This was amusing. I worked late last night, and when I left the office, downtown Ann Arbor was largely deserted, and a light rain was falling. The few pedestrians present were dashing through crosswalks, heads bowed, in a hurry to reach warm and dry bars and cars. But the angry sound of this Mustang’s 540-hp, supercharged V-8 and its throaty, H-pipe exhaust was not to be ignored. People looked up, startled, wondering what in the world was creating such a racket on this quiet October weeknight. I’m not surprised. Heck, I was startled, too, especially when I tried to goose the throttle. The reaction from the live rear axle was immediate and violent. The 18-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 rear tires shuddered and skidded and protested at the very notion that they were being asked to provide grip and propulsion on this cold, wet pavement, sending the rear end of the car toward the curb. These tires might as well have been carved of solid oak rather than rubber, so little did they adhere. Okay, I exaggerate, but you know what I mean.
It wasn’t much better this morning, when there was still a distinct October chill in the air and the road was littered with wet leaves. So rather than trying to send much of the 510 lb-ft of torque to the rear axle, I concentrated on enjoying the smooth shifts available from the short-throw, six-speed gearbox, which is a great box but, I might offer, no better than the one in the Roush Mustang that we drove a few months ago. I also noted the precise steering and the supportive, highly bolstered seats.
There’s a high-performance experience to be had behind the wheel of this $80,000 Mustang, but it wasn’t happening on Ann Arbor’s wet streets last night. It’s better for you to read what Automobile Magazine’s west coast editor, Jason Cammisa, had to say about the GT500KR in our July 2008 issue. After all, he spent an entire day driving it on a track in Utah, on dry surfaces, with plenty of ambient heat to warm up the Eagle F1s. Click HERE to see what he had to say.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
I also noticed a distinct lack of grip from the rear tires when I tried to make a quick pass a few blocks from the office. Suddenly the back end of the car swung out and I had to let off the gas. Luckily my evening with the KR was fairly warm and dry. By the time I was on the two-lane roads, the tires were warm and stuck to the pavement pretty well. The only problem was finding some smooth pavement. This KR does not like broken pavement and the suspension is clearly tuned for smooth canyon roads. Each bump threw the back axle in one direction or another and I could not predict which way a given bump would send the car.
Friends loved the loud exhaust and absolute power this KR provides. A smoky burnout was in order and the KR was perfect for the job. I’ve got a hard time getting my head around an $80,000 Mustang when a Corvette Z06 is less expensive, but there are some very wealthy Mustang fans who would never dream of owning a Vette. At least this will let those fan boys run with a Vette and this limited-edition Mustang might one day be a bit more collectible than a basic Z06.
Like Joe says, this car needs to be evaluated on better roads with better weather, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had here.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
Move over Leonardo Di Caprio. For three days, I was king of my neighborhood in one continuously sideways, smoking-tire, keening-supercharger, wild-Mustang stampede. Insert key, stand on gas, crank in opposite lock, and the Shelby GT500KR drives animals to cover and mothers to full toddler embrace mode.
With the fifth-generation Mustang about to gallop into history, it was the ideal moment to enjoy this $80,000, 540-horsepower stallion on steroids. The beauty of Ford’s pet pony is that it’s always up for one more trot around the corral.
Ford Racing’s Power Upgrade Pack adds a supposed 40 horsepower to the ‘normal’ supercharged and intercooled 5.4-liter V-8 engine’s 500 hp at 6000 rpm. That’s a bit like loading lox on a bagel already layered with cream cheese, because the rear Goodyear tires are so severely overloaded.
A half-throttle jab will get you nicely sideways in first gear. The six-grand redline jumps up fast and you’re crashing into the 6250 rpm fuel cut long before you’re ready to yank the Hurst-like shift lever through its half-inch stroke to second. And that chattering sound? It’s not your teeth. That would be the rear suspension stuttering in protest over handling way more torque than any five-link solid axle should be expected to manage.
Assuming dealers can move them, only 1000 KR editions were made for 2008, leaving 571 more examples for the 2009 model year to match the original 1968 run. To satisfy export markets hungry for horseflesh, Ford tacked an extra 175 cars onto the production plan.
Hardware upfits include a composite-skinned hood, Brembo front brakes, and a full set of suspension springs, dampers, bars, and braces engineered by what’s left of Ford’s SVT department, coaxed by Ol’ Shel’ (Carroll Shelby) himself. In case you’ve forgotten, this is the racing hero who won LeMans driving an Aston Martin in 1959 and the dude who created the Cobra legend.
Homage is paid in full here. A cursory scan of the GT500KR’s exterior décor reveals no less than 13 Shelby plugs plus 4 hissing cobra badges, 4 GT500KR labels, and 4 SVT honorable mentions. The Ford block letters are inscribed only once in small type on the decklid. It is, after all, a four-letter word.
For $80,000 (or less at a starving dealer), you get a fast, versatile, fun-to-drive sports coupe with high keepsake potential. Quarter-mile runs in less than 13 seconds with a trap speed over 115 mph and a 0-to-60 sprint in the low 4-second range should be no problem. Young adults fit fine in the back seat, the interior is nicely accented in etched metal and hard plastic, the front buckets are comfortable enough for the short stints between posing stops. This is a car capable of holding its own against anything a Dodge Challenger or Chevy Camaro brings to the street in factory trim.
For their next muscled-up Mustang, Carroll Shelby and SVT need to raise their game. I’d recommend taller gearing to curb the fruitless wheel spin at launch. Another trip down development lane is needed for that side-stepping, chattering, and generally naughty rear axle. Firming up the seat’s side bolsters would also be an excellent idea.
But don’t fiddle with the motorboat idle burble, the shifter that clicks through the gears with light switch efficiency, and the blower whine that woos you straight to the redline. Before guzzler taxes and the price at the pumps go totally crazy, we could all use another fast trip down muscle-car lane.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
These guys aren’t kidding. Driving the GT500KR on cold tires (with traction control turned off, of course!) is almost exactly like driving on ice. Not that I’m complaining…
I’ve driven a lot of crazy Mustangs recently including the Saleen Dan Gurney H281SC Signature Edition and the Roush 427R, but I think this Ford/SVT version is the best-handling of the bunch – and the ride is actually quite decent. To me, the King of the Road is definitely the best-looking of the bunch, even though the forged Alcoa wheels aren’t all that striking.
Still, $80K is a TON of money for a Mustang when you could get a Corvette Z06, a Nissan GT-R, or a base Porsche 911 for the same dough. But, as Phil said, if you’re the Mustang Man who has everything, then a GT500KR deserves a place in your collection. Or look at it this way: the Ford GT was a $150,000-ish mid-engine supercar powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 with 550 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque hooked to a great gearbox; the GT500KR is a crazily souped-up $80,000-ish Mustang powered by a supercharged 5.4 with 540 hp and 510 lb-ft hooked to a great gearbox. So Ford definitely isn’t shorting KR buyers on oomph. Or the sound track – this car sounds absolutely burble-licious. For my money, though, I’d be content to buy a base Mustang GT and budget a few grand for some SVT or Roush gearbox and suspension mods and call it good.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR
Base Price (with destination): $79,995
Size: 5.4L Supercharged V-8 DOHC
HP: 540HP @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 510 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 3904 lb.
Front: Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar P255/45ZR18
Rear: Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar P285/40ZR18