2013 Ford Shelby GT500

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Review

We sample Ford's hottest Mustang.

By: Tim Healey

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: September 7th, 2012

Strap yourself into Ford's beastly Shelby GT500, and the words "pony express" take on a whole new meaning.

Such is the case when 662 horses sit under the hood, waiting prodding from the driver's right foot. Spur this 'Stang into action, and good things happen. Very good things.

We're getting ahead of ourselves, though. We'll get to the good stuff, soon, but first, a pony-car primer, if you will.

For those that don't know, the Shelby GT500 is Ford's highest-powered and most expensive Mustang, slotting itself above the base V-6 (itself a capable sports car), the V-8-powered GT, and the track-oriented Boss 302. The GT500 trades on history, thanks to its Shelby name. It also makes history by currently being the most powerful V-8 production car, according to Ford.

Under the Shelby's hood lurks a 5.8-liter supercharged V-8 that makes up the aforementioned 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque. There's plenty of performance upgrades throughout the car, and we'll get to those.

First, we need a moment to remember our time with the car…a long moment…OK, that's better.

  • Features & Prices

    Opting for a Shelby means that you'll be forking over at least $54,200. That gets you exterior features like an aluminum hood with an air extractor, LeMans top stripes and GT500 side stripes, HID projector headlamps, and a quad stainless steel exhaust with 3.5-inch chrome tips. Inside, you get sport bucket seats with racing stripes, a Shaker audio system with AM/FM/CD/MP3, satellite radio, Ford's Sync multimedia system, A/C, and a 4.2-inch LCD screen. That goes along with unique front and rear spoilers and fascias, and Shelby-only badging.

    Performance upgrades over other Mustangs include the honkin' V-8, 19-inch wheels up front and 20-inch rubber out back, Brembo brakes, a launch-control system, and a carbon fiber driveshaft. Other features include: power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, driver-selectable electric power steering, and a capless fuel filler.

    Options on our tester included the SVT (Special Vehicle Team) Performance Package ($3,495, included a Torsen limited-slip differential, unique interior trim, a SVT-engineered Bilstein driver-adjustable performance suspension, and forged aluminum wheels), a four-way manual driver's seat (no charge), the SVT Track Package ($2,995, included engine-oil cooler, transmission-oil cooler, and differential cooler), a Sonic Blue tape stripe (no cost), and leather Recaro seats ($1,595).

    With the $795 destination fee, our as-tested total came to $63,080.

  • On the Road

    Fire the Shelby up, and it settles into an idle that brings back memories of the muscle-car era. Slide the stiff shifter into first (no automatic transmission is available) and slowly let out the heavy clutch and get 'er rolling, and you'll continue to think it's 1960-something.

    Pound on it, however, and you'll be disabused of that notion. Sure, '60s muscle cars were quick, but nowhere near this quick. A 2013 Shelby GT500 will hit 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds or so (we don't perform our own instrumented testing, so we're looking at what a few of our colleagues have measured) while a 1970 Boss 302 would do the same in about 6.9 seconds. That's an eternity's difference.

    Hammer it in the GT500, and time seems to warp as distance disappears in a hurry. If you're not careful, you'll be well above speeding-ticket territory before you know it. Never has messing with the space-time continuum been so much fun, no matter what Emmett Brown might say.

    Even with traction control fully on (there's several settings: fully on, traction control off/AdvanceTrac stability system on, traction control off/AdvanceTrac Sport, and fully off), the back end wants to break loose even at relatively low throttle openings. Around-town driving can be a handful, especially in wet weather.

    The clutch and shifter combo are great for spirited driving, although the heavy clutch and no-nonsense shifter will wear on some during commuting duty. Overall, though, we liked the short-throws and the clutch's immediate engagement.

    We'd love to tell you how the car's adjustable suspension and steering worked in all modes, but we just left both in Sport and forgot about it. Even in Sport mode, the steering felt a bit light to us, though not as much as in other Mustangs. We'd also like some more feedback and accuracy. The ride was acceptably smooth on decent pavement, but it could be jumpy on crumbling roads.

    Lack of feedback and accuracy from the steering isn't the biggest problem in cornering, though--the jumpy rear end is. You need to be patient on the exit and straighten the steering, lest oversteer bite you in the ass. Too much gas too soon will equal fun powerslides for those who can control the back end but expensive repair bills for those who can't.

    The brakes do their job well, slowing the fun as necessary with little drama or complaint.

    In sedate driving, the Shelby is peaceful, provided the driver makes no sudden moves with the gas. The hard part is keeping from provoking it.

  • Exterior

    There's no confusing the Shelby for lesser Mustangs, thanks to the unique trimmings and the stripes. It looks menacing, although not as fierce as its rival, Chevy's Camaro ZL1. It also does retro better than the rest of the pony car gang, excepting maybe the Boss 302, which is saying something since the Mustang has traded on retro cool since 2005.

  • Interior

    Outside of the shifter and the Shelby-specific trim, the cabin is pretty standard Mustang, which means it's pretty dated. The LCD screen in the gauge cluster is nice, but the small console and outdated switchgear feels out of place in a $30K base V-6 Mustang, let alone a $60K car.

    The backseat is as useless for adult-size passengers as ever, but the Mustang does shine in one area that its rival, the ZL1, doesn't--visibility. You can actually see out the windows in this thing, and that matters, especially in urban driving.

  • Fuel Economy & Safety

    The Shelby offers the standard safety goodies such as: traction control, an antiskid system, ABS, and driver and passenger airbags.

    Fuel economy is projected at 15 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, but we saw numbers a lot lower than that (down to the 11s) on the trip computer. Then again, we weren't exactly on our best behavior at all times. To be fair, during a long and sedate highway slog we saw a low-20s rating, according to the computer.

  • Final Thoughts

    The Shelby has one natural rival--the ZL1. We've driven both, and while this isn't a straight-comparison test, we can give some insight into how the two stack up. The Shelby is more jumpy than the ZL1. Both can be provoked into sliding the tail loose, but in the ZL1, your intent must be deliberate. The Shelby will sometimes jump when you don't want it to.

    We also liked the ZL1's around-town ride better, especially over rough pavement, and while its interior isn't great, it's slightly better than the 'Stang's. Then again, the 'Stang does offer greater visibility.

    We can't compare the two cars' on-track performance since we haven't tracked the Shelby yet, but right now, knowing what we know, we might take the ZL1 over the Shelby. But it wouldn't be an easy decision.

    Of course, that doesn't mean the Shelby is a bad car. It's arguably the best Mustang ever--many would make a case that the Boss is better, or at least more well-rounded--and certainly one of the most beastly. It's scary fast and scary awesome, and it gives us more of a retro-driving experience than anything else on the road.

    If brutish American muscle at a relatively bargain price is what you're after, this might just be the Mustang for you.

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• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500, click here: 2013 Ford Shelby GT500.