2013 Ford Shelby GT500

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2013 Shelby GT500 Review

By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.7

Bottom Line:

Mechanically all-new, Ford’s most powerful, fastest Mustang is a car of extremes. It’s 662-horsepower V8 engine rages when provoked, but it’s also a polished daily driver or road-trip companion.
Pros:
  • Affordable pocket exotic
  • Serious power, relaxed speed
  • Wide personality: happy on street or track
Cons:
  • Jack of all trades
  • In places, still just a Mustang
  • Occasionally loud exhaust

Ford's Mustang| has been fun, fast and affordable for nearly 50 years. But now it has an exotic side: the completely upgraded 2013 Shelby GT500. Built by Ford's Special Vehicle Team, the 2013 GT500 boasts excellent handling, 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque, a 200-mph top speed, and 11-second acceleration in the quarter-mile. It is the most powerful production car made in the United States, and offers better performance than the purist Mustang Boss 302 it shares the Ford stable with.

While it is one potent beast, the 2013 GT500 is also more livable and drivable than ever before. SVT has improved this steed in every way. But does that truly make it the Alpha Pony?

Model Lineup
Unlike most exotics, but in keeping with the Mustang tradition, the GT500 is offered in numerous configurations. There's even a convertible to go with the more popular coupe, or if you can't decide between the two, a glass-roof coupe option is also available.

There is only one GT500 premium trim level. However, a Performance package adds adjustable Bilstein shocks and a Torsen differential for greater handling prowess. For all-out racetrack driving, a Track package provides enhanced engine, transmission and differential oil coolers.

Generally, the GT500 carries every feature and creature comfort available in the Mustang line. This means standard leather seating with optional bold white seat striping and other minor trim changes for the desired sporting presentation.

Under the Hood
There's nothing but performance joy underneath the GT500's vented hood, starting with the world's most powerful production V8 engine. The newly enlarged 5.8-liter all-aluminum V8 uses 4-valve cylinder heads and improved supercharging to blast out an incredible 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque. Furthermore, all that power is available seemingly off-idle for a gutsy, muscular persona.

Every part of the driveline has been upgraded, with a stronger clutch, a refined transmission, a carbon-fiber driveshaft and a reinforced live rear axle. A notable change is a move to 3:31 final drive gearing from last year's 3:55 cogs. This softens the 5.8's blast off the line for increased drivability around town, but it does mute the snap when hammering the throttle. The big advantage of the taller gearing is reaching 200 mph in fifth gear, or more practically, a 1 mpg increase in fuel economy. The Environmental Protection Agency mileage estimates are 15 mpg city/24 mpg highway.

Because there's no automatic transmission that can withstand this sort of power in Ford's lineup, all GT500s employ a 6-speed manual. Yes, that means a hefty clutch pedal and a traditional "6 on the floor" shifter, even in the convertible.

Launch control is also included for much easier drag-strip starts, and the stability control, ABS brakes and other electronic aids are interactive and artfully tuned to stay out of the way of the skilled driver, or they step in immediately should the driver have a big excursion.

Inner Space
If the 2013 GT500 has a weak side, it's that some of its populist Mustang roots show through too much. There's enough Shelby badging and upholstery stitching to carry the theme, but the basic cockpit screams Mustang — and not necessarily in a good way.

Generally, the GT500 interior looks like the gussied-up Mustang that it is. That may mean there is little exotic or unique to the GT500 furnishings, but it also means enjoyable, upright seating and clear sightlines for real-world drivability, easy ingress and egress, a workable trunk, more storage or emergency seating in the back seat and not a lot of money wasted trying to make the GT500 something it isn't.

On the Road
We drove the GT500 on the street in rush-hour traffic, on open freeways, winding secondary roads, a drag strip and a road-racing circuit. It handled all with ease, exhibiting a stiff clutch and manly shift efforts, precise electrically assisted adjustable steering, excellent handling and responsive, satisfying braking.

The cabin is surprisingly quiet; the exhaust is occasionally noisy but road and wind noise are muted. This, along with the seven-league-boots gearing, make the GT500 feel like it's crawling until the speedometer hits 80 mph.

Where the GT500 excels is making easy speed on secondary roads. With waves of torque, the 2013 GT500 is a superb grand touring car; it simply gobbles road-trip miles. It can rage like a mean sports car, too, should the spirit move you.

Drag-strip action is also a hoot. The launch control can be dialed in 100 rpm increments and makes for a near-perfect launch every time. It takes technique to get the car into the 11-second quarter-mile range, but an average Joe can run 12.2s at 120 mph all day long.

The GT500 really hangs in there on the road course. The Boss 302 offers the purer road-racing experience, but the GT500 storms so fast from one corner to the next that it laps faster than the Boss. The brakes are powerful, bite immediately and withstand abusive track action, but the quickest track-day heroes will want a race pad to avoid a mushy pedal. All told, the GT500 is track-ready off the showroom floor.

Right for You?
Ford says GT500 buyers are mainly self-made men, business owners who've done well and want it all, and they're right. However, sports-car specialists should check out the rarer Boss 302 first. Power buyers should go straight to the GT500.

Pricing is not an immense stumbling block. Well, not for the demographic Ford has picked for this vehicle. Base price is $54,200 for the coupe, but expect a figure more like $63,000, when you include the Performance package (highly recommended) and the $2,995 Track package (the extra cooling is truly needed only for hard-driven open track cars). The convertible starts at $59,200 and rises to the same $63,000 range without the Track package, but with the Performance package.

(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitatethis report.)

Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, threetechnicalengine books and hundreds of freelance articles.

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BB04 - 8/29/2014 1:24:34 AM