2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Review - Baddest Mustang

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Fast Facts

5.2-liter supercharged V8 (760 horsepower @ 7,300 rpm; 625 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm)
Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
12 city / 18 highway / 14 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
19.9 city, 12.7 highway, 16.7 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$70,300 (U.S) / $94,675 (Canada)
As Tested
$81,180 (U.S.) / $106,570 (Canada)
Prices include $1,095 destination charge in the United States and $1,900 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.

When is a Mustang a reptile? When it’s a Shelby, of course.

And when the car has Shelby badging on it, you’re in for a treat.

You know the specs by now, but just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a refresher: A 5.2-liter supercharged V8 makes 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque, with all that grunt getting to the rear wheels via a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission and a limited-slip differential.

The Shelby’s power numbers and price aren’t far off the Dodge Charger Hellcat I reviewed last week, though the Mustang obviously has two fewer doors and plays in a different class. It also, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a lot less composed in urban commuting.

This is no relaxed sports coupe when driven gently. It wants to play. It’s hyper, like a dog that is only focused on going to the park and running off energy. It’s not happy when leashed.

That’s not just temptation at play. The car is simply high-strung, even with an independent rear suspension and magnetic damping. It shakes and shimmies and quivers over broken pavement, its soundtrack is loud (even when the exhaust is set to quiet mode), it doesn’t filter noise out super well, and the steering is more than a bit jumpy.

Astute readers will note I gave more praise to this car’s on-road behavior on my first drive back in 2019. So what’s the difference? Well, the roads around Las Vegas are simply not as craptastic as what I deal with where I live. It was easier for the Shelby to be well-behaved on the better-maintained tarmac that surrounds Sin City.

Besides, any and all on-road flaws go away when the car is pushed.

Drop the hammer on the freeway and the car hunkers down. Find the right kind of road and start hustling and the Shelby feels far more composed. I’ve tracked this car twice, and it’s great in that environment – it feels right at home. But driving it to/from the track will tax your nerves and patience a bit.

At least you’ll get there in a hurry. This car’s a screamer, and it makes power that damn near warps time and space, if you can find enough road to tap into it.

My complaints are not meant to say the Shelby is difficult to drive – it is not. It’s just never fully relaxed. If you want a Mustang that’s a track toy that can also be a road-trip star, a GT loaded to the gills with all the performance goodies would mostly be fine. A slightly used Bullitt would fit the bill. Maybe the upcoming Mach 1 will strike that balance. Heck, even the GT350, which is arguably a better pure handler than this monster, could be a pleasant companion in daily driving. I wouldn’t know for sure – I’ve only driven one on a track.

The GT500, on the other hand, has a different mission. That mission is to dominate the dragstrip, kick ass on the track, and just have gobs of power at the ready for whenever you want to loosen the leash.

Let the snake loose (not in that sense, perverts) and the Shelby is a hoot to drive, with all that edginess and stiffness over bad pavement paying off in a car that handles wonderfully. It’s not as scalpel-like as the GT350, but it’s still a car that can make easy work of corners.

Take away the power, the constant V8 rumble, and the occasional squirrely behavior, and the experience remains standard Mustang. By the way, let’s not pretend that all Mustangs don’t occasionally get wobbly over expansion joints. It’s just far more noticeable in this one, which is tuned for max performance.

Anyway, once you step inside, you see the same cabin that’s used across the pony-car lineup, just dressed up a bit. There’s a big snake on the steering wheel, and the wheel itself has a marker to let you know which end is up, so to speak, and my test car had the optional Recaro leather seats ($1,595) that I found over-bolstered for regular driving.

The Shelby sets itself apart from lesser ponies much more clearly on the outside, thanks to reptilian badging, the gaping maw of a grille, and the louvered hood scooping. It’s a mean-looking car, and I mean that in a complimentary way.

Key Shelby features include line lock, launch control, independent rear suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bar, magnetic damping, Torsen rear differential with 3.73 rear-axle ratio, 20-inch wheels with 305 mm/315 mm wide tires, Brembo brakes, hood vent, track apps, selectable drive (normal, sport, track, drag, slippery) and exhaust (quiet, normal, sport, track) modes, selectable steering modes (normal, sport, comfort), hood pins, dual exhaust, paddle shifters, transmission oil cooler, and engine-oil cooler.

Other key standard features include dual-zone climate control, remote keyless entry, push-button start, Sync infotainment, 12-inch LCD gauge cluster, LED lighting, split-fold rear seat, Wi-Fi, and rear-view camera.

In addition to the Recaros, a Technology Package added navigation and premium audio along with blind-spot information and cross-traffic alert for $3,000. A $1,500 Handling Package added a Gurney flap and splitter wickers. The rest of the options list included a $395 car cover and $695 black-painted roof. Be prepared to pony up (heh) another $2,600 for the gas-guzzler tax. All that put the sticker price a hair over $81K. That’s slightly less than the Charger I recently wrote up but about two grand more than a C8 Corvette I drove shortly after I wheeled the Mustang.

I should note this car did not have the insanely expensive Track Pack, and that’s just fine for street duty. I’d skip the Track Pack and the Recaros if I were putting my name on the dotted line.

The gas-guzzler tax is necessary – the numbers are an eye-watering 12/18/14 and I saw closer to 12 for most of my loan.

The Shelby is the king Mustang of the moment. It’s the leader of the back, the boss (no pun intended), the big dog. I’d probably rather save some dough and drive a Mustang that better balances missions, but the Shelby has its charms. It’s the bazooka in the arsenal, and for some, that will be the appeal.

It’s a bad-ass car, and it’s fantastic, though it suffers a bit from overkill.

The Mustang V8 enthusiast with some limits to the budget will be happy with a properly equipped GT. The weekend warrior is best advised to seek out the outgoing Bullitt or incoming Mach 1. The track rat will do just fine with the Shelby GT350.

For the one who just has to have it all, that’s what this snake is for. It’s the baddest Mustang, if not the best.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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10 of 25 comments
  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Apr 27, 2021

    Am I supposed to get excited about 760 horsepower? I'm just not. I may have a defective car guy gene, but 460 horsepower with a manual and a civilized ride seems far more appealing than this. I can't use 300 more horsepower on any street I ever drive on, I don't particularly want to get jarred to death every time I drive out of my neighborhood on the bumpy access street, and I don't want to wake up all the neighbors every time I leave my house.

    • See 6 previous
    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Apr 27, 2021

      @dal20402 Agreed. I'm a truck guy and view the hellcat TRX or future GT500 powered Raptor the same way. These vehicles are for owners wanting to project phallic superiority.

  • Turbo_awd Turbo_awd on Apr 27, 2021

    Agree with many of the comments - Stinger + jb4 (~450 whp) in AWD is more my limits, plus I need some family hauling capability. And can hopefully handle the odd track day in a few months.. GT + Track Pack or GT350 is probably more in line with what I'd get, if I wanted an all-around car. Also agree that if I was spending more than $60K, I'd probably go C8 / Z06.

    • EX35 EX35 on Apr 28, 2021

      How do those Kia’s do long term on that much boost? I’ll be honest I don’t quite trust their drivetrain (and engine internals) to take that much sustained power over the life of the car.

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