We sample the GT with both available transmissions, the standard 6-speed manual and the optional 10-speed automatic. While the manual trans might seem like the natural fit for a car like this, the automatic is the clear choice for anyone with a traffic-clogged commute. The automatic still provides plenty of enjoyment, thanks to a range of driving modes and adapting algorithms that help wring every bit of performance from the big V-8.

We’ll admit to moments of pure exhilaration in the manual-equipped Mustang GT, downshifting to keep the revs and aural accompaniment at peak while guiding the nimble handler around canyon corners and ripping through exhaust-echoing tunnels. The muscular shifter is short and precise, while clutch effort is heavy enough to remind us we’re driving a serious performance machine.

Our testers are fitted with Performance Pack Level 1 upgrades such as MagneRide adaptive shock absorbers and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S summer tires that combine to give the GT a sure level of grip and suspension control.

But even base Mustangs come equipped with standard parts borrowed from the previous edition’s Performance Pack, including monotube rear shocks, a stiffer front stabilizer bar and cross-axis joints. All Mustangs are enabled to select from five modes, Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport Plus, Track or Drag Strip, as well as a personalized setting dubbed My Mode.

The options affect shift points, throttle mapping, downshifts, steering effort, exhaust sound and suspension stiffness (in MagneRide-equipped models). Separately, the GT’s active exhaust system offers four modes: Normal, Sport, Track and time-of-day-configurable Quiet Start.

Our runs in the automatic-trans GT prove equally enjoyable, but for different reasons. When dialed up to Sport Plus mode, the gearbox does an admirable job of keeping the engine on edge, quickly responding to a punch on the accelerator or a paddle-induced downshift. Left to its own algorithms, the automatic adjusts to one’s driving style, performs rev-matched, throttle-lift downshifts and doesn’t hesitate when jumping from 10th gear to fourth in an instant.

Then there’s the aforementioned Drag Strip mode, taken to a whole different level with the V-8. On what seems like nothing short of a rocket-propelled launch, the GT in Drag Strip mode accelerates to its now-7,500-rpm redline, slams into second gear with authority and pushes toward triple digits long before third gear takes over and sanity – let alone speed limits – require lifting. Drag Strip mode doesn’t truncate torque between shifts so all the high engine-speed inertia transfers directly to the wheels, Barnes says.