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Goodbye, GT500: 4 Years and 30K Miles in the Fastest, Orangest, Loudest Ford Mustang Ever

We say goodbye to the meanest Mustang ever built

2020 Ford Shelby GT500 front 3/4
  • The Shelby GT500 is the most fun you can have in a Ford Mustang.
  • We found its interior cheap but comfortable.
  • Fuel economy was better off being ignored.
  • Used correctly, the GT500 proved expensive to own.

Way back in 2020 we pulled the trigger on arguably our most audacious long-term purchase: We bought a Ford Shelby GT500. While it might be the last Mustang to ever carry that name, it certainly wasn't the first. We were introduced to the GT500 badge in 1967 but Ford discontinued the model in 1970 only to bring it back 37 years later, in 2007. Even with continual refinement, and of course more power when the last GT500 bowed in 2014, it was still kind of a meathead — far more muscle car than sports car. But the 2020 version was a different animal altogether, with emphasis on the word animal.

Producing 760 horsepower from a supercharged 5.2-liter V8, the new GT500 promised to be stupid fast. The balky manual transmission available on the previous model was gone and replaced by a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch unit. But the real magic was in the corners. The GT500 boasted nearly magical MagneRide adaptive suspension, huge brakes, and steamroller-esque wheels and tires. This GT500 was a sports car; a heavyweight for sure, but a sports car all the way.

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Lest you think we were all over the moon about adding a monster Mustang to our fleet, opinions about the addition of the GT500 ranged from "Hell yeah, brother!" to "Ugh, grow up." The latter group was even less impressed when it was revealed that the color of our new long-term test vehicle would be the gonzo Twister Orange. Heck, even some of us with the former opinion were put off by the color choice. But at least it wouldn't have stripes.

What exactly did we get?

Back in 2020, a GT500 would set you back $71,395, including destination. The aforementioned Twister Orange paint job added $495 to the bottom line and the black painted roof another $695 on top of that. We selected the $3,000 Technology package that included the upgraded (but still poor) sound system, blind-spot monitoring, heated mirrors, and puddle lights with the famous snake logo. Because we foresaw some serious performance driving in our future, we opted for the manually adjustable Recaro seats for $1,595 and the $1,500 Handling package. As cool as it was, we passed on the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track package because we feared for the longevity of the carbon-fiber wheels on LA roads, we wanted the back seat, and, well, it's just expensive.

2020_ford_shelby gt500_engine.jpg

With the aptly named gas guzzler tax added to the sticker, that brought the price of our orange menace to $81,280. That's a whole lot of money for a Mustang, costing even more than our dearly departed Corvette Stingray. But when you consider its performance potential and overall packaging, it was right in line with BMW's mega M4. But as with any fast car there's more money to be spent, especially if you use it as intended.

What did we do with it?

We drove long distances, used it for commuting, did some track driving, and even the occasional U-Drag, so, pretty much everything. Even with its insane power specs it was still a pretty comfortable car. We wouldn't have liked the Shelby so much if it had the ride quality of a brick. The key to this comfort were the MagneRide adaptive dampers and their wide range of settings.

Cameron Rogers, news manager, was particularly surprised, saying, "I am genuinely shocked by how comfortable this ultra-high-performance GT500 feels around town. The ride isn't any rougher than a typical, run-of-the-mill GT. And I think it deals with potholes and cracked pavement better than any model with the GT Performance package. Throw this thing into Normal mode, where the dampers are in a road-friendly setting and the exhaust is tamed, and the Mustang feels more pleasant to drive than most other muscle and sports cars. Astonishing for something so track-oriented."

Edmunds long-term 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 front

We managed to sneak in a few track days in the Shelby, too. All of them took place on the Big Track at Willow Springs which put the GT500 smack dab in the middle of its element. As I said back in 2021, "You can't own a car like the GT500 without taking it to a track to do some laps. Not just because it's really the only place where you can experience the full power of the Shelby, but if you don't take it to a track, you've missed the point of the car and should have just bought a poster of a GT500 for your garage wall." Well said, me.

Even in the heat of an early summer's track day, the GT500 was unflappable, easy to push to near its considerable limits and got respect from seasoned track drivers after each session. We absolutely should have done more of them, but as you'll read in a few paragraphs, tracking the GT500 can get a little expensive.

Edmunds' 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 on track

So, what didn't we like?

