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Go icon Gobs of
supercharged V-8 power.
Slow icon It feels
really heavy, but lacks nothing in the oomph column.
Stop icon The exhaust’s too quiet. And
they’re not making many of them.
Clever those Ford marketing types … their new favorite phrase regarding the Mustang is “A steed for every need.” True, or just banal hyperbole?
After driving a 2007 Mustang GT, Shelby GT, and a Shelby GT500, I see some truth in this advertising.
On a pleasant day in October, Ford
rented the road course at
From garden variety to near-exotic
Our baseline for the day was the garden variety Mustang GT. It’s a pretty happy car around the flat 2.25 miles of Moroso. But things you’d expect from a standard production car surface in the GT. As you upshift through the gears, the suspension relaxes, then recompresses. This is never unsettling; it’s just the way a high-volume production car is set up. Same for the brakes — they get hot and fade after a few hot corners.
On the street, these things don’t matter, but you notice them after turning a bunch of hot laps. On the plus side, we noticed how balanced the GT is. It’s an easy car to drive quickly because it responds to the helm and the throttle with equal aplomb.
Stepping up to the Shelby GT, we
experienced what a bit of tuning does for the base GT. The Shelby GT gets
hardware developed by Ford Racing and Shelby’s team (the old man himself was
involved), and it changes the car markedly. The hardware includes packages from
Ford Racing called the Power Pack and the Handling Pack. The former includes a
low-restriction muffler, a cold-air intake system, and new engine electronics
mapping. The result is a verifiable 20-horsepower gain at the rear wheels. The
latter package drops the Mustang a good 1.5 inches using new springs and
dampers. Different sway bars and a strut tower brace finish off the
On the track, the Shelby GT feels much more composed than the standard GT. Gone is the seesawing at gear changes, and the car’s attitude in corners is much more neutral. This suspension makes a driver aware of just how much understeer is dialed into a standard GT. The Shelby GT’s rear end is much livelier, making this model feel the lightest and most responsive of the trio we sampled. While I’d like to say I could feel the extra power, my hind side is not finely enough calibrated to pick up on an increase that works out to be around seven percent. My ears could hear how good the low-restriction exhaust sounded.
Moving up to the Shelby GT500, the driving experience changes completely.
Powered by an iron-block 5.4-liter Triton V-8 with a Roots-style supercharger running at 8.5 psi of boost, the alpha male of Mustangs puts out an even 500 horsepower. The transmission is a Tremec TR6060, a special six-speed manual with high torque capabilities. Its suspension features plenty of unique performance pieces, and the brakes are massive 14-inch, four-pot Brembo units. Both front and rear brake discs are vented. Rolling stock measures out at P255/45ZR18 in front and P285/40ZR18 out back.
Pulling out of pit lane, the increase in power is immediately apparent, as is (surprisingly) the quietness of the exhaust. This car swooshes along vacuuming up track like a rabid Hoover. While clearly faster than the Shelby GT, the Shelby GT500 feels much heavier because understeer is more prominent, in part due to 57-percent of the car’s weight being over the front axle. (The 4.6-liter in the two lesser GTs is an aluminum-block engine, the 5.4-liter is iron.) From outside the car, the supercharger’s characteristic whine signaled big power, but inside the greatest sensation was never-ending torque. Thankfully, the big brakes were up to track duty.
Our on-track impressions of the Shelby GT500 were confirmed with a week of road time in Michigan. Around the streets of Detroit, the big Shelby felt like a classic Motown muscle car — big, brawny, and ready to brawl. Giving in to its desire to fight, we took it to Milan Dragway to see how it would do facing off against others during a test-and-tune Wednesday time-trial session. Easily ripping off quarter miles in the low 13s at over 109 mph says much more about the capabilities of the Shelby than the capabilities of the driver. The author was dusted in the first round of bracket-racing eliminations.
With the demise of the truly fantastic Ford GT, the Shelby GT500 is left to carry Ford Motor Company’s performance mantle. While it is clearly the king of all current Mustangs, it’s no Ford GT. However, this is an appropriate time to utter, “The King is dead, long live the King.”
2007 Ford Shelby GT500
Engine: Supercharged 5.4-liter V-8, 500 hp/480 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 188 x 73.9 x 54.5 in
Wheelbase: 107.1 in
Curb weight: 3920 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 15/21 mpg (manual)
Safety equipment: Anti-lock brakes and traction control; front and side airbags
features: Climate control; power
windows, locks, and mirrors; 18-inch wheels; tilt steering wheel with fingertip
controls; power front seats; lots of
Warranty: Three-year/36,000 mile