Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
July 25, 2012
Photos By: Ford Motor Company

From the outside, the ’13 Shelby GT500 from Ford SVT doesn’t look much different from the ’12 Shelby GT500. You might notice the revised grille treatment, or the new wheels, or perhaps the quad exhaust tips peeking through the rear bumper cover. But in this case, it’s what you can’t see that makes the latest GT500 so impressive. You have to drive it to feel it.

And that’s just what we did for two days in Georgia, both on the track and on the highways around Road Atlanta and Atlanta Dragway.

The power numbers alone are enough to get your attention—662 SAE-certified horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque. That’s 112 hp more than last year’s GT500 (not to mention 82 hp more than the Camaro ZL1) from a new 5.8L V-8 that replaces the previous 5.4L. SVT chief engineer Jamal Hameedi points out that nearly every system in the ’13 has been upgraded—“except for the back seat,” he jokes. It’s got larger Brembo six-piston front brakes, upgraded Tremec six-speed transmission, and one-piece carbon-fiber driveshaft. The increase in torque allows a drop to 3.31:1 gearing, which also contributes to a couple of other goals—over 200 mph top speed (which explains the 220 mph speedometer) and better fuel mileage than last year—15 city, 24 highway—to once again avoid the dreaded gas guzzler tax.

Looking inside that familiar front snout, you’ll notice new grille slots and an exposed radiator, along with a new front splitter, all for the purpose of increased downforce at high speeds and optimum cooling.

The ’13 GT500’s power increase comes from a combination of new aluminum-block 5.8L (355 cubic inches) V-8 and an increased capacity Twin Vortices Series 2300 supercharger with 14 psi of boost along with a drive ratio that is 2.64 times faster than last year. The camshafts are similar to the Ford GT, only with more valve lift. For added durability, the block utilizes a forged-steel crankshaft and plasma-coated cylinder liners (as opposed to the previous cast-iron sleeves). Oil changes will cost a little more—the revised oil pan holds 8½ quarts.

The redline is 6,250 rpm. However, in this high-tech Mustang, the computer allows for an over-rev to 7,000 rpm for eight seconds to prevent hitting the redline during shifts, allowing for quicker e.t.’s.

Showing that they were serious about showing off the new GT500’s track capabilities at Road Atlanta, SVT provided a second group of cars, each equipped with rollcage, safety harnesses, and option packages that enhance the track experience. We recommend opting for the Performance Package, which adds cockpit adjustable (Comfort and Sport modes) Bilstein dampers in conjunction with unique springs and stabilizer bars, special wheels, and a Torsen differential. On top of that, if you’re planning serious track time, you can check off the Track Package to get additional cooling for engine oil, transmission, and differential.

For our track test, SVT let us loose on the full Road Atlanta course with only one chicane added to the back stretch to prevent speeds that would require full driving suits. Our instructor tells us that the GT500 is capable of 170 mph on Road Atlanta’s long back straight-away; we may see 140 before hitting the brakes for the chicane.

The ’13 GT500 is easy to drive fast. Coming out of the pits in Third gear, the Shelby blasts up the hill into Turn Two. By Turn Three, I fully understand that the GT500 is more capable than I am. With the suspension set to Sport mode, the handling feels neutral with no push like previous GT500s. The car feels lighter, the result of the aluminum engine and revised suspension tuning. There’s body lean but, hey, after all, this is a street car. A fast street car, one that can get you in trouble in a hurry.

Downhill into Road Atlanta’s famous Esses, the GT500 is a rocket ship. With gravity on its side, the acceleration is breathtaking, pressing my eyeballs back into their sockets and peeling my cheeks back until I feel like a contortion-faced cartoon character.