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, some members of our staff didn't want anything to do with the shoutiest, orangest car we've ever had. Some didn't like the way it tracked down our grooved LA freeways while others thought the interior was simply too noisy, even with the exhaust in its quietest setting. One staffer had a fairly straightforward reason for not bringing it home: "It has the turning radius of a dump truck and I can't get in or out of my apartment's garage without looking like Austin Powers."

The interior came in for a bit of criticism, too. Brent Romans, senior editor of written content, stated, "I could argue that one of the GT500's biggest disappointments is its interior. Outside, yes, this thing is bonkers. Giant brakes, 'look at me!' orange paint, enough aero for a Formula 1 car, etc. But once you're inside it's all quite pedestrian. Other than the Recaro seats and Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, it's pretty much the same interior as a $30,000 Mustang you rented at the Honolulu airport. The design is pretty drab and uninteresting." To prove his point he added, "With the newest C8 Corvette, Chevy has shown how you can have high performance and an upscale interior. Ford clearly put all of its developmental money towards the GT500's mechanical bits."

2020 Ford Shelby GT500 interior

The optional Recaros weren't to everyone's liking either. A more muscular staff member found them to be too tight and wished we had stuck with the standard seats, while another editor lamented their lack of breathability, especially on warmer days. Should you be in the market for a GT500, we'd recommend having a test sit in the Recaros before you pull the trigger.

So, was it expensive to own?

In some ways yes, but not due to any fault of the car. Though our experience with the GT500 got off to a horrendous and frustrating start thanks to Galpin Ford (you can read more about that in the GT500's long-term road test page), other than a leaky transmission cooler, which was replaced under warranty, the Shelby performed flawlessly.

What made it so expensive? For starters, the oil changes were all over $200 due to a 12-quart capacity for a specific 5W-50 motor oil. On top of that, and because of our various track days and hard driving during video shoots, we ran the accelerated maintenance schedule as outlined by Ford in the owner's manual. That included items like a rear-axle service, which totaled $388.79, while a new transmission filter and fluid change set us back a whopping $1,326.59. Both of these should be done with roughly 500 miles of track driving.

Tires were another necessary expense and are simply the cost of doing business with a car like the GT500. Though originally equipped with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, after our first track day we replaced them with the stickier and more capable Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which come standard on the Shelby if you order the Carbon Fiber Track package. When we first picked those up in 2021, a set of those babies set us back $1,800.56. Today, they're $2,365.24. We went through multiple sets of these in our four years of ownership.

2020 Ford Shelby GT500 in profile, outside a dealer

Tires aren't the only thing you'll go through if you own a GT500, and we'd suggest you get a gas card with rewards. In four years of ownership, we averaged 13.6 mpg on the premium unleaded fillups. Only the most concerted efforts saw the average for a tank of gas drift north of 20 mpg, while most tanks were below 15 mpg. That poor mileage, combined with the GT500's relatively small fuel tank, means you'll be filling up often. During our track days, mileage was hilariously poor. The GT500 would burn a full tank of gas during every 30-minute session. Do five to six sessions in a day, and, yeah. That's easily several hundred dollars. And don't forget the tire wear.

Other expenses, which were not the fault of the car, included replacing a bent wheel for $1,500 (seriously) and replacing the knock sensor wiring harness after it was mercilessly devoured by mice. That cost us just over a grand. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the time it took to service our Ford. Because it's a Shelby, it required a specialized tech to perform most of the work warranty or otherwise. Even in LA, where you can find a Ford dealer in nearly every city, our car was out of service for 40 days, oftentimes just waiting for a qualified tech to become available. It's the main reason we had our GT500 serviced at five different dealerships; some couldn't take the car for over a month.

Edmunds' 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 at the pump

Like any ultra-high-performance car, the GT500 is pay to play. Tires are expensive, fuel mileage is abysmal, and maintenance costs, should you stay on top of them, will add up quickly. Even though the reliability of our Shelby was nearly faultless, we'd still recommend having another car to rely on for day-to-day driving. 

Edmunds says

The Shelby GT500 is the ultimate Mustang. With the exception of the crazy exotic Mustang GTD, no other Mustang is likely to come close to the performance offered by the GT500. While it's certainly not for everyone, especially when painted a ridiculous color, it's difficult to argue against its bang for the buck and surprising usability. It's already a legend and already missed.