piston front calipers, heavy duty front springs, a larger rear sway bar, a strut tower brace, a K brace, a larger radiator, an engine-spun aluminum instrument panel, and a Torsen limited-slip rear differential. Performance Pack Level 2 ups the game to include 305/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, magnetic dampers, track-ready springs and sway bars, a performance front splitter, and a unique rear spoiler. 

At the top of the heap is the new $74,000 Shelby GT 500. It gets the supercharged V-8 with 760 hp mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, massive brakes with 16.5-inch rotors up front and 15-inch rotors in the rear, 305/30 and 315/30 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires on wide 20-inch wheels, and bodywork meant for better cooling and aerodynamics. Its optional Handling Package includes just two things, adjustable strut top mounts and a Gurney flap for the rear spoiler. Above that is the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track Package, which features Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires on wider and lighter carbon-fiber wheels, a carbon-fiber instrument panel, Recaro bucket seats, a rear-seat delete, and an adjustable carbon-fiber rear wing. 

Ford lets Mustang owners personalize their cars with an array of stripes, decals, wheels, and interior trim bits.

Features
Ford makes the 2020 Mustang available in a variety of performance flavors, and they all have their purpose.

As Ford prunes its car offerings it expands its Mustang lineup, especially in terms of performance choices. The variety of options and the performance value across its spectrum of offerings earn the 2020 Ford Mustang a 7 on our features scale.

The Mustang is available in turbo-4 Ecoboost and V-8-powered GT, Bullitt, Shelby GT350, Shelby GT350R, and Shelby GT500 models. All but the Shelbys and Bullitt come in base or Premium trim. The Shelbys and Bullitt are coupes, while the rest are offered as coupes or convertibles with a power soft top.

For about $27,000, Ford outfits a base Mustang with power features, keyless ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Ford’s Sync infotainment system with a 4.2-inch center screen, Bluetooth, a wi-fi hotspot, LED headlights, a six-speaker audio system, and 17-inch alloy wheels. A line lock that lets drivers lock the front brakes to do smokey burnouts is also standard.
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The new 2.3 High Performance Package upgrades to a more-powerful version of the turbo-4 and 19-inch wheels on summer tires. It also gets an active exhaust, a strut-tower brace, heavy-duty front springs, larger brakes, a larger rear sway bar, a larger radiator, an “engine spun” aluminum instrument panel, a gauge pack, the GT Performance Package’s front splitter and belly pan, a hood accent stripe, and a decklid spoiler. On top of that, buyers can get a Handling Package with grippier summer tires, wider wheels, magnetic dampers, larger brakes, and a Torsen limited-slip rear axle. 

We’d opt for the power and sound of the GT, which comes standard with 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, power front seats, LED fog lights, rear parking sensors for about $38,000.

The Premium package for both the Ecoboost and GT adds leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, and a nine-speaker, 1,000-watt B&O Play audio system.

Premium buyers can get a digital instrument cluster, navigation, a heated steering wheel, and a remote starting.

Ford has a pair of Performance Packages for the GT. The base version has 19-inch wheels with summer tires, Brembo brakes with six-piston front calipers, heavy duty front springs, a larger rear sway bar, a strut tower brace, a K brace, a larger radiator, an engine-spun aluminum instrument panel, and a Torsen limited-slip rear differential. Performance Pack Level 2 ups the game to include 305/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, magnetic dampers, track-ready springs and sway bars, a performance front splitter, and a unique rear spoiler. 

At the top of the heap is the new $74,000 Shelby GT 500. It gets the supercharged V-8 with 760 hp mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, massive brakes with 16.5-inch rotors up front and 15-inch rotors in the rear, 305/30 and 315/30 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires on wide 20-inch wheels, and bodywork meant for better cooling and aerodynamics. Its optional Handling Package includes just two things, adjustable strut top mounts and a Gurney flap for the rear spoiler. Above that is the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track Package, which features Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires on wider and lighter carbon-fiber wheels, a carbon-fiber instrument panel, Recaro bucket seats, a rear-seat delete, and an adjustable carbon-fiber rear wing. 

Ford lets Mustang owners personalize their cars with an array of stripes, decals, wheels, and interior trim bits.

Fuel Economy
The 2020 Ford Mustang offers decent fuel economy with its turbo-4, though its V-8s are progressively more thirsty.

Buyers can get the 2020 Ford Mustang with a turbo-4 or a variety of V-8s. All are powerful, and all are fun, but the V-8s sound better while the turbo-4 offers better fuel economy. We rate the Mustang a 5 for efficiency based on the popular turbo-4.

The turbo-4 is available in two states of tune, with a 6-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic, and in coupe or convertible body styles. The most efficient version is the base coupe with the automatic, which carries EPA-estimated fuel-efficiency ratings of 21 mpg city, 32 highway, 25 combined. Go for the manual coupe and that drops slightly to 21/30/24 mpg. Opt for the convertible with either transmission and the ratings fall to 20/28/23 mpg. The coupe with the 2.3 Performance Package tune gets the same 20/28/23 mpg, while the convertible with the Performance Package comes in at 19/26/22 mpg.

The V-8 choices start with the GT, which is rated at 16/25/19 mpg with the 10-speed automatic and 15/24/18 mpg with the 6-speed manual. The convertible, which is heavier, rates 15/24/18 mpg with either transmission.

The Shelby GT350 swills fuel to the tune of 14/21/16 mpg. The GT500 is even thirstier at 12/18/14 mpg.


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