Shelby GT500: Born to be wild

Forget the blasted economy for a moment. Ignore the fact that Ford and its American brethren are pinned on the ropes. Set aside any left-brain notions that a 540 hp solid rear axle pony car is hopelessly irrelevant and possesses all the environmental integrity of a can of Silly String.

Now is the time to celebrate the existence of the 2010 Shelby GT500 - a joyous distraction from all the doom and gloom consuming this industry. An affirmation that, yes, deep in bowels of corporate Detroit a few nutty engineers have been given the green light to wreak some much needed mechanical mayhem.

In this case, it's the lads at Ford's SVT (Special Vehicle Team) who have turned a pony into an altogether more fearsome creature.

Arriving at dealerships now are the 2010 Shelby GT500 Coupe ($56,499) and Convertible ($60,699), over achieving versions of the heavily revised 2010 Mustang.

The oh-ten 'Stang gets a new higher-quality interior and a cleaner, more muscular body. Only the roof is a carry over.

Step up to the Shelby GT500 Coupe and you're looking at 19" forged alloys shod with bespoke Goodyear F1 Supercar tires (255/40ZR front and 285/35ZR), four inch exhaust tips, rear deck spoiler, an aggressive front fascia and double racing stripes that adorn the doors and sweep across the top of the car. The optional $600 Xenon headlights add an extra degree of menace.

Under the domed and vented aluminum hood, a DOHC supercharged and intercooled 5.4L V8 makes 540 horsepower at 6200 r.p.m. and 510 lb.-ft. at 4500 r.p.m.

Numbers-wise, this gives the GT500 a major leg up on its immediate competitors, the $36,995 426 hp Camaro SS six-speed and the $45,995 425 hp Dodge Challenger SRT-8 six-speed. Another number of some significance is the Shelby's considerable price difference.

With this 2010 model, SVT wanted to bring more balanced handling and eradicate the previous car's understeer. Front and rear spring rates were increased 13 per cent and seven per cent respectively and the front stability bar was actually decreased in diameter to give the front more bite.

And bite it does. Over a very sinuous California coastal route, the steering felt sharp and well-weighted (sorry Challenger). and the car had loads of grip. Over smooth roads, this uber Mustang is very impressive, carving graceful arcs between bends in a ferocious, yet controlled manner.

New for 2010 is the GT500's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control with three modes - On, Sport (late and lenient intervention) and Off (melt those Goodyears, baby!) Launch control is also part of the deal.

The 2010 GT500 gets a new lower-effort clutch paired with a six-speed manual Tremec (same tranny as in the Challenger SRT-8 and Camaro SS) which is operated by a billiard ball-topped shifter with very tight and short throws. No automatic is offered.

The sound of this pony is music to the ears. SVT chief engineer Jamal Hameedi says "Legally, we're just under the wire." Add in the supercharger whine, and from the driver's seat it sounds like a cross between a cigarette boat and Axl Rose on acid, all the while doing a stand up job of rearranging your internal organs. And I mean that in a good way.

There's no doubt, the 2010 Shelby GT500 is a specialized piece. It's brash, it's brutally quick and it's everything car haters love to hate. But if you're willing to pony up the dough, it's also the best Mustang ever.

2010 Shelby GT500

Type: Sports coupe/convertible
Price: from $56,499
Engine: 5.4L supercharged intercooled DOHC V8
Power/Torque: 540; 510 lb.-ft.


- Great handling
- Menacing looks and power

More on