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2020 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang debuted in the early 1960s as the original American pony car. Over the successive decades the Mustang has had its ups and downs in terms of desirability, but modern incarnations are among the best choices available for a performance coupe or convertible. Edmunds expert Travis Langness gives you the details on the Mustang and his take on what to look for when shopping at CarMax.
What do I need to know about the Ford Mustang?
Modern Mustangs offer a broad range of appealing characteristics. Of course, muscular performance tops the list, but easy-to-use controls, a comfortable ride quality and high-tech driver aids are all still on the menu too. The Ford Mustang is currently in its sixth generation that debuted for the 2015 model year. It's sold as either a two-door coupe or two-door convertible with a fabric top. Both have seating for four.
Ford has made some updates since 2015. The most notable year to be aware of is 2018 when the Mustang received refreshed styling, revised suspension tuning and powertrain enhancements. Ford also made a few updates to standard and available equipment for 2020, but in general the 2018-2020 models are pretty similar.
What engines are offered?
The Mustang's engine lineup has changed considerably over the years, so for the purposes of this review we'll be focusing on the 2020 Mustang only. This review also covers just the standard Mustang models and not the super high-performance Shelby GT350 and GT500.
The 2020 Mustang is available with two different engines. Standard is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine which Ford calls EcoBoost. It produces 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. An optional High Performance package increases power to 330 hp.
For the Mustang GT Ford drops in a 5.0-liter V8. It makes 460 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque for most GT versions except the top Bullit trim, where it produces 480 hp.
Both engines drive the rear wheels through either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional 10-speed automatic.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2020 Mustang vary depending on which engine and transmission you choose. There are also unique fuel economy ratings for coupes and convertibles, as well as for the available high performance packages that increase engine output:
Turbocharged four-cylinder coupe EPA estimates:
25 mpg combined with the automatic transmission
24 mpg with the manual
23 mpg combined with the High Performance package and the automatic
23 mpg combined with the High Performance package and the manual
Turbocharged four-cylinder convertible EPA estimates:
23 mpg combined with the automatic and manual transmission
23 mpg combined with the High Performance package and the automatic
22 mpg combined with the High Performance package and the manual
V8 coupe EPA estimates:
19 mpg combined with the automatic
18 mpg combined with the manual
17 mpg combined with the higher-horsepower Bullit model
V8 convertible EPA estimate:
18 mpg combined (available with automatic only)
Travis' take: It might seem like a simple choice if you're buying a Mustang for all-out performance: go with the V8. It's true, the V8's sounds and sensations of speed are just what you want from a muscle car. The experience is even more fun when you pair the V8 with the manual transmission. That combo would be my personal choice. But there are reasons to stick with the base four-cylinder. It's got respectable power, and its fuel economy estimates are higher than the V8's, helping you to save more at the pump.
What's the Mustang like to drive?
The Mustang is quick in a straight line and enjoyable to drive with either the four-cylinder or the V8 engine. With the V8, everything is just dialed up more intensely.
The six-speed manual is easy to shift, and the 10-speed automatic has quick and smooth shifts, even when driven aggressively.
Steering and handling are impressive. The steering wheel feels appropriately light around town and gains a bit of additional weight at speed. On base models, the Mustang's handling is capable and relatively flat through corners. Add any of the high-performance options that increase cornering performance and you've got a thoroughly entertaining car on your hands.
The Mustang's front seats are firmly padded but well-bolstered and comfortable enough to be used in daily driving. Ride comfort is generally impressive. Small road imperfections are easily soaked up, and the available adaptive suspension is well-suited to high-performance driving.
Travis' take: In the muscle-car class, the Mustang strikes the best balance between performance and comfort. It's truly easy to drive quickly and use as a daily driver. There are a few available options that tweak suspension tuning and add upgraded suspension components for higher performance, but the stock suspension can handle curvy roads just fine without sacrificing comfort.
What's the Mustang's interior like?
The Mustang's interior is optimized for the driver. A good range of adjustment from both the steering wheel and the driver's seat make for optimal driving position on long road trips, short commutes, or during more enthusiastic driving. The front of the cabin is spacious and forward visibility is better in the Mustang than in most rivals.
