Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
August 1, 2009
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company
What's not to like about the front visage of the '10 GT500? Inspired by the Cobra roadsters of the past, the styling is more than just a chiseled jaw line. It's built with functionality in mind. The more defined fascia directs air right over the radiator and heat exchanger, which have been sealed even tighter, and the larger single head extractor on the hood lets it out. Specific sections of the grille are blocked off to aid the aerodynamics, while a port on the grille feeds the new intake system. If you dig the HID headlamps, they are late availability, so you might have to wait for them.

Horse Sense: While the convertible GT500 gains many of the upgrades of its coupe brethren, including standard stripes, it does without the suspension upgrades. Likewise it makes do with a cast, 18-inch version of the Blade wheel. The reasoning is that convertible buyers are more likely to be weekend cruisers than all-out performance maniacs, so the engineers wanted to preserve the ride quality on the droptop.Oddly, as much as I liked the clutch, the shifter, particularly when gearing from First into Second, just wasn't as smooth as I'd like itStrapping one on for the first time quickly told the rest of the story--I learned that judging this book by its cover may just be an accurate methodPerhaps more impressive to me is that the car seems to carry even more of an edge than the KR it learned so much fromSee More At 50mustangandsuperfords.com

Menacing from the outside, the looks of the latest GT500 have been familiar for months. Strapping one on for the first time quickly told the rest of the story--I learned that judging this book by its cover may just be an accurate method. Much like the exterior and interior styling, which took the prior car and gave it an edge of external aggression and internal refinement, the underpinnings of the latest Shelby are familiar, yet better in every way. And that's no small feat given the fine breeds of Mustangs galloping out of AAI these days.

I've been like a clichd actor falling in love with each new co-star as we share the road. Most of you know I'm intimately familiar with the prior GT500, so sliding into the '10 provides a familiar feel, yet it's sprinkled with so many little extra touches that the car really feels new and fresh before you even turn the key. From the comfortably placed Alcantara inserts on the wheel to the smooth comfort of the billiard-ball shift knob, the new GT500 just feels good, and with the engineering team looking to differentiate it from the standard car, it looks a lot different, too. From the sculpted steering-wheel emblem to the striped seats, the new GT500 lets you know the car is something special.

Of course, it's the driving that is truly special. For those experienced with the off-idle clutch shudder evident in the prior GT500, the latest car is an absolute treat. Just pushing in the pedal, it's obviously lighter, but after you turn the key and she burbles to life, pulling away from a stop is a breeze. Within a few starts, I stopped being amazed with how good it was and simply forgot about the clutch--just as it should be.

Although still not my favorite view of the latest Mustang, it's starting to grow on me. The GT500 wing and stripes seem to help, as does the 5.0&SF plate. Once the aftermarket addresses that lower valance, I'm sure any hesitation will be a thing of the past. Like the front end, plenty of engineering went into making the back of the car more aerodynamic, and the Gurney flap on top of the wing is a big part of that. "Using data from the wind tunnel and the track, the new Shelby GT500 is near neutral at 120 mph--it makes about 20 pounds of lift," says John Pfeiffer, product development engineer. "This is 50 percent better than the KR and 75 percent better than the outgoing model." In layman's terms, that means this car is really stable when you're hauling ass.

Oddly, as much as I liked the clutch, the shifter, particularly when gearing from First into Second, just wasn't as smooth as I'd like it. It could be that I was being sloppy, not thinking about the clutch, as the owner's manual clearly states you must fully depress the clutch pedal lest you cause a whole litany of ills, the least of which is increased shift effort. So maybe it was me, but many of my peers reported a similar annoyance with the shift actuation.

The good news is the shifter is connected to a revised Tremec TR-6060 six-speed with deeper fifth and sixth gears that make up for the steeper 3.55 rear gears and strike a happy balance between acceleration and a 2-mpg gain in fuel economy. That improvement is also attributed to the more efficient and powerful engine that benefits from a new cold-air induction and calibration, which picks up power by 40 ponies and torque by 30 lb-ft, and apparently necessitated the larger 250mm, twin-disc clutch.

"Where you really feel the new power and torque is midrange," says Kerry Baldori, chief functional engineer for Ford's Special Vehicles Team. "The new Shelby GT500 produces more torque than the outgoing model at 3,000 rpm--and never looks back."

If these numbers sound familiar, it shouldn't come as any surprise to 5.0&SF readers that a lot of what SVT engineers learned during the development of the '08 GT500KR was revisited for the '10 GT500. In fact, I predicted as much back in our Oct. '08 issue ("Kingdom for a Horse," p. 70): "A remarkable amount of engineering went into upgrading the base GT500 to KR specs. That's a lot of work for a run of 1,571 vehicles (1,000 in the '08 model year, and 571 in the '09 model year, which equals the original run of GT500KRs). As such, I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the parts and technologies developed for this 'Stang show up on future models."