The 2.3L High-Performance 2020 Mustang Is A Fun, Affordable Option

A rare stretch of open road presents itself. From a roll, it’s time to see what this thing is all about. Foot to the floor torque gives a gentle push back into the seat and pulls for longer than expected. It isn’t the raw animal power of the eight-cylinder, but this is the most potent EcoBoost engine yet under a Mustang hood.

…Horsepower holds stronger up to the 6,500-rpm redline – enabling more usable power and torque for enthusiasts and weekend autocrossers to enjoy. — Carl Widmann, Mustang Chief Engineer

Continuing the Magnetic theme, this package comes standard with a Magnetic raised-blade decklid spoiler when so ordered on a Fastback. (Photography by the author)

“It’s not just the horsepower gains over the standard 2.3-liter EcoBoost, it’s the broader torque curve that delivers 90 percent of peak torque between 2,500 and 5,300 rpm, which is 40 percent wider than the base EcoBoost engine,” Mustang chief engineer Carl Widmann said. “Plus, horsepower holds stronger up to the 6,500-rpm redline – enabling more usable power and torque for enthusiasts and weekend autocrossers to enjoy.”

Packing another 22 horsepower, this engine is part of the optional 2.3L High-Performance Package — a $4,995 option on the 2020 Mustang, which learned some of its performance tricks from the dearly departed alpha hot hatch known as the Focus RS. After an engineering experiment involving an RS engine swap in a Mustang, engineers made a push to make this configuration mainstream. That meant created a new block compatible with the Mustang drivetrain and topping it off with a better cylinder head and bigger turbo.

Under the strut-tower brace, wearing the 2.3L High Performance badging, is a tuned up version of the long-running 2.3-liter engine compatible with the Getrag MT-83 manual and the 10R80 automatic transmissions. It is based on a die-cast alloy block topped by a high-flow cylinder head and boosted by a 63mm twin-scroll turbo compressor. All told, it pumps out a whopping 143 horsepower per liter.

“The Ford Performance Focus RS 2.3-liter engine is a high-revving marvel, and anyone who’s driven this EcoBoost engine instantly loves how quickly it responds and delivers power,” Widmann explained. “When our team got the chance to try this specially built engine in a Mustang, we immediately agreed, ‘we have to do this.’”

Enthusiasts should be glad they did. In practice it delivers a noticeable, well, boost in performance that makes the EcoBoost Mustang peppier. In some cases you kind of forget it isn’t a V8, at least until you near the exhaust note. Even with an Active Valve Performance Exhaust and quad tips, there is no getting around that turbo-four sound.

Spending a few days in a 2020 Mustang upfit with the 2.3L High-Performance Package confirmed it is the most fun non-V8 stallion to date. Featuring power upgrades borrowed from the Focus RS paired with braking, chassis, and suspension improvements from the Mustang GT, this EcoBoost ’Stang is affordable, fast, and fun.

That said, there is more to this car than just engine output and straight-line thrust. If throwing down the quickest elapsed times is your game, this Mustang would not be your top choice. However, if you enjoy turning corners on the regular, the 2.3L High-Performance Package is more your speed.

Though I missed the media introduction for this vehicle in Northern California, I had the chance to check it out for a few days in SoCal. Doing so, it was only natural to take if for a spin through the Canyons above Malibu while making a stop on the coast for a quick, Hawaiian-themed lunch at Duke’s with a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean.

If you have never driven the canyon roads in California, they offer challenging and varied corners paired with elevation changes and dramatic views. Having wheeled more than my fair share of pony cars on these roads, I have plenty of perspective of the V8 variants, but not as much seat time in the EcoBoost versions.

After wheeling the 2.3L High-Performance Package version through those twists and turns, however, that might have to change. Thanks to the lighter engine up front, it sports a desirable 53/47 weight distribution. Paired with the wonderful S550 chassis and wearing upgrades like higher front spring rates, thicker sway bars, and bigger brakes taken from the GT (see sidebar for full details), this car eats up the turns effortlessly. Of course, this one also included the optional EcoBoost Handling Package ($1,995), which ups the ante with MagneRide dampers, a Torsen differential, Pirelli tires, and more.

A number of exterior details set the Hi-Po EcoBoost Mustang apart. They include 2.3L High Performance Package badges and a blacked-out grille with offset tri-bar emblem. The hood wears Magnetic Gray stripes that tie in with the same color on the side-view mirror caps.

In practice, carving the canyons in this machine was a blast, there was plenty of power to keep the car in the powerband without excessive shifting, and the brakes worked really well, even when the driver gets a bit too aggressive.

Of course, you can only bomb through the canyons for so long. Eventually, the streets of the city beckon and this loaded EcoBoost stallion has all the toys to make that path enjoyable as well. With Waze via Apple CarPlay, it was easy enough to navigate around the perennial traffic troubles in Los Angeles.

2.3L High-Performance Package Features

• 3.55 limited-slip rear axle

• 19×9-inch machined-face aluminum wheels with low-gloss Ebony painted pockets

• Active valve performance exhaust

• Black painted strut-tower brace

• Engine-spun aluminum instrument panel

• Exterior mirror in Magnetic

• Gauge Pack (oil pressure and boost)

• GT Performance Package front splitter and belly pan

• Hood accent stripe

• Heavy-duty front springs

• Large brake rotors with four-piston fixed calipers

• Large radiator

• Performance rear wing

• Spoiler delete

• Unique chassis tuning

• Unique EPAS, ABS, and stability control tuning

• Upsized 21.7mm rear sway bar

Optional EcoBoost Handling Package

• 19×9.5-inch aluminum wheels

• Pirelli Corsa4 tires (summer only)

• MagneRide Damping System

• Premium Brakes

• 3.55 Torsen limited-slip rear-axle

• Upsized 24mm rear sway bar

A morning sprint out to Santa Monica offered a chance to stretch its legs. This one is far more potent than the base EcoBoost machine, with a top speed 34 mph higher than the base version. There was definitely not enough room in LA traffic to safely test the accuracy of that rating, but getting up to 155 mph wasn’t necessary to appreciate that this machine is plenty peppy enough to enjoy.

Moreover, despite its highly tuned suspension, the 2.3L High-Performance Package Mustang was comfortable to drive. Likely attributable to its lighter weight and the magic of the MagneRide suspension, the EcoBoost ’Stang is perfectly livable around town, when the drive mode is in normal, and flicking it up to Sport or Track means it is ready to hit the canyons again at any time.

While it is available with the auto or manual trans, the 2.3L High-Performance Package Mustang sure was a blast to bang gears in. Likewise, the optional leather-upholstered Recaro seats were comfortable but supportive enough to keep the driver in place in the twisties.

In all, the 2020 EcoBoost Mustang with the 2.3L High-Performance Package is an enticing package for a driver seeking better mileage and lower insurance rates. However, for pure performance enthusiasts, the only downside of this car is the availability of a wide variety of great V8-powered options from Ford.

However, even optioned up, this Mustang clocks in just north of $36,000, while the Performance Pack Mustang GT rings the register with a sticker price around $43,000, so the top-shelf EcoBoost machine is still a relative bargain, and the logical successor for those looking to move out of one of Ford’s extinct hot hatches.

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About the author

Steve Turner

Steve Turner brings decades of passion and knowledge in the world of Ford performance, having covered it for over 20 years. From the swan song of the Fox Mustang to the birth of the Coyote, Steve had a front-row seat.
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