Courtesy of Ford Motor Company
July 1, 2009
Photos By: Jim Fets

When Ford Motor Company linked up with Carroll Shelby to bring back the Shelby GT500, there was hope of rekindling the magic found in the early GT350s and GT500s. What resulted was something special, as many consider the 500hp GT500s to be the best Mustangs ever.

While they are amazing machines, top-dog status lasted only until Ford upped the ante with the 540hp '08 special edition GT500KR. The rare KR could clock 11-second quarter-mile times and run through the twisties like no other Stang before it. The KR features many high-end qualities, but also a high-end price tag at just under $80,000.

For about half that price ($46,325 for the coupe and $51,225 for the convertible), many more can enjoy Ford's latest Mustang with 540hp and 510 lb-ft of torque. We're talking about the 2010 Shelby GT500--now refined with amazing handling, Earth-rotating torque, updated styling, and active handling, to name a few upgrades.

"The muscle-car segment is becoming even more competitive," says Jamal Hameedi, chief nameplate engineer for SVT. "The GT500 was designed to compete with other supercharged cars [the Camaro and Challenger]," he adds. "We need to uphold the Mustang badge with honor, the Shelby badge with honor, and most importantly, the Ford badge with honor. This is the car that will do all of that."

Most noticeable is the big reshaped grille, which is reminiscent of the original Shelby A/C 427 Cobra. There is great function in the grille--it routes air directly to the filter box for a true ram-air effect (which is why the snake is moved over). The revised front fascia now blends seamlessly into the aluminum hood (which prevents air from bleeding underhood) and has a single heat extractor to vent hot air. The GT500 also has a unique rear fascia with a non-functional air diffuser and cutouts for the proud 4-inch exhaust tips.

Those who get weak in the knees over earlier Shelbys need only a few minutes in and/or around the '10 to realize how spectacular it is. We had our chance during a press event at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, where we tore up the NASCAR road course, the NHRA strip, and a timed figure-eight track. In addition, we logged over 160 street miles up the Coast Highway from San Francisco to Napa Valley. And thanks to the amazing supercharged mod mill, there was plenty of whine and wine during our trip.

A good portion of the steering wheel (and the seat bolsters) is stitched with Alcantara, a simulated suede that's more durable. It provides a comfortable and racy feel that we love.

Maximum Mechanical
The '10 abounds with technical features. Its heart is the 540hp, supercharged, 5.4L, DOHC engine. It looks the part with the big Eaton up top, but it now sports a cold-air inlet fed directly from the grille. The GT500 we tested also has dual-knock sensors, AdvanceTrac active suspension, navigation, satellite radio, and SYNC. Environmentalists will love the improved fuel economy (14/22 mpg) and capless fueling system.

Engineers worked hard to reduce NVH (noise/vibration/harshness) and it shows. "You still hear the supercharger, but not so much that it's intrusive," says Kerry Baldori, chief functional engineer for SVT. "It's the same with the exhaust. You want people to know you're driving something special, but you don't want an exhaust note that overpowers the whole interior."

Transferring power is a featherlight and silky-smooth twin-disc clutch. The clutch, along with the six-speed Tremec, are significantly upgraded, improving driveability and NVH. For '10, the clutch discs are larger--250 mm in diameter compared with 215 mm on the outgoing model--and the material is copper and fiberglass.