The new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 celebrates its world premiere at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which takes place in Detroit until the 27th January. Since the first Mustang generation, the name Shelby has always adorned a particularly sporty and powerful variant, which is located at the top of the model family. This tradition is more than justified by the new Shelby GT500, which is already part of the model year 2020. The manufacturer speaks of nothing less than the most powerful production Ford of all time.
Based on the current Mustang generation, especially the front of the GT500 looks sporty-aggressive. Sharp lines frame a hexagon-shaped grille in the low-drawn bumper, reminiscent of the design language of a Bavarian manufacturer with four rings in its logo. At the lower end the front is bounded by a diffuser and an equally striking splitter, which merges into lateral wings. Between the enlarged wheelarches for the standard 20-inch wheels, a side skirt with small wings controlls the air flow around the car, while the rear view is dominated by the large wing and the exhaust system with four voluminous tailpipes. Carroll Shelby’s logos on the bodywork – the Cobra – leave no doubt about the sportiest Mustang version.
Even more so than the aggressive design, a look at the first technical details that Ford announced at the premiere in Detroit shows that the new Shelby Mustang GT500 is far more than a showcar. In more than 50 years of the Mustang Shelby it is the first model, which comes with an independent suspension instead of a rigid axle at the rear. The best way to bring the performance of the new 5.2-liter V8 engine with supercharger to the road in a controlled manner. Almost hypermodern by American standards is the engine itself with aluminium cylinder heads, overhead camshafts and forged connecting rods. Ford didn’t announce exact performance figures yet, the press release just says “more than 700 hp”. Rumors at the NAIAS speak of about 750 ponies under the hood with its distinctive air outlets. Thus, the acceleration from standstill to 100 kph (62 mph) should be done in about three seconds, while the quarter mile time – more important in the US – should be reached in about ten seconds.
These very impressive times are partly the result of another innovation in American sports cars. The new GT500 is the first Mustang Shelby that is available with neither a manual or an automatic transmission, but with a modern seven-speed dualclutch gearbox from Tremec. It is operated via paddles behind the steering wheel and has an operating time in the range of 100 milliseconds. During the premiere in Detroit already several complaints of fans were heard because of this, so Ford no longer excludes another variant with a manual gearbox in the near future. Carl Widdman, Chief Technical Officer of the Ford Performance Division, responded to the question of a manual transmission salomonically: “We always listen to what our customers want, right?”
Ford sees the new Mustang Shelby GT500 as a competitor to the Dodge Challenger Hellcat and the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. While the Dodge rather represents the classic American design with a focus on acceleration, the Camaro, particularly in the version 1LE, is a serious track tool, now challenged by the new Mustang. Already in the normal production version, the GT500 has a new chassis geometry and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires as well as a high-performance brake system of the Italian specialists Brembo. Drivers with racetrack ambitions can optionally buy two different handling packages.
While the simple Handling Package features only adjustable strut brackets and an additional Gurney Flap at the rear wing, the larger, more aggressive option, the Carbon Fiber Handling Package, offers some very interesting details. This package features carbon fiber rims, an innovation formerly known from the Swedish hypercar company Koenigsegg or from the in-house supercar Ford GT. These reduce the unsprung masses significantly. Furthermore, the Shelby gets even more race-focussed Michelin tires, specially developed for this car, with this option. They are pressed onto the tarmac by the adjustable carbon rear wing. However, only two people at a time will benefit from this most sporty Mustang, because the rear seats are omitted for weight reasons.
On the other hand, all of the new Mustang Shelby GT500s feature Recaro sports seats with raised side bolsters for a firm sitting position. These seats are like the sports steering wheel upholstered with a combination of leather and Alcantara. The rest of the interior largely corresponds to the normal Mustang, except for the carbon fiber trim of the dashboard and various Cobra logos.
During the year, Ford will announce more details such as exact power figures and the price for the Mustang Shelby GT500. First deliveries are not expected before autumn 2019. Whether the most powerful Ford of all time will find its way to the European market as well has not yet been decided.