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2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium Test Drive Is a Double-Sided Proposition

Enthusiasts always say they want the V-8, but the turbo-4-powered Mustang remains enjoyable.

Billy RehbockWriter, Photographer

One of the unwritten rules in the automotive enthusiast community is, don't build a car that looks faster than it is. Take the hardcore Mercedes-AMG GT-R or the Porsche 911 GT2 RS track star: each has aggressive intakes and wings, but is as fast and rewarding to drive as it looks. However, cars like the slinky Plymouth Prowler or gullwing-toting DMC Delorean have the style but not the moves. So, I was intrigued when I scheduled a test drive of the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium.

I've driven and reviewed a number of Mustang GT variants in the past, like the Roush Ford Mustang Stage 3, but I joined Automobile too late to sample our Four Seasons Mustang Ecoboost. I therefore wondered which group this Grabber Lime Mustang EcoBoost Premium would fall into: thriller or mood killer?

Surprise: This Is an Affordable Luxury Coupe

Here's a good way to stratify what Ford offers with the 2020 Mustang EcoBoost Premium: For $32,780, buyers get a leather-lined sports coupe complete with a manual transmission, phone connectivity, heated and ventilated seats, and a punchy powertrain. Our Mustang for this test also had the Black Accent package ($995) and the optional 10-speed automatic transmission ($1,595), bringing the total sticker price to $35,370.

I was certainly self-conscious driving such a conspicuous car; the pastel green paint coupled with 18-inch black wheels, plus other darkened bits like the front splitter and rear diffuser, made quite a visual statement. But the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium lacks the Mustang GT's V-8, along with its 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. At a stop sign, I watched helplessly as a guy ripped away from the intersection in his Mustang GT equipped with the Performance Pack, and I just knew he felt smug about having a much more capable car than me.

On the Money

That's probably a bit unfair, as Ford's turbocharged 2.3-liter engine produces 310 hp and 350 lb-ft in this application, placing the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium squarely in the sport-compact category. The 10-speed automatic transmission shuffles through gears without much disruption in power delivery, and it doesn't get confused when called upon for a manual downshift via the steering-wheel mounted paddles.

The Mustang EcoBoost Premium found itself at home in the canyons north of Los Angeles, always a good test-drive route. Its footprint feels substantial but its nimbleness and eagerness to turn into corners rewarded on even the most technical parts of the drive. Maximum torque is available at 3,000 rpm, which feels late off the line, but it's easy to keep the coupe in the powerband when you shift for yourself.

The suspension tuning is perfect for anything our test-drive roads could throw at the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium. The passive shocks deliver a comfortable ride, and body control remains composed throughout tight corners and sweeping bends.

Our Mustang EcoBoost Premium test car came equipped with all-season tires, but it is easy to imagine how much more thrilling the High Performance Package must be. As it was, I never felt like I was losing grip, whether launching off the line or hanging on in the bends, but I couldn't help but wonder how much more confident I'd feel with some stickier rubber at my disposal.

Stigma-Defying Mustang

I've noticed a lot of hate toward non-V-8 muscle cars on social media, but I think it's important to draw the distinction between a sports coupe like this one and a full-blown muscle car. The 2020 Mustang EcoBoost Premium generates power figures superior to every hot hatch now on the market, and it has the dynamic capabilities to take the bore out of your daily slog. Grabber Lime may be a bit extra for anything less capable than a Mustang equipped with the High Performance Package, but I'll never knock anything that breaks up the monotony of the black, white, and grey cars that dominate cities and highways.

Meanwhile, Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system works notably well, and ventilated seats are a blessing when the Southern California sun gets too hot. Sure, there's quite a lot of plastic in the cabin, but the leather seats are both comfortable and supportive.

With average transaction prices of new cars reaching $37,000 these days, I'll wager that this lightly optioned 2020 Mustang EcoBoost Premium is a good buy for those who hope for a little spirit in their daily commute. Ford's coupe is spritely and well-equipped, and it does have some decent performance chops to at least partially fit its provocative appearance.

2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $34,375/$35,370 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.3L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/310 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 350 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 21/32 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 188.5 x 75.4 x 54.3 in
WHEELBASE 107.1 in
WEIGHT 3,532 lb
0-60 MPH 6.0 sec
TOP SPEED 155 mph