Sunday, January 4, 2009

2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, 540 hp 5.4-liter supercharged

While the finishing touches were being put on the 2010 Ford Mustang, Carroll Shelby and the folks in the SVT stable were putting together a more powerful and more refined Shelby GT500. A glance at the front end will reveal larger upper and lower air intakes that appear ready to swallow any obstacle whole. Ford says the new front end takes styling cues from the Shelby AC Cobra 427s of the early 60s, although we'd say the resemblance is not immediately apparent. Regardless of what it looks like, the new design should be as functional as it is aggressive. The taller powerdome hood is mounted flush and features functional extractors that bring cool air into the engine bay. The nose also boasts a new front splitter that increases downforce and reduces drag. Out back, the rear spoiler is also improved to reduce drag and contains an integrated Gurney Flap to provide downforce. When it came to the powertrain, Ford capitalized on the advancements made with the 40th anniversary edition Shelby GT500KR. The output of the 2010 Shelby GT500 is expected to match the 540 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque generated by the KR. The downside is all that muscle from the 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 will still be channeled through a muscle-car-era solid rear axle. The new Shelby GT500 is able to churn out the extra power compared to the previous model with the help of revised ignition and throttle calibration and a cold-air intake. The new intake uses a conical filter and a front grille snorkel, whose placement sent the trademark cobra badge slithering over to the other side of the grille. Though a few folks at Ford were afraid the change would offend Shelby, the resulting performance increase made him quite happy.

The issue of the pronounced clutch that made the former car a less-than-favorable daily driver has been addressed. Ford also attempted to tackle the Shelby's slightly lacking acceleration and poor fuel economy with taller fifth and sixth gear ratios and a lower 3.55 final drive. The changes should improve acceleration in lower gears and add 2 mpg during highway cruising. Taking another page from the KR's book, Ford enhanced the suspension with new springs and dampers to promote primary body control. To further improve handling and grip, the Shelby GT500 coupes will wear new Goodyear F1 Supercar tires mounted to forged 19-inch wheels. Meanwhile, the upgraded rubber will come standard on 18-inch wheels on the convertible. The new Shelby GT500 seeks to improve upon its predecessor's lackluster interior with a cabin that is unique and unmistakable. Occupants will know they are in a Shelby by looking at the racing striped seats which are wrapped in real leather with Alcantera inserts. The suede-like material also accents the steering wheel's appearance and makes it easier to grip. Real aluminum is used for the center steering wheel badge and the dash panels which have a unique texture that was supposedly inspired by clutch plates, braided hoses and cross-drilled racing brake rotors. More stripes can be found on the classic white shift knob whose H-pattern is bisected by two parallel lines that wrap completely around. Overall the new Shelby GT500 is more functional and refined and offers some of the performance goodies of the $80,000 KR. On the other hand, one attribute we hope the new car will not inherit from the KR is its price. Instead we expect the coupes to retail in the mid $40,000 range and convertibles to start around $50K. Fortunately, if the new car market is anything like its present state when the 2010 Shelby GT500 hits dealerships this spring, dealers that marked up the last generation model will be forced to sell the new car at a price closer to MSRP.


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