Drew Phillips
September 1, 2009
Photos By: Mark Houlahan

The original GT500 was the pin-nacle of the Mustang lineup. Introduced in 1967, the GT350's big brother featured a 428ci iron block V-8 complete with a cast-aluminum intake manifold and twin 600-cfm Holley four-barrel carburetors that produced a conservatively-rated 355 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. And, of course, there was the design. Shelby gave the GT500 a signature look with a longer front end, fiberglass hood with a functional scoop, two intake scoops on either side, a subtle spoiler lip at the rear, Le Mans racing stripes, and taillights from the Mercury Cougar. The result was a muscle car icon that has influenced automotive design for the last 40 years.

With the introduction of the redesigned S197 Mustang in 2005, so too came the opportunity for Ford to build a GT500 that could live up to the original in both performance and looks. Thankfully, the team at SVT pulled out all the stops and came up with a car that Carroll Shelby could be proud of. Launched in 2007, the modern day GT500 also featured an iron block V-8 like the original, although this time in supercharged form, to produce 500 horsepower and 480 lb-ft of torque-the most for any production Mustang at the time. Capable of running down the dragstrip in less than 13 seconds in stock form, the GT500 was also one of the best performing. The look was distinctively Shelby as well, with a more aggressive front end, vented hood, a subtle spoiler lip at the rear, and plenty of Cobra badges inside and out.

New For 2010
With the complete refresh of the Mustang lineup for 2010, SVT once again had the task of building a GT500 that would live up to the legendary name. Unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January, the '10 GT500 showed plenty of promise-a new look, more horsepower, suspension updates, and a more refined interior compared to the last model. From the looks of it, Ford had delivered. However, we wanted to know firsthand, and were fortunate enough to secure an invitation to drive the new GT500 both on the street and on the track at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. Does Ford's latest offering live up to the Shelby name? Read on and find out.

Reskinning The Snake
Before actually getting in the driver seat, though, we first took the time to look over the new exterior design changes. Doug Gaffka, the man in charge of designing the '10 lineup of Mustangs, knew he had a huge responsibility in penning Ford's latest Pony car. "When you do a Mustang you don't want to disappoint the customer, that's the most important part," he told us. With that in mind, he also wanted to give the car a more modern design. "I really wanted to get off the heritage approach totally and really do a more modern interpretation of where the Mustang is going." Using the '10 Mustang as a base, the new GT500 received all new sheetmetal excluding the roof. There are more curves and details, especially at the front end, that give the car a much more sculpted and muscular look. The dual grilles, taking styling cues from the legendary Shelby Cobra, are now more prominently featured, and the bulging hood provides a more aggressive appearance. The SVT team took the time to get even the smallest details right, like moving the Cobra logo to the right side of the grille to prevent any blockage of air to the intake in the left side of the grille. At the rear, the GT500 features the signature three-bar taillamps, although reshaped and now with sequential lights like in 1968, plus a low-drag rear spoiler with a Gurney Flap, and Shelby lettering that is now spread across the center of the car.

It's What's Inside That Counts
One of our favorite parts of the '10 Mustang GT was the new interior. The quality of materials was above and beyond any other production Mustang, and fortunately that has carried over to the GT500. The instrument panel is constructed of soft-touch TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) and is complimented by genuine alu-minum panels and Satin Liquid Chrome rings around the gauges and vents. The leather seats are fitted with Alcantara inserts, as is the steering wheel, giving the interior a decidedly upscale look. One of our favorite features is the dual stripe theme found on the white shift knob and on the seats, mimicking the exterior stripes on the car. New technology is also abundant on the '10 GT500, coming standard with voice-activated SYNC, 911 Assist, Vehicle Health Report, and the Ambient Lighting System with MyColor. Jamal Hameedi, SVT's Chief Nameplate Engineer, did note that the SVT logo in the illuminated door sills will stay red, no matter what color you change the Ambient Lighting System to. "The SVT logo is red, and that's how it will stay. We don't want any green SVT logos out there," Jamal said with a chuckle. You can also opt for the voice-activated navigation system that we maintain is one of the best on any car out there.

Performance
Aware that the GT500 isn't alone in the high-performance muscle car market any longer, Ford and SVT wanted to make sure that the Shelby remains the top dog in terms of performance. To do this, they have boosted the supercharged 5.4L V-8 to 540 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque thanks to a new cold air intake system derived from the unit developed for the GT500KR. To help make best use of that power, Ford has also fortified the six-speed driveline with a new twin-disc clutch that is larger and stronger than the previous unit (250mm versus 215mm). The final drive ratio has also been changed to 3.55 from 3.31, but thanks to slightly taller Fifth (0.74) and Sixth (0.50) gears, fuel economy has actually improved.

On The Street
When the time came to finally get behind the wheel, Ford had planned a fantastic drive for us to experience the '10 GT500. For a full day we attacked some of the best driving roads north of San Francisco, from tight twisty sections to long sweepers, and came away thoroughly impressed. According to the SVT team, it used what it learned with the GT500KR program and applied it to the '10 model. The front damping and spring rates have been increased, the chassis and body have been lowered, and aerodynamics have been improved thanks to the revised front spoiler and rear spoiler. Larger, 19-inch wheels are now standard, wrapped in upgraded Goodyear F1 Supercar tires that provide plenty of grip. Convertibles will get 18-inch versions for ride quality. The GT500 still isn't quite as nimble around tight corners as the Mustang GT because of the extra weight of the iron block up front, but the steering is quicker and more responsive than you would think a 4,000 pound car should be. The new clutch is fabulous, as evidenced by the fact that we barely even noticed it. Not only does it easily handle the GT500's power, but it's one of the most driveable units we've ever experienced. The new shifter, also a carryover from the KR, provides much more direct gear changes and doesn't have the rubbery feel that plagued the previous one. One aspect of the GT500 that didn't need changing was the brakes, and fortunately the 14-inch Brembos remain up front to provide excellent, consistent stopping power.

