There is no denying – I always had something against North-American sports cars. Poor fit and finish internally and full of cheap plastics. Lack of refinement in terms of chassis and suspension. Heavy. Lack of feel behind the steering wheel. Automated gearboxes of the worst kind.
If there is one thing I have always praised the americans was their engines and performance for the buck. I am not going to get into an argument of whether their engines are (or not) technological enough for modern stands. I think this debate is worthless.
Therefore, whenever I have the chance of reviewing an american muscle and end-up with a brilliant car in several aspects, nothing more natural than to feel surprised. This is the case for the Shelby Mustang 2010 GT500.
THE SHELBY MUSTANG GT500
In order not to make this review really extensive, I decided to make a cut in the history of the car and start with its mordern models released on 2005. As from 2006, as 2007 year model, Ford and Shelby re-introduced the results of their partnership by releasing the reincarnation of the legendary GT500. The car came equiped with a 5.4 V8 coupled with a superchager, producing 500 Hp and 66 Kgfm of torque. All of which thrown in the asphalt through the rear wheels. The gearbox was a 6-speed manual . Chassis, suspension and brakes improved by Ford’s Special Vehicle Tem (SVT).
On 2010, the GT500 had its first facelift, addopting a new and cleaner design from the entry level Stangs. The car became more powerful – producing 540 HP and 70 Kgfm of torque. SVT further developed the suspension and the wheels became 19”. Fuel consumption improved and the Shelby was now equipped with new sensors to measure fuel quality.
For 2011, another update. This time The the iron cast engine was substituted by an alluminium alloy one, also 5.4 V8 and supercharged. Horsepower increased to 550 Hp whereas the torque remained practically the same.
Not satisfied, Ford released on 2013 the most radical GT500 ever, making it the most powerfull Stang in history to ever leave the assembly line. The alluminium engine’s displacement was increased to 5.8. With the help of the superchager, the 2013 GT500 produced 662 Hp and 87 Kgfm of torque. Top speed was of 325 Km/h. The weight was of 1750 Kgs. Fuel pumps, new radiators, intercoolers, clutch, gearbox, brakes and suspension all improved. The 2013 GT500 had launch control and 4 different driving modes for the stability control (a first for the Stang). You could also spec you GT500 with a Performance Package, giving it Bilstein adjustable suspension, Wilwood brakes and a more agressive differential. This model was capable of going from 0 to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds and doing the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds, numbers thought impossible until then for a regular production Shelby.
The car I tested is a 2010 GT500, therefore, with the iron cast engine, 5.4 V8 superchager. 0 to 62 mph takes about 4.5 seconds and the quarter mile is made in 12.6 seconds.
The 2010 GT500 is neither a small nor a light car. Weight is around 1800 Kgs and plays strongly against the car’s dynamics. The engine is right above the front axle, making it nose heavy. To my surprise, however, the car feels very agile. The reason for this is the insane amount of torque since the bottom of the rev band. This does not mean in any way that the GT500 feels at home in b-roads or tracks, but gives you enough confidence to have some fun.
The 2010 GT500 is one of those cars that says “rape me on the straight line, rub my back on corners”. Definatelly, it is not a car to enter late in a corner and expect a miracle. The heavy nose and imense amount of torque is a recipe for disaster in the hand of the unexperienced. Brake early, be gentle with the throttle during corners and nothing will go wrong.
The steering wheel feels very precise and direct considering the car’ size. If you are polite with the accelerator, it is possible to place the GT500 exactly where you want it in the track. The steering could be a little more heavy and the road feel could be better transmitted to it. Nothing that bothers, but worth some attention.
Accelerator and brake pedals are excelent in terms of feel. All very analogic and very responsive. The Shelby is a simple car, which is good in the era of “everything is adjustable”. There are no multiple types of configurations for everything. If you start to push the GT500 really hard, it will understand on its own what you are doing and adjust automatically. The only available button is the traction control.
Suspension could be more refined, but, honestly, it suits the car’s proposal. If you want a sharp car, go for the Boss version of the Stang, which is a more suitable track attacker in the line. The GT500 is car made for you to stomp your foot to the ground on straight lines. The torque punch, the supercharger whine, the sound of the V8 and the insane search for traction off the line are amazing aspects. It is vicious in all senses. Under these conditions, the brakes will do the job perfectly.
The manual gearbox is spectacular. The car I tested had a short shifter, making gear changes shorter, but harder. You have to be firm and precise, but once you learn it, it is much more rewarding than any soft and long gear changes. The pedals’ allignment is perfect, making it very easy to heel-toe.
If there is one aspect I did not like very much was the driving position. First, the driver seats at a higher position. Second, the steering wheel cannot be adjusted in depth, just in terms of height. Finding the adequate position was a bit tricky – going a little forward, my knees would hit the dashboard; a little further, my arms were stretched. If on one side the driving position bothered me, on the other it helps seeing the titanic front part of the car.
FIT AND FINISH
If the simplicity in the mechanical part is welcome, inside the car things could be a little better.
I am not going to say that the Shelby is poor inside, however, for a vehicle of this type, with all this performance, better materials could have been used. There is an orgy of cheap and hard plastics throughout the cabin. The seat reminded me of a living room and, although covered in leather, could be sportier. Honorous mention to the alcantara applications in the steering wheel.
Now, if you plan on buying an American sports car expecting the level of fit and finish inside of an European car, I am sorry to inform you, but you are looking in the wrong place.
In terms of ergonomy, I like the way the instruments and commands are simple. All very easy and intuitive. I dare anyone to need an owners’ manual to use anything inside the car.
North-American cars will never be complex and technology focused machines. The simplicity, purity, lack of refinement and brutality is what makes them distinct, different from any other type of sports car. This is what puts them in their sole atmosphere, whether you like it or not.
I was never a huge fan of these cars. Nevertheless, as I always say, to review a car you need to look at its proposal. Perhaps, today, I would have a Camaro ZL1 instead of the GT500 and I strongly want to review the Hellcat, but, at the time I tested the Shelby, it was definately the best and I was yet to drive the ZL1 and the Hellcat was not released.
The GT500 is not only a good American car, it is a legitimately good sports car. You do not need to worry about your throttle response or suspension settings before any drag race. Just ignite the beast and go for it. This is a huge praise in a world where everything needs to be technological and adjustable.
The fact, however, that the Shelby is a simple car, does not mean by any chance that it is inoffensive. If you underestimate its capabilities, it will bite you in the ass. You can drive around calmly and it will behave as good child, but if you push it at the wrong time, it will behave as Damien from the Omen.
Do not expect great internal fit and finish. Just focus on driving and listening to the supercharger coupled with the V8 and forget about the rest.