Let’s talk context for a moment, because when it comes to cars and the UK, the idea of a burly Ford Mustang with stripes, superchargers and 750bhp sitting in the Waitrose parking lot is almost in line with the norm. panda sitting quietly on a bench at Westminster Abbey. Immediately there was something special about the Mustang in the UK, and when it was the GT500 – deemed too loud, too dirty and too extreme to be considered for European homologation by Ford itself – that factor increased tenfold.
Shaped like a ’90s touring car, it looks completely different from the standard Mustang GT, and while it’s a bit cumbersome to drive, its bombastic muscle car image is nonetheless appealing. But it’s always been the US-only Shelby models, first the GT350 (now discontinued) and now this GT500, which have been the highlight of this Mustang generation, and not for their supreme power but their unequivocal focus on dynamics and engagement – which we often need to remind ourselves of. most major OEMs are two very different things.
So what’s so special about the latest Shelby GT500? Well, a lot, starting with the aptly-named ‘Predator’ 5.2-liter V8 engine based on the ‘Voodoo’ unit used by the GT350, but ditching the flat-plane crank for the more traditional cross-plane unit mostly to handle the Roots 2-type Supercharger, 65 liters upside down on it. The Voodoo’s upgraded interior has been carried over as well, with bigger and more powerful con rods and high-flow cylinder heads. All these changes free up not only extra power, but 625lb ft of torque as well.
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Ford made the conscious decision to only pair the GT500 with an automatic transmission (as opposed to the GT350’s mandatory six-speed manual), but instead of staying home with a sticky ten-speed torque converter, Ford Performance made the decision to go with seven speeds. -double-acceleration clutch from Tremec instead, although ten speeds are technically capable of handling incredible torque figures. The drive is then run through a carbon fiber propshaft to a limited-slip differential.
So far, the changes appear to be in line with the muscle car norm by adding lots of power and torque. But unlike most other muscle cars, these technical changes are only the beginning of Ford’s comprehensive upgrade package, as more attention is paid to the chassis.
To get started, open the hood and, yes, you’ll find a massive supercharger, but also a new composite front crash structure, behind which sits a completely bespoke front axle and geometry setup. This substantial change in construction has allowed Ford engineers to do all sorts of things on the GT500 set-up, including installing a bespoke aluminum wheel hub, installing more negative camber to promote a much more direct and accurate steering rack.
The front track width is identical to that of the GT350, but the 500’s 11-inch wide front wheel on 305-section tires requires extra clearance from the front wing, so it’s also bespoke. Holding on to the wheels, they’ve also now gone up another inch in diameter to 20 inches to fit a colossal set of 420mm steel brake discs with six-piston Brembo calipers up front.
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The rear subframe has also been tweaked, featuring stiffer mounting points and opposite coil springs that keep each side of the rear axle symmetrical. There’s also bushier stiffness throughout the front and rear suspension, and the dampers are excellent MagneRide units that use metal filings in damper fluid that react in milliseconds in changing their compression and rebound levels.
But as any backyard tuner will know, installing bulky hardware on a Mustang doesn’t necessarily result in a car with great performance. But boy did Ford engineers work some wonders, because when the 750bhp powertrain doesn’t dominate the experience, the chassis should be pretty special. And it.
Yes, the GT500 is insanely fast, and when the ‘Track’ exhaust mode is selected I can’t think of any louder street car, but the cohesion between the steering, brakes, throttle, transmission and differential feels very sharp. The steering is the first big win over what you’ll find in a regular Mustang, because while it’s not soulful, it’s very direct and believable. This is especially impressive when you consider the Pilot Sport 4S 610mm rubber that the steering arm has to control, not forgetting the aggressive negative camber and the Ford engineers put into the setup.
But on the go, it’s this direct interaction with the steering wheel that gives you the confidence to start exploring the GT500’s very deep box of tricks. As speed increases, so does steering weight, loading with transparency and conveying exactly how much grip the front axle can give you. And that’s a lot – the front end of this car is insane, and that’s extrapolated by the Shelby’s faster steering rack.
Start leaning against it and you also notice the body control is amazing, with impressive lateral stability offset by enough roll to help the chassis communicate how much grip is left for the car to give at either end. Yes, at 1825kg, it’s a tough monster, but with so much grip, so much jolt and so much stopping power, it really is in the realm of control. Now your confidence is growing and freedom can start to be taken with the powertrain. With so much grunt that you might imagine it would be impossible to drive with real power in a short amount of time, but all the elements of the chassis quell concerns about using up all 750bhp – it’s a most surreal feeling. A long throttle pedal, not unique to this Mustang alone, is essential here to help gauge your power delivery, while differential consistency and the rear axle’s excellent resistance to lateral movement give you great traction.
Now the GT500 is the most exciting – you start testing it, pushing it, seeing how much you can get away with before things start to feel out of control, but whenever you want to backtrack you realize the colossal brakes and electronic stability control system are incredibly there to support you.
The dual clutch now presents itself – responsive, predictable and completely unobtrusive when it comes to getting power onto the road. At this point, you find yourself ripping into gear into a full incline corner, braking harder, turning more aggressively, gaining power early and early, throttle, transmission and differential putting out bhp to the exact amount you asked for. for. It’s just beyond that point of adhesion, when the rear axle tells you through the seat (which is still a little high) that it’s going to give way and the steering lightens just to let you know it’s on the edge.
Now you don’t notice the width, or even the noise. Instead, you are completely engrossed in one of the most exciting and engaging experiences in the car business, and above all a truly unique experience for this very special car. The automotive world is full of stunning performance cars, but the best always goes beyond engines, leaving only the experience for you.
It uses a lot of fuel (like a lot), the CO2 rating is terrible, it’s loud in ridiculous exhaust mode and the interior is still ugly, but where driving sensation is concerned, there are few that do like the Shelby GT500 Mustang.
Price and competition
Did we mention that you can’t buy the GT500 officially in the UK? Importers and street vendors will be happy to get one, but it’s going to be a whore left, and probably in the £135,000 range by the time you get it here, excluding taxes. In the US, it’s closer to the cost of the M4 Competition, or around £55,000. It makes reading difficult, doesn’t it?
As a result, while the M4 still excels dynamically, it is a very different car. A Dodge Challenger Hellcat may initially pull on the same metrics, but it’s been completely outclassed by the GT500, and Chevrolet’s love-hate relationship with the Camaro has left the super high-performance variant at a disadvantage for now, despite past hits with the ZL1.