It’s hard to express how impressive it is that the world’s most powerful production V8 engine is built in Michigan. Not Germany, Italy or Japan. And even more amazingly, the car it’s stuffed into can be had in the mid-five figures, not six or seven.
|1. The Supercharged 5.8L is the most powerful V8 in the world with 662-hp and 631 lb-ft of torque.
2. Ford claims a 3.7 second 0-60 time and a top speed of over 200 mph.
3. For $6,500 Performance Package and Track Pack adds a limited slip differential, adjustable Bilstein shocks and new wheels as well as coolers for the engine oil, transmission and rear differential.
AMAZING PERFORMANCE NUMBERS
But that’s exactly what the loons at Ford’s Special Vehicles Team (SVT) managed to do. The old aluminum block was bored out to 5.8-liters and received all the usual tuning tweaks. Oh yeah – and then they strapped on an enormous supercharger that’s equivalent to about 2.3-liters of displacement. After all the details were sorted out and drivability taken into account, the engineers were rewarded with an official rating of 662 horsepower and an equally impressive 631 lb-ft of torque.
The V8 is hooked up to an exclusive short-shift Tremec six-speed manual to a carbon-fiber driveshaft, and then to a beefed-up rear differential, which can be upgraded to a limited-slip unit in the optional Performance Package. Ford quotes 0-60 mph times at 3.7 seconds, no doubt aided by the high ratios that let the GT500 make the run in first gear. Quarter-mile times come in at 11.6 at 125 mph, while given enough room the Shelby has a top speed of over 200 mph.
The excessive speed potential has a roundabout benefit to fuel efficiency too; that ultra-high sixth gear helps the Shelby squeeze out 15 mpg around town and up to 25 mpg on the highway. So despite the massive increase in performance, the Shelby GT500 still skips the gas-guzzler tax.
Big changes to the car’s aerodynamics make sure it stays more stable at those ridiculous speeds. And cooler too. You’ll notice there actually isn’t a grille between the headlights in an effort to ram in as much air as possible, blowing in over radiators, intercoolers, oil coolers and remote transmission and diff coolers. Given all the plumbing, we wouldn’t be surprised to find out that half of the GT500’s 3,850-pound curb-weight is made up of fluids…
MAKING 662-HP EASY TO DRIVE
Thankfully, Driving the GT500 isn’t the daunting prospect it could be. Other than a closely spaced gearbox that occasionally has you wondering if you’re in fifth instead of third, this most powerful Mustang is happy enough in urban settings. The suspension is stiff enough, but not overly harsh, and only on the roughest patches of pavement does that live rear axle make itself known. Because the torque peaks at just over idle, you can quite literally leave it in fourth for everything but leaving from a dead stop.
Like other good-old muscle cars, the Shelby uses staggered wheel sizes, although no old iron was ever equipped with tires as sticky as these. Fronts are Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G2 P265/40ZR19 with wider P285/35ZR20 rear. Giant 15-inch Brembo front brakes help bring the Shelby to a stop with very little drama and in not much longer than 100 feet.
If you plan on taking the GT500 to a racetrack, opting for the performance package (limited-slip diff, adjustable Bilstein shock absorbers and multi-spoke wheels of the same size) and track pack (external coolers for engine oil, transmission fluid and rear differential) are expensive, but worthwhile options.
During our limited lapping with Ford’s latest, the Shelby’s acceleration isn’t as breathtaking as we’d expected. The engine’s power delivery is much too smooth with no great surge towards redline. Just a giant wall of accessible torque whenever you want.
Steering is reasonably responsive for something so heavy, and at times you wonder how it can possibly hold on for so long. Certainly the sticky tires deserve much of the credit, but Ford’s four-mode traction and stability-control systems do much of the heavy lifting too.
The highlight feature we’re most impressed with is the integrated launch control, which first debuted on last year’s excellent Boss 302. Well-designed and easy to use, it’s the simplest way to help keep those rear tires from turning to expensive smoke and noise.
Speaking of noise, the big V8 is seriously vocal and produces an amazing roar under load that’s best appreciated with the windows down. Or you could spend a little more money and get the convertible version to get an even more unfiltered experience. Our time in the drop-top proved it’s nearly as thrilling to drive but obviously feels more like a cruiser than an out-and-out performer.
MUSTANG VS. CAMARO
The Shelby GT500 starts at what seems like a perfectly reasonable $54,200 (or $59,200 for the convertible), although we’d place money on very few hitting the streets that way. Those excellent performance-focused options add another $6,500 to the price, but if you don’t spend time at the strip or track, you’d be more than fine skipping them entirely.
As far as competition is concerned, there’s really only one – the 580-horsepower Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which was Big Dog for about two blinks before Ford unleashed the latest Shelby.
Like all Camaro vs. Mustang comparisons, the Chevy is larger and heavier. And certainly in this battle of supercharged halo cars, unless there are turns involved, the GT500 will show its taillights to the ZL1 at every opportunity.
Despite the fact that they’re priced within a couple hundred bucks of one another, chances are there won’t be much cross-shopping between the two. After all, Ford fans are Ford fans. Chevy fans are Chevy fans. And never the two shall meet…
Back to the GT500… It wasn’t that long ago when the top-line Mustang SVT Cobra had 320 horsepower. That seems pretty quaint given the insane figures that Ford’s new headliner produces. With over twice the power of a car from a little over a decade ago, that the Shelby GT500 exists at all in this era of hybrids, electric vehicles, fuel-sipping diesels and over-regulation should be celebrated.