Say what you will about high-horsepower American sports cars but don’t even think about talking smack on Ford’s new GT500 or it will come and find you. The throwback pony car gets better for 2010 thanks to, among other things, fresh styling, a more evolved interior, considerably more power and a newfound level of handling prowess that puts most straight-line stereotypes to bed. Ford was good enough to loan us one for the weekend and, after more than 500 miles behind the Alcantara-lined steering wheel, all we can say is yeehaw.
We got plenty of attention in our Torch Red tester with Satin Silver Le Mans racing stripes. This Mustang of Mustangs looks quite different than its non-Shelby V6 and V8 stable mates thanks to, among other things, quite possibly the meanest face in the business. It’s positively menacing and struts angry black mesh from top to bottom. A half coiled Cobra sits on the grille’s passenger side to let onlookers know about the 540 HP V8 that’s waiting to strike into action. Other Shelby-specific styling cues include 19-inch alloy wheels (18s on the convertible), high-performance Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires (255/45 front and 285/35 rear), Brembo brakes, an aluminum hood with mounted heat extractors to release trapped air from under the hood, a front air splitter, and, for added downforce, a ducktail-style rear spoiler with a “Gurney flap” built in to the top of the wing.
Strap yourself in, engage the clutch pedal, turn the key and listen intently as the 5.4L supercharged V8 mounted ahead of you grumbles to life in a quick roar. Then click the Hurst short throw shifter into gear, pop the new-for-2010 dual-disc clutch and hold on for dear life as you mash the gas pedal into the floor. Thanks to Ford’s AdvanceTrac stability and traction control systems, which default to the “on” position upon start-up, the fat 285/35 rear tires hook up quickly and easily (the electronic nannies can be turned off altogether for those who want to lay down fat piles of rubber). The grumble you heard at idle immediately morphs into a violent snorting that becomes more addictive each time you tear through a new gear (there are 6 of them in the GT500 as compared to 5 in the GT). About halfway to the 7,000 RPM redline, the roots-type supercharger starts feeding in boost and adds a pleasing whine to the soundtrack. Talk about fast, the nearly 2 ton Shelby will hit 60 in 4.3 seconds and, when piloted by someone more talented than me, can cover a quarter mile in the mid 12 second range.
Like the 2007-2009 model that preceded it, the 2010 GT500 represents an engineering collaboration with Carroll Shelby and Ford’s in-house performance division SVT. Starting at $46,325 (MSRP), the GT500 is hands down one of the best performance bargains in the industry with each of the 540 ponies (up 40 HP from the previous model) running you approximately $86. The uber Mustang is only bested by Camaro V8 (426 HP for $30,245), Camaro V6 (304 HP for $22,245) and Hyundai’s new V6-powered Genesis Coupe (306 HP for $25k). Just for shits, consider that the roughly $1.7 million Bugatti Veyron will cost you almost $1,700 for each of its 1,001 ponies. It looks like the GT500 truly is the muscle car hero for our trying times.