First Drive: 2008 Shelby GT500KR, Part 2

GT500KR First Drive – Click above for high-res image gallery

Our initial drive of the Shelby GT500KR on public roads revealed that Ford, SVT and Shelby had addressed many of the issues that we had with the standard GT500. The KR's revised suspension is better balanced and more capable of handling the excessive amounts of horsepower and torque that the blown 5.4L generates, and a new short-throw Hurst shifter makes changing gears a joy instead of a chore. To top it all off, a Ford Racing cold air intake, new exhaust system, and 3.73 gears give the KR an extra kick in the pants. The changes were so spot-on that we wondered why Ford didn't build the GT500 this way in the first place.

With a ride like the GT500KR, however, only so much of the car can be experienced on public roads. At 540 horsepower and 510 lb-ft torque, the KR quickly reaches posted speed limits and the car stays well under its limits around corners. Fortunately, Ford let us loose to run hot laps around Miller Motorsports Park. Follow the jump to see how the "King of the Road" fared at the track.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

Click here to read First Drive: 2008 Shelby GT500KR, Part 1.

Upon arriving at the track, we discovered a sort of Mustang paradise. A host of Challenge and driving school Mustangs were joined by the full Mustang lineup, including the V6, GT, Bullitt, Shelby GT, and GT500. We were able to sample the Bullitt and Shelby GT to acquaint ourselves with the 10-turn, 2.2-mile west course of Miller Motorsports Park. After a few laps in each it was time to get into the KR.

Our initial impressions of the KR on the road were further reinforced at the track. Its suspension is better balanced and makes the car feel lighter on its feet – not as much as the trimmer Shelby GT or Bullitt, but more so than the standard GT500. The chassis is predictable and is relatively easy to control even when the tires start to lose traction. That didn't happen too often, though, because of the incredible amount of grip that the KR generates. We didn't necessarily notice this on public roads, but the Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires absolutely shone at the track. Their compound is unique to the KR and is close to being an R-compound. That said, they still maintain a relatively robust tire wear rating. You would think that breaking loose the tires with 540 horsepower and all that torque would be relatively easy, but not so with the KR. Much more throttle can be used coming out of apexes compared to the standard GT500, and corners can generally be taken at higher speeds. Ford claims the KR can consistently maintain 1.0g and we're inclined to believe that.

The increased grip also helps to improve the KR's braking capability. The ABS has been recalibrated to work with the stickier tires and stopping distances from 60-0 mph are cut by six feet compared to the stock GT500. Each KR also comes with a functional brake duct kit that feeds cool air to the brakes via NACA-style ducts in the lower front fascia. Despite several hours of non-stop driving at the track, the 14-inch Brembo brakes had no problems with fading.

The GT500KR is and will most likely remain the highest-performing Mustang ever offered by Ford. It blends the power, looks, and heritage that aficionados cherish, but now it adds a level of handling to make it the ultimate Mustang. The only downside is that so few will be made and that so few owners will experience the hard work and development Ford put into the car. With only 1,571 examples set for production throughout 2008 and 2009, a majority of KRs will most likely be purchased as investments by collectors and turn into 'King of the Garage'. Still, that doesn't take away what Ford, SVT, and Shelby have accomplished here. They could have simply added some bolt-ons, made a few cosmetic changes, slapped on the KR badges and called it a day. This is actually what we thought they did when we first saw the GT500KR at the 2007 New York Auto Show. People would still have paid thousands over MSRP just to have one if that were the case. Instead, Ford made sure that the car lives up to its name. Is the KR still the King of the Road? You bet.

Click here to read First Drive: 2008 Shelby GT500KR, Part 1.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

Travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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