Sedans & Coupes

Which Is the Faster Turbo Four, a Ford Mustang EcoBoost or a Volkswagen Jetta GLI?

The Mustang EcoBoost is proof that Ford’s sports car doesn’t necessarily need a V8 to be fun. Especially with its optional High Performance Package. But turbocharged four-cylinders have long been the purview of hot hatches. And, in the case of the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, hot sedans. So, which is faster? Throttle House decided to find out.

The 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost and Volkswagen Jetta GLI is classic RWD vs. FWD

2019 Ford Mustang Ecoboost
2019 Ford Mustang Ecoboost | Ford

Although both the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost and Volkswagen Jetta GLI have turbocharged four-cylinder engines, they don’t drive the same wheels. The Mustang is a rear-wheel-drive coupe, while the Jetta GLI is a FWD sedan.

The 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Throttle House tested didn’t have the HPP equipment. Still, its 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes 310 hp and 350 lb-ft. And with the 10-speed automatic, the ‘Stang goes 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, Car and Driver reports. The ¼-mile passes in 13.5 seconds.

A gray 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI drives by a city bridge
2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI | Volkswagen

If the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI’s name sounds familiar, that’s because it shares a lot of its hardware with the Golf GTI hot hatch. It legitimately is “a GTI with a trunk,” Car and Driver reports. The Jetta GLI has the GTI’s rear suspension, its limited-slip differential, and its front brakes, which come from the Golf R, Road & Track reports.

The Volkswagen Jetta GLI also has the GTI’s engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder rated at 228 hp and 258 lb-ft. Plus, while it offers a 6-speed manual, a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. That’s the transmission Throttle House tested.

The rear 3/4 view of a gray 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn driving on a desert plains road
2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn rear 3/4 | Volkswagen

Although it’s down on power, the Volkswagen GLI weighs about 550 pounds less than the Ford Mustang EcoBoost. Unfortunately, on paper, that doesn’t seem to help. In Car and Driver’s testing, the sedan went 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. And its ¼-mile time is 0.7 seconds slower than the Mustang’s time.

How did Throttle House compare these two cars?

Throttle House ran three drag races to compare the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost and Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

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The first two tests were traditional standing-start ¼-mile races, one with traction control and one without. The last race was a rolling-start race, meant to remove any launch difficulties or software benefits.

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Interestingly, although it doesn’t accelerate as quickly as the Mustang, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI could beat it in the rolling race. Admittedly, its 5-60 mph time is still 0.5 seconds behind the Mustang’s time, Car and Driver reports. However, Car and Driver found the Jetta GLI’s top gear 30-50 mph time is exactly the same as the Mustang EcoBoost’s time. Oddly, though, the Ford Mustang EcoBoost has the faster top gear 50-70 mph time.

But that’s all on paper. What happened when real tires hit the real pavement?

Could the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI keep up with the Ford Mustang EcoBoost?

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Sadly, although the 2020 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is lighter than the Ford Mustang EcoBoost, it couldn’t overcome the power disparity. It lost all three races to the Mustang.

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Interestingly, though, that might be due to having too much power. The Throttle House hosts noted that the Jetta GLI smoked its tires more than the Mustang did. And the sedan managed to keep up with the coupe better during the rolling race, likely because it wasn’t doing a mini-burnout. Perhaps with better tires, things might have ended differently.

However, in the end, in standard form, the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost is faster than the Volkswagen Jetta GLI.

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