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It’s RWD vs. AWD in This Ford Mustang EcoBoost vs. Subaru WRX Drag Race

The Mustang EcoBoost, even without a V8, shows there’s plenty of life in Ford’s rear-wheel-drive sports car platform. However, when it comes to high-performance four-cylinder cars, the Subaru WRX looms large thanks in part to AWD. But which is really the faster car? That’s what Throttle House wanted to find out.

The 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost and Subaru WRX have similar yet different approaches to speed

2019 Ford Mustang Ecoboost
2019 Ford Mustang Ecoboost | Ford

The 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost in Throttle House’s test didn’t have the optional High Performance Package, which includes extra horsepower. However, it may not necessarily need it.

The Ford Mustang EcoBoost has a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 310 hp and 350 lb-ft, Automobile reports. It comes standard with a 6-speed manual, but the example tested by Throttle House had the optional 10-speed automatic. Which, from a speed perspective, is actually the better option, Car and Driver reports.

The automatic adds roughly 200 pounds to the Mustang’s curb weight. However, it lets Ford’s pony car go 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, Car and Driver reports. The manual isn’t far behind, but its 0-60 mph time is 0.1 seconds slower. It’s a similar story with the Ford Mustang EcoBoost’s ¼-mile; the automatic finishes 0.2 seconds ahead.

A red 2020 Subaru WRX Limited drives through a forest
2020 Subaru WRX Limited | Subaru

Although the 2020 Subaru WRX has AWD, it has a smaller engine than the Ford Mustang EcoBoost. The WRX’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is also less powerful, with 268 hp and 258 lb-ft, Car and Driver reports. It’s about 210 pounds lighter than the Mustang, though.

However, to keep the comparison somewhat even, like the Mustang, the Subaru WRX tested came with its CVT automatic. And unfortunately, the WRX’s CVT slows it down. The automatic-equipped car goes 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds, 0.3 seconds slower than the manual car, Motor Trend reports. Plus, the automatic Subaru WRX’s ¼-mile time is 0.5 seconds slower than the manual’s time.

Throttle House’s testing and RWD vs. AWD

Throttle House’s comparison testing was fairly straightforward.

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The cars lined up on the drag strip for three ¼-mile drag races. The first two were from a standing start, one with launch control, and one without. The final race was from a rolling start. That eliminates any issues surrounding the launch and focuses purely on the cars’ transmission and engine tuning.

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On paper, though, it seems like these races were the Subaru WRX’s to lose. This despite AWD cars having a traction and acceleration advantage due to having four driven wheels. That’s why the BMW M5 moved to AWD–having only two driven wheels made putting its power down difficult.

However, Throttle House co-host Thomas Holland noted that the Ford Mustang EcoBoost’s automatic can be “temperamental,” even when it’s in drag-strip mode. Plus, unlike the Mustang, the Subaru WRX has launch control.

Which car won, the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost or Subaru WRX?

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Unfortunately, despite its AWD system, the 2020 Subaru WRX couldn’t overcome the Ford Mustang EcoBoost’s power advantage. In all three races, the WRX finished behind the Mustang.

Admittedly, the Subaru WRX was on the Mustang EcoBoost’s trunk at the end of the first race. And it was only roughly a car-length behind the Ford in the second race. But it simply fell behind in the rolling race.

The results could have been different if the races were run on, say, gravel or snow. But in the end, on normal pavement, the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost is faster than the Subaru WRX.

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