When Ford introduced the new 2010 Mustang at the LA Auto Show in November, marketing boss Jim Farley promised the next chapter in the Mustang story would be revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in January. Well that time has arrived and to anyone who has been following the Mustang pattern over the last several years, it should come as no surprise that it's the Shelby GT500. Just like the last iteration, the new GT500 is the most powerful factory production Mustang ever.
Like the more prosaic Mustangs, the GT500 is mechanically an evolution of the older model. Just as Ford used the current-gen Bullitt model as the starting point for the 2010 Mustang GT, the lessons learned from developing the limited edition GT500 KR fed directly into the latest Shelby-badged variant. Output of the supercharged 5.4L V8 has now been cranked up to 540 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, and the handling is claimed to be better than before.
Like the last GT500, this one gets more aggressive styling, particularly in the nose, and reprises many of the same detail elements. The horizontally mirrored trapezoidal shape of the grille in the upper and lower front fascia is meant to echo the oval shape of the Shelby Cobras of the '60s. The upper grille is tilted forward at a steeper angle than the GT and the grille surround is separated entirely from the hood. The leading edge of the hood on other Mustangs forms the upper frame of the grille, while the new GT500 has an extra bit of bodywork there.
The hood of the GT500 still has a functional air extractor allowing some of the massive heat generated by the blown V8 to escape. The power dome of the V6 and GT is supplanted by a smoother bulge that now encompasses most of the hood. The driving lamps stay in the lower fascia reprising the last edition and leaving the grille area open for air flow.
Careful observers will note that the snake badge has moved from the right to the left side of the grille (when viewed from the front). This has nothing to do with the blowing of political winds, but is actually functional. Like the GT, the GT500 now has a cold air intake that sits directly behind the snake's former residence.
A revised duck-tail spoiler sits at the back end along the trailing edge of the trunk-lid and incorporates a Gurney flap. The faux diffuser along the bottom of the GT500's rump is now more prominent, although probably not any more functional. Regardless of the diffuser's functionality, the new GT500 does have more down-force thanks to that spoiler and the front splitter. The center of pressure has also been moved further forward, which should help reduce understeer at higher speeds.
The diffuser is flanked by a pair of four-inch diameter tail-pipes that could be used to patch your local water main the next time it bursts. The Shelby badging along the trailing edge of the trunk-lid also now stretches the width of the distance between the tail-lights, just like the original 2005 concept.
Supporting the still excessive mass (we'll get back to that) of the GT500 are new ten-spoke alloy wheels with a slimmer spoke design than before. Coupes and convertibles each get the same design but in different sizes and constructions. The rag-tops get a cast 18-inch version of the wheel, while closed-roof versions get a forged 19-inch construction. The forged version is both stronger and lighter than the smaller wheel compensating for the extra size. The sides of the spokes on the forged wheels are milled, helping to reduce the mass without sacrificing strength.
The leather seats inside the car now have pairs of longitudinal contrasting stripes that echo the stripes stretching the length of the body, as well as alcantara trim on the side bolsters, shift lever, parking braking boots and steering wheel. The traditional white cue-ball shift knob is now also adorned with a pair of black stripes parallel to the shaft of the short throw shifter. All of this is neither here nor there, as none one of these interior niceties makes the GT500 faster, turn better or stop better.
For that we have to look in the engine compartment. The powerplant remains a twin cam 5.4L V8 with a supercharger. New additions to the power plant include knock sensors, the aforementioned cold-air intake and a lower restriction exhaust system. The updates bump output from from 500 hp at 6,000 rpm to 540 hp at 6,200 rpm. Twisting force also goes from 480 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm to 510 lb-ft at the same peak speed.
Unfortunately, one aspect that didn't change is the cast iron engine block. The aluminum block that was used in the Ford GT supercar had a dry sump system that can't be packaged in the Mustang. Thus, the iron block from the F-150 was used with the top end of the GT engine, which pushed the car's weight up over 3,900 lbs. That makes the GT500 both the heaviest and most powerful Mustang.
The top two ratios in the new GT500's gearbox have been made numerically lower to help reduce fuel consumption. As before, getting all the drive torque from the engine to the gears is the job of a dual plate clutch. The clutch plates have been increased in diameter from 215 mm to 250 mm. This allowed Ford to reduce the clutch pedal effort while improving the torque transmission capability.
All that torque flows from the Tremec 6-speed gearbox through a limited slip differential with a 3.55:1 final drive ratio. The 2010 GT500 gets 17% stiffer springs at the front axle and 7% stiffer at the rear axle. The forged alloys on the coupe are wrapped in Goodyear F1 Supercar rubber sized 255/40R19 front and 285/25R19 rear. The Brembo four-pot calipers are retained at the front and the GT500 also get the same standard electronic stability control that lesser Mustangs get for 2010.
Like the GT with the Track Pack, the ESC in the new GT500 always defaults on when the car is started, but can be turned off or put into a Sport mode. In Sport mode, the ESC allows greater amounts of slip before intervening.
The 2010 GT500 now has more power and presumably better handling than before. When we drove the last iterations of the GT500 and Bullitt, the Shelby was undoubtedly faster but the Bullitt was a better all-around car and daily driver. The Bullitt's lighter weight and better balance made it more fun to drive on the street while the blown Mustang was king at the Friday night drag races. Only time will tell if the GT500 can overcome.
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