I was somewhere like the Detroit Auto Show press days when Ford teased the GT500, which was many months before the launch, and they teased that it would be more than 700hp. I thought, ok, that’s cool.

Now that it’s on the ground, some things have changed.

What’s powering the Shelby is a 5.2 litre all-aluminum V8 with a compact supercharger sitting on top. It’s not a dry-sump motor, but has a structural, baffled oil pan. Unlike the GT350 it’s a cross-plane crank.

 

It makes power like a supercharged V8 should – and forget 700HP, in production specification, it makes a glorious 760 HP…at 7300 RPM. Maximum torque is 625 pounds is up there at 5000 RPM. It’s true to its big supercharged V8 character with those high power and torque peaks.

Still, it revs freely, and there’s plenty of power and torque above 2500 rpm for quick acceleration any time you like.

Power goes through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox – yes, a dual-clutch in a Mustang – and transferred to the rear axle via a carbon fibre driveshaft. The rear differential is a mechanical limited-slip with a 3.73 final drive.

 

I did take this GT500 to a Cars & Coffee and it was a bit of a hit. The Mustang nerds came out of the woodwork to see it and popping the hood is the fun bit.

You see, there’s a conventional lever at the bottom of the A-pillar like every modern car. Then…you’ve got to pop the two hood pins…and then move the standard latch to raise the hood. Now, I’ve used hood pins on race cars for years, but THESE pins are something else. They’re not crude like race parts, but rather finely finished and nicely engineered pins for a production car application. These things are trick.

Dampers are the modern MagneRide adaptive type and they’re excellent. Once an exclusive to General Motors, these are now found on everything from Audis to Ferraris, and this latest generation works brilliantly.

The Brembo brakes are enormous and certainly not overkill on the street. Two-piece rotors at all four corners, 420mm front, 370 mm rear, clamped by six-piston calipers at the front, and four-piston rear. Of course the calipers are painted red. And, no, carbon ceramic brakes are not available. Neither is a front axle lift system, which isn’t necessary based on my experience, but these are areas where Ford Performance clearly drew the line.

Of course, with all the tech on board, there is launch control, line lock (great for those Cars and Coffee burnout artists), three levels of steering assist, four levels of exhaust baffling, and a range of drive modes.

 

On the outside, the front grille is noticeably larger than the GT350, clearly for cooling this massive V8 and it works. Never once have I found it to run hot, even when I’m shagging this Shelby. Under the louvered hood, there is a removable Aluminum rain tray which gives you more cooling and downforce if you take it out. Also, the front fenders are wider to fit the massive wheels.

Speaking of which, the 20-inch wheels are unique to the GT500, 11 inches wide, though the optional carbon wheels are 11.5 wide at the rear.

So, plenty of people have asked what’s this like compared to the ZL1. I can comment, but I can only comment about the 1LE version. The GT500 isn’t as hardcore as the 1LE, even with carbon package because spring rates don’t change. The 1LE is punishing on the road while this GT500 is pretty comfortable. The 1LE does indeed have a manual transmission available, which is something the GT500 does not.

On the other hand, GT500 owners can claim a complimentary one-day Ford Performance school, which I highly recommend. If only to avoid innocent GT500s getting hurt leaving Cars & Coffees…

Other than the Carbon Fibre Track Package, this Grabber Lime GT500 has just about everything. $76,425 base price, all prices here US dollars of course. Added to this tester were top and side stripes, the excellent Recaro seats, the needed tech package, which includes the Bang & Olufsen sound system, and the Handling package option. In total, this car is just shy of $83,000.

For what it’s worth, the Gurney flap and front wickers of the Handling Package option weren’t in the car when it was delivered to me and if they were, I would have installed them, simply out of curiosity.

I would have loved it if this car included the Carbon Fibre Track Package option and I understand why it’s not on all GT500s in their press fleet. First, it’s expensive, and if you REALLY have to ask, you can’t afford it. It includes the Recaros you see on this car, ultra-lightweight carbon fibre wheels, Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires, the front wickers and a different wing that’s meant to resemble that of the Mustang GT4 race car. The package also deletes the useless rear seats. Sounds like perfection to me.

Ford likes to call this a segment-first dual-clutch and that is entirely true. While there are plenty of arguments by people in one corner of the automotive community for manual transmission, after driving this GT500 for a few days, it’s obvious that the seven-speed dual clutch is the right way to go. It shifts lightning quick, both up and down the box, but the way the engine is tuned to manage shifts makes it sound literally, well, cracking. If you want to hear what it sounds like, press play on this video.

The engine revs remarkably freely for such a big lump, but those shifts are so satisfying with their speed, buttery smoothness and that sound. I simply can’t say enough about how well the drivetrain is tuned to work in harmony. That’s the best way to describe it. It’s harmony…and it’s harmonic

One of the coolest things is that the GT500 owner’s manual has recommended track set ups, for both the Handling and Carbon option packages. There are clear recommendations for aero, alignment and tire pressure. Given the way modern tires work, this is just brilliant and gets the track day novice right in the optimal set up range.

 

First, before you even turn the steering wheel, the Alcantara feels great in your hand. That said, hustling this GT500 through corners is easy. Simply point the car where you want it to go and it responds. Lean into the throttle on corner exit and it puts down power so easily. As if it had hundreds of horsepower less, but still pulls out of a corner as if it’s hooked to a rocket.

Plenty of credit goes to the Michelin tires, which are the best of the best these days, as well as the fully resolved suspension calibrations. Everything – from spring and damper rates, sway bars, geometry – works brilliantly together.

The Magneride dampers give the GT500 excellent wheel and body control, and the car never gets out of sorts. You always feel confident behind the wheel. No doubt, this is the best handling Mustang of all time.

I can’t say enough about the way it brakes either. Plenty of braking power and excellent control – again – give you tremendous confidence to place this Mustang on that proverbial dime.

For all of the driving I’m doing, which is purely on the road, these steel brakes have never complained, which may be the reason carbon ceramics aren’t available. Perhaps these steel brakes are just that good. I won’t know until I have a good go at a track day, but if you’ve got a steady touch, I can’t imagine you’ll run out of brakes.

In case you’re wondering, it’ll do zero to 60 in less than 3.5 seconds and the quarter in well under 11. I don’t doubt these numbers. The GT500 is ridiculously quick. It’s apparently governed to 180 mph, but I didn’t find out, despite how easy it would be. It’s so quick that 150 mph is easily accessible…so hanging on a little longer to hit that limiter wouldn’t take much more.

 

At the GT500’s price point, Ford had to make some compromises and among them, one must be the inclusion of a mechanical limited-slip diff at the exclusion of an e-diff. Sure an e-diff might add a bit of versatility, but from where I’m sitting it works just fine. It puts down power like butter and is still confident and stable under braking. They’ve done a perfect job tuning this package.

Overall, I averaged a tick over TWELVE miles per gallon, which translated into four tanks of fuel in five days. So remember to support our merch store, please. Please.

Is this greater than the sum of its parts? Heck yeah. It’s brilliant and certainly my favourite American car for its power, performance, balance, poise, and value. It’s so good, it’s worth every penny dealers are getting over MSRP.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
Base Price: $76,425
As Tested: $82,875, plus $1,750 freight (but good luck getting one at MSRP!)
Drivetrain: 5.2-litre, all-aluminum, supercharged V8, 760 horsepower, 625 lb-ft, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, mechanical limited-slip differential. 
VVUZZ Recommended: A truly legendary Mustang. 

 

Images courtesy and copyright of the author.

Published on Feb 02, 2020