Marc Christ Associate Editor
June 1, 2013
Photos By: Justin Cesler

There's no doubt that Carroll Shelby played an instrumental role in the success of the Mustang over the last half century.

His ideas, business savvy, driving skills, and Southern charm catapulted him into automotive superstardom seemingly overnight in the mid-'60s. Over the following decades, his name, face, signature, and race-inspired automobiles would become legendary.

Shelby's company, Shelby American, has soldiered on in his absence, thanks to the stellar team of designers, engineers, technicians, and salespeople he assembled at Shelby American before his death in May 2012. Ford is still using the Shelby name on production cars, which is unheard of in the automotive industry today.

But Shelby American isn't into riding the coattail of its Blue Oval partner. Rather, it's main objective is to simply improve upon Dearborn's finest, including the premier Mustang, the GT500. But how do you improve on the '13 GT500? It embodies everything we look for in a performance Mustang—power, handling, and stunning good looks—all while maintaining unrivaled ride quality and refinement. It's an amazing car, but here's how Shelby American found a way to make it better in almost every way.

Balance of Power

The '08 GT500 Super Snake we tested ("Snakeskin Suit," April '09) was insane. It went 10.87 at 134.14 mph and made 640 rwhp. Editor Smith used terms like "wild animal" and "ridiculous" to describe how it drove on the street. It was like having a 725hp On/Off switch under your foot, and it looked just as mean. Classic Super Snake stripes, bigass shiny wheels with a bunch of spokes, and a unique hood—there is no confusing a Super Snake with anything else.

Much of what the '08 embodied has been carried over to the '13, but in an improved package. "It's more balanced and more refined," says Gary Patterson, vice president of Sales & Marketing for Shelby American. "It's just technologically more advanced—the way it puts the power to the pavement, the interior, magnetic suspension, and Track Apps."

We agree.

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"The things that [the stock GT500] did really well, we left those things alone; the things that we felt needed improvement, we modified. We wanted to build the best all-around muscle car we could produce."

For instance, since the stock engine was built by SVT to handle boost over an extended period of time, it wasn't necessary to pull even the wrinkle-blue valve covers. Instead, the 2.3L TVS was ditched in lieu of an (optional) 3.6L Kenne Bell Twin-Screw supercharger, which makes cool noises when provoked, and feeds the 5.8-liter beast with 16 pounds of boost. And the stock shocks/struts were left in place, but the springs were replaced with lower, stiffer springs suitable for the street or open track.

The cooling system upgrade (an option on '08-'12 models) is now standard. Utilizing the stock intercooler, it provides cooler IAT's over a longer period of time thanks to a humongous (and electric-fan equipped) heat exchanger and improved radiator. Also standard are the commanding 20-inch forged wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (255mm front and 295mm rear).

Certainly, our test subject (SN 13SS0002P) was an adventure to drive on the street. The Shelby/Borla exhaust rumbled with authority, even sitting idle at a stoplight. We found joy in watching other motorists gawk, arguing with their passengers over what exactly they were observing. Mustangers knew what it was right away and would give us a "free rev", and usually a thumbs-up and a smile.

And as the light turned green, we were off—the Twin-Screw whining, the exhaust roaring like King Kong. But inside, everything felt settled and calm. Clutch actuation was smooth and easy; shifting short, smooth, and precise; and the Super Snake-stitched, leather-wrapped Recaros coddled us like a baby in a bassinet. Apparent was the premium sound system, and ours was well equipped with navigation, SYNC, and satellite radio (all optional).

AdvanceTrac is much improved (over the '08) and actually better left on, as it isn't annoyingly obtrusive. There is much traction to be had with the Michelins, even on the street, but not at WOT in First, Second, or Third gear.

By the Numbers

There's no doubt the '13 Super Snake is an eye-catching display of prestige in a domestic environment. It's pleasing to the eyes, ears, nose, and soul. But how does it fare when it comes to laying down a number on the track and chassis dyno? And how many bands are you going to have to pop to have one in your garage. We hope you're hungry for statistics, because we're going to crunch some numbers.

Before we get to the main course (price), allow us to prime your palate with some delicious hors d'oeuvres—performance numbers. We hardly put any miles on the Super Snake after it arrived before we strapped it to our in-house Dynojet chassis dyno. We knew it would make plenty of power (it's rated at 850 hp), but weren't sure how much—we expected north of 750 rwhp. Once we tightened the straps, we rolled into the throttle in Fourth. The Four-Valve screamed to 7,000 rpm, producing a best of 770 rwhp and 653 lb-ft of torque. Torque production is impressive, above 600 lb-ft from 3,000-6,500 rpm.