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.
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.
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.