2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Review [video]

Ford’s Shelby GT500 blends the best of the past with the present

2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Review [video]

If the Tesla Roadster is the way forward for the American auto industry – lightweight, silent, powered by electricity, then the Ford Shelby GT500 is a brutal, booming, belligerent glance at the glorious past of Detroit. With Ford’s announcement that the next Mustang will ditch the retro styling, it might also be the last.


1. For 2011 the Shelby GT500 gets a 10-hp increase for a total of 550-hp.

2. An all new aluminum block V8 for 2011 cuts 102 lbs from the car, most of it over the front end.

3. An SVT Performance package adds staggered 19-inch front and 20-inch rear forged aluminum wheels, Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G: 2 tires, a 3.73 rear end, plus a stiffer and lower suspension.

4. Pricing for the Coupe starts at $48,645 – just slightly more than a 430-hp Corvette


Looking at the specs, you might expect the GT500 to be an uncooperative cretin of a car, with numb steering, brakes that bite like a sopping dishrag and the road manners of a school bus. Remarkably, however, the Shelby is the kind of car you could drive in brutal city traffic without the novelty wearing off. Sure, with its bright paint, contrasting racing stripes and booming exhaust note, you might not want to show up to the country club with it (lest the valet take it for a joyride), but you can go about your daily routine in relative comfort – just don’t expect peace and quiet.

Fire up the Shelby GT500 and you’ll be giddy as the 5.4L V8 gurgles and growls, reminding us of the days when high-power V8 engines had an idle that was lumpier than curdled oatmeal. The 6-speed gearbox, topped off by a retro pool ball shifter is similarly notchy, but let the clutch out and the car creeps forward with minimal drama and effort on the part of your left leg. The 6-speed is fairly smooth for a transmission that requires a certain robustness – with 550 horsepower and 510 ft-lbs of torque, the gearbox needs to stand up to some serious twist, and drivers who will want to use every last bit of thrust.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

More often than not, you’ll find yourself moving slowly during the daily commute, over city streets, speed bumps, railway tracks and other environments not suited for a butch muscle car. The Shelby GT500 performs with a near stoic quality, never putting up a fuss as you putter around at low speeds, always able to dish out torque in any gear, in quantities that will put significant gaps between you and the jerk yakking away on their cell phone while drifting between lanes.


The seats are broad and supportive and the driving position is high and wide, letting you spread your limbs out like Manifest Destiny. You can shut out the world by cranking up the Shaker audio system, and assault your eardrums with extreme prejudice. It’s horribly cliché to see a man with a receding hairline blasting Zeppelin in a muscle car, but with such a clear and powerful stereo, it’s impossible to resist. The Shaker isn’t just bombastic fury either. Melodic songs like Neil Young’s Down by the River will have you ignoring the V8 rumble in favor of the concert-hall like sound quality, but if you’re a fan of rap or electronic music, you’re out of luck. The bass heavy tracks sound tinny and washed out, perhaps in a nod to the GT500’s target demographic and their affinity for guitar music.

As good as the Shaker sounds, the system’s operation is an outright pain in the ass that borders on dangerous when equipped with Ford’s much touted SYNC telematics. While SYNC offers voice activation for your cell phone (connected via Bluetooth) and music player, having to call out commands is often a chore, and the alternative method of operation is a touch screen. This wouldn’t be so terrible if the menus weren’t so poorly designed. Many of the menus lack a “Back” button, and when one attempts to operate an iPod with thousands of songs, patience can quickly wane. It’s possible that Ford did this to encourage use of the voice commands, which allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road, but the lack of any alternative is incredibly frustrating, even for passengers.


The electric power steering is without question one of the best systems we’ve ever used, and feels identical to the more tactile, but less efficient hydraulic units on older cars. The Shelby’s steering has a wonderful heft, never feeling artificial, and helps the driver direct the big car’s front end with excellent accuracy and ample feedback.

The GT500’s live axle rear suspension gets its share of criticisms from sports car “purists”. It’s hard, however, to deny that it does an admirable job of providing the right balance of ride and handling. The ride is never brittle, and the vehicle feels nimble and complaint whether it’s barreling around sweeping curves or traversing streetcar tracks on city streets. That’s not to say the setup is perfect. Serious imperfections in the pavement, like potholes or speed bumps, can be disproportionately harsh at anything more than moderate speeds, sending a substantial crash through the cabin. While these sorts of occurrences aren’t too common, it’s a significant blight on an otherwise laudable chassis.


Cruising at slow speeds, a lost art in this era of traffic congestion and eco-consciousness, is one of the Mustang’s strengths. With the music cranked up and the tailpipes emanating an intoxicating rumble, the Shelby will attract the attention of everyone, young or old, male or female –well, mostly male, as the GT500 is very much a “dude magnet,” even though in the male mind, it’s the kind of car that impresses chicks.

But prodding around town trying to look tough is a waste of this car’s potential. Floor it in 3rd gear and the car lunges forward like a starving bear on crystal meth. The low rumble turns into a demonic war cry as the big V8 makes its way through the rev range. At an indeterminate point, the supercharger starts to make boost, emitting a soft whine as the needle of the dash mounted boost gauge sweeps towards a maximum reading of 15 psi. The back of the Shelby starts to buck and gyrate like a spring break reveler dancing to a dirty rap song, and suddenly you realize just how fleeting life really is. The rush of the raw power is absolutely intoxicating, and it’s tempting not to up shift and do it all over again.

When you’re ready to obey the speed limit again, the Brembo brakes, available as part of the $2,900 SVT Track Pack, do a good job of slowing you down quickly, but we’ve heard reports that they won’t stand up to the abuse of a lapping day at a road course. Caveat emptor.


In the future, cars like the Tesla may win over the hearts and minds of a generation of sports car enthusiasts that don’t require a captivating exhaust note or the ability to shift your own gears. For now, the Shelby GT500 is one of the most compelling performance bargains to come out of Detroit. Sure, a Chevrolet Corvette is more exotic, but packs less power, while the Camaro and Challenger are varying degrees of inferior to even the base Mustang, let alone the GT500.

The Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, which boasts a similar supercharged V8 engine, could stand up to the challenge, even though it’s more expensive (and more luxurious), and yet it’s still not much of a threat. Instead, the Shelby’s little brother, the Mustang 5.0, which offers a wonderful 412 horsepower V8 can be optioned nearly identically to the Shelby GT500 – for $20,000 less. The 5.0 is the more rational choice, costing tens of thousands less, sipping less fuel (we saw about 15 mpg in mixed driving) and devoid of the clunky shifter.


For all of the logic behind the 5.0, you don’t get the same belligerence and profligacy that you do in the Shelby. Before we know it, we’ll all be driving silent, smog-free paragons of efficiency, connected wirelessly to our social media accounts, smartphones and the great data cloud in the sky. The denizens who eagerly await this era of sanitized vehicles and digitized communication might view the Shelby as a relic at worst, and ironic at best.

Urbanite hipsters who boast of their love for public transit, locally sourced food and social responsibility might not be entirely wrong, but they can never understand the majesty of the Shelby GT500, and the unadultered bliss that comes from driving it. Enjoy it while it lasts.


2011 Ford Shelby GT500: First Drive
2011 Ford Mustang GT: First Drive
2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS Review
2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8
2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Review – First Drive
2009 Nissan GT-R

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked