2011 Ford Shelby GT500
Base price: $49,495 – $53,645
As tested: $57,475
MPG: 15 city/23 highway
- Exceptional performance
- Gorgeous styling inside and out
- Incredible sound, blissful to drive
- Costs close to 60 grand
- mpractical, close to irrational
- Might be sold out by now
By Jim Prueter
The fastest, most powerful production Mustang ever made
The Ford Shelby GT500 sits atop the Mustang food chain, a lineup that includes an impressive all-new V-6 and soon-to-be-available 412-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 GT model. But there’s no “Mustang” to be seen on this big, muscle-bound brute, rather it’s adorned with the original Shelby AC Cobra snake on the front, back, both side fenders and steering wheel. Shelby even replaces Mustang across the trunk lid, a shibboleth that betrays its heritage.
Make no mistake, with 550 supercharged horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, the new 2011 GT500 has enough improvements to run circles around the 2007 to 2010 Shelbys.
One of the biggest problems with previous Shelbys was poundage, namely the iron-block supercharged truck engine under the hood, which has been replaced by a 102-pound lighter aluminum-block 5.4-liter V-8. The new engine produces 10 additional horses over the 2010 GT500.
Also new for 2011 is the SVT Performance package ($3495) that adds Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber, with 19-inch P265/40ZR tires up front and 20-inch P285/35ZR tires in the rear, mounted on lighter forged wheels. Suspension is stiffened and ride height is lowered by one inch overall. The other feature of the package is the standard 3.55:1 drive gear, swapped for a quicker 3.73:1 ratio.
The combination of less weight, more power and much-needed handling improvements brings tears-of-joy moments to Shelby loyalists everywhere. Still, it isn’t exactly a sports car. Sure, it’s freaky quick with a zero to 60 mph time of a tick over four seconds and a standing quarter mile time of 12.3 seconds, according to Ford. With huge BremboÒ brakes, coming to a complete stop from 70 mph takes just 151 feet, an improvement from 165 according to one automotive magazine’s testing.
Yet sometimes more horsepower is not the answer, particularly when the question is an obsolete chassis with a live (solid) rear axle. Ford is one of the last holdouts and Mustang desperately needs to move to an independent rear suspension to improve ride comfort and handling capability.
Meanwhile, Shelby’s cockpit offers an impressive high-quality improvement over previous generations with superb overall fit and finish. Our test Shelby featured black rolled and pleated leather seats with red stripes that coordinated with the red stripes on the sterling gray metallic exterior paint.
We liked the short throw cue-ball shifter knob, ambient interior lighting, and real aluminum trim but not the dimpled pattern it came in. The steering wheel is suede-like material, but for some reason Ford is reluctant to include a telescoping steering wheel like Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
Shelby is available as a coupe or convertible, but all this love doesn’t come cheap. Our coupe tester had a base price of $49,495, and options pushed it over $57,000. The convertible starts at $53,645. That’s a lot of money for a Mustang, but Ford reports that if you want one, you better hurry since they have been flying out of dealer showrooms. Ford is limiting production to just 5500 and more than 4000 orders have already been taken, beating sales expectations.
Every time I write about a gas-guzzling, huge carbon footprint performance car, I’m guaranteed to get mail from readers admonishing me for glorifying it. But these types of low production cars aren’t bought for daily commuting. For the most part, they’ll be left to slumber in climate-controlled garages for most of their lives, rendering their greenhouse impact insignificant when compared to mass-market vehicles.
Overall, we think the 2011 Shelby GT500 is amazing. Ford and Shelby have designed a fantastic car that’s quick, sounds great and handles better than anything they’ve built previously. It looks good inside and out and is simply a blast to drive. Oh, and because its less bloated, it gets better EPA gas mileage, making it the first Shelby GT500 to shed the gas-guzzler tax.
I want one.