Who Are We To Argue With The World's Most Powerful Production V8?

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

As you're surely aware by now, the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 boasts a 5.8-liter beast of an engine making 662 horsepower, partnered in crime by 631 pound-feet of torque.

There seems little to gain in rehashing what we already know – namely, that the 2013 GT500 is fast. Stupid, stinking, earth-shatteringly fast. Ignorantly fast, even. This much is a given. Anybody who can read a spec sheet knows that the GT500 can set ablaze a straight-line drag race and will be even more ludicrous with its snake-encrusted nose pointed toward an unlimited runway. This Mustang will gallop to two 202 miles per hour in fact, which is pure insanity.

But why? What's the point? To put it another way, what do you do with a two-door coupe straining to keep that supertanker-size engine firmly attached to its motor mounts while the traction control tries (and fails miserably) to keep its rear tires planted? When the keys to the 2013 Shelby GT500 were handed to us, we figured we'd have exactly one week to find out why anyone would want to buy one, beyond the obvious, of course.

As it turns out, the answer was rather simple.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 side view2013 Ford Shelby GT500 front view2013 Ford Shelby GT500 rear view

There's an argument to be made that the best-looking Mustang is the simplest Mustang. Subtract all the scoops, bulges, badges and decals and you're left with a pure and simple coupe with classic proportions. Long deck, short tail. It's a trick that Ford used to good effect with the original Mustang in the mid-1960s and the world hasn't grown sick of it yet.

If you're going to go all retro on us with a car, you may as well go all the way.

That said, if you're going to go all retro on us with a car, you may as well go all the way. And so we're left with a car bedazzled with twin black grates on its butched-up hood; a fascia with fog lights, splitters, blacked-out mesh and a massive opening for air; a set of period-correct racing stripes that join smaller pairs on the bodysides and, of course, a large rear spoiler with a Gurney Flap. Clean it is not. Effective it is.

Nobody could possibly gaze upon the 2013 GT500 and not understand its mission. Even more so than the reborn Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, the Shelby gets its point across loud and clear. If you're in the market for one, we suggest you just go all the way and pick the most flamboyant color combination your retinas will allow. Because, well... why not?

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 headlight2013 Ford Shelby GT500 badge2013 Ford Shelby GT500 wheel2013 Ford Shelby GT500 taillight

Continuing this subtle-as-the-Terminator theme is the engine under the hood. Pop it open and you'll be greeted by nearly as many labels and proclamations as you see on its skin. Each side of the V is covered with bright blue valve covers emblazoned by cast aluminum strips that read "POWERED BY SVT." All caps, of course. In case you had forgotten its displacement, Ford has helpfully cast it in the supercharger's casing.

In case you had forgotten its displacement, Ford has helpfully cast it in the supercharger's casing.

If you somehow managed to miss all of that, perhaps your eyes were affixed upon the plaque on the driver-side of the engine proudly stamped with the name of the worker who built it. Another automaker with such a proud display on its engines? AMG. And the comparison isn't crazy. But we'll get to the whys and hows of the powertrain in a bit.

Sitting behind the wheel, the driver is met with a cockpit best described as purposeful. There are a lot of shiny bits – the majority of the dash is clad in an aluminum-look material and the steering wheel gets chunky metal stems at three, six and nine o'clock – but the overall sensation is much more subdued than the loud-and-proud exterior. That's fine with us. All the necessary bits are right in front of the driver: A 220-mile-per-hour speedometer on the left and a 7,000-rpm-redline tach on the right. In between sits a 4.2-inch LCD screen that's loaded with all kinds of useful information. This is also where the Track Apps and launch control (more on that later) are set.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 engine

The best parts of the interior are the two front seats, assuming you've spent the extra $1,595 on the optional Recaros. You definitely should, as these thrones hold your buns in place when the 'Stang is in the throes of lateral acceleration. Buyers can also opt for an electronics package that includes navigation, HD radio service and dual-zone climate control. SYNC with AppLink comes standard, so you can stream Pandora and get audible text messages.

