8.19.2011

2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Review


Front view of white 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 with red stripes and Cobra emblem in grille
The 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 grille fairly screams "power". It can back it up.
When you're a professional TireKicker (automotive journalist, car review writer), the keys to the dream machines come at you in random fashion, with no rhyme or reason. My second review vehicle ever, in my second week in the business, was a (then-new) 1998 Chevrolet Corvette. It only took a shade over two years for Rolls-Royce to call and ask "if I'd do them the favor" of reviewing the 2000 Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible (at the time one of only 7 on the North American continent). In less than 5, Bentley put a $430,000 Continental T in my care for a week.

But it's taken until now, three years into TireKicker (our 3rd anniversary is Wednesday, August 24), almost fourteen years of writing car reviews, and 46 years of staring, lusting and imagining, for a set of keys that fit a machine with the word "SHELBY" on it to make their way into my hands.

Good Lord, it was worth waiting for. Every bit as much as the 'Vette and the Bentley (the Rolls, sorry to say, was a disappointment...it drove like my mom's 1970 Mercury Monterey, if the Merc had weighed an extra ton, was dripping in the finest wood, leather and lamb's wool money can buy and had been hand-built on a bad day...gloveboxes should not take two people and ten minutes to open. The good news is that in the intervening eleven years, BMW has taken control and builds a magnificent Rolls-Royce).


Front wheel of white 2011 Ford Shelby GT 500 showing SVT logo on wheel, "GT500" on stripe and chrome Cobra badge
The business end of the 2011 Ford Shelby GT500. P255/40R19 tires, 14-inch Brembo vented disc brakes and the silver Cobra poised and ready to strike.

Is it the engine, the howling beast of a 5.4 liter supercharged V8, churning out 148 horsepower and 130 pounds per foot of torque more than the remarkable 2011 Ford Mustang GT?

Well, no question, the engine is incredible, as you would imagine 550 horsepower and a six-speed manual in a 3,820 pound Mustang body would be. But the real story, the big revelation for me, was how much of what's in the Shelby GT500 is dedicated to applying that power to the road,, making sure none of it gets wasted shaking the car and scaring the driver. Hey, it was a Shelby that scared the hell out of Bill Cosby:


But the 2011 Shelby GT500 is brilliantly engineered. A chunk of the $16,000 difference in MSRP between the Mustang GT and the Shelby GT500 is in tightening the Mustang up, sharpening its reflexes, making sure it's not overwhelmed by the horsepower. And it works.

Interior shot of 2011 Ford Shelby GT500
The 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 interior. "Drive", the voice in my head said. He didn't have to ask me twice.

From the moment you slide behind the wheel of the Shelby GT500, you're impressed by how much it improves on the Mustang. The 1965 Shelby GT350 was a more powerful but also much more crude 1965 Ford Mustang. The 2011 Shelby GT500 mixes in brute power with upgrades and refinements. It justifies its $48,645 base price with every corner you take at an ever-higher speed, with each burst of power in which you realize your kidneys aren't taking a beating and your fillings are staying in your teeth.

As you drive it and explore its performance capabilities, you begin to realize that this isn't an expensive Mustang, it's a bargain performance machine.

Incredibly, there are options, of which our tester had two: The Electronics Package (voice-activated navigation with Sirius Traffic and Sirius Travel Link, HD Radio and dual-zone electronic climate control) for $2,340 and the SVT Performance Package (upgrading to P265/40R19 front and P285/35R20 rear tires in place of the stock 19s front and rear, new 19 and 20 inch wheels, a decklid spoiler, a 3.73 limited slip axle, replacing the stock 3.55, side stripe and racing stripe) for $3,495.

Add the $850 for destination and delivery charges and the bottom line is $55,330.  Yeah, that's $18,000 more than a Mustang GT. It's also a chunk less than any other car with its performance capabilities.

EPA estimates (betcha thought I forgot): 15 city/23 highway. Thank the six-speed manual for that. And say hello to the newest entry on the list of TireKicker's Top 10 Cars (so far).

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