Ford Mustang offers updates while holding true to icon status

The entry-level 2020 Mustang EcoBoost gets an all-new High Performance Package, powered by Ford Performance’s high-revving 2.3-liter turbo four engine derived from the legendary Focus RS that cranks out 330 horsepower and 350 lbs.-ft. of torque. This is the most powerful four-cylinder sports car by an American automaker. Metro News Service photo

Every time I see a Ford Mustang, I see my friend Gale Halderman. Gale, if you recall, is a Miami Valley legend. He was the principle designer of the original Ford Mustang and worked 40 years at Ford Motor Co. as a designer and design manager. The classic 1960s-era Mustang that set the pony car up for success and instant icon status, have Gale’s design touches all over it. The grille, the taillights, the side scoop – all of those are due to Gale.

I wrote Gale’s life story in my book Mustang by Design and I’m incredibly proud of it. Gale became a friend through the process. Sadly, we lost Gale in April when he passed away suddenly from cancer. But his legacy lives on in every pony car on the road.

For a week, I had Gale’s memory parked in my driveway when I drove the 2020 Ford Mustang. And it was in Oxford White, which is such a classic Mustang color. I only wish Gale could read this review now because he would’ve called me and said he read my review and enjoyed it.

As for the Mustang, the iconic muscle car has existed since 1964. Only the Chevy Suburban has lasted longer non-stop as a nameplate. For the 2020 model year, the Mustang sports many typical Mustang looks, but also has some new features.

Ford continues to make the Mustang relevant. In fact, the Mustang will be the last remaining car in the Ford lineup. For 2020 it’s good to see there are several new and interesting aspects, including a high-performance package, a new handling package and updated FordPass Connect.

Overall, the look of the ’20 Mustang remains similar to last year. That’s a good thing as the Mustang is one of the most identifiable cars on the road, thanks to Gale.

The muscle-y, aggressive front end is outstanding. Thank goodness the three-slash taillights remain an integral part of the Mustang design, even today. That was a Gale Halderman concept that mostly has stood the test of time throughout the Mustang’s 56-year history.

From a performance standpoint, a lot has changed over the years for the Mustang. Every Mustang enthusiast has their favorite generation of the car for various reasons. I will say that this current generation has enough performance and engine options that it should have mass appeal.

A 2.3-liter Ecoboost turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine is standard. While some may balk at the thought of a 4-cylinder muscle car, those same folks have likely not driven a current-generation Mustang. If so, you would be amazed at the power, performance and even the growl of this engine.

There is 310 horsepower and 350 lbs.-ft. of torque. There’s an optional performance package that adds 20 more horses to this pony car. Even without, this Mustang has different drive modes that change how the vehicle performs including sport, track and even drag strip. Each mode has its own merits and will firm up the steering and change the shifting habits of the outstanding 10-speed automatic transmission.

My tester didn’t have the visceral growl of the V8 Mustang or the mind-blowing GT500 version, but there’s enough of a purr and sound to win over most Mustang consumers. Trust me, that track mode is awesome. You won’t believe there’s only four cylinders in that mode.

Inside, the Mustang is what you’d expect. The back seat, though there, is tiny and not meant for any adult. It’s funny; Gale told me the story of when Henry Ford II approved his design, he wanted more room in the back seat. They added another inch and that appeased Henry enough to sign off on the pony car. Still, after all these years, it could use a little more room back there.

Otherwise the upgraded leather seats of my tester were supportive and comfortable for the front occupants. The ambient lighting was an elegant touch. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is such a nice upgrade over the previous iteration. It integrates well with smart phones through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Ford is coming out with Sync 4 soon, and I will be excited to see where they take this infotainment system as Sync 3 is already such an improvement.

The perk of the Ecoboost 4-cylinder engine concerns fuel economy. My tester had an EPA rating of 21 mpg/city and 32 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of heavy-footed driving I averaged just over 25 mpg. You don’t buy a car like a Mustang to track your fuel economy. But hey, it’s nice to know you can have fun and save some gas.

Another perk of this base model Mustang is its affordability. My tester had a base price of just over $31,000. That’s a lot of fun to be had on a per-dollar basis.

As for this Mustang, it’s the car you see regularly on the road. It warms my heart as I see my friend Gale’s legacy in every Mustang on the road.

It was nice to spend some time with something of my friend, whom I miss dearly.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

2020 FORD MUSTANG

  • Price/As-tested price................................................ $31,685/$35,370
  • Mileage.......................................... 21 mpg/city; 32 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 2.3-liter turbo-charged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 310 hp/350 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission................................. 10-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels................ Rear-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Flat Rock, Michigan

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