By on April 24, 2009

In my recent review of the 2010 Mustang GT, I suggested that only a slight lack of power vis-à-vis the competition kept the revised pony from five-star status. The new “Shelby”— air-quoted because the car is really a product of the dedicated men and women of Ford’s unsung SVT division—GT500 is a sharp riposte to that concern. At approximately forty-eight thousand dollars, it’s the only 540-horsepower car available under fifty grand. Or sixty. Or seventy. Or eighty. Or ninety. In fact, if the embattled Viper doesn’t show up in showrooms for 2010, it will be the only car for sale in the country with this kind of power under . . . the Corvette ZR-1, which costs nearly three times as much. Ah, but is the über-Stang really worth the premium over the the GT?

When I heard that Ford’s GT500 media preview would take place at Infineon Raceway, it seemed reasonable to assume that we’d be focusing on dragstrip prowess, with a side nod to racetrack potential. Surprisingly, delightfully, Ford chose to start the press day with a one-hundred-and-forty mile drive up the Northern California coastline. Narrow roads, sharp turns, big elevation changes and limited sightlines. From previous testing, I knew the aluminum-block Mustang GT was a competent dance partner under those conditions. Surely the heavy-nosed Shelby would be a bit overmatched by an endless series of camber-change second-gear hairpins?

The answer turned out to be a combination of “kinda” and “hell no.” There’s no getting away from physics. The supercharged iron-block mill hanging over the ’Stang’s front wheels creates a pretty big polar moment of inertia. The GT500 is like a paper airplane with three paperclips on the nose; it wants to fly straight under all circumstances. Drivers who are looking for the darty nose of a Porsche Boxster or Mazda RX-8 can keep looking.

For the 2010 GT500, Ford’s SVT engineers reduced the front swaybar’s diameter while increasing spring stiffness. (The changes permit a quicker load on the outside tire, promoting initial turn-in.) They revised the damping rates to match the new bespoke-pattern Goodyear tires. The payoff: the GT500′s steering wheel now has some real bite on the pavement. Although it takes some force to get the nose turning, it will happen reliably upon driver request. There’s none of the nasty “slip and set” feel familiar to drivers of older Mustangs.

Once the GT500′s steering’s in progress, additional rotation around the car’s vertical axis is available on command. Second gear runs up to nearly eighty miles per hour; the heroic thirty-two-valve Romeo motor can spin the tires without preamble anywhere on the tach. As with the Mustang GT, this feels like a “Euro” engine, closer in power delivery to a Cayenne Turbo’s V8 than to any pushrod ponycar. The Shelby delivers its maximum power above six grand. More importantly, the torque peak is between four and five. It’s a road racer’s dream, awake and alive all the way to the limiter.

Down Highway 1, I find myself reaching for third gear more and more, and occasionally venture into fourth on the exit of the fastest corners. The road’s crowded, but with the ability to reach one hundred and thirty miles per hour in seconds, any visible gap is usable. I see a big “whoop” ahead, a mid-corner hump that obscures the road beyond it, and I hit it at ninety miles per hour. The limiter chatters as the rear wheels spin in midair. I land the big Shelby sideways with the rear tires smoking. What we’re looking for here is something between the auto-correction of a GT-R or Porsche 997 and the unpredictable “death car” wobble of a first-gen Viper. Fortunately, the Mustang Shelby GT500 delivers perfectly.

Still, without active participation, I’ll oscillate off the road, fall down to the rocky seashore, and die. Big opposite-lock. The GT500′s feedback is micrometer-precise. Foot still flat on the floor, I sense the momentum reducing and unwind the steering. Here, that big iron arrowhead is a help, not a hindrance. And get this: we’re still accelerating. Fourth gear and we straighten out. That’s it. I’m in love. The Mustang Shelby GT500 provides all the power you could want, all the control you need, and all of the babysitting electronic crap can be turned off. Perfect.

The rest of the car’s pretty good, too. The interior detailing and features do more justice to the price than one might expect, and NVH levels are almost too respectable. The Shelby GT500′s well-built enough to suck-in the occasional Infiniti or BMW intender. While the Neanderthal retro–look is a bit OTT, the latest ‘Stang certainly earns its stripes. To wit: when Shelby introduced the first GT500 in 1967, he claimed it would be a superior road car. Forty-one years later, it is.

[Ford provided the car reviewed, insurance, access to a closed course and a couple of tanks of gas.]

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34 Comments on “Review: 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500...”


  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Great review, Jack! I just wish that Ford had ponyed up for the new, quieter, more efficient TVS blower in place of the old roots type that’s been impersonating a dentist’s drill under the hood of Cobras and Lightnings for years.

  • avatar

    Way to test a car, Jack–push it to the point where, if the car isn’t up to snuff, you’ll both bite it. Good to hear the car passed, and you stayed off the rocks.

