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The current class of muscle cars and pony cars sure contains some strong personalities, but there's no model that has it all quite like the 2014 Ford Mustang.

While the Mustang's design goes back to 2005, Ford has subbed in world-class engines, seen the car through some serious chassis and drivability upgrades, and made the interior and features list classier and more upscale. And that puts it on very solid ground against rival models like the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger—or for V-6 models, an expanded set that includes the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Nissan 370Z.

What you get is a well-rounded Coupe or Convertible that can have a throaty, near-exotic V-8 exhaust note, phenomenally quick acceleration, and surprisingly deft handling, considering its aged live-rear-axle layout. Yet inside, the Mustang can be a comfortable street-cruiser, grand-tourer, or commuter, with many of the comforts, amenities, and convenience items—and yes, even active-safety features—that you'll find in sedans.

With a round of improvements last year, the 5.0-liter V-8 engine is up to 420 horsepower, while the top-performance Shelby GT500 and its 662-horsepower, 5.8-liter supercharged V-8 push Mustang performance to (almost) insanity. Yes, 200 mph. If you need a reality check, it's good to know that the base 2014 Ford Mustang V-6 is plenty quick—enough to turn out six-second 0-60 times (even faster by some stopwatches) and yet earn a 31-mpg EPA highway rating. All at around $23k for the Coupe.

In the case of either the V-6 or the V-8, you have a choice between a six-speed manual gearbox and a six-speed automatic, and we fervently vote for the manual. Yes, you'll get a little more road noise and gear whine in the cabin, but it's worth it, as both of these engines are revvers; the V-6 especially comes to life if you run it well above the 3,000-rpm mark.

Cabin appointments are also simply much better sorted in the Mustang, compared to the Camaro as well as many other sporty coupes. The driving position feels right, and the design of the dash nods to the past while marrying the nostalgia with some modern details, like great lighting, and soft-touch dash materials. Opt for the awesome Recaro seats if you plan to take to the track, but even the base seats aren't bad.

In Convertible form, the Mustang is one of the few models that will fit friends in for a short street-cruise on a summer night; the soft top is tight-fitting, but you'll lose some of the Coupe's ride refinement—and we also vote for the Coupe if you want to take full advantage of the Mustang's handling.

Getting around to features, you have quite the potential to build exactly the 'Stang you want, through a long list of appearance packages—as well as a few performance ones (look to the V-6 Performance Package, the GT Track Package, or the Brembo Brake Package if you're dreaming of the performance potential.

There's no MyFord Touch yet (we know some will breathe a sigh of relief), but there is a good 4.2-inch display screen, available Sync connectivity, and standard MyKey to keep the teenage drivers (and valets) out of trouble. Options include Shaker 500-watt audio, dual-zone climate control, and even active-safety extras like blind-spot mirrors and a rearview camera system.

An all-new 2015 Ford Mustang is expected to bow next year.

Quick Specs

Engine Regular Unleaded V-6, 3.7 L
EPA Class Subcompact Cars
Style Name 2dr Conv V6
Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
Passenger Capacity 4
Passenger Doors 2
Body Style Convertible
Transmission Transmission: 6-Speed Manual

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