By on August 7, 2014

Snímek obrazovky pořízený 2014-08-05 21:11:04

When you want to spend around $100,000 on a car in Europe, few ideas are dumber than buying a pickup truck. Except for this one.

Six-hundred-and-sixty-two-horsepower. Live rear axle. A nearly two tonne curb weight. That sounds like something that belongs on a dragstrip. The problem is, we have no dragstrips in the Czech Republic. What we do have, though, are twisty roads. And, being a not-exactly-filthy-rich-postcommunist-country, they aren’t in the best condition. In fact, they’re a lot like Michigan or Britain’s roads. You want something like a hot hatch, with lots of compliance and suspension travel.

But muscle cars seem to have a cult following here. The owner, a young man called Honza (that’s Jack for you Americans), drives a diesel Mercedes as his daily vehicle. He bought the Shelby after a long line of fast motorcycles, but he isn’t some crazy US-car loving freak like me – he also looked at Porsches, a GT-R and even a Ferrari. The GT500 grabbed his attention because of its bang for buck. Even at about $100,000 at one of our grey-market importers, it’s tough to beat.

When I got the chance to review the car and shoot a video with it, I was of course thrilled. But, strangely, it wasn’t the notion of driving a 600+ car that interested me the most. What I was most anxious to know, was how a Mustang drives on local roads. This was something I was dying to know since I drove a Boss 302 on an improvised autocross track. I wanted to know whether my feeling that I should buy a current-gen Mustang as soon as they get cheap is right, or whether I end up disappointed, like with the Chevy Suburban.

Snímek obrazovky pořízený 2014-08-05 21:10:39

Before even delving into the performance side of things, I was struck by how practical the GT500 is. The trunk is huge for a car this size, easily dwarfing the Camaro’s puny cargo compartment. Honza’s 5’10 girlfriend folded herself neatly into the rear seat without complaints.

Not even five minutes later, Honza asked me whether I feltthe live rear axle bobbing around, as we rounded a left-hand bend.When I asked how fast we’re going, the answer was not the 110-115mph I was estimating, but 150. And yes, the car really doesn’t feel as planted as the European competition at these speeds, although it’s very clearly capable of being driven in such way.

Finally, I got to drive. Since this was part of a video shoot, it was mostly driving to and fro at 20 to 30mph, doing awful lots of three-pointed (sometimes more-pointed) turns in tight places.And its civility continued to impress me.

Snímek obrazovky pořízený 2014-08-05 21:11:38

As long as you don’t have too heavy of a right foot, it drives like a very smooth, solid grand tourer. And it’s just a tiny bit harder to handle than your parents’ Ford Focus – the clutch is a bit heavier and its action a tad too sharp, the shifting is slightly heavier, and of course, the car is big and kinda hard to see out of. But you could drive this car in traffic, every day, without complaints.

Even on large wheels, and with stiffer Shelby suspension, the car is still quite comfortable on the broken pavement. Or maybe not comfortable, but definitely bearable. It’s no Town Car, but a ride on a backroads won’t send you to your dentist.

However, I could’ve expected this. After all, it’s just a Mustang. A fairly big American coupe for the masses. It may be a Mustang with an ungodly engine and fat wheels, but it’s still a Mustang. And being comfortable enough will not make it worthwhile to own in Europe all by itself. A $100,000, 662hp automobile should better be fun. And here, the GT500 can run into a bit of trouble.

Snímek obrazovky pořízený 2014-08-05 21:13:30

Czech roads are nowhere as tight as French or British ones, but they are still tight. And twisty. Driving fast in the hairpins with a Shelby is not exactly good idea – send it sideways (which should be easy with all that horsepower), and you’re at risk of hitting the trees on both left and right side of the road, at once. On the other hand, a 5-series BMW is even larger than the Mustang, and no one finds it too big for EU roads.

