Over the last month and a half, I have been spending a week or so at a time with different vehicles from Ford. So far, I have spent time with the 2011 Mustang GT and the 2010 Ford Raptor. Today I am going to talk about the coolest of all the vehicles Ford has sent my way so far -- the 2011 Shelby GT500.
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The Shelby GT500 is the stuff of Mustang legend and the Shelby's are some of the most powerful and sought after Mustangs from the 60's when they were the fastest Fords around. The Shelby badge was put back onto a Mustang for the 2007 model year with the reintroduction of the Shelby GT500. Since the new GT500 surfaced the car has been using an iron block 5.4 liter supercharged V8 mated to a 6-speed transmission.
That heavy cast iron block contributed to the heft of the car and hurt the Shelby's handling. That made the weight one of the biggest companies that buyers and enthusiasts had about the Shelby. In 2011, Ford decided to do something about the front end weight of the GT500 and announced that the car would get an aluminum block helping the GT500 to lose 120 pounds. The weight reduction not only helps the 2011 GT500 perform better in a straight line, but helps the car to handle better as well.
The 2011 Shelby GT500 I spent a week with was a dead sexy Race Red exterior with charcoal black interior sporting Soho (white) stripes on the leather and white stripes on the exterior. The car also had the SVT performance package, which adds lighter unique wheels , 3.73 axel ratio, and Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar tires. The special supercar G2 tires from Goodyear are only available on the GT500.
Ford claims that the 2011 GT500 with the SVT Performance Package was 3-seconds faster than the 2010 GT500 on the 2.3-mile test track. The unique wheels for the SVT package are dark colored and 19-inch in the front and 20-inch in the rear. The car also gets a slightly lower ride height and stiffer springs than base 2011 GT500 cars. The stripes on the SVT Performance Package cars are also different from those of the standard GT500. The SVT package brings much narrower stripes that many people aren’t fans of. I like them, but if you want the SVT pack, you can get a stripe delete option.
With stiffer springs and special low profile tires, you might expect the SVT pack GT500 to ride horribly. You won’t confuse the SVT pack GT500 with a Lexus, but the car rides surprisingly well. I took the car on a couple long road trips and it was very comfortable. The ride is stiff and taunt, but smooth enough that the car can be driven in the real world on roads with potholes and expansion joints without needing to keep a chiropractor on call.
What the GT500 is all about is performance. The 2011 GT500 is the fastest Mustang Ford has produced so far and the car is a beast. Car & Driver reports that the standard GT500 will hit 60mph in 4.1 seconds and run the quarter mile in 12.4 seconds. The stickier tires and weight savings thanks to the SVT performance pack wheels should mean slightly better performance than the stock GT500 for my test car.
What I can say is that the 2011 GT500 is outright fast. It is the fastest production car I have ever driven. The rate that it can eat up highway when you are on it is amazing. The special Goodyear tires are very grippy. One thing you will notice thanks to the sticky rubber and wide width of the tires is road noise. This is to be expected with any performance car though.
The supercharger ford uses is almost silent. At full throttle, you will hear a slight whine that is easily overshadowed by the radio in many instances. I found myself wishing that the supercharger were louder. The design of the blower means that you always have power on tap making passing a snap, assuming you aren't in the super tall sixth gear. That sixth gear is there for fuel economy and considering the GT500 has 550hp, the 24mpg I racked up on my road trip is downright impressive.
The transmission Ford uses in the GT500 is nowhere near as smooth and easy shifting as the new 6-speed in the 2011 Mustang GT. The GT500 transmission is very notchy and takes deliberate effort to hustle along at speed. The transmission takes getting used to and to really get used to it I would have to spend more than a week with the car (feel free to send it back Ford). I found myself missing a few shifts, especially the second to third. More seat time would fix that issue undoubtedly.
The GT500 Ford sent my way had just about everything you can get on the 2011 model. The only thing missing was the glass roof, which I am not a fan of. The base price for a 2011 GT500 is $48,645. My test car had the electronics package and the SVT Performance Package bring the price as tested to $54,480 plus delivery. The 2011 GT500 is being limited to 5,000 units this year and about 3,000 were pre-sold. These cars are selling for more than sticker in just about every location. In Texas the 2011 GT500 is going for $7,000 or more over MSRP. The markup being added by dealers looking to pad the bottom line is the single worst aspect of the 2011 GT500.
In today's car market, there are many vehicles on the road that sticker in the same range as the GT500 and many of the Trucks you see rolling around all over Texas are in that range or higher. People can afford this car, but many of the people who would be interested in the GT500 simply won’t bring themselves to pay more than sticker for a car. I would like to see Ford do something similar to what Ferrari did with its high-end cars when it realized dealers were charging so much more than MSRP for cars like the F40 and F50. Ferrari stepped in and took that ability to overcharge away from the dealer.
I know the reality of the world is that nothing will ever happen with the "Market adjustments" that most dealers are tacking onto the GT500's price. As long as the demand on the GT500 is so high there will be some willing to pay what dealers demand. It’s just sad to me that the enthusiast who is the driver the GT500 is designed for may be left out because of market adjustments that would add $100 or more to a monthly car payment. Market adjustments aside, the 2011 GT500 is the most fun I have had in a car. It looks fantastic, performs well, and is the sort of car that everyone likes to see.
Check out the 2011 Shelby GT500 ride along video below: