Pete Epple Technical Editor
January 25, 2012

Point blank, no Mustang in history can match what Ford will release this year as a 2013 model. We're talking about the next Shelby GT500, and with 650 hp, 600 lb-ft of torque, and a top speed of over 200 mph, this Dearborn destroyer will leave no question as to which Pony car is king.

Thanks to Ford, MM&FF staffers got a first-hand look into a hardcore development session with Ford engineers as they put the '13 GT500 through its paces. So what we're about to bring you is an unprecedented insider look at the newest muscle Mustang on the block.

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Outrageous power has always been a major selling point to the (latest) stable of GT500s. Most were amazed with 500 hp in '07, thrilled with the 40hp upgrade for '10 (and the 10 extra hp in '11), but knowing Ford's propensity to raise the bar, we wondered what it could do next? Now we have the answer.

It's been long speculated that the next GT500 would get a sizeable increase in power. The Internet buzz suggested everything from twin turbos, to a modified version of the 6.2L Raptor engine. In the end, the engineers enhanced the existing platform.

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"The highlight [of the Shelby] is a new, 650hp engine with 5.8 liters by way of a jump in displacement (331-355 ci) thanks to a bore increase from 90.215 mm (3.55 inches) to 93.5 mm (3.68 inches). And we added a new 2.3L TVS supercharger," proudly states SVT engineer John Pfeiffer.

"We've increased compression from 8.5:1 to 9.0, added [Ford] GT cams, and a cast-aluminum structured oil pan with increased capacity," he adds. The 5.8L blown brawler lives with 8 quarts of 5W50 synthetic running through its veins and oil squirters to supply a spray of lubrication to critical areas. Internally, the 5.8L engine benefits from five-layer head gaskets for improved combustion chamber seal, Mahle pistons with a smaller bowl area (13.2-10.3 cc), and a lightened, reduced-tension ring package. With a raised rev limit of 7,000 rpm, Pfeiffer says the engine will approach piston speeds found in Formula 1 racing.

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Topping the mod monster is a reengineered 2300 TVS. Its rotors feature a four-lobe design with a 160-degree twist. The inlet flows 33 percent more air (than the outgoing inlet) and it will make 15 psi of boost. The 550hp Shelby used a Roots-style 2.0L blower with 3-lobe rotors twisted to 60 degrees. It maxed out in stock trim at 9 psi, although some regularly spin them it faster to make more boost. The injector size is also increased from 46.7-lb-hr to 54.8-lb/hr units, and cooling the intake charge is a high-efficiency air-to-water intercoolerùbut that is just the tip of the performance iceberg.

While the '07-'11 GT500s are fast machines, launching one can be a challenge, especially with stock tires. For the '13, Ford solved this problem with the introduction of Launch Control and Traction Control systems to maximize acceleration with minimal or, in most cases, zero slip. And believe us, the acceleration will quench even the thirstiest horsepower junkies. We got to experience these driver aids, and they are nothing short of amazing. Sweetening the pot is an adjustable rev controller (i.e., two-step) to help you dial in your launch.

The rev control is not just a gimmick. It will offer a tunable starting-line rpm limiter, allowing you to coordinate launch rpm with the surface and tires you're running to achieve the best possible acceleration. In essence, the driver will be staged on the line (be it at the track or on the street) and with the clutch down, you will plant the throttle to the floor. The engine will hold at a pre-set rpm, and when it is time to go, the driver simply releases the clutch smooth and quick. Your GT500 will accelerate rapidly in a controlled manner, with the LC/TC preventing (or at least seriously limiting) wheelspin. After seeing the system in action, we can report that it performs at the level of even the best quarter-mile hot shoes.

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"So what we've done is design a [Launch Control] system that is flexible enough for a customer to take their Mustang to the dragstrip, or on the street in a controlled environment, and optimize acceleration for the surface you are on," explains Dan Dunn, the electronic brake control development engineer on Mustang. When it senses moderate wheel slip (tire spin), the system will manipulate [rear wheel] braking, ignition, and throttle to help the tires maintain grip.

The system is so smart that in extreme circumstances it will exit LC. "There are hooks," says Dunn, "such as if you launch so hard that the vehicle produces wild tire spinùthen the system will exit LC mode. There is a complexity that's not obvious to the driver as it interfaces to manage acceleration using the powertrain controller, throttle, spark, and braking."

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Dunn, who is responsible for vehicle-level performance of ABS, traction control, stability control, and now specifically launch control, is also a drag racer. "Our system is robust," he states. "It works in real time and changes with conditions. It will adapt to changes in gearing within reason, and to many performance modification," he states enthusiastically.

From the ride we got, we can say the system is actually more on the aggressive side, allowing moderate spin on launch and even during aggressive upshifts. It's not at all intrusive as some TC systems have been in the past. All too often, performance vehicles use TC and "torque management" to prevent or limit driveline failure by severely kicking back the power. This is evident in the '10 Camaro, which practically falls on its face if you try to powershift it. But Ford gets it, as you'd barely know the system is active and working in your favor.

In fact, after seeing it work, I recommend leaving the driver aids on for all conditions. I've often driven Mustangs in which the tuner has reflashed the computer and permanently locked traction control in the Off position. This is not necessary, as most won't be able to outperform the capabilities of Ford's system.

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To handle the newly found power, Ford has upgraded the clutch to a larger diameter, twin-disc unit; the transmission gears feature less helix; and the case and bearings have been strengthened, too. Mating the transmission to the fortified 8.8 is a one-piece carbon-fiber driveshaft that is 13 pounds lighter than the old steel two-piece assembly.

To control the massive torque (500 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm and a peak of 600 at 4,000), Ford has reeled back the rear gear ratio to 3.31 (from 3.55 or optional 3.73). The gearing will undoubtedly help achieve the estimated top speed that is just north of 200 mph. Though the engineers won't confirm that the Shelby could pass the double-century mark, when I asked if the GT500 could top 200, they couldn't hide their smiles. The 3.31 will also help some drivers (especially on cold or marginal surfaces) find traction. Nevertheless, we'd give up 20 mph of top end for a harder launch.

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So, how quick will it go in the quarter-mile? We estimate that the 650hp GT500 will be capable of running 11.70s to 11.60s at well above 120 mph in bone-stock trim. In optimal conditions, perhaps quicker and faster. And with 4.30s and sticky tires, low 11s or even 10s could be possible!

From what we saw, the '13 GT500 will be a ground-breaking Mustang that people will get in line to purchase. So keep your eyes peeled to MM&FF as we continue to report on this fabulous machine. We're planning a full-on track assault just as soon as Ford can get us a production GT500.

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