The main difference between the Shelby and BMWs or Audis is not the size. It’s the strange squishiness, a slight hint of instability of the suspension. With the Mustang (and I felt the same while autocrossing the Boss 302), you never feel totally in control, and the car never feels totally planted. I know that the Boss should be able to take on the BMW M3 on the track. And I guess the GT500 will at least come close, if it doesn’t beat it as well. But here, on those roads, in my hands? No way. I’ve driven a BMW 335i (F30) here, and I know it would dust the Shelby.

Projekt 1

In a BMW, or anything similar, it’s awfully easy to go fast. Those cars feel stable and planted and surefooted. They don’t talk to you about their insecurities, they just go like hell, and don’t bother you with it. You can tackle a sweeping backroad corner at 100mph with the 335i, and never think twice about it. The Shelby would probably be able to keep up – but only if you got balls, because it does let you know how fast you’re going.

I couldn’t really find out what it feels like on the limit – I’m not that good, and the owner is not that generous. But at those maybe 70% I could try, the Shelby already started to feel “exciting”, while BMWs and others pretty much feel like nothing’s happening up until some 90%.

Some of you may take it as a criticism against the Shelby. And from a certain point of view, it can be – if you want a car that’s easy to drive fast, this is not the one. But driving really fast on public roads is dangerous and expensive business. What most of us really want is the feeling of speed. The notion that you have a machine to handle and that you have to work for the speed. And the Mustang gives it to you in spades.

Projekt 9

The only problem is the power. In twisties, even half throttle is a bonkers idea. In the first hour or so of driving, I never even heard the supercharger whine – I didn’t have the space necessary to step on it and run it at more than maybe 3000 rpm. Only later, when we got to the faster roads with some straightaway sections, I had a chance to make a few full-throttle runs. Maybe five or six seconds a time, with the speedo running up to some 100 – 110mph. In those moments, I rejected my previous idea that 662hp is simply too much. It isn’t. It’s wonderful. Even for those short blast.

But to really enjoy the car, to be able to really rush it on backroads, the Shelby is too much. As Jack wrote, you have to feather it all the time even on the track. On B-roads, it’s dangerous to even look at the accelerator the wrong way. The rush from flooring it is wonderful, but also terribly short.

So, would the Boss be the right choice for European buyers? I don’t think so. Maybe if you live in Germany, or Spain, or anywhere else with new, high-quality roads. Otherwise it’s too hard, too sporty for the broken roads. No, I suspect that the best Mustang for European roads will be the 5.0 GT Performance Pack. Those great Recaros will keep you in place, the large brakes will be very needed on our roads, and the lesser engine will actually make the car more fun.

Projekt 15

I would even go further and suggest that the best Mustang for Europe may actually be the V6, but there’s still the fact that it’s a V6. Owning an American car in Europe sort of requires for it to have a roaring V8. Otherwise, the V6, with its lighter weight and better balance, may very well be the best Mustang for an European. I will have to borrow one to find out.

Until I drove the Shelby, I thought that the IRS suspension of the 2015 car will  be a vast improvement of the car, making it really usable in Europe. Now? I’m not so sure. I think that the 2015 Mustang Ecoboost will be a great car, and will work on European roads quite well. But I’m a bit worried that it may be much closer to the modern BMWs than to this Mustang.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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56 Comments on “European Review: Ford Mustang Shelby GT500...”


  • avatar

    But, HELLCAT…

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Hopefully one will make it there soon for a nice comparison. I suspect even with a, more compliant suspension the issue of big power will be the same.

      It will be interesting to see how people feel about the 2015 car and it’s fun factor. It seems with each successive generation as the car gets more civilized people use the words fun and tossable less and less.

      I’ve meet people who’ve felt the SN95/Néw Edge and Fox cars were way better as back road burners and delivered more smiles.

  • avatar

    The V6 Mustang is a dog with no fun-to-power ratio, manual or automatic, and is best to be avoided at all costs. There are better options. But it’s hard to argue with the GT500.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Nice review. What’s the story behind the Union soldiers?

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      In fact, none. We where shooting the video with the GT500, and they suddenly came out of the woods. They were some reenactment group, probably on something like a “field trip”.

      One of the funniest conincidencies in my life, really.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Vojta, that’s hilarious.

