Courtesy of Ford Motor Company
September 6, 2012

Ford's SVT division had three simple goals with the 2013 Shelby GT500: Make over 650 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque, and run over 200 mph. It overachieved. The final cut delivers show-stopping performance with 662 hp, 631 lb-ft of torque, and a top speed just north of 200--no encore needed. No matter what Ford builds in the future, the '13 GT500 will go down as a legend. It's the most powerful American car ever--and the last one Carroll Shelby laid his hands on. Sadly, the release of the '13 coincides with Mr. Shelby's death. It's heartbreaking. Carroll Shelby was full of energy and ideas and lived a storied life. He enjoyed success in business, sports cars, at Le Mans, with classic Shelby Mustangs, and with today's fire-breathing GT500 monsters. Shelby's iconic name will forever be engrained in the Mustang, Ford, and American fabric.

Sadly, Shelby passed just weeks before the official release of the latest Mustang that bears his name. He was so proud of it. Shelby continually said his favorite was "the next one," yet he claimed the '13 as his favorite. With 662 glorious horsepower, the '13 GT500 will be a favorite of enthusiasts, too. SVT's engineering team massaged the entire Mustang, adding technological improvements to enhance virtually every aspect of the car. This translates into a supreme driving experience on and off the track.

Most impressive is the modular brute, enlarged to 5.8L (that's 351 ci, if you're old-school) by means of bigger bores (93.5 mm) with Plasma Transferred Wire Arc cylinder liners, which replaces the cast liners. It also saves 8.5 pounds. There are cross-drilled coolant passages, oil squirters to cool the underside of the forged pistons, forged rods, six-bolt billet main caps, a cast-aluminum oil pan and windage tray, and a forged-steel crank designed to handle 7,000 rpm. The heads have high-lift cams, seal up the 9.0:1 compression, and cylinder fill is enhanced with a new 2.3L blower with downsized pulley (69mm versus 72mm), boasting SVT and 5.8L logos into the ribbed casting--it's McQueen cool.

To utilize every single horsepower off the line, engineers developed an easy-to-use Launch Control (LC) system. LC offers an adjustable rpm hold (3,000-4,500 rpm) and it controls wheelspin on launch. Once you select the desired rpm, simply press LC, stage, depress the clutch, floor the gas and release the clutch smooth and fast--but don't dump or side-step it. Depending on available traction, the Shelby will rip from the line with little-to-no spin. Obviously, with better traction there will be less intrusion from the system. Best of all, the system rewards drivers with good clutch feel--it's not dummy proof. You can also activate the rev limiter alone, in case you want to hold rpm on the line but control your own launch.

Speaking of the clutch, it's firm with 33-precent more grip. Size is increased by 10 mm and it grabs higher in the uptake. Gearing has been altered for driveability, to increase miles per gallon, and to reach the coveted 200 mark. I didn't like it--the gearing that is. The beefed Tremec six-speed felt great, but the revised gears (a 2.66 First gear in the Tremec versus 2.97 in the '12) combined with the 3.31:1 rear gearing made the car feel soft on the bottom. Despite the mammoth torque, the Shelby required a good bit of throttle and smooth clutch release to get moving without a slight buck.

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Basically, the gearing is just too tall--it's like starting in Second gear in most cars and takes too long to come up on revs. In its favor is 631 lb-ft of torque, but the GT500 would accelerate swifter and be easier to drive with 3.55s or 3.73s. In fact, I've already driven a 2013 GT500 with 3.73s and it had the snap you'd expect. Connecting the trans and the fortified 8.8 is a one-piece carbon fiber driveshaft that saves 14 pounds.

To exercise the ponies, we traveled to Road Atlanta and Atlanta Dragway about an hour north of downtown Atlanta. Ford hooked us up with a Race Red GT500 with the glass roof for the 60-plus-mile drive from the airport to the track. The glass roof adds class, but also weight and cost ($1,995). With the retractable shade closed, you forget the roof is even there, but slide it back for sunlight and a unique view of the sky.

The revised Recaros hug you in all the right places, the steering wheel is one of the best I've laid my mitts on, and the Shelby stares at you with it's intimidating grille as if to say, "You lookin' at me?" It's new 19/20-inch wheels fit the style, and the quad tips sing gloriously. It's throaty, even aggressive when it needs to be, but tame at cruising speeds.

Rest in peace, Mr. Shelby--you left us with the baddest Mustang ever created.