Back in my day (not too long ago) Mustangs were the king of the block. The 5.0L Fox-body was a relatively compact chassis and had a potent V8 with loads of aftermarket support. Over the years, the imports caught up and toppled the mighty Mustang in every conceivable way. However, in the last few years Detroit has come out swinging with hit after hit in the automotive world. Your performance car isn’t worth much unless it’s cranking out 400+ horsepower with sweeping technological advancements.
Now that the Ford GT is gone, there is a new Halo car in town. It is equally powerful, carries a long lineage of greatness and in my opinion, looks even better than the Ford GT. The 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 has stormed onto the marketplace yet again with all kinds of improvements and a more refined look than the previous version. The new 'snake' exudes a modern quality as opposed to the hasty redesign of a 1960’s fastback that it replaced. Right down to the most miniscule detail, the new GT500 seems of a higher caliber craftsmanship and attention to detail at every turn. But what has turned buyers on this time around is a new V8 that will leave your heart thumping well after you turn off the ignition.
The 2011 Shelby GT500 features a supercharged 5.4L alloy block V8 with aluminum heads. The new mill puts down 550 horsepower and 510lb-ft of torque that springs to life at virtually any RPM. From the SVT cold air intake to the 'Ford blue' crinkle finish valve covers, this hand-built engine even has a prominent stamped plate with the signatures of the craftsmen who assembled it. The sinister growl of the 5.4L is unmistakably Mustang and is audible from blocks away according to my neighbors.
Mated to a six-speed Tremec gearbox, the 540 ponies feed into a limited-slip differential nestled inside Ford’s controversial solid rear axle. Since this is a true muscle car, no automatic transmission is available either. The gearing allows the ‘Stang to always be in the power band, although we did find the gates a tad hard to find and the clutch a little on the stiff side. We still mustered some blistering 4.6-second 0-60mph rips with a quarter mile of 12.7-seconds, both of which were accomplished with the traction control turned off.
As for the chassis, it is certainly a hefty one. Tipping the scales at 3,820lbs, the GT500 is over 200 pounds heavier than a new Mustang GT. The majority of the weight is up front, thanks to a 56/44 weight distribution so the car tends to want to plow, but the improved suspension and throttle response compensate for that. The solid rear axle may be the choice of drag racers everywhere but it sure makes it a curious beast to drive hard. The heavily sprung car may stiffen the suspension for improved handling but that can certainly be felt over all of the sharper bumps. Overall, it is a sportier ride than the GT and, in most cases, livable. The steering is precise but touchy at highway speeds, meaning you don’t want to be fiddling with your BlackBerry because this car demands your full attention. The braking for this bruiser was also improved with Brembos all around that haul in the reins and pull this pony from 60mph to a dead stop in only 106 feet.
The classic exterior treatment continues into the cabin, while cracking the door is almost like stepping into a time machine. The flared dash panels house old school analogue gauges, while the centre console feels decidedly more modern with an optional Next Gen touch screen DVD navigation unit and soft-touch buttons. The high back seats are supportive along the spine but could use some side bolsters, given the potential for violence around corners. Suede accents abound and the black leather seats feature a pair of distinct white stripes to mimic the exterior stripe package. Visibility is moderate considering you kind of sink into this car, and the sweeping C-pillars don’t help. The rear seats make for a 2+2 application and although they may look the part, they don’t fold down. Lucky for buyers the trunk is huge, but really, are you going to be hauling 2x4s in this beast?
From every angle, our Race Red Shelby GT500 had great presence. With its aggressive stance and raked angles, the car turned heads wherever it roamed. Of course, once you own one, everyone will be your new best friend wanting a joy ride, a photo-op or a few stabs at the gas to hear it rev. The front fascia redesign has a sharper more upscale look with unique biomechanical headlight enclosures with HIDs. The LED tails are redesigned as well with the striking sequential signal feature harkening back to Fords and Mercurys of yesteryear. The fit and finish of the panels is top notch, as is the paint and striping kit. Along with the SVT Track Pack are forged alloy wheels finished in gunmetal, which gives the GT500 a more exotic appearance. The rollers are wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 radials sized in 265/40R19 and a healthy 285/35R20 out in the backyard.
The Shelby GT500 is the total package. At $60-grand there isn’t much to compare it to since it throws down the kind of numbers normally reserved for the $100,000+ club. We wanted the car to be something special, and it definitely provided a memorable experience with big grins during every effortless smokey burn-out. Naturally, there are more parts available for Mustangs than almost any other platform out there if you wanted to improve performance. We can’t imagine what engineers have dreamed up for this menace to the roads, but I’m sure we’ll see it in person at the 2010 SEMA Show.
Base Price: $60,449
Price as Tested: $64,749
Output: 550hp with 510lb-ft
Drivetrain: 6-Speed Tremec gearbox
0-60mph = 4.6-seconds
¼ mile = 12.7s
60-0mph = 106-feet
Tested with V-Box Performance Meter