Getting in and out of the Mustang is easy if you're in a wide-open parking lot, but the doors are long, and opening them completely when you're parked next to other cars is difficult. Also, the Mustang's focus on performance and style does compromise rear seat space. Even small children will have a hard time getting into and then getting situated in back.
Thankfully, the interior is well-built. There are a few hard and hollow plastics used in the interior construction, especially on lower trim levels, but they're mostly out of the way. What does that mean? Well, essentially it means that the cheap stuff isn't located on surfaces you touch a lot like the window switches or the dashboard controls -- it's relegated to aesthetic-only trim pieces. The interior layout is relatively simple too, and most of the buttons and knobs are easy to reach and use.
Travis' take: The Mustang outclasses the rival Camaro when it comes to interior quality and logic of layout. It has higher quality materials and the arrangement of buttons is easier to learn. However, much like the Camaro, the back seat is useless for adults and hard to access for children. The Challenger has a nicer and more spacious interior, so think of the Mustang as right in the middle of the pack in this department.
How is the Mustang's tech?
There are two main infotainment systems for the 2020 Ford Mustang. Standard on EcoBoost and GT trim levels is a 4.2-inch center screen. Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity are standard.
But to get the more helpful Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration systems you have to upgrade to the EcoBoost Premium or GT Premium trim levels. That upgrade also comes with a larger 8-inch center touchscreen and Ford's Sync 3 infotainment software. Voice controls on the Sync system are quick to respond to commands and they understand natural language well.
Advanced driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and forward collision warning are all optional for the Mustang. In general, they operate smoothly and keep false alarms to a minimum.
Travis' take: The standard 4.2-inch screen is tiny and lacks full smartphone integration, so make sure you get a Mustang with the 8-inch screen. I prefer this system to the 2020 Camaro's 8-inch screen, but graphics aren't as crisp or clean as the 2020 Dodge Challenger's 8.4-inch Uconnect system. Essentially, the Mustang's tech is good but not great.
How is the Mustang's storage?
The Ford Mustang's cargo space is average compared to its main rivals. The Mustang coupe has 13.5 cubic feet of cargo storage in the trunk, which is good enough to fit a few carry-on-style suitcases plus a bit more. The Camaro has a paltry 9.1 cubes and the Challenger offers 16.2 cubes. In the convertible, it's a similar story. The Mustang convertible offers 11.4 cubes, with the Camaro only measuring 7.3 cubes. There is no convertible version of the Challenger.
It's best to think of the Mustang as a two-seater that can carry a friend or a small child on short journeys only. Regular use of the back seat will reveal just how cramped it is. Treat the back seat like extra storage, however, and it's a bit more appealing.
Up front, there's similarly limited space when it comes to cupholders and small cubbies. The Mustang's center console is merely OK and the door pockets are slim and have compromised openings. The cupholders will hold regular soda cans or small water bottles, but you'll have to hold onto larger drinks yourself.
Travis' take: Mustang storage space is more spacious than the Camaro's, even when you compare the Mustang's convertible to the Camaro's coupe. But the muscle-car king of storage is the Challenger. If interior space is a top priority for you, the Mustang won't be the best choice, but it'll certainly work for big grocery runs and there's more than enough space for some road-trip luggage.
What other cars should I consider?
The Chevrolet Camaro is an excellent driver's car, with impressive handling and performance. It's far less practical than the Mustang, however. The Dodge Challenger offers a more comfortable on-road experience, but it's not as nimble as the Mustang. Finally, there's the Dodge Charger. The Charger is related to the Challenger but has four doors. Of the cars here, it's the most practical.
Travis' take: The Mustang offers the best balance of performance and practicality in the class. The Camaro is a bit more responsive and fun-to-drive, while the Challenger and Charger siblings are roomier and more comfortable. The Mustang's balance here makes it a great pick for a performance car that you can drive daily to work and still have loads of fun on the weekend.
If I decide on a Mustang, which one should I buy?
There's nothing wrong with the four-cylinder but go with the V8 to get the Mustang at its best. Also, opt for the Premium trim level so you have upgraded upholstery, power-adjustable seats, a more-powerful stereo, and smartphone connectivity all as a part of the deal.