Parts-bin engineering is a time-honored performance trick among automakers. In practice, that often means taking hop-up parts or a more powerful engine out of a larger car and dropping it into a smaller, lighter one. In fact, that’s largely how muscle cars came to be in the first place. In the case of this new 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package, though, the Blue Oval is turning convention on its head by taking the engine out of its smaller Focus RS hot hatch and throwing it into its larger muscle car.
Debuting just in time for the Mustang’s 55th anniversary, the new model will roll out on Wednesday, April 17 as part of the festivities for National Mustang Day, and it’ll also be on display at the New York Auto Show this week.
Available in both Coupe and Convertible body styles, this new Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package cribs the Valencia, Spain-built 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder out of the recently discontinued Ford Focus RS, spins it 90 degrees, and drops it into the engine bay of Ford’s latest pony car. As one good performance parts-bin raid deserves another, the EcoBoost High Performance borrows a bunch of parts from various other existing Mustang models, too. With a performance parts catalog as deep as that of today’s Mustang, this “bitsa car” approach looks to be a sound one (bitsa this, bitsa that…).
Born of a small cadre of Mustang engineers wondering “What if..?,” this vehicle was conceived largely as an after-hours, shoestring-budget project. All-in, the EcoBoost High Performance Package only took about 10 months to come together — an unusually short gestation period — even for something well short of an all-new model.
This being a performance car, the first thing you’ll want to know about is the power figures: The 2.3-liter turbo four provides an estimated 330 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque on premium gas. That’s relatively close to the existing base Mustang EcoBoost’s ratings of 310 hp and 350 pound-feet, but Ford assures that the new engine’s character is markedly snarlier, picking up torque lower on the tachometer and sounding significantly more aggressive, to boot.
To that end, a unique turbo with a 5%-larger, 63-millimeter twin scroll compressor has been developed for this application and a larger radiator have been fitted, as well. Furthermore, pedal mapping, transmission shift schedules, ABS, stability control and the standard multi-mode exhaust have all been tuned specifically for this model. The latter pops and crackles liberally on overrun when set to full-angry mode, not unlike a hot hatch.
Zero-to-60 mph is estimated at 4.5 seconds and top speed is limited to 155 mph.
(For comparison’s sake, the 5.0-liter V8 GT puts out 460 hp and 420 pound-feet, hitting 60 mph about a half-second quicker. However, GTs weigh about 200 pounds more than EcoBoost High Performance models.)
Stick and move
Of course, Ford didn’t just snug the more-powerful engine Focus RS engine in between the Stang’s fenders and call it a day, there are visual and suspension mods, too.
From front to back, visually, the EHP picks up the more aggressive splitter and aero-smoothing belly pan from the GT Performance Pack. Other visual telltales include a blacked-out grille with an asymmetric tri-bar pony emblem hewing to the driver’s side, as well as model-specific badging and subtle metallic gray stripes that run along the hood’s character lines. (Mustang chief engineer Carl Widmann memorably dubbed these accents “whiskers” during a Detroit media preview event). Out back, you’ll find a rear lip spoiler swiped from the GT, as well as a faux rear gas cap that’s similar to the one on the Ford Mustang Bullitt.
Just as importantly, the car’s suspension has been tuned with specific shocks, springs and anti-roll bars, plus a front strut-tower brace forms a bridge over the engine for improved stiffness.
The EcoBoost High Performance comes standard on 255/40R Pirelli summer rubber mounted on 19 by 9-inch alloys. Brakes have been borrowed from the base Mustang GT, and brake cooling ramps have been liberated from the GT Performance Package’s list of kit, too.
On the inside, changes are minimal from other Stangs, with the most noticeable features being a serialized dashboard plaque and an instrument panel with oil pressure and turbo boost gauges nestled with an engine-turned aluminum surround.
Here’s where things get a little confusing. The Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package is also available with an optional EcoBoost Handling Package. That’s right, you can order a package on top of the package.
Atop everything mentioned above, Ford’s EcoBoost Handling Package includes MagneRide adaptive damping, a 3.55:1 Torsen limited-slip rear axle, half-inch-wider 19 by 9.5-inch alloys wearing Pirelli P Zero Corsa4 summer tires, and fitment of bigger rear anti-roll bar (24 millimeters, up from 21.7) swiped from the Performance Pack II V8 and semi-metallic brake pads.
Given all of its turn-sharper, corner-flatter goodies and the turbo’s enhanced low-end torque, we can’t help but wonder if this lighter model may actually be able to outperform the more-powerful V8 GT on an autocross course (or even a tight mountain road).
All of this is good-sounding stuff, but we wish Ford had cooked up a dedicated model name for the underlying Mustang EcoBoost High Performance, instead of just designating it a Package. Despite largely being a parts-bin project, the finished Twister Orange coupe seen here seems both unique and cool enough to warrant a proper name, which would also avoid the confusing package-on-a-package nonsense.
The 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package goes on sale this fall, with pricing set to be released closer to its arrival in dealers.