On Track
With several hours of driving on the street in the books, the next day we headed to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma to fully test the limits of the '10 GT500. Fortunately Infineon has the facilities to test cars in a variety of ways, so we were able to take the Shelby on a quarter-mile dragstrip, a road course, and on an autocross-style figure eight.

Starting with the dragstrip, we eagerly hopped into the driver seat to see what the new Shelby could do. With the extra power and the more aggressive gearing we naturally hoped it to be faster than the '07-'09 model, but with relatively slick track conditions and a stiff head wind we had realistic expectations as well. At this point we were also able to experiment with Ford's AdvanceTrac three-stage stability control system. In default mode the electronic nanny intervenes when it senses tire slip, but it can also be set to "Sport" mode which allows for additional tire slip before interfering, as well as turned completely off. In our first run down the strip we left traction control fully on, but found that it didn't allow enough tire slip before cutting power to the rear wheels. Since we didn't have all day to practice the perfect launch, we settled on using Sport mode with a slow roll-off and eventually cracked the 12s with a 12.9 @ 110 mph. There's plenty of potential left in the Shelby, however. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, the best e.t. of the day was a 12.3, and we have no doubt that with the right driver and right conditions a stock '10 GT500 will be able to break into the 11s.

After the strip it was time to do some road racing. While we only had time to run a handful of laps, we still got a good impression of how the GT500 can handle the corners. Just like on public roads the day before, we felt the Shelby can handle the twisties much better than a two-ton vehicle should be able to. Steering is precise, quick, and accurate, and the car feels much more at home on a road course than the previous car. Kudos to Ford and SVT for building a GT500 that loves to hit apexes just as much as breaking the timing beams. Even on the ultra-tight figure eight course, the GT500 held its own. Despite the extra weight of the iron block V-8, the car was so well balanced that the front end never failed to pull around, and any hint of understeer could be resolved with a touch of trail-braking to settle the car.

Final Thoughts
So does the '10 GT500 live up to the Shelby name? A resounding, enthusiastic, and emphatic YES! Ford and SVT did everything we could have hoped for in the '10 GT500. It's faster because of the extra horsepower and torque, gets better fuel mileage thanks to the gearing, is more driveable due to the new clutch and shifter, handles better thanks to the suspension changes, has the best interior of any production Mustang, and looks like it will eat any car that gets in its way. With a base price of $48,175 (after destination charges and gas-guzzler tax), it's still plenty of bang for the buck too. The '10 GT500 more than lives up to the Shelby name, and will no doubt become just as much of a legend than the original.

The Details
The '10 Shelby GT500

Mechanical
Brakes
Power four-wheel discs with ABS (Brembo four-piston front calipers)Engine
- 5.4L DOHC Supercharged V-8Transmission
- Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual3.55 limited-slip rear axle

Safety & Security
Personal Safety System (seat belt pre-tensioners, load limiting retractors, dual stage front air bags, driver seat position sensing, and crash severity sensing)
AdvanceTrac Electronic Stability Control
- On, Sport, OffAirbags - Dual stage frontAirbags
- Side impactKeyless Entry - RemoteLatch (Lower Anchors & Tethers for CHildren) systemLighting
- Illuminated entrySecurity
- Anti-Theft Perimeter Alarm (incl. perimeter inclination & intrusion alarms)Security
- SecuriLock Passive Anti-Theft (PATS)Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)Traction Control

Exterior
Badge - "Shelby GT500" badging on faux gas cap
Badge - "SHELBY" badging on rear decklid
Exhaust - Dual stainless steel with 4-inch tips
Headlamps - Quad reflector
Headlamps - w/integral park/turn lamps
Hood - Aluminum hood (w/ large single heat extractor)
Lighting - Foglamps
Mirrors - Power
Over-the-top "racing stripes" and "GT500" side stripes
Rear Spoiler - SHELBY rear decklid
18X9.5-inch Aluminum Wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar Tires (P255/45ZR18 front & P285/40ZR18 rear) Convertible Only19X9.5-inch Aluminum Wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar Tires (P255/40ZR19 front & P285/35ZR19 rear) Coupe Only

Interior
Center Console - Armrest with locking storage
Climate Control - Manual
Cupholders - (2) with cover
Door Locks - Power
Floor Mats - First row w/silver perimeter stitching and "GT500" embroidered logo
Lighting - Ambient lighting
Lighting - MyColor 125 color gauge backlighting
Seats - Leather sport buckets w/racing stripes coordinated to exterior stripes and Alcantara Suede accents
Seats - six-way power driver seats with power lumbar and two-way adjustable headrest
Steering Wheel - Leather and Alcantara suede w/unique thumb pads
Steering Wheel - Tilt
Windows - Power, driver & passenger global open controls

Functional
Audio - 8 speakers
Audio - Shaker 500 System (AM/FM Stereo/CDx6 MP3 Capable)
Audio - Ford SYNC
Audio - Input jack
Audio - SIRIUS satellite radio
Cruise Control
Easy Fill capless fuel filler
Headlamps - Autolamp
Instrument Cluster - Message center with compass
Instrument Cluster - six-gauge instrument cluster SVT graphics; Liquid Satin accent cluster and air registers
Pedals - Bright; clutch, brake, and accelerator
Power points
Interior trunk release
Windows - Rear defroster