First Drive: 2010 Ford Shelby GT500

Don Sherman

Man's Best Friend

Even though the bucket seat bottoms are too short for optimum thigh support, the grippy panels stitched into all four bolsters do an excellent job of restraining a heavy-footed driver. Manual adjusters for seat rake and steering wheel position are crude for this price class but serviceable. Shift throws are delightfully short requiring a resolute wrist when the going gets quick. Those who want to share the GT500 experience with friends will be glad to know that there's decent access to the rear compartment and adult-grade space in back. The most notable back seat hardship is red-neck and hot-head syndrome due to the rear glass beaming sunlight directly onto the rear passengers' top extremities. Those who worship the sun should consider the GT500 convertible, which costs an extra $4900

Sights and Sounds

The GT500's standard Shaker 500 sound system includes a six-disc CD changer, MP3 play capability, eight speakers, and Sirius satellite radio reception. A worthwhile upgrade is the Shaker 1000 package offering a full 1000 watts of audio power broadcast through 10 speakers. A magnificent voice-activated navigation system is packaged with dual-zone automatic climate control. Ford's handy Sync connection for routing mobile phones and media players through the sound system is standard in all GT500s

Blown to Run

This Shelby's tower of horsepower now cranks out a healthy 540 horses at 6200 rpm and 510 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. The incremental gain - 8 percent more horsepower, 6 percent more torque - comes from reduced intake and exhaust restriction and other subtle tuning touches. Under the hood, there's a cold-air inlet duct and a patented resonator device that filters out excessive supercharger whine. Under the car, an X-shaped connector between the exhaust pipes helps keep the din within legal limits.

This V-8 is for all intents a truck engine blessed with several enhancements exclusive to the GT500. A long stroke ups the displacement to 5.4 liters but stops the rev potential at 6250 rpm. Forged aluminum pistons, four-valve combustion chambers, dual-overhead camshafts, and a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods are the premium innards. Counting against every aspect of performance, this engine has a cast-iron cylinder block and the weight of its Eaton supercharger and intercooler plumbing piled high between meaty aluminum cylinder heads.

The GT500's V-8 sounds pleasantly authoritative and rarely obstreperous. Occupants are treated to entertaining hints of blower whine. Stepping into the throttle with the revs barely above idle sends a booming resonance through the interior, a condition easily remedied by dropping down a few gears to zing the tach over 5000 rpm.

Changing the final drive ratio from 3.31 to 3.55:1 gives the new GT500 endearing vitality off the mark. Unfortunately, some of this joy is sacrificed by a slow-witted electronic throttle. Taller fifth and sixth gear ratios help deliver a reasonable 22 mpg on the highway so the gas guzzler tax drops a bit in this edition. A new dual-plate clutch provides progressive engagement, a sensitive pedal feel, and the brute force muscle to handle everything the supercharged engine dishes out.

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