Loaded up with all these goodies, the 2013 Shelby GT500 comes in at $66,715.

While you're busy checking boxes on the option sheet, don't forget to include the SVT Performance Package for $3,495 that includes a Torsen differential and cockpit-selectable Bilstien shocks. You'll also want the SVT Track Package for $2,995, which includes extra coolers for the engine, differential and transmission. These items should really come standard, considering the nature of the car they are attached to. If you want to go all out, a glass roof is available for another $2K and a Shaker Pro audio system with three subwoofers can be had for $1,295.

Loaded up with all these goodies, the 2013 Shelby GT500 comes in at $66,715. Base price is $54,200 for those with more restrained tastes. That's a heady chunk of change for a Mustang to be sure, but we've not yet talked about the powertrain – and this is where the real money is spent.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 interior2013 Ford Shelby GT500 front seats2013 Ford Shelby GT500 fuel economy display2013 Ford Shelby GT500 shifter

It takes a staggering 150 horsepower just to spin 14 PSI out of the 2.3-liter Eaton supercharger, which is a real drag, but with an end result of 662 horses at 6,500 RPM and 631 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 RPM, we don't really see any reason to complain. In order to manage such colossal power, in addition to bumping displacement through the use of a three-millimeter increase in bore, Ford employs a 9:1 compression ratio (up from 8.4:1 for 2012), camshafts derived from those fitted to the Ford GT supercar and an extra fuel pump. All the rotating internals inside the cross-drilled block are forged for strength.

These figures are achieved without direct injection, which means there's likely a little more power left on the table.

It's worth noting that these figures are achieved without direct injection, which means there's likely a little more power left on the table should the unthinkable happen... like, for instance, if Chevy managed to wrestle the power crown away with a Camaro ZL1.5 or something. In any case, this kind of power means a heavy-duty clutch is on call. It takes 30 pounds of force to depress the far-left pedal, which is pretty heavy, though a small price to pay for a car that catapults to plaid as quickly as the GT500.

Let's take a U-turn back to those Track Apps. Using buttons on the steering wheel, the driver can choose from a slew of interesting performance bits and pieces. For instance, the car will measure acceleration, lateral and longitudinal Gs and braking performance, and it will also provide a very nifty countdown timer that you can use to hone your launch skills or show off to friends. See a quick demonstration of Track Apps in our Short Cut video below.

Autoblog Short Cuts: 2013 Ford Shelby GT500

It beats the Camaro ZL1 and Challenger SRT8 in a quarter mile with one piston held behind its block.

As you can see above, the 2013 GT500 hits 60 mph in first gear, and it can do so with alarming alacrity. With Launch Control set properly and on the right asphalt, this car can hustle from 0-60 in a scant 3.7 seconds and on through the quarter mile in 11.7 seconds. In the ever-important war of bragging rights, the 2013 GT500 handily holds the heavyweight belt, beating the less powerful Camaro ZL1 and Challenger SRT8 with one piston held behind its block.

Of equal importance, the Shelby's six-piston Brembo monoblock calipers and 15-inch front rotors do a yeoman's job of hauling the car down from speed, aided by its 13.8-inch rear units. We've driven the latest GT500 on the track, and while its brakes tend to fade a bit too quickly in that environment, we never ran across any issues on the street, and the rear P285/35R Z-rated Goodyear Eagle Supercar tires offer about as much grip as any street-legal rubber can be expected to. Which is to say, not nearly enough.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 badge2013 Ford Shelby GT500 graphics

We love the fact that Ford left an automatic transmission off the options sheet.

Indeed, it would probably take a full set of 2,648 hooves (that'd be 662 horsepower times four legs for each horse...) to dig out enough traction to keep the rear end from erupting in smoke with the traction control off. Unless your last name is Andretti and you're taking the car to the track, we suggest you leave it on. We found that keeping the dampers and steering in Sport mode, aided and abetted by the four-stage traction control at its least-intrusive intermediate sport setting, provided the most entertaining ride. Stiff for sure, but not so bad as its namesake from the animal kingdom.