    Incredible review, BTW. Next best thing to being in the driver’s seat. Must say I personally prioritize the “darty nose” of the RX-8, or at least the balanced feel of a Pontiac G8 (to single out something in this weight class).

    On the reliability front, Mustang owners have been reporting low to moderate repair rates on TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. The 2010 hasn’t changed so much that we’d expect much of a blip, but remains to be seen.

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php?stage=pt&bd=Ford&mc=92&email=Guest

  • avatar
    TVC15

    Great review. Great car.

  • avatar
    MikeyDee

    I don’t get how Ford is surviving this downturn. Either they have a boatload of cash or they’re lying to us about how they’re doing. Are Fords flying out of showrooms and dealer lots? They must be having the same slow sales as everyone else.

  • avatar
    jeremyb

    it’s the only 540-horsepower car available under fifty grand. Or sixty. Or seventy. Or eighty. Or ninety. In fact, if the embattled Viper doesn’t show up in showrooms for 2010, it will be the only car for sale in the country with this kind of power under… the Corvette ZR-1, which costs nearly three times as much.

    Jack did you forget about the CTS-V?

  • avatar
    ca36gtp

    Still costs way too much money before a Mustang becomes good. I’d rather save a huge amount of money and get a Camaro SS. It may not be as powerful, but at least it doesn’t cost $50,000 to get one that’ll go around corners.

  • avatar
    OrkneyDullard

    Excellent review! One of the best on TTAC in recent times. I may be only be a Limey, but this sort of thing has me gagging for even a rental ‘Stang on my next stateside trip.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Interesting car. Hope I drive one. If I do I’ll try to enjoy the heck out of it. Still like some other folk, it may not be my preference. Although right now, having fun is my preference, and the GT500 sounds perfectly capable of delivering.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    I agree, great review. One of the best I’ve read in a long time.

    Is it possible to delete the boy-racer stripes? (Calm down Shelby Owners Club members, I still respect the racing stripes on real Shelby’s.)

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Is it possible to delete the boy-racer stripes?

    Yes, it is:

    1)they are optional

    2)They are just tape anyway, so they can be peeled off with no damage, unlike the painted on stripes of the 2005-6 Ford GT supercar.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    Is it possible to delete the boy-racer stripes?

    Yes, it is:

    1)they are optional

    2)They are just tape anyway, so they can be peeled off with no damage, unlike the painted on stripes of the 2005-6 Ford GT supercar.

    Hmmm. That makes this sled, especially in a low key solid black or solid white, all that much more compelling. For the first time in ages, Ford is making some cars I desire, let alone respect.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    Interior photo would be nice. So would an under the hood shot.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    talkstoanimals:

    I agree. No stripes for me either! It was a bitch trying to find a stripe delete car when I was shopping for my Ford GT. But this new GT500 is the first Mustang I’ve considered since my 91 LX 5.0 notchback.

  • avatar
    JG

    It’s rumored an aluminum block will drop 90lb off the nose sometime in the future.

    There’s something about Mustangs. I drive a 2008 Bullitt and I have a strong feeling that in 2 or 3 years I’m going to pick up a GT500. No stripes, and I’ll clean off as much of the badging as I can as well.

    For a little extra money you can push the car into truly bonkers territory.

    http://store.roushperformance.com/detail.aspx?ID=1012

    Add long tube headers and a custom tune and you’re staring down the barrel of 700 hp at the wheels… without a powertrain warranty ;)

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    I would just like to point out that I happened to be in the passenger seat when Jack was driving.

    He left out the good parts.

  • avatar
    dean

    In black, with no stripes, please.

    Something about the nose of it rubs me the wrong way, but I think it would look better without the stripes, or at least in a darker base colour. The new, more pinched headlights combined with the big grill opening looks a little off to me.

    And as jeremyb mentioned: Jack seems to have forgotten the CTS-V. Still more expensive than the GT500, but not thrice the price.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I agree. No stripes for me either! It was a bitch trying to find a stripe delete car when I was shopping for my Ford GT.

    Oh geez, now there’s a problem I’d like to have…

    I am off two minds about this car. One, wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Two, it’s a lot of money for a Mustang. I guess it’s better to focus on the 540 bhp part.

  • avatar
    ajla

    At approximately forty-eight thousand dollars, it’s the only 540-horsepower car available under fifty grand.

    Ford loves to do this. They set the MSRP on their mega-cars really low to get press accolades. However, this isn’t what people pay because the the Ford dealers just crank the price up.

    If anyone (that isn’t pals with Ford) actually gets a 2010 GT500 for under $55K, I would like to hear about it.

  • avatar
    bill301972

    To ajla,

    At some point in the model year, I may very well be able to sell a 2010 GT500 for sticker…we sold the ’09′s for sticker this year….if you are serious about knowing when you can buy for MSRP I’m at willby33@msn.com

  • avatar
    bill301972

    Correction,

    My dealer will sell the GT500 2010 for sticker…now taking orders willby33@msn.com

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I’ll pile on with the “great review” comments!

