2020 Ford Mustang Review

Liz Kim, Independent Expert | Jul 31, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Ford deals!

When it comes to iconic American cars, no discussion can be complete without including the pony car that started a trend that continues to this day. Since its arrival in 1964, the Ford Mustang has taken many forms, but the common thread has been its sense of style and playfulness, which perfectly captures the American imagination. 

The 2020 Ford Mustang coupe and convertible can be had in base EcoBoost form with a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder making 310 horsepower, in high-performance Shelby GT500 form with a supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 cranking out 760 horsepower, and with all manner of compelling choices betwixt and between.

To keep interest in the car high, Ford regularly introduces special editions of the Mustang. The 2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt is one of them, a Mustang GT Fastback gleaming with the sheen of the cooler-than-thou 1968 eponymous Steve McQueen movie, “Bullitt,” which featured a 1968 Mustang GT in an indelible chase scene. Shorn of adornment, painted a rich hue of Dark Highland Green, and even tuned to sound exactly like the car in the film, the modern Bullitt Mustang is a treat for the senses.

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt Green Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Mustang Bullitt equipped with an Electronics Package, Recaro performance seats, and a MagneRide adaptive damping suspension. The price came to $54,240, including a gas-guzzler charge of $1,000 and a $1,095 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Ford deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Mustang, it is helpful to understand who buys this midsize sporty car, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 80% of Ford Mustang owners are male (vs. 76% for the segment), and the median age of a Mustang owner is 58 years (vs. 52).

Owners say their favorite things about the Mustang are (in descending order) the exterior styling, powertrain, driving feel, setting up and starting, and interior design. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the midsize sporty car segment:

  • Ability to hold personal items
  • Sound of engine/motor
  • Ability to carry everything
  • Power of engine/motor
  • Vehicle feel when started up

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Mustang are (in descending order) the feeling of safety, driving comfort and infotainment system (in a tie), getting in and out, and fuel economy. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the midsize sporty car segment:

  • Fuel economy/driving range
  • Usefulness of infotainment functions
  • Getting vehicle set up
  • Vehicle protection
  • Getting in/out second row and rear seat comfort (in a tie)

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Mustang ranked 2nd out of three midsize sporty cars.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Ford deals!

In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the 2020 Ford Mustang measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Mustang owners love the way their cars look and cite its exterior as their favorite aspect of ownership. It’s no wonder. The Mustang is one of the most recognizable cars in the world, and credit goes to Ford designers who since 2005 have faithfully reproduced legacy styling cues while keeping the car current and fresh. 

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt Green Rear View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The 2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt comes in your choice of Shadow Black or Dark Highland Green. Ford estimates that one in five buyers will choose black, but my vehicle wore the more popular green hue, mirroring the car featured in the movie. After all, who wants to buy a Bullitt and have it look like the Dodge Charger driven by the bad guy in the film’s chase scene?

There is more to a Mustang Bullitt than color. Tasteful chrome accents, a simple black grille, distinctive 19-inch aluminum wheels, and a big round 1960s-style fake gas cap between the taillamps separate this car from a standard Mustang GT. The only emblem on the car’s body is the “Bullitt” insignia on the gas cap. 

Interior

Inside, the Bullitt’s interior is a sea of black, with special green stitching, engine-spun aluminum dashboard trim, a serialized plaque in front of the passenger, and “Bullitt” logos decorating the steering wheel and door sills. Because the Bullitt only comes with a manual transmission, you also can’t miss the white cue-ball shift knob, as you’ll be touching it almost as much as the steering wheel. 

2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt Dashboard and Interior View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

At night, the Mustang’s ambient lighting can be set to match your mood, although it may sour slightly from the abundance of low-quality plastics that befoul what is, after all, an expensive vehicle. The Bullitt’s 12-inch digital instrument cluster helps to make up for it, though, offering different gauge layouts and functions depending on the selected driving mode. 

Mustang owners, in comparison to Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger owners, highly rate this car’s ability to carry things. Compared to most vehicles, however, there is precious little storage space within the cabin.

Getting In and Out

Trunk space, however, is fairly generous at 13.5 cubic feet. The luggage liftover height is a little high, so pack light or prepare to flex your muscles.

Entering and exiting a Mustang isn’t easy. Long and heavy doors are a liability in tight parking situations, and the car’s low-slung seating and roofline force extra effort while getting in and getting out. 

Rear passengers who agree to ride in the back seat (and not everyone will, or can) must thread a small opening while engaging in undignified gymnastics. The rear seat is for occasional use only, and by people of shorter stature.

Setting Up and Starting

In addition to its style, the Mustang does plenty to evoke warm feelings, such as the Bullitt’s standard puddle lights in the shape of the running pony as you approach the car in the dark. 

Push the engine start/stop button, and the Bullitt erupts with a sonorous roar that you can tone down a bit by adjusting the car’s standard active performance exhaust system. Even in its Quiet mode, though, the V-8 engine’s note attracted plenty of attention. 

Within the digital instrumentation, Ford also provides a compelling opening presentation of an animated mustang horse and a special “Bullitt” graphic. Combine these details with the Bullitt’s retro design themes, and you can’t help but feel like this is a special car.

Setting a Mustang Bullitt up to specific preferences is often an exercise in trial and error. You use a combination of the Sync 3 infotainment display, the digital instrumentation display and the steering wheel controls, and the toggle switches under the climate controls to access the various menus. Some settings, like Track mode, advise consultation of the owner’s manual so that you understand what happens when choosing it. 

And if you’re planning to hoon a Bullitt, you’ll want to study-up on how Line Lock and Launch Control work before you become a viral social-media sensation at the next cars-and-coffee meetup.

Infotainment System

Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system has all of the features that modern vehicles are expected to but lacks some of the razzle dazzle offered with the latest technologies in other cars. For example, in the Mustang, the screen measures 8 inches across and is recessed into the dashboard rather than offering a larger, flush-mounted, high-definition display.

Still, this simplicity does pay dividends. Its fairly easy to find and use Sync 3’s different functions, and although response to input is a bit slow when it comes to the optional voice-activated navigation system, overall, the infotainment system provides a good user experience. The available 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo dazzles listeners, and the stereo’s separate tuning knob is always appreciated.

Keeping You Safe

Ford offers a Safe and Smart Package for some versions of the Mustang, but not the Bullitt. The package contains adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, a driver monitoring system, automatic high-beam headlights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. 

The Bullitt is, however, available with a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic warning. This upgrade is included in the Electronics Package with navigation, the B&O premium sound system, and the ambient interior lighting.

As such, the Bullitt relies mainly on its driver for safety. Aside from small side mirrors, outward visibility is actually good for this type of car, the Mustang Fastback’s rear quarter windows coming in particularly handy in certain driving situations. And, of course, there is a reversing camera backed up by rear parking sensors, which helps.

As far as crash protection is concerned, the 2020 Mustang receives Good scores in most of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests to which it has been subjected, with the exception of an Acceptable score for small overlap frontal-impact protection on the driver’s side of the car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it a 5-star overall safety rating.

Powertrain

Lurking beneath the hood of the 2020 Mustang Bullitt is a 5.0-liter V-8 that can make up to 480 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,600 rpm. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to run it on 93-octane gas to achieve these power outputs. The result is acceleration from zero to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds, based on independent testing by other publications, combined with a Ford-claimed top speed of 163 mph. 

You’ll notice that those power peaks are fairly high in the rev range. As a result, depending on the situation and which gear the car is in, you might find yourself wishing for a little more oomph at lower revs. All it takes is a downshift to awaken the beast.

Gift yourself with a deserted strip of pavement, and you can revel in the sensory assault of the engine screaming to redline with a joyous bellow as the car launches toward triple-digit speeds. With the active exhaust set to one of its louder settings, the result is a man-childish yet utterly primal and exhilarating roar, which is just about as therapeutic as screaming into the Icelandic wilderness. 

A 6-speed manual transmission, whimsically topped off with that white cue-ball shift knob, directs the power to the rear wheels. Sure, the throws are notchy and clutch travel is long, but nothing is as rewarding as executing a perfectly timed shift to your preferences. You can even turn on a downshift rev-matching feature in case your heel-and-toe talents are a bit rusty – or non-existent. 

Mustang owners cite the car’s powertrain as their second-favorite thing about the car, after styling. There’s no wondering why.

Fuel Economy

At the same time, owners report that their least favorite characteristic of the Mustang is fuel economy. Again, this comes as no surprise.

When it comes to the Mustang Bullitt, the EPA says the car should average 17 mpg in combined driving (14 city/23 highway). As a result, Ford charges a $1,000 gas-guzzler charge when you buy this car.

During my testing, however, the specially-tuned V-8 returned 18.4 mpg, though the loop did include plenty of highway driving.

Driving Comfort

The Bullitt’s optional Recaro performance seats are exuberantly bolstered to keep you in place when cornering; those wide of girth might find themselves feeling like they’re sitting on the seats instead of in them. Sticking with the standard, non-performance seats provides you with more wiggle room and also includes heating and ventilation functions.

As for the rear seats, well, suffice it to say that they are best used for children. Access is difficult, headroom forces anyone over 5-foot-5 to bend their neck to fit, and legroom is essentially non-existent when anyone over average height is sitting in front.

Climate controls are well marked, but the rocker switches for temperature control aren’t as convenient to use as knobs. On sunny summer days during the test period, the air conditioning proved quite effective in cooling down the cabin.

Driving Feel

The Mustang Bullitt offers a number of drive modes to increase comfort or performance, such as Normal, Sport, Track, Drag Strip, Wet/Snow, and MyMode, which lets you mix-and-match powertrain, steering, suspension, and exhaust settings.

Unlike the lumbering and somewhat primitive Mustangs from the past, which were typically only good to drive in a straight line, the current Mustang actually demonstrates impressive athleticism around corners. Add the optional MagneRide adaptive damping suspension, and you’ll get a car that’s taut while cornering yet compliant over uneven pavement, delivering a perfect blend of comfort and control.

A limited-slip differential, upgraded Brembo brakes, and various tweaks to tighten up the chassis and tune the steering further help the Bullitt dance while driving hard and fast on mountain roads. And while the wide and heavy Bullitt may not outperform smaller, lighter, sports cars when it comes to seriously curvy asphalt, you’ll be able to make up a good amount of distance in the straightaways.

Final Impressions - Find the best Ford deals!

The 2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt may represent a romanticized, Hollywood version of America’s favorite pony car and the stunts you might pull in it, but it has real street credentials to back up the dream. 

But, if you’re not wedded to the idea of making like Steve McQueen on the streets of San Francisco, you may want to wait a few months for the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 to arrive, which is rumored to replace the Bullitt in the Mustang special-edition toybox. 

The new Mustang Mach 1 will give you the same extra performance found in the Bullitt and a handful of unique color choices. Better yet, should you opt for the manual gearbox in lieu of the standard 10-speed automatic transmission, it keeps the cool white cue-ball shifter.

Liz Kim has been writing about cars for two decades, involved in road testing, analyzing, marketing, and pondering about all things automotive. But what she enjoys most is poking around the various corners of Southern California in various test vehicles with her family, in the way cars were meant to be used.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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