by Sebastian Cenizo
If you're a Mustang fan, the GT500 is one of those cars that you've been waiting for with bated breath. If you're not, and only remember the GT500 as an over-powered sports car with crappy handling and unwarranted pop culture following courtesy of films like Gone in 60 Seconds, the all-new 2020 model could very well change your opinion of the Mustang entirely. Powered by a 5.2-liter supercharged V8 with a whopping 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque, the GT500 is still an insanely powered beast, only now it knows what to do with all that grunt. Where the Camaro ZL1 had asserted itself as the best handling pony car on sale, the GT500 now blurs the lines between straight-line capability and handling prowess. In order to make it as fast as possible, the GT500 is equipped exclusively with an all-new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which allows for 0-60 times below 3.5 seconds.
The Shelby GT500 hasn't been seen since the first half of the decade, with the nameplate last utilized in 2014. That car had a live rear axle and a claimed top speed of 200 mph. For 2020, the GT500 nameplate is revived, a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 shoved under the hood, the independent rear suspension of the current Mustang is carried over, and the limiter is reduced to 180 mph - a sign that the new GT500 is intended to be capable in the corners rather than just a straight-line one-trick pony. Like its GT350 sibling, it uses pre-facelift 'Stang headlights, as the designers felt this worked better with the more aggressive body lines.
It'll be difficult to mistake the GT500 for anything but the king of the Ford stable, with swooping angular lines, a bulging vented hood, and winglets aplenty. The front features splitter wickers and an aggressive fascia that avoids subtlety, making it obvious that downforce and channeling of the air are the main purposes of the styling decisions. LED daytime running lights feature along with the trademark Shelby cobra insignia, while wide fenders house 20-inch wheels which can be had in carbon fiber. At the back, a diffuser adds more presence, but the most noticeable feature is the massive wing, which can be had in two sizes.
The GT500 shares much of its basic architecture with the regular Mustang GT, and thus has the same wheelbase of 107.1 inches. However, thanks to splitters and spoilers, it's longer at 189.5 inches. Height is 54.3 inches in standard form, but if you spec the Carbon Fiber Track Package, it'll be even lower at 53.7. Width is increased over the standard GT (75.4 inches) to accommodate wider tires in the bigger arches, and thus measures 76.6 inches. Thanks to a heavy engine and a bigger body, curb weight increases too, with a base figure of 4,171 lbs, although the optional carbon fiber bits and pieces and rear seat delete should drop that figure somewhat.
You're spoiled for choice when it comes to paint options on the GT500: 11 variations are available, mimicking the GT350's palette, along with the option of a black-painted roof for $695, tape stripes in Ebony, Bright White, or Kona Blue, and over-the-top racing stripes in three different colors and two finishes. Vinyl racing stripes come in the same colors as the tape stripes and cost $1,000 each, but if you want them painted on, you have to shell out a whopping $10,000. The body can be painted in Shadow Black, Oxford White, Velocity Blue, Iconic Silver, Magnetic, Race Red, Ford Performance Blue, Kona Blue, or the shockingly bright Grabber Lime. Rapid Red is also available for $395 with Twister Orange costing 100 bucks on top of that.
The GT500's party piece is its Predator V8 engine. With 5.2 liters of capacity, it would already be a good motor, but that wasn't enough. A 2.65-liter Eaton supercharger was added to boost output. 760 horses are sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and, to make tire warmups and burnouts easier, the car has a line-lock function. Another aid in getting the car going is launch control, and when activated, Ford claims 0-60 mph times around 3.3 seconds, which is similar to what the Camaro ZL1 manages. This astonishing acceleration keeps the GT500 motivated through the quarter-mile with a time quicker than 11 seconds. If you have a road long enough, the GT500 will keep going all the way to 180 mph. However, Ford's engineers and publicity people have been adamant that the GT500 would be more than just a dragster. As we found out in our test drive of the car, the magnetorheological dampers that are fitted as standard, along with various modes for the steering, suspension, and exhaust, all allow the ultimate Shelby to be scalpel-sharp in the corners too, and when you dial everything back, it's a car you can live with on the street.
