Sitting at the top of the Ford Mustang line, the ferocious Shelby GT500 carries over with only modest changes since its model-year 2010 redesign in both coupe and convertible versions. Originally conceived as Ford’s answer to the Chevrolet Corvette and the temporarily departed Dodge Viper, the GT500 itself finds new competition in the form of the new-for-2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and its 550-horsepower supercharged V8. The Shelby GT500’s supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine isn’t far off the mark, however, generating a rousing 540 horsepower with an appropriately throaty exhaust note. It can make the 0-to-60 mph sprint in the low four-second range.
A heavy-duty six-speed manual transmission is the only available gearbox, and it’s specially engineered with a twin-disc clutch to reliably handle all that power without undue harshness. While a stick shift is the transmission of choice for purists, less dedicated drivers looking to make an automotive statement while making their rush hour commutes in a Shelby GT500 could well pine for an automatic before long.
The Shelby GT500’s suspension has been upgraded with revised shocks, spring rates and stabilizer bars to help keep all four of its 19-inch wheels and high- performance tires (20-inch rear rims and rubber are alternately offered) planted to the pavement at all times. Beefed-up discs and calipers are added to the car’s antilock braking system to help rein in the car’s 540 galloping horses with authority. The Shelby GT500’s AdvanceTrac stability control system comes with a “Sport” mode that delays intervention to afford more-aggressive cornering with a greater amount of rear-end “drift” than in default mode. It can also be switched off altogether for those who can handle a full degree of slipping and sliding through the curves at speed.
Cosmetically, the Shelby GT500 differs from an ordinary Mustang via a revised front end treatment that’s highlighted by huge air intakes, a specific rear spoiler and dual Le Mans-style stripes running along the top of the vehicle in a nod to earlier Shelby Mustangs’ racing heritage.
The standard Mustang’s interior has been dressed up with leather upholstery, specially textured aluminum accents and a classic white shift knob. Shelby Cobra insignias abound inside and out. As in the standard Mustang, the “MyColor” ambient illumination system is on hand to provide a choice of seven interior lighting colors for the gauges, foot-wells, cup holders and door map pockets.
Also included is the latest version of Ford’s Sync system that makes it possible to operate multiple devices, from cell phones to an iPod, navigation system and audio gear, on a hands-free basis. The optional voice-activated navigation system includes Sirius Travel Link, which provides real-time information on weather, traffic, sports scores, gas prices and movie times on a subscription basis.
The Shelby GT500 looks to carry on its tradition of delivering maximum thrills and chills with refinements that nonetheless make it a bit more civilized ride. It re- mains a brash and brazen muscle car that puts more effort into overt performance than it does overall subtlety – a BMW M6 it is not. Those looking to go fast and look good doing it while still not necessarily breaking the bank in the process will appreciate its merits.
Ford Shelby GT500 Quick Facts
Engine: 5.4-liter Supercharged V8
Horsepower: 550 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 510 @ 4,250 rpm
City/Highway: MPG 15/23
Transmission: 6-Spd Manual
Wheelbase: 107.1 in
Overall Length: 188.1 in
Width: 73.9 in
Height: 55.6 in
Curb Weight: 3,820 lbs
Did You Know?
Legendary racecar driver and noted performance-car king Carroll Shelby has long been connected with the Ford Mustang, first lending the automaker his expertise to help create the 1964 GT-350R racer, and later, the 1965 Mustang GT350 production car. According to Wikipedia, 14,915 Shelby Mustangs were produced between 1965 and 1970. These include 1,251 units of the legendary 1968 GT500KR “King of the Road” coupe and convertible. Among the most powerful models of the muscle-car age, the GT500KR came powered by a big block 428-cubic-inch “Cobra Jet” V8 engine. The collaboration continued anew in 2007 with the Ford Shelby GT500, which was, and is, the ultimate-performance version of the venerable Mustang.