We first drove the 2010 Shelby GT500 on sunny California's dry, smooth roads. This time, it was in the northeast during equal spells of sun and rainy, cold October days. Does our initial reaction of delight still hold true?
The biggest difference between this 2010 and the old model first introduced in 2007 isn't the power and torque bump (from 500 HP and 480 Lb-Ft to 540 HP and 510 Lb-Ft), but rather the fitment of better suspension and particularly a whiz-bang stability control system that doesn't just make driving the live rear axle muscle car safer, but also much faster.
How does it do that? Not just by controlling wheelspin on the rear axle due to an overly enthusiastic right foot, but also by reigning in understeer. That means you can hold a tighter line in corners which, in turn, means you can go faster.
The system's got three modes: everything on, traction off, and full traction and stability off. It's that middle mode that you'll want to drive the GT500 in most of the time. It allows seven to eight degrees of rear wheel slide before intervening to stop you slamming into a tree. Yes, your ability to posture masculinely on the internet is reduced by admitting you use stability control, but it's just way more fun to drive the car like this. Not only because the car doesn't understeer so much, but also because you're free to really beat on the engine without worrying too much about bodywork repair bills.
Exterior Design: ☆☆☆☆☆
I'm an unrepentant euro car snob, but I love the 2010 ‘Stang's looks and they're even better in aggressive Shelby form. That huge grill, the hood-mounted air outlet, the dark wheels, the functional rear wing with a Gurney lip; all that just exudes menacing purpose. I literally dream about driving the GT500 down desert roads at night, all car commercial style. Now if I could just grow a five o'clock shadow it'd be perfect.
Interior Design: ☆☆☆
Some decent shapes and the huge Sync screen is nice but the interior just doesn't belong in a $48,175 car. The cue ball shifter is cheesy, the polka dot dash inlays are tacky, the seats feel cheap, the flimsy black plastic belongs in a ‘90s economy car. Worst of all, the steering wheel doesn't telescope so, thanks to my 34-inch inseam dictating my seat position, I'm stuck extending my arms fully to reach the steering wheel. This is not only uncomfortable, but is detrimental to car control too. At least the steering column is high enough that my long right leg can clear it for heel and toeing. We'd gladly sacrifice gimmicks like lighted door sills and changeable color clocks for a telescoping wheel. This applies to all Mustangs. Ford, you really have to fix this.
Still, the Mustang has a usable back seat and a big trunk. Can you name another 500+ HP two-door that does the same? Not for this money you can't, it's actually a fairly practical car.
How's driving a 540 HP Mustang on summer tires in 38-degree rain on winding roads in the Adirondacks? You'd probably guess frightening, sphincter tightening or at least white knuckled but I'm going to go with "fun."
Driving in California in the summer we said the new GT500 could keep up with AWD cars in corners. In these conditions it wouldn't, but it's a hell of a lot more involving. There's just a lot to be said for the feeling you get when you slowly squeeze the accelerator towards the floor out of a wet corner, correct a slide safe in the knowledge computers will take over if things get too crazy, hear the supercharger whine scream louder and louder, grab third then stay flat into fourth and then the hood full of overnight ice flies up onto the windscreen completely blocking your vision as you get close to the 155 MPH speed limiter. You still have to drive the GT500, it just does what you tell it now.
Even on warm, dry, smooth roads the GT500 has a hard time putting its power down completely, hence the somewhat disappointing 4.3-second 0-60 time for a car that weighs 3,917 Lbs, yet has all that torque. In October in New York the Shelby will spin its wheels under power all the way through fourth gear if you're not smooth with the throttle.
Ride and Handling: ☆☆☆☆
For 2010 the GT500 gains firmer springs and stiffer dampers all round. Intended to reduce roll, squat and dive, they enable a thinner front swaybar, spec'd to dial out some more understeer. The steering shaft is also stiffened with stronger couplings. All this transforms the GT500's handling but it remains a relatively unsophisticated setup with front struts and a live axle rear, so it can't work miracles. Handling is improved, but the ride is stiffer. But do you really expect a 540 HP Mustang to ride like a Jaguar?
The previous cars understeer, then snap oversteer has been cured by this arrangement as has its tendency to float around imprecisely rather than behave like a sportscar. Even without the stability control system, this would be a drastically better car to drive, but the system elevates it to an entirely new level. As expected, you're going to have trouble putting your power down on wet, cold, bumpy roads, but now the slides those conditions produce are predictable and controllable.
Toys And Tech: ☆☆☆☆
It's got the latest version of Sync, our favorite sat/nav communication thing operated through a huge eight-inch touchscreen. Unlike OnStar you actually get a map to look at and you don't have to talk to Jimmy Joe Bob from Arkansas in order to get directions somewhere in New York. Even I can connect my phone to for hands free use, but don't tell Ray, "I'm Driving" is my favorite excuse to ignore his calls. Sync and the huge screen alone are worth five stars, but I'm subtracting one because Ford considers MyColor a legitimate Toy on a car designed for adults.
Not only is the GT500 the cheapest car you can buy from a major manufacturer with 540 HP, but it's basically the $79,995 2009 Shelby GT500KR for $30,000 less. We like to think of the GT500 as the working man's supercar, but numbers aside, it's not much more fun to drive than the 2010 Mustang GT with the Track Pack, yet costs $18,000 more.
Fast, fun, challenging, rewarding, great looking but suffers from the regular Mustang's crappy interior and struggles to offer more than numbers over the cheaper GT. Despite all that, we'd love to own one of these. The Shelby GT500's combination of power, control, practicality and looks is completely unique.
Suitability Parameters: Who Should Buy This?
● Speed Merchants
● NASCAR Dads
● Penny Pinchers shopping for supercars
● Jalopnik Road Test Editors
Suitability Parameters: Who Shouldn't Buy This?
● High Falutin' City Folk
● Chevy Corvette: better handling, even worse interior, just as fast
● Dodge Challenger SRT/8: a competitor in looks only
● Camaro Z/28 (if/when it happens): All speculation at this point, but if it gets the LS9 it'll be faster
● Mustang GT with Track Pack: just as much fun if quite a bit slower
Model Year: 2010
Model: Shelby GT500
Price, Base/As-Tested: $48,175/$48,175
Engine: 5.4-liter supercharged, 32-valve V8
Horsepower & Torque: 540 HP @ 6,200 RPM, 510 Lb-Ft @ 4,500 RPM
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb Weight: 3917 Lbs 0-to-60: 4.3 secs (manufacturer quoted)
Top Speed: 155 MPH (limited) Crash Testing, Front/Rear/Side: *****/*****/*****
Fuel Economy, EPA: 14/22 MPG