        When I saw that picture, before reading your response, I thought “[W]ow, Vojta really went all out tying the Mustang & American History thing together for this review, even hiring a complete Civil War Reenactment crew for the photo shoot.”

        Talk about coincidences…or fate.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        Too bad they were infantry instead of cavalry!

        • 0 avatar
          FoulWX

          Or heavy artillery. The 100 pound Parrott rifle; when something absolutely, positively has to die.

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            I said cavalry because this is a Mustang review. Likewise I would have mentioned navy if it were a Corvette review. The picture in your avatar looks exactly like a co-worker.

        • 0 avatar
          FoulWX

          Ah, now I get it. I thought you might be a Civil War buff or re-enactor. We get partial about our particular areas of interest. Interesting to see Union soldiers in the Czech Republic.

  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Just curious….how much to fill that beast with Premium across the pond?

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Honestly, I have no idea and I would have to look up how large the Mustang’s fuel tank is.

      But filling up a 1998 Town Car costs about $120. The 2010 Suburban can take about $200 in Czech Republic, $250 in France (more expensive gas).

      • 0 avatar
        Meko_Suko

        She has a small gas tank. It’s only around 16 gallons.

        In fact, during the Top Gear review this was one of the biggest complaints for the car.

        NOTE: A common way to overcome this is to use the ‘unused’ spare tire well for added capacity.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    …and I ask, have you tried the IRS-equipped 2015 Mustang in the Czech Republic or other sites in Europe yet? Until you have, reserve judgement. A lot of us who’ve been buying BMW coupes in the interim while Ford got around to listening to our demands for IRS are eagerly waiting to drive the new version. The last late model ‘Stangs I drive longterm were a pair of 2006 GT-H’s when they were new to the Hertz stable. I liked the drop-down front suspension ala BMW coupes, and I liked the fit and finish of what was basically a Mustang GT overall. Add IRS to the car coming in about two months, and it looks to be an exciting Ford. Keep the lettering and stripes, just give me the content.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      I didn’t, and I can’t wait forward to it. I’m really curious whether I will like the old one or the new one better. It’s even possible that I’ll like the Ecoboost best of them all.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      If branding/luxury doesn’t matter to you, it’s hard to rationalize any BMW 4 series coupe over a well equipped Mustang GT. At least on paper. Unless they completely bungle the driving experience, which I just don’t see being likely.

      I would even go as far as to say I would get a Mustang GT over an M4. Even if they were the same price. The BMW’s interior is nicer, but I drive a 350Z… I don’t care about soft touch materials or any of that stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The trouble is, you don’t drive paper. That “feel” that Vojta describes is exactly why I prefer European cars to American or Japanese cars. They generally do not have it. Though GM and Ford have made HUGE strides, the ATS and CTS feel German, as does the Regal (it IS German, of course). The Focus and Fiesta do too, which also makes sense as they are much more world cars than their predecessors. I have yet to drive anything Japanese that manages it though. Infiniti and Lexus both feel Japanese to me across their ranges.

        I too am looking forward to the new Mustang, I am expecting great things. Too bad there is no way to do European Delivery on one as an American. That is also a huge reason to go German or Swedish. New car, nice discount, great vacation.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    i own a modified 2006 mustang gt, 2006 bmw 330i, and 2000 Z3 2.3; so i can really relate to what the author is saying.

    after driving the bmws for a while and hopping into the mustang it takes some time to readjust my senses. but after a day of driving and time to adjust i am back in love with my mustang.

    i also love how i become a man of the people in the mustang. i’ve noticed it gets so much more love and respect on the road. always clean, lowered, with loud exhaust, i often see kids and dudes looking at it as i pass by.

    • 0 avatar

      “i also love how i become a man of the people in the mustang. i’ve noticed it gets so much more love and respect on the road. always clean, lowered, with loud exhaust, i often see kids and dudes looking at it as i pass by.”

      That’s true. I normally spend my time looking at luxury or exotic cars (even though I don’t drive one), but a clean or excellently-modified Mustang *always* gets my attention.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Is that a drone or a giant spider in the sixth picture?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Given the same bad roads, are you sure an M3 would be a picnic to drive?

