Ford raises the Mustang performance benchmark with new Shelby GT500
THERE is no denying that Ford’s Mustang has been a runaway success in Australia since the factory right-hand-drive version launched in early 2016.
After all, Australians lost access to its home-grown rear-drive, V8-powered large sedans not long after the Mustangs introduction, so it’s little wonder that the when the two-door pony car was launched, it shot straight up to the top of the sportscar sales charts and stayed there.
What a shame then, that local buyers aren’t given access to the top-spec Shelby GT500, because the hardcore performance flagship would undoubtedly be a hit.
Revealed earlier this year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the new top-tier Mustang will unfortunately only be produced in left-hand-drive form, meaning the competitor to the Chevrolet Camaro Z71 and Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye will never grace local showrooms.
Billed as the “most power street-legal Ford in history”, the new GT500 pumps out more than 522kW of power from a supercharged 5.2-litre petrol V8 engine.
To put that into perspective, this new Mustang is at least 40kW more powerful than the Blue Oval brand’s flagship, limited-run, mid-engined GT supercar.
Sending power to the rear axle via a Tremec seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, Ford claims its Mustang GT500 can accelerate from zero to 60mph (97km/h) in just 3.5 seconds, while the quarter mile can be knocked down in less than 11.0s.
Though Ford has yet to be reveal the Mustang GT500’s torque output, its Camaro Z71 rival produces 485kW/881Nm from a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 that will allow a 0-60mph sprint in just 3.2s and a quarter mile time of 11.0s flat.
However, it’s the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye that takes top honours in the engine output department, with its supercharged 6.2-litre V8 pumping out a massive 594kW of power and 959Nm of torque.
Curiously though, those supercar-scaring numbers don’t exactly translate to the blacktop, as the Dodge is only able to hit 60mph from a standstill in 3.4s, while continuing on to clock a quarter mile time of 10.8s.
But enough about the competition, this is all about Ford’s new flagship Mustang! Compared to the standard 5.0-litre free-breathing GT, the GT500 outmuscles its standard sibling by 183kW – a noticeable bump thanks to the 2.65-litre Roots-type supercharger and extra displacement.
Tweaks are also made to the electric power steering and independent suspension set-up to accommodate the extra grunt and ensure the tyres aren’t just turned to smoke at the prod of the throttle.
Bigger brakes are also thrown at the GT500, with the front discs measuring 420mm in diameter which are clamped by six-pot callipers.
Obviously the GT500’s aerodynamic profile is revised thanks to an aggressive bodykit and panels that includes a louvered bonnet, larger front grille and wider front wheelarches.
For those that want to make the most of a weekend track day, however, there is always the option of adding the Carbon-Fibre Track pack that bundles a fixed rear wing and 20-inch wheels, both finished in lightweight carbon.
It is not the first Shelby-fettled Mustang to wear the GT500 badge, as the previous version was on sale from 2012 packing a 494kW/855Nm supercharged 5.8-litre V8 engine that was fed to the road via a six-speed manual gearbox.
As is the case with the latest iteration, this late-life second-generation version featured upgraded brakes, aerodynamics and cooling, as well as uprated suspension and a limited-slip differential to perform better on the track.
A pre-facelift version was also on offer in the fifth-generation Mustang body style, which was powered by a 5.4-litre supercharged petrol V8 that outputted 373kW/651Nm in 2007 and then upgraded to 403kW/691NM in 2010.
Prior to the 21st Century though, Ford had only applied the Shelby GT500 moniker to just one other generation of Mustang – the original and arguably the most iconic.
First produced in 1967, the first GT500 was powered by a 7.0-litre V8 engine with two four-barrel carburettors that outputted up to 265kW/570Nm – more than the 2019 Toyota Supra’s output of 250kW/500NM from a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six.
The new Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 seems to easily carry on the performance torch of its predecessors, then, if only they would bring the car to Australia so we can test if the fastest, most powerful Mustang is the best.