    IMO, I think these are the kind of models that Chevy is going to have to build to keep their Camaro current and fresh. Case in point – the RX-8 R3 and any Miata special edition. Anyone with half of an automotive brain knows that the hard core buyers will scoop up theirs at once, and then there will be a few stragglers that get them with good lease/financing deals…and then they collect dust. GM can’t really expect the Camaro to turn their fortunes around. However they can go the Mustang route and make limited runs of special high performance models. That keeps the fire hot and write-ups in the auto rags.
    A lot of car companies have found out that when you flood the market with a retro car, all of the things that made it a special car vanish.

    …and I want this Mustang Shelby on a dragstrip with me behind the wheel!

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    @ Jonny Lieberman :

    Do tell. I miss your writing around here. Not to take anything away from Jack, this was a great review!

    Even though I’m a Bimmer guy, I really appreciate the Mustang GT500. There is just something about a raw car that can kill you in a second with ludicrous power and weight bias that speaks to me.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    it’s the only 540-horsepower car available under fifty grand. Or sixty. Or seventy. Or eighty. Or ninety. In fact, if the embattled Viper doesn’t show up in showrooms for 2010, it will be the only car for sale in the country with this kind of power under… the Corvette ZR-1, which costs nearly three times as much.

    Jack did you forget about the CTS-V

    It may have 540 HP…but it still is the slowest 500+ HP car on the planet.

    And…the ZO6 Corvette has 505 HP, the CTS-V has 550+ HP.

  • avatar
    levi

    Good review.

    But that Robin’s Egg Blue photo is enough to make me toss my cookies.

    Would a real man spend 50 large for that color?

    Seriously.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Autoblog got from 0 to 60 in 4.3, Automobile mag in 4.5, both from preproduction cars, so, actual numbers should get better once everything is tweaked. Comparing the Mustang to a Corvette or Mercedes sedan is apples and oranges, one has no back seat, the other costs more than double the price to get those performance figures.

    There is a stagger in the lineups between the Mustang and the Camaro. The base V6 Mustang undercuts the price of the base Camaro by around $1500, but the Camaro outperforms it, the Mustang GT outperforms the V6 Camaro, but not the SS, but sits in between the two in price, and then the Shelby sits on top of the SS in price, but outperforms it.

  • avatar
    kamikaze2b

    Great car, but it would be even better with two stacks of lead weights on the calipers!

  • avatar

    Mea culpa on the CTS-V. I waited for that particular vapor-mobile to come out so long that when it did I forgot you could buy it :)

    Jonny and I had a great time on that press trip. It’s always good to see the Loverman in action, so to speak.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Farago, why do you accept reviews from this guy?

    I stopped reading at:

    “The road’s crowded, but with the ability to reach one hundred and thirty miles per hour in seconds, any visible gap is usable”

    IIRC, this is the same guy that was going 120mph with his family in tow when an accident unfolded infront of him.

    I really hoped he learned from that.

    Apparently not.

    Mr. Baruth, your reviews should be confined to the track!

  • avatar

    Mr. Baruth will reply to this and similar comments in an forthcoming editorial.

  • avatar

    540 HP… I got a spirited ride in a normal V8 Mustang, and I came to understand what “merging with the seat” means. With 540 HP I hope the car has a hidden compartment for adult-sized diapers for the passenger, or at least a good-sized plastic bag for all the “Holy Sh.ts!” It must be a hoot to drive, but from a practical point of view… Zero to speeding tickets in 4.5 seconds… It probably goes from a gas station to a gas station… I’ll stick to my Corolla (and I’ll try to figure out how to put that 540 HP in it…sorry, that was the dude on my left shoulder whispering).

  • avatar

    Thank God I bought shares of Ford when they hit bottom – and didn’t even bother investing in GM like my dumbass Uncle did. LOL

    He’s made $80,000 on Ford but lost $20,000 on GM. :P

    How many people think its worth investing in Fannie and Freddie?

    As for the Stang’ I love it. I love the colors – interior looks good. KEEP MAKING ME MONEY FORD !

  • avatar
    jdranove

    Just got home after a Millburn, NJ black and white followed my Steeda Mustang Q350 to where I turned to get home here in quiet South Orange, NOT driving above 25 mph, until the limit sign read 35 mph, (rapidly achieved).
    Having test driven a Roush P51, my opinion, for the five cents it is worth, is that you better know how to handle the power when you go supercharged.
    It was a fun test drive, but, a scary, fun test drive.
    Bye the way, my naturally aspirated Q350, pins ‘em deep in the seat.

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    Great review. Much enjoyed.

  • avatar
    Sean H.

    I love the new GT500. I would love to drive one, but I don’t have the funds to even think about it. Smokin’ Camaros is tempting, though.


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