We love the fact that Ford left an automatic transmission off the options sheet, and while the ball-topped six-speed shifter in the GT500 is a bit stiff, it finds its way into gear with a satisfying mechanical clunk. Guide the shifter into overdrive as early and as often as possible and you might even manage to crack the EPA's estimated 15 city and 24 highway fuel mileage rating.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 rear 3/4 view

So, how does it feel to drive the 2013 Shelby GT500 on the street every day? In a word, awesome. We can't imagine anyone who'd actually buy this car could possibly keep his or her foot out of the throttle whenever a clear path of road lies ahead, but we found it surprisingly easy to drive in traffic; almost docile at times. Paradoxically with so much power on tap, whenever a fast car pulled up alongside, we didn't feel the need to prove a point. And when we say 'fast car,' we mean it. 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera? Nope, can't keep up. Neither can anything currently available from Aston Martin, nor the Ferrari California or Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. Even the Audi R8, replete with its Lamborghini-derived V10 engine, can only just match the Shelby's run to 60, and that supercar has the benefit of all-wheel drive. The 2013 Nissan GT-R might snatch the acceleration crown, but only just, and it's both much more expensive and a bit slower at the top end.

Just as importantly, everyone else on the road seems to know all about the 2013 Shelby GT500. We got plenty of thumbs-up motions from fellow motorists, but there was only one vehicle that actually wanted to race, and it was a family-toting minivan. We obliged, holding down the throttle until the speed limit was reached. The van pulled alongside a short time later, and the entire family – Dad, Mom, Jane and little baby Mikey – all had ear-to-ear smiles.

We suppose headline-grabbing specs like 662 horsepower and 202 mph make Joe Public sit up and take notice, and this is perhaps the best thing about the latest GT500: Carrying the biggest stick means that there's nothing left to prove.


Second Opinion: 2013 Ford Shelby GT500
By Chris Paukert

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 coupe in red candy metallic - front three-quarter view

Korzeniewski is a lucky guy – he had his GT500 on the dry, well-maintained and sun-baked roads of Phoenix, Arizona. I just drove a similar GT500 in suburban Detroit as fall was kicking into gear, bringing with it dropping temperatures, frost warnings and wet leaves to complement the region's already indifferently maintained roads. I have no doubt that the GT500 was an unalloyed joy out in JK's neck of the woods, but after a week with the car in The D, I have to say that despite being born in nearby Flat Rock, I suspect this pony car would live a happier life in the more temperate climes of the Southwest.

If you live in a climate like mine, you'd do well to treat the Shelby GT500 with an additional packet of respect.

Don't get me wrong, having 662 hp and 631 lb-ft at your right foot's beck and call makes for a vivid and privileged enthusiast's experience. When deployed properly, it's an incredible rush. But at the risk of putting on my Captain Obvious suit, it bears noting that the GT500 feels genuinely skittish on cold, wet rubber in a way that few cars can. Even while carefully metering out the heavy clutch and being gentle with the throttle on only slightly damp surfaces, the rear end felt like the tires were skating on ball bearings until they got dried off and up to temperature. It can be downright spooky. If you're too impatient to crab along until the Goodyears dry naturally, the solution is to briefly heat them up by intentionally spinning them when you have a clear stretch of pavement – just make sure to give the car your full respect and attention.

I've driven a ton of high-power rear-drive cars and nearly all of the high-power Mustangs (factory and otherwise) from the last decade or so, and it's truly amazing to see the bandwidth that Ford has managed to get out of the current platform, from V6 rent-a-cars to the sublimely balanced Boss 302 on up to this red-in-tooth-and-claw GT500. They're all impressive – but if you live in a climate like mine, you'd do well to treat the Shelby GT500 with an additional packet of respect compared to its siblings, because this snake can bite.