  • avatar
    tedward

    What a phenomenal review. The irony of your conclusion should be enjoyed by all.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Steeda’s made a fortune making this version of Mustang handle better, your friend might want to look into contacting them.

    They also have very good shifter replacements too.

  • avatar

    I love the Mustang, but I think you hit the nail on the head. The GT500 is definitely a hard-to-tame vehicle, and at speed on a twisty road, it will threaten to swap ends the entire time. And constantly worrying about hitting trees, ditches or oncoming traffic can take some of the fun away from a drive. The GT500 is not a car for every application or environment. It’s great for the area in which I live, but if I lived where you do, I’d probably skip it. Excellent review.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s only 662 hp… Thing is, you don’t have to floor it. Unless you’re ready for what happens next! If not don’t You ever rode an crotch rocket? To much gas and it washes out. Or flips you on your head.

      • 0 avatar

        “You ever rode an crotch rocket?”

        I have. Those things are crazy!

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        “If not don’t You ever rode an crotch rocket?”

        wuzzat?!?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        “It’s ONLY 662hp” Only? Seriously?

        Kyree is exactly correct. This is simply NOT the right vehicle for the conditions at hand, just like my BMW would feel quite lost on a drag strip. But I spend a LOT more time on twisty windy corrugated roads than I do on straight smooth 1/4 mile strips. Or smooth race tracks for that matter. Different horses for different courses.

        I full expect putting a proper rear suspension under the Mustang will solve most of these issues.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Instantly when I saw this review, I wondered to myself:

    In the place where you live, is it likely a car like this would be stolen?

    Also, don’t you just look like a huge wanker arse driving around in a GT500 with stripes in that part of Europe?

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      No, I don’t think so. Actually, I think it’s less probably that you’ll loose a car like that than a more common European equivalent. Thieves don’t know anything about them, they’re not used to stealing them, they have no market for spare parts. Plus, driving a huge, loud, red car with racing stripes is a good recipe for getting caught.

      I think that unless thieves have someone who wants this exact type of car from Russia or somewhere, they won’t touch the Shelby and go steal some BMWs or Audis instead… Or a few dozen navigations from Skoda Octavias. Those sell like hell.

      As for the people’s reaction – generally, with a car like this, people tend to think you’re an overgrown kid who finally bought his toy. Of course, some are going to think you’re asshat (Czechs are particularly prone to thinking everyone richer than them is an asshat), but much less so than if you buy an Audi A4 or BMW 318d Touring for half the price.

      The only annoying thing with basically ANY American car, no matter how old, are the people on gas stations, in car washes and anywhere else, asking about the fuel mileage. It’s very similar to what Doug DeMuro wrote on Jalopnik about his Ferrari. Sometimes, you get people who also have an American car, or who are interested in something actually important, but 90% people ask about the fuel mileage.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Good point about a lack of market for chopping or resale of such a car. I didn’t think of that.

        If someone asked me about the fuel economy at a gas station with this car, I would just grin and say “It’s terrible.”

        • 0 avatar
          Vojta Dobeš

          I usually get asked while driving a 1998 Town Car. And when I tell them I’m able to get 9l/100km (26mpg) out of town, I enjoy their confused looks. Especially as it’s usually preceded by the question along the lines of: “Phew, that has to be at least 3.0, right?”

          The fun part is, most Europeans think that the fuel consumption is directly proportional to displacement. So if their 2.0 I4 gets 8.0 l/100km, the 4.6 V8 can not possible get under 16 l/100km…

          Then I add that I bought a set of shock absorbers for something like $40 plus shipping (which is about what ONE shock absorber for European car costs), and their heads explode.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Do you have a plan to replace it with a newer TC at some point?

          • 0 avatar
            Vojta Dobeš

            I don’t think so. This one has only a bit over 100k miles on it, so it has plenty of life left.

            I’m thinking more along the lines of keeping it forever, and in a few years, when I get into better shape financially, adding another DD – I hope that by that time, 5.0 Mustang convertibles prices will drop low enough for me to be able to afford it. If not, I would probably make do with a 4.6…

          • 0 avatar
            Ostrich67

            I had a ’96 Mustang GT with the same engine. On a long road trip I discovered that I was getting an honest 27-28 MPG at a steady 70 mph; this with a 3.73 rear end. The 4.6 SOHC is the unsung hero of the Ford engine family.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            My T-Bird weighs a bit more than your Mustang, Ostrich, and I think I still get MPGs in the 20s.

            Though the 4R70W, even with overdrive, probably doesn’t contribute much to MPGs.

      • 0 avatar

        “Or a few dozen navigations from Skoda Octavias. Those sell like hell.”

        I have a question about that, actually…because now I have a Jetta SportWagen (aka Golf Variant) TDI with the RCD-510. They didn’t even *give* me a radio code when I bought the car, but I need to have the dealership retrieve it because I’m going to swap out the RCD-510 for an RNS-510, and then I either sell the RCD or gift it to my neighbor, who also has a late-model VW.

        That said, how are people able to steal these units and resell them? Do the Euro versions not have radio codes, or are they easily-hackable.

  • avatar
    Littlecarrot

    We spent a week driving around Eastern Bohemia. We thought the roads in the Czech Republic were quite nice and fun to drive on. I don’t remember any potholes except maybe in some of the small towns. The only thing disconcerting is the lack of any shoulders on the (mostly) two lane roads.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I really appreciate the different perspective on the Mustang vs. Euro competition, I think you nailed it exactly too. The German cars tend to feel more buttoned down, which has always been appealing to me in the past. I love the Mustang, but I keep thinking along the same lines as you mentioned, that the GT with Track Pack would be a better real world car for daily use. The roads where I live are generally terrible, lots of patches, cracks, holes, misaligned levels, etc. I even found my GTI to basically be “too harsh” and it really started to annoy me when I had to commute in it every day for a few months. As much as I want a Boss or GT350 or maybe a Shelby I might be better off with a lower-spec car.

  • avatar
    carve

    Great comparisson- thank you! I have a lightly modified e90 335i and love how confidence inspiring it is compared to cars like the Corvette and 370Z. I was considering selling it and getting something with BIG power like the GT500…but perhaps I’ll reconsider. I’ve had it since 2008, but damn is it a great, well-rounded car.

  • avatar

    Cool write-up that’s not just a typical Euro-centric bash-fest of a very American car, nor a love letter to a fantasy of what America is.

    So it sounds like the new Mustang would be a better rational fit between the motor options and suspension…but its success would hang on whether that removes too much of the image that bring people to it in the first place.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I like these fish out of water type reviews. I’ve often thought about what it would be like to drive some of the cars I’ve had over the years on European roads.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    What’s interesting here is this widespread perception that American cars are big and heavy and have poor fuel economy.

    The Shelby has good gas mileage FOR A VEHICLE PUSHING 700 HORSEPOWER.

    And refresh my memory – how much does that A8, 7 Series or S600 weigh again?

    Sure, maybe it doesn’t grab the road like a Ferrari, but then again, it doesn’t lighten the wallet like a Ferrari either.

    The Shelby’s a spectacular car that stands proudly and proclaims, “I AM!”

    I like the Europe you’ve described in your articles – a place far removed from the standard-model depiction found in the automotive press of a continent where the common man drives a Mercedes and pooh-poohs Yankee iron as being stuck in 1978.

    Well done, and please keep it up.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    Michigan and Britain have roads that are similar in quality? Apparently we haven’t been on the same roads in those two places.

  • avatar
    Meko_Suko

    This doesn’t look like the GT500 equipped with the SVT Performance Pack or Track Pack. I noted you eluded to no Recaro’s either.

    Do you get the impression that the upgraded version of this car would be considerably better on the same roads?

    FWIW I own a base 2010 GT500. It’s quite suitable for American highways and urban strip mall areas with nice long straights. The biggest downside to these cars is their inability to hook up from a dig. Stock, these machines are complete roll monsters.

    Thanks for the review!


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