Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
August 1, 2009
Photos By: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company
A familiar face is always nice to see, especially when it's the supercharged, Four-Valve, 5.4-liter engine that I adore. Better yet, it makes more power and gets better mileage. Not only does this engine deliver 540 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque in stock form, it has such a huge upside when tuned up. The better economy even means you pay a smaller $1,000 gas-guzzler tax. Most of the underhood appears to be carryover, save for the new induction system and the battery cable routing. Noticeably absent despite all the talk about a stiffer chassis is the strut-tower brace that was de rigueur on the '07-'09 GT500s. It appears the new induction system and perhaps the new hood might preclude the bar.

Turns out I'm not the only one that's pleased with the latest GT500. Shelby Automobiles' Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jim Owens relays that upon experiencing the finalized '10 GT500, Carroll Shelby himself told the Ford brass that he had a list of things he would like to change about the previous car, and that Ford SVT had resolved everything on his list with this car.

That's an impressive recommendation, but the '10 GT500 might just be the best high-performance Mustang Ford has ever built.

The Competition
Having driven all three of the new ponycars--Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang--along with the new GT500, Editor Turner asked me to give my opinion on how the three lineup.

Curiously, but mainly fortuitously, the three cars don't line up evenly. That is, the V-6 Chevy, Dodge and Ford aren't in one group, the V-8s in another. Strictly from a performance standpoint--and by that I mean mainly acceleration but also some handling--the continuum starts with the anemic V-6 Challenger, moves up to the now slightly agricultural V-6 Mustang, heavy V-8 Challenger/potent V-6 Camaro, our beloved V-8 Mustang GT, the unquestionably faster V-8 Camaro SS, and finally, the Shelby GT500. Chevy has developed a potent Camaro Z28 that would likely have bested the GT500, but the uber-Chevy fell victim to national politics. (Chevy can't build wild performance cars while taking tax-payer money; that wouldn't be "responsible." It also has Corvette ZR1s for ultimate bragging rights.) That the pony cars are not evenly paired across the performance continuum doesn't bother me at all; it gives each more personality and spreads out the buyers.

It's the Dodge that comes up the shortest, yet it still has definite advantages. Above all, the Challenger is huge; all it's missing is a pair of steam catapults on the foredeck, er, hood to complete its Nimitz-class impression. It's also heavy--4,100 pounds. The V-6 is completely overwhelmed and the standard 5.7 V-8 left panting. Only in SRT8 Hemi trim does the Challenger live up to its name. By then its over $40,000 and still can't quite match the Camaro SS or Mustang GT, both of which are $10,000 less expensive.

Where the Challenger arguably leads is in looks--it's a big, handsome devil--and interior room. It's the only one with a workable back seat for smaller adults, and it has a great big trunk.

Chevy's new Camaro is more impressive. The V-6 is a techno tour de force--at least until Ford introduces the EcoBoost V-6 in the Mustang. The sophisticated bent-six Camaro mill screams out 304 hp and a 7,000-rpm redline. It's dead smooth, boasts direct fuel injection and 29 mpg, and really tears when revved. But you have to rev it, and there's the rub. It just doesn't drive with the easy speed a torquier, lower-rpm V-8 delivers.

Camaro SS drivers fear only GT500s. Our helmet's off to Chevy for its superb 6.2-liter V-8. The all-aluminum pushrod mill packages far tighter than the rambling Ford modular V-8s, while packing a huge displacement advantage. With 426 hp on tap, the SS flat hauls. It's also priced competitively and gets 25 mpg on the highway.