Auto review: 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500: Jaw-dropping, record-setting power — plus agility
By Barry Spyker, Tribune News Service
Tribune Content Agency|
Nov 20, 2020 at 1:31 PM
It is billed as the fastest and most powerful street-legal Ford vehicle of all time. It has the most power-dense supercharged engine in the world. The 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 pumps out a staggering 760 horsepower, and roars to 60 mpg in just a few rapid heartbeats — or 3.3 seconds.
Grown men, veteran car guys, drive this iconic speed freak and are reduced to impromptu reactions like “zoweee!” and “My gawd!” Forgive them, this beast can leave folks speechless.
But there’s more to this GT500 than raw power and speed. Armed with something called magnetorheological dampers, simplified to MagneRide, this pony has sports car-like agility and has been called the best-handling Mustang ever. On a road course, and equipped with an $18K track package, it knocked off a comparably equipped Porsche 911 and Mercedes GT-R by a full second. Yeah, it means business.
The Shelby GT500 is new this year but you’ll remember the nameplate from 1967, when legendary racer and designer Carroll Shelby brought his Cobra performance to Mustang. (The nameplate was used again briefly in 2013 and 2014).
The 2020 edition looks menacing: cobra emblem in the grille, large front air intakes and hood vents, wide racing stripe and carbon fiber wheels. A big rear wing helps keep the GT500 grounded. It also has the traditional LED sequential turn signals, dual exhausts with quad tips, and an even bigger cobra on the rear panel.
Generating the speed and thrills is a 5.2-liter, hand-built V-8 engine. Aided by an Eaton supercharger pumping 12 psi into the cylinders, the engine puts out 623 pound-feet of torque. Allocating the power is a Tremec 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the only tranny available.
For those already screaming, “no manual?!”, know that this DCT is a phenomenal piece of engineering. Shifts are twice as fast as any human could manage, and downshifts are crisp and quick. So you can focus on hitting the apex or just staying on the road. There are cool magnesium Paddle shifters, at least.
If you must have a stick, the equally agile Mustang GT350R is the way to go. It has 234 fewer horses and costs about the same as the 500.
The GT500 has a drag mode and lightning-fast launch control, which boost it a quarter-mile in 10.7 seconds. There is no weak spot along the power band. Top-out speed is electronically limited at 180 mph.
Contributing to the stunning performance are available competition packages. A Handling Package ($1,500) adds Michelin Pilot 4S tires and aerodynamic improvements like strut top mounts and rear spoiler with “Gurney flaps.” For the drag strip, the pricey Carbon Fiber Track Package eliminates the rear seat to lighten the load and adds 20-inch carbon fiber wheels with Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tires, a bigger rear wing and body-hugging Recaro seats.
Steering is heavy-weighted but plenty responsive so there’s good control along with power coming out of a curve. And bringing this 4,149-pound hunk down from speed seems effortless with its big Brembo brakes: 16.5-inch rotors with 6-piston calipers up front, 14.5-inch vented discs and four-piston calipers in the rear.
OK, so the GT500 is powerful as a bull and agile as a Florida panther on the track. But can this bad boy be tamed well enough for everyday driving? Well, yes, it’s remarkably docile. Flip it into Normal drive mode and it softens the suspension and steering and soaks up the bumps for a comfort ride.
Even the exhaust note can be quieted around the neighborhood so you can sneak home late at night. Four modes — Quiet, Normal, Sport and Track — keep the GT behaved in all drive situations.
If fuel economy is an issue, well, you shouldn’t be shopping a muscle car, huh?. EPA estimates 12 mpg in town, 18 highway, and 14 combined. Notable: Those figures will cost you $2,600 in gas guzzler tax.
Visibility from within is good in all directions — even the rear wing doesn’t hamper the view. The Recaros ($1,595 option) with suede-like inserts are snug enough without being uncomfortable. There’s sufficient head and leg room up front but, as it has been since 1964, the rear seat is not fit for human habitat.
The tilt/telescoping steering wheel is covered in the suede-like Alcantara, and carbon fiber trim sweeps across the dashboard front. A rotary gear changer is a disappointment, something better left to luxury cars. Muscle cars need a shifter on which to rest the hand. Metal flip switches for some controls are a cool feature.
A 12-inch LCD digital gauge cluster has sharp graphics and is programmable to include race data. Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system appears on an 8-inch touchscreen in the center and has Apple CarPlay and Android capability. Included with an optional tech package ($3,000) is navigation and an upgraded audio system, a Bang & Olufsen across 12 speakers.
Trunk space is 14 cubic feet, which isn’t bad for the segment, better than Camaro but less than Dodge’s Challenger Hellcat.
GT500 is void of many safety and driver-assist features we’ve come to expect in higher-priced cars. There’s a backup camera and blind-spot warning with the tech package, but no adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning or automatic emergency braking.
The Mustang this year continues to be the best-selling sports car in the nation and world, according to market reports. And now the pony car stable has grown to 13 variations, from the from the new, high-performance EcoBoost 2.3 turbo to the GT500 monstrosity.