First Drive Review: 2008 Ford Shelby GT500KR
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2009.
By Shaun Bailey of Road & Track
It's good to be Carroll Shelby. Business is booming for the king of hot-rod Mustangs. So much so that Ford and Shelby have brought back a 40-year-old model — The King of the Road. The $79,995 limited edition is sure to be a favorite among collectors and Shelby fans who remember the original. Commemorating the original KR, the new car will be built in a production run of 1746. And 1000 of these will be built this year, the remainder in 2009. With roughly 175 cars going overseas, that leaves 1571 cars for U.S. consumption.
Mustangs have been on sale for 44 years, and as of April 16, 9 million had been made. To date, the KR is the most potent factory-warrantied Mustang ever, and it wears its badge proudly. Of note, back in 1968 Shelby had heard GM was planning to use the KR name but beat them to the punch.
Converting a GT500 to KR spec involves adding dampers with firmer rebound valving, stiffer spring rates, an alignment with more negative camber (1.4 degrees versus the GT500's 0.75) and zero toe-in. Really making the KR live up to its name, though, are forged 18-in. wheels shod with sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires that have a 180-treadwear rating rather than the conventional 220 on the GT500. The suspension tuning, combined with recalibrated traction control and ABS, works wonders. Where the GT500 feels slow and heavy mid-corner, the KR dares the driver to go faster. Tremendous grip is provided, and putting the 540 horsepower to the ground isn't difficult. Preliminary testing from Ford indicates the KR will achieve 1.0g on a skidpad and over 70 mph in our slalom. These are some outstanding performance numbers that we'll verify shortly.
Acceleration is improved by the tires as well as an increase in horsepower. The addition of a specialized cold-air intake, stainless-steel exhaust, increased spark advance and the requirement of premium fuel help squeeze an extra 40 ponies and 10 lb.-ft. of torque out of SVT's hand-built supercharged 5.4-liter V-8. And it feels even more powerful, thanks to the addition of a lower 3.73:1 (3.31:1 on the GT500) final-drive ratio. Around Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, the KR easily rockets down the straights to its 6250 rev limiter, at which point the SVT shift light illuminates. Flick the short-shift gear lever into 5th gear and the KR roars to a 155-mph electronically limited top speed.
Hauling the car down to appropriate cornering speed is easy with the big brakes and sticky tires. The retuned ABS and traction control are rarely invoked. For the KR owner who wants to track his car, a brake duct kit is included in the trunk that consists of the necessary hoses and shrouds.
On the track, the KR rewards cornering with a nice smooth steering input while gently trail-braking, then rolling back into the throttle. Not expecting the KR to have so much grip, I found myself having to get on the throttle early. A flying lap in the KR isn't slow in the corners and fast on the straights, it's fast everywhere. In typical Ford fashion the KR underwent a 12-hour track durability test, where the only things replaced were tires, brakes and fuel.
Visual differentiation of a KR is found in the 40th anniversary badging, carbon-fiber splitter, twin racing stripes, and carbon-fiber hood with unique hood pins. The hood — which ducts air to the intake and has vents — is a complex piece that saves 11 lb. over the GT500's, itself made of lightweight aluminum.
For those of you thinking of converting your GT500 to a KR, you're out of luck. Not only can't you get the dash plaque, but the parts to make a KR won't be sold by Shelby unless you already own one. But don't despair, as Shelby offers the Super Snake upgrade to the GT500, which bears an incredibly close resemblance and sells at a similar price. The Shelby GT500KR arrived at select dealerships in May. Expect to pay a premium befitting a King.