It looks like we're back to a familiar conundrum: should I buy a supercharged Mustang or a base Corvette? A base Corvette coupe starts at $49,515 with destination, and the only option that you'll really need is the two-mode exhaust system at $1195, so a worthy Vette starts at $50,710. That's actually $185 less than this particular Shelby GT500 coupe (and that's ignoring any potential dealer markup on the Shelby). Yes, the Shelby has more horsepower, but the Corvette is a better handler, more fuel efficient at 16/26 mpg, and 707 pounds lighter. By no means is this an apples-to-apples comparison, but it's certainly one that will be explored on many Web sites.
As Phil noted, a base Corvette makes much more sense at this price range, but I found myself thinking more about the Roush Mustang 427R we drove a few weeks ago.
Most of us, myself included, wrote that a Shelby GT500 was a much better buy for its extra horsepower and dashing looks. Now, I'm not so sure. Not once during my time with the Shelby did I think, "Man, I'm glad I have 540 hp instead of 435 hp." In fact, both of those outputs ridiculously exceed the capabilities of the Mustang's chassis. It's kind of like worrying whether you'll get hit with a category four or five hurricane -- either way, your town will be devastated.
This is one cool-looking car! Zenlea brings up some very good points about the merits of the Roush 427R, but no current Mustang variant looks as badass as the newly face-lifted Shelby GT500. Couple that with the Shelby's 540 hp (40 more than last year) and 510 lb-ft of torque and you've got a very intimidating ride, one that does the quarter mile in 12.8 seconds at 117 mph, according to our tests. I don't have the talent to properly exercise the GT500 on the curves of public roads, but the car's surges of acceleration and roaring engine when banging through the gears in a straight line are plenty satisfying.
I am no fan of the Mustang nor of muscle cars in general, but I thought the GT500 was a hoot. I really had a good time driving it and was happy to turn it back in only because I feared that if I drove it much longer, I would surely have an unfortunate roadside chat with the Ann Arbor police or a Washtenaw County sheriff's deputy. As Phil noted, the tires take some time to warm up, so it's relatively easy to rotate the rear end in, say, one of the new roundabouts that have been popping up in SE Michigan lately. Straight-line acceleration is fun, fun, fun, and the brakes are definitely up to their assigned task. I loved the bright blue paint job and the big white stripe, the cue-ball shifter, the suede steering wheel, and the handsome front seats. I hate to sound like a jingoist, but this car made me proud to be an American! I even enjoyed the live rear axle, because I goosed the throttle as I drove over each and every speed bump in our parking structure, just to hear and feel the rear wheels struggle for traction.
This GT500 certainly makes a statement. The screaming blue paint, bold American styling, and 540 horsepower create a perfect street cruiser that's always ready to open the throttle and blast down an open road. Sadly, as Zenlea mentioned, it is missing any inkling of that furious exhaust note I loved on the Roush.