Hope. Hype. Handwringing.

That pretty much sums up the long overture to the release of the redesigned 2015 Mustang. Granted, the ‘Stang ain’t the cash cow that is the F-150 pickup, but it is arguably the face and soul of the Ford Motor Company. And being its 50th birthday, this latest-gen Mustang has so much riding on its fetching flanks it’s a wonder the tires don’t pop. Purists were worried that all this talk of ramped-up refinement and four-cylinder turbo power might have turned their stallion into a gelding. Then there’s the fact that the Mustang is now a “World Car” to be sold in most overseas markets. No pressure then.

So let’s cut to the chase.

After spending a couple of days in a pre-production Mustang GT Premium ($42,499), I can unequivocally state this 5.0L V8 coupe kicks its heels with unbridled exuberance. It’s still very much a pony car – fast, hairy and a bit unpredictable. Sanitized it is not.

It looks good too. Better in the metal than in pictures. My unscientific poll shows a 90 percent approval rating. There were a couple of Mustang guys who thought the body was too slick and the back end a bit droopy, but generally this Race Red ‘Stang garnered gawks and thumbs-ups wherever I ventured.

The V8-powered Mustang GT starts at $36,999, and this is the one for enthusiasts. The entry-level 300 hp 3.7L V6 bows at $24,999, and while the $27,999 310-hp, 320 lb-ft 2.3L EcoBoost four gets the job done with reasonable fuel economy, the engine lacks any kind of character. Although with the Performance Package it sure does handle. I haven’t driven the V6.

Bottom line, it’s 435 V8 horses and a 400 lb-ft peak at 4,000 rpm that complete this Mustang picture.

When it comes to legendary Detroit sounds, a V8-powered Mustang is right up there with the back catalogue of Motown Records. Ford has always managed to give these cars a fantastic soundtrack and it continues with the 2015 5.0. The modestly sized twin tailpipes broadcast a robust and well-rounded eight-gun salute from the Coyote V8. My inner greaseball thinks it could be louder though.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium engine bay2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium dashboard
2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium, engine bay, dashboard. Click image to enlarge

Slide yourself into the GT’s well contoured buckets (heated and cooled in the Premium) and you’re presented with a dash that that bids adios to the cheap plasticky fare of the previous car. Yes, it’s still Mustang in here, but a whole lot nicer. The big, round backlit major gauges are labeled Revolutions Per Minute and Ground Speed. Cute. Atop the dash you’ll see gauges for oil pressure and vacuum boost. A row of retro toggles below the eight-inch MyFord Touch interface call up such things as steering feel (comfort, normal, sport), emergency flashers and drive mode (normal, sport, race and winter). The satin brushed aluminum appliques add some classy swagger.

You sit low in the new ‘Stang, and the long hood stretches out ahead. The clutch is firm but not overly heavy, and a poke on the starter button wakes the beast within. First impressions are promising.

Within the first few hundred meters you sense the harmony of the controls. The shifter is short and direct, and its weight perfectly matches that of the clutch and steering.

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