First Drive: 2011 Ford Shelby GT500

Julia LaPalme
2011 Ford Shelby GT500

2011 Ford Shelby GT500

Chevrolet hasn’t even acknowledged its existence, but the engineers at Ford’s Special Vehicle Team know that a supercharged Chevrolet Camaro Z28 is on its way. That car could be the first direct competitor to the Ford Shelby GT500, as its closest competitors today either come up short in horsepower (Dodge Challenger SRT8, Camaro SS) or fit into an entirely different class of car (Chevrolet Corvette). To combat the Camaro Z28 before it even arrives, Ford has freshened its hottest Mustang, making it a leaner, more powerful, and more agile muscle car.

Fewer Pounds, More Ponies

The biggest change comes as a result of switching from iron to aluminum for the 5.4-liter V-8 engine block. The switch is more dramatic, both on the spec sheet and from behind the wheel, than you might think. Ford claims a massive weight savings of 102 pounds, which suggests that the old iron block might have been carrying some unnecessary mass. The updated engine block features cylinders that are finished with a spray-on coating, rather than a steel sleeve. In addition to saving 8.5 pounds over the traditional steel-sleeve aluminum block, the spray bore reduces friction and increases heat transfer from the combustion chamber to the coolant. Power climbs 10 ponies to 550 hp at 6200 rpm, while torque is unchanged at 510 lb-ft. Fuel economy also increases to 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. That’s one extra mile per gallon in both ratings, which allows the GT500 to escape the gas-guzzler tax that ensnared last year’s car.

New Performance Package

An optional $3495 performance package is new for 2011. It lowers the car eleven millimeters in front and eight millimeters in the rear, and features springs that are 20.5 percent stiffer in front and 9.5 percent stiffer in back. It also includes a shorter, 3.73:1 final drive ratio, a Gurney flap on the spoiler, narrower stripes on the hood, and a white cue-ball shifter. Forged aluminum wheels, measuring 19 inches in front and 20 inches in back shave a total of fifteen pounds off the base car’s weight. The gorgeous, graphite-finish wheels are wrapped in Goodyear’s new Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 summer tires.

Other new features include an optional glass roof on the coupe ($1995), convex blind-spot mirrors, standard high-intensity discharge headlamps, and fold-down rear headrests that greatly improve visibility. Pricing starts at $49,495 for coupe and $54,495 for convertible.

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