2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible

2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible

SEATTLE—I’m typically of the opinion that when you buy a pony car, whether you’re historically more into Mustangs or Camaros, there’s just one essential option: a V-8 engine. Like peanut butter and jelly, Prost and Senna, and the electric guitar and rock and roll music, V-8 engines and pony cars go hand-in-hand. From the very start in the 1960s, six-cylinder options were always capable but underwhelming, especially at start-up. Lost was the eight-cylinder’s opening bark transitioning to a rumbling idle that reverberates through flesh and bone, building anticipation of a wild ride. The Ford Ecoboost turbo-four? Our Four Seasons long-term 2015 Mustang with that engine disappointed me, combining aggressive pony car looks with the sound of an econobox. These were the relevant thoughts in my head before I tested the 2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible.

Yes, half the fun of a Mustang lies in a V-8 engine. The torquey shove in the small of your back accelerating away from traffic lights. The go-for-hell exhaust note as the brilliant Coyote 5.0 nears redline. It’s all part of the Mustang’s true allure, and without it, especially in convertible form, the mighty Mustang can start feeling more like a boulevard-cruising donkey. But now, Ford offers this High Performance package for its four-cylinder ‘Stang, promising more go and crucially, more adrenaline-pumping soundtrack. And it’s a solid package, if not a real replacement for more displacement.

2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible Test: What Is It?

The package in question costs a cool $4,995 and includes the “high performance,” 2.3-liter turbo-four engine from the decommissioned Ford Focus RS (flipped 90-degrees for rear-wheel-drive duty), meaty 255/40 19-inch Pirelli summer tires at all four corners, a 3.55-ratio limited-slip differential, an active performance-exhaust valve, large Mustang GT-style four-piston front brakes with larger rear rotors, and a metallic grey hood stripe. The only other option is a $2,000 101A equipment package that includes dual-zone climate control and satellite radio. All in, this 2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible had an MSRP of $41,005; not cheap, but not terribly expensive as things go these days. Want a V-8-equipped Mustang convertible? Ford only sells the roofless GT with the pricey Premium equipment package, so your minimum entry price is $46,575. A base GT coupe starts at $37,075 before options.

This Race Red 2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance convertible featured black and tan cloth seats, and a black and silver six-speed manual gear lever sprouting out of the center console. Typical of the breed, the Mustang’s interior is appealing but not particularly impressive, with lots of mid-grade plastics (some chrome-plated, like the climate-control vent rings) and a dished three-spoke steering wheel. On this High Performance version, there’s also a dash-mounted plaque reminding you of your extra spend, along with similar plaques on the front fenders and strut tower brace in the engine bay.

2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible Test: Off the Bat

Before I even really tested the 2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible, it was worth noting it is fairly easy to get into a comfortable seating position straight away. However, the view over the long, long hood makes the car feel larger than it is. Fire the 2.3-liter turbo-four with a push of the start button, toggle through the drive modes for Sport +, and you’ll notice the change in exhaust note straight away as the variable flaps open and allow more volume. But it’s not until you hit redline in the first couple of gears and hear the rally-car style exhaust crackles and bangs between upshifts that you really start to get what the High Performance option is all about.

So what’s it all about? Fun, primarily. While the changes to the engine itself aren’t dramatic (a slightly larger turbocharger and extra cooling give a 22-horsepower bump but no change in torque), the Mustang High Performance 2.3 does rev more eagerly to redline. But it’s still tuned primarily for low-and mid-range power, and it hits its power peak at a relatively low 5,500 rpm. Peak torque arrives by 3,000 rpm, meaning you’ll spend less time having to row that vintage-feeling six-speed gearbox to get into the meat of the powerband. Overall, the car’s grunt is more than adequate for a sporty convertible. The extra soundtrack, while no substitute for an eight-cylinder cacophony, does make the 2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible more engaging to drive.

2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible Test: Handling

As for handling, the High Performance package itself doesn’t make any real improvements in that arena, but the four-cylinder Mustang does have less weight hanging off of its nose than V-8 variants, giving a more nimble front end and sharper turn-in. Unfortunately, Ford chose not to offer the $2,000 Handling Package on the convertible variant, meaning the magnetic shocks, stiffer anti-roll bars, 265-width tires, and even bigger brakes are left out of the equation. That decision, and the convertible’s inherently more flexible structure, makes the 2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible less fun to test when the road gets twisty, with plenty of excess body movement over uneven patches of pavement and a slightly vague-feeling rear end. Still, if tail-out antics are something you enjoy, the Mustang Ecoboost High Performance is happy to indulge, its 350 lb-ft of torque easily overpowering the rear tires powering out of tight corners. The GT four-piston stoppers have great feel and power with a firm pedal.

2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible Test: Yay or Nay?

When you’ve had enough and are ready for a quiet cruise home, toggle the drive mode switch on the center stack to Comfort, raise the top, and the Mustang Convertible is back to family mode with a quiet, comfortable ride. Just don’t try to actually bring the whole family along, as despite the Mustang’s growth spurt during the last couple of decades, the rear seats remain usable only for the smallest of children.

So, is it worth spending the extra $5,000 for the 2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible’s extra power, bigger brakes, more engaging sound, and larger wheels and tires? If you want a convertible and the Mustang GT is out of the question based on power, fuel economy, or insurance cost, then yes. The High Performance package adds enough gusto to the otherwise completely underwhelming Mustang Ecoboost that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to turn up at your local autocross with one. Some might even prefer the more nimble handling and less intimidating power delivery versus the heavier, torquier GT. Just don’t expect the High Performance package to be a complete substitute for a proper V-8 engine. At the end of the day, how could it be?

2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible Hits

  • More character than most four-cylinder engines, with plenty of loud exhaust snaps at redline and an eager character.
  • An affordable way to get a rear-drive convertible that’s fun and engaging to drive.
  • Availability of a six-speed manual continues to be a rarity in much of the sports-car realm these days, so kudos to Ford

2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible Misses

  • Somewhat sloppy driving dynamics, and some chassis flex
  • Interior is nothing special, seats could use more bolstering
  • A V-8-powered Mustang GT coupe is cheaper and what we’d choose
2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Convertible Specifications
ON SALENow
PRICE$32,510/$41,005 (base/as tested)
ENGINE2.3L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/332 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 350 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION6-speed manual
LAYOUT2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE20/27 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H188.5 x 75.4 x 54.3 in
WHEELBASE107.1 in
WEIGHT3,650 lb
0-60 MPH5.5 sec
TOP SPEED155 mph