It's easy to assume that the GT500 uses an upgraded version of the GT350's unique-to-Mustang flat-plane crank - after all, the ingredients look almost identical: 5.2 liters, V8, supercharged. That's the basic recipe for 760 hp and 625 lb-ft of torque. However, this Predator engine uses a more traditional, and presumably more reliable-when-boosted cross-plane, configuration. If it sounds like all that power being sent to only the rear wheels is a bit of a handful, it probably is - which would explain why Ford wants you keeping both hands on the round bit in front of you. Although many have decried the choice to equip the GT500 with a seven-speed Tremec dual-clutch transmission, those who have driven the car have all but unanimously concurred that it was the right decision. The gearbox shifts with lightning ferocity when you need it to, and can be smooth on the daily commute when that's what you want, too. The paddles behind the wheel help you take some control, but in general, you can leave it to its own devices and it'll do the job far quicker and better than a mere mortal can manage. This is something of an achievement, as Ford doesn't have a glittering past when it comes to dabbling in dual-clutch boxes. For us to say that this one is better even than their ten-speed SelectShift auto is remarkable indeed.
Even so, we can't help but wonder how much more fun we'd have with a manual. Yes, it'd probably make us markedly slower on a track, but that's not the point. Nevertheless, Ford argues that the enthusiast's driving machine is the GT350, which can only be had with an H-pattern, and that the GT500 is the all-out assault weapon for lap time leaderboard dominance. Once you're in the driver's seat, however, going as fast as possible will be the only thing on your mind, and the Predator V8 won't discourage you from revving it out and then blipping it down again.
If you're expecting this to be the section where the Mustang is described to be its typical crowd-crunching, sidewalk-scraping self, you may be disappointed. The GT500 has been thoroughly developed and rehoned to be a magnificently capable vehicle that can stick it with the best of them. While its weight plays a part in making it feel like it's not quite as fast as it could be, that same heft does give one a sense of being well-planted. However, it's more scientific points that elevate the handling of the GT500. All the winglets and spoilers, along with the wide and super sticky Michelin rubber, plus the Torsen limited-slip diff and adaptive dampers work hand-in-hand to make for a car that can go around a corner faster than you think it will.
The grip is just phenomenal, and thanks to slight laziness lower down in the rev range, as well as a very good ESP system, the GT500 won't punish you for burying your right foot - even when you're at full lock. This is a car that just keeps on soaking up all the abuse you can throw at it. Everything about the car just instills confidence to go faster and faster, and when you have to rein things back in, the magnificent Brembo brakes - with six-pot calipers and 16.53-inch discs in front - are fade-free and alarmingly quick to respond. You can feel the negative G-forces when you jump on the left pedal. Despite this, you can use this car on the road. Just set the steering to comfort for a lighter turn-in action, set the suspension similarly for impressive compliance, and quieten the exhaust to sneak up on jaywalkers. This car is an absolute masterpiece of pony-car excellence, but despite its breathtaking abilities, the Snake will bite if you don't respect it. Maybe it is possible to maintain that Cars & Coffee rep in the GT500 too.
With a supercharger that has nearly double the capacity that most city cars' engines can boast, it's no wonder that the GT500 is a less-than-viable option if you want to impress the Prius-driving eco-warrior you just met on Tinder. Its official EPA figures show that it returned 12/18/14 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles - which means that while you'll be forking out on gas instead of dinner for two at some vegan joint, you have to pay a gas guzzler tax on purchase as well. By comparison, the Camaro ZL1 is significantly better, with figures of 14/20/16 mpg on the same cycles. On the plus side, life is about taking in the moment just as much as it is about feeling the rush of adrenaline, and with the GT500's 16-gallon gas tank, you'll be taking the moment in roughly every 224 miles or so.
