Wow, what a difference a roof can make. The GT500 coupe felt a little skittish during our huge comparison test with the ZL1 in June. The convertible is just shy of being terrifying. Cowl shake is a huge problem in the GT500 and there's so much power available that I ended up staying a gear or two higher than I needed to, in order to make the car easier to drive. It's amazing how much more confidence one gets from the added structural rigidity of a coupe.
Of course the structural rigidity issue is the same for every Mustang. Drop the top, hit a few bumps, and you'll swear the car has massaging seats. Unfortunately, dropping the top isn't the most straightforward affair. There are two manual latches hidden behind the visors that must be released before the power top can be opened. If you just push the button to lower the top, there isn't any warning that the top is still secured to the windshield frame. Not an issue if you get a quick tour of the car at a dealership, but it may be a problem for people who want to be able to loan their car to friends and not worry about the motors for the top burning up. Even when the top is fully retracted, the leading edge slopes up a bit, which reduces rear visibility.
Taking the top off of a perfectly good GT500 makes tracking the car much more difficult. Not many people want to install a full roll cage in a brand-new car. Even with a coupe body, the GT500 is close to needing a full cage on the drag strip. If you are positive you will never want to visit a racetrack, the convertible GT500 is nice because it really allows you to hear the engine scream. Sadly you can't hear it scream very long on public roads as you're way past any speed limit before you've shifted to third gear. Ford really pushed the envelope with a 662-hp muscle car and making that car a convertible pushes it too far in my opinion. There's so much power that it's not fun to drive on roads that are anything less than perfectly smooth. If you must have a convertible, the Mustang GT is plenty fast enough. Those who will only be happy with a GT500 would be wise to choose the coupe.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
I love shifting gears, especially with an amazing-feeling gearbox like the one in the Shelby GT500.The problem with this car, though, is that I never drove it anywhere that it required gears 2 through 6.The monster Mustang will do more than 60 mph in first gear -- and second will take you all the way to 92 mph. My commute is mostly 55-mph speed-limited back roads, so the only hot shift I really got to enjoy was the 1-2.The really stiff clutch engages very high in the pedal travel, so that takes some getting used to when you actually do shift. I was pleased to discover that the supercharger whine is not nearly as vocal as the previous GT500's, although maybe that's because this Shelby is almost always at an illegal speed when the engine is at high revs.
The GT500 reminds me of a Viper -- very raw, not much finesse about it, but incredibly powerful. I haven't yet driven the new GT500 coupe, but I'm encouraged that Phil Floraday found it less hairy than this raucous ragtop. Like Phil, I was annoyed that the old-fashioned convertible top requires two latches and that there are no clues from the electronics to tell you whether the top is fully open or closed.
I'd rather have a Boss 302 for the greater usability and much lighter weight, but it's hard to hate a $60,000 supercar, which this car truly is. It was very late at night (but not quite half past four) when I heard Golden Earring's "Radar Love" on the radio while driving the GT500. Needless to say, I shifted gears several times and took a sonorous detour while listening to perhaps the best driving song ever recorded.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
It boggles the mind that a Ford Mustang can offer 662 hp -- a Ferrari 458 Italia only has 562 hp, for goodness sake. But while Internet commenters would probably assume the most powerful Mustang is automatically the best, it's clear that the 2013 Shelby GT500 convertible is far from the most desirable Mustang.
For starters, the modifications required to make sure the Shelby GT500 won't disintegrate from the extra power render it somewhat difficult to drive. A larger clutch disc with stronger springs and an enlarged master cylinder conspire to make the clutch heavy and vague, with a very high engagement point. The six-speed manual transmission, upgraded for Shelby GT500 duty with beefier bushings and tougher bearings, is inordinately stiff and far less satisfying than the six-speed in lesser Mustangs. And because the car is geared to manage 200 mph (even though the convertible is limited to 155 mph), first gear is quite tall and requires extra attention to prevent bogging down the engine when you leave from a stop.
Once you get used to driving the Shelby, the amount of power on tap is truly terrifying. It doesn't take much for the supercharger to start whining and the GT500 to hurtle forward -- or shimmy around as the rear tires search for traction. The acceleration really does pin you to the back of your seat, but this car is far too wild to be driven hard on public roads. As Phil notes, the stiff suspension and low-profile tires make the convertible body flex even more than in other drop-top Mustangs. On roughly-paved two-lane roads, the whole car shakes and twists. Although the GT500 is huge fun when you put your foot down, driving it quickly is more nerve-wracking than exhilarating.
Still, I'm impressed with the performance, the brash spoilers and stripes, and all the technology on board -- there's even a variable red-line that keeps you from exceeding 6500 rpm when the oil is cold. But the demographics for Mustang convertible buyers wouldn't seem to overlap with Shelby GT500 buyers, so this car makes little sense. Anyone who wants to cruise around in a Mustang convertible would want a version that is cheaper, easier to drive, and less thirsty than this car. Anyone who wants the full performance of the Shelby GT500 would be better served by a coupe so that it can actually be taken to a track or drag strip.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor