I parked my fire-red Mustang GT next to a $75,000 Jaguar, and the Jag's elegant owner raved: "Is that the new Mustang? It's absolutely gorgeous!" And so it is. From its shark nose to its fastback, the '05 Mustang is a study in full-throttle car design. Its 300-horsepower V-8 engine and snap-tight, five-speed gearbox make this one wild ride. In fact, it was a little too unbridled for my wife, who was rattled by its propensity to fishtail around corners and its deafening engine roar. Oh, sure, it would be nice if Ford offered electronic stability control and had engineered a more road-hugging rear suspension. But that would have boosted the price of this relative bargain and diluted its old-school feel. The interior is a throwback, too, with pie-plate gauges, satin aluminum trim and a beefy three-spoke steering wheel. The coolest new touch, MyColor, lets you adjust the backlight of the gauges to 125 different shades for an extra $450. But what really makes this a horse of a different color: Ford has finally put muscle back into the Mustang.

Tip: On a budget, go with the V-6 version, starting at $19,410.