A common bone of contention among pretty much every journalist who has ever sat in any of the current Mustangs is its interior. It's an underwhelmingly average place to be, with hard plastics aplenty. Ford's only solution, as ever, is to offer you the option of carbon fiber dressings, but that's really just salve on a tumor when the GT500 costs over $70,000. The Sync 3 infotainment system works decently but doesn't feel special. The standard six-way power-adjustable seats with heating and ventilation go a way to helping improve the feel of the cabin and are comfy enough, as do the well-placed dual-zone climate control buttons and good seating position, but the best part of this interior is the 12-inch digital driver info display. Paired with grippier but optional Recaro seats, the screen helps you feel like you're in a racecar for the right reasons.
For some strange reason, the GT500 comes standard with two rear seats. As usual, only Tyrion Lannister would be able to fit there, but he wouldn't have a cupholder to put his wine goblet in. For this reason, we'd take the option to delete the rear seat. After all, a 760-hp sports coupe is never going to be a useful family car. The front seats are far more comfortable and accommodating, with plenty of headroom and legroom. Getting in and out isn't too much of a chore, although taller individuals will have to duck. Optioning the Recaro seats in makes getting in and out a little trickier, thanks to their aggressive side bolsters, but if you're of average body type, that hugging effect will pay dividends in the corners. Bigger individuals will likely find them too confining, however. Regardless of the seat choice, the view out is similar to other Mustangs, with decent visibility all-round, although the bulging hood does make it ever-so-slightly more difficult to place the passenger side of the car.
As usual, plenty of hard dark plastics with fake aluminum trims feature throughout the cabin of the Mustang. In this top-of-the-line GT500, however, you do at least get leather seats as standard, trimmed in Ebony with contrasting Smoke Gray stitching and Miko suede inserts. The dash gets similar treatment, with the steering wheel featuring a fake suede and a gray center marker. The optional Recaro seats are also trimmed in leather, with faux suede and Smoke Gray inserts. This option automatically deletes the rear seats though. To help break up the wash of dull plastic, you can spend $1,000 on a carbon fiber instrument panel as a standalone option.
Since the GT500 is based on the regular Mustang GT, it has the same trunk space. Thus, if you do take things further with that Tinder date, you can one day justify the GT500 being a fixture on your driveway as a relatively practical vehicle. 13.5 cubic feet falls behind the storage volume of your average Dodge Challenger, but compared to the more similar track-focused Camaro ZL1 with only 9.1 cubes, the GT500 is cavernous. If that isn't enough space for you, you can fold the rear seats down in a 50/50 split - assuming you didn't opt to delete those. Opting for the Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade is to be avoided if you need space though, as this puts a subwoofer in the trunk.
In the cabin, you get a pair of cupholders up front, a center armrest bin, and adequate door pockets, along with a decent glovebox for small items.
With an almost obsessive attention to performance-enhancing detail, the GT500 isn't exactly built to rival the latest Maybach when it comes to creature comforts, nor to give Tesla a run for its money with autonomous driving tech. It is a pretty sparse car when it comes to the usual features that manufacturers offer these days, but then again, a Maybach doesn't have Ford's Track Apps. This feature allows you to monitor things like acceleration and braking performance, as well as G-forces. Also standard are MagneRide adaptive dampers, a valved exhaust system, line-lock and launch control, and a 12-inch digital driver display. More common features include a rearview camera, auto headlights, six-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, dual-zone climate control, and keyless entry. Blind-spot monitoring is optional, as are heated mirrors.
Ford's trusty Sync 3 infotainment system returns for duty in the GT500 with its eight-inch touch display and a nine-speaker audio system as standard. The system features a Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, a pair of USB ports, and a CD player. SiriusXM satellite radio is also included, but navigation is optional as part of the Technology package. This package also upgrades the sound system to a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen setup with a subwoofer in the trunk - helpful for when the quietest exhaust mode just isn't enough to drown out the supercharged V8.
The 2020 Ford Mustang as a whole is free of recalls thus far and has a quality and reliability rating of 73 out of 100 from J.D. Power. The 2019 Mustang was subject to a single recall in