What's New for 2011
Even after last year's big changes, the Ford Shelby GT500 receives notable improvements for 2011. A new aluminum engine block replaces the previous iron version, shaving more than 100 pounds off the front end which promotes sharper handling. Despite making 10 more horsepower, the revised engine is also more fuel-efficient than before, allowing it to avoid the dreaded gas-guzzler tax. A new SVT performance package debuts, as do a couple of new standard features, such as xenon headlights and the MyKey system that allows owners to limit the vehicle's top speed and the stereo's volume.
The 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 is proof that some things, such as iconic design and spine-compressing performance, just never go out of style. Back in the late 1960s you could've walked into your nearby Ford dealer and drove out -- sideways if you so chose -- in the scooped and striped Shelby GT500, a modified version of a Mustang fastback that came packing a monster V8. Today, you can walk into your nearby Ford dealer and do the same. The difference, however, is that while the old warhorse was certainly powerful and quick, it would be left in the dust by the latest Ford Mustang to sport snake emblems on its flanks.
Last year, the Shelby GT500 got a number of tweaks to the suspension and tire fitment that effectively nullified previous gripes about the car's resistance to going around corners. And for 2011, Ford's engineers improved things further via the new aluminum block (versus the previous iron) for the big V8. The reduction of about 100 pounds of weight up front makes the newest Shelby more eager to turn in, and the revised engine manages to be both more powerful (by 10 horsepower for a total of 550) and more fuel-efficient -- so much so that it now avoids getting hit with a gas-guzzler tax.
As you'd expect, this is one wickedly fast car. Though we haven't yet track-tested the 2011 version, last year's Shelby GT500 charged to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds and ripped through the quarter-mile in 12.4 seconds. Those are numbers you'd associate with big-buck exotics wearing a prancing horse or a raging bull -- not a coiled-up snake -- on their noses. And even though this pony is still saddled with an antiquated solid-axle rear suspension, the latest GT500 boasts crisp turn-in response and a confident feel through the curves thanks to optimal suspension tuning and new tire compounds.
As impressive as the GT500 is, it's probably worth considering the 426-hp Chevy Camaro SS, the 425-hp Dodge Challenger SRT8 and even its 412-hp Mustang GT little brother. They may not be quite as ridiculously quick, but they're priced considerably lower -- nearly $16,000 lower in the case of the Mustang GT. And if you're looking for something that's more sports car than muscle car, the iconic Chevrolet Corvette is worth a hard look. All that said, though, the 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 still represents a heck of a bargain. For those wanting supercar performance along with the cool look and sound of a cherry late-'60s Shelby Mustang, it doesn't get any better than this.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 is a high-performance variant of the Mustang. As such, it seats four and is available in coupe and convertible body styles.
The GT500 comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, high-performance tires, Brembo brakes, hood-mounted heat extractors, a front air splitter, a rear spoiler, xenon headlights, air-conditioning, cruise control, leather/suede-upholstered sport bucket seats with Cobra logos, a power driver seat, the Sync multimedia voice-control system and an eight-speaker audio system with a CD player, auxiliary/USB audio jacks and satellite radio. The GT500 convertible also comes with a power-operated soft top. Both the GT500 coupe and convertible have "GT500" side stripes, while the coupe also has racing stripes over the nose and tail. Ford offers a stripe-delete option for buyers who prefer a less ostentatious look.
Options include a glass roof for the coupe, an Electronics package (hard-drive-based navigation system, HD radio and dual-zone climate control), an upgraded 10-speaker 1,000-watt sound system and the SVT Performance package (unique 19-inch front/20-inch rear wheels, higher-performance tires, revised suspension calibrations, unique stripes/rear spoiler and a 3.73 limited-slip rear axle).
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive Shelby GT500 is powered by a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 that produces 550 hp and 510 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available. Though we haven't yet tested the 2011 Shelby GT500, track testing of the 2010 model yielded zero to 60 mph in an impressive 4.3 seconds and a quarter-mile run of just 12.4-seconds. Fuel economy is rated at 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
With huge Brembo disc brakes at all four corners, brake fade is a non-issue and stopping power is simply amazing for such a heavy (near 2-ton) car. A stop from 60 mph can be done in a very short 106 feet.
Standard on the 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 are ABS, traction control, stability control and front-seat side airbags. Ford's MyKey system (which allows one to limit the car's top speed and stereo volume for younger drivers) is also standard. There is no spare tire, however: just a temporary tire inflation kit.
Although the specific 2011 GT500 model hadn't been crash tested as of this writing, the 2010 Mustang upon which it is based received perfect five-star ratings from the government for frontal crash protection and front passenger side protection. Rear-passenger side-impact protection also garnered five stars. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Mustang coupe received the top score of "Good" in frontal-offset tests and a second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the side impact test. The Mustang convertible (post December 2009 production) received ratings of "Good" in both tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the Mustang's interior, the GT500's cabin -- specifically the dash with its dual-cowl design -- was designed to mimic that of its 1960s forebears. Among the many quality interior details are soft-touch materials on both the upper and lower dash, solid build quality and the use of Alcantara (convincing faux suede that's used in high-end luxury cars) on the seats and steering wheel. Aggressive side bolsters allow the comfortable buckets to properly hold occupants during aggressive cornering, while an old-school, cue-ball gearshift knob adds to the retro look and feel.
The overall control layout is user-friendly, with a few tried-and-true setups kept for good measure, such as a simple twist knob on the dash for the headlights as well as spin knobs for volume and tuning. The GT500 also has Ford's excellent Sync system that allows voice commands for your cell phone, the audio system and the (optional) navigation system.
The coupe's trunk provides 13.4 cubic feet of capacity and the rear seat splits and folds down, extending cargo capacity considerably. The ragtop offers 9.6 cubes but no folding rear seat.
With more power than any of the revered Shelby Mustangs of the 1960s, the 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 offers performance that's nothing short of intoxicating. Just as its specs suggest, the GT500 lunges forward with exotic-car verve when you boot the throttle. Gearchanges are positive and crisp, and the overall driving experience can be either civilized or brutal, depending on your mood and how quickly you move your throttle foot.
On a curvy back road, the 2011 Shelby GT500 displays composed, confident handling with crisp turn-in and a well-balanced feel overall. On occasion, a sharp midcorner impact will remind you of the car's non-independent rear suspension via a bit of a kickback, but it's handled as a single, damped event, unlike with older Mustangs where it would send the car wallowing about. Overall, the latest GT500 does an admirable job of combining fairly agile cornering ability with a compliant ride.