Perhaps the most dramatic change, in addition to an all-new architecture, will be integration of an independent rear suspension replacing the solid rear axle that had been a hallmark for generations of Mustangs.

A new rear end forced the team to redesign the front suspension as well, opting for a double-balljoint configuration in place of reverse-L MacPherson struts. The new front suspension allowed for bigger brakes.

Barnes says the result is a massive improvement in ride quality. “We still have that very agile and nimble car,” he says. “The steering and handling are still there. Under acceleration, the car stays flatter. When braking, it stays flatter.”

Barnes is convinced Mustang lovers will prefer the independent rear suspension, although he admits the switch creates more work for drag racers.

“But if you’re that hard core, you put in your own back end,” he says. “That’s what will happen.”

Overall, the development team liked the proportions of the current Mustang, so the length is about the same. But the car is 1.4 ins. (35 mm) lower across the hood, roof and trunk, and it’s 1.5 ins. (39 mm) wider. “It really gives the car the appearance like it’s moving,” he says.

Barnes says the new Mustang will meet pedestrian-protection requirements in Europe. GT models with the V-8 in North America will have hood vents, but Barnes says those hood vents might not be available in Europe due to the safety mandate.

Inside, the sport coupe cabin is completely redone.

“We have high-end materials, lots of features, and we made sure the room was still there for the driver,” Barnes says. “We lowered the roof and the seat with it, and we gave some more width. We added a bunch of storage bins, a lot of electronic controls, blindspot indicator and autonomous cruise control.”

Ford has sold more than 9 million Mustangs since the car went into production 50 years ago. Considering the modern take on the new model, it seems likely the iconic nameplate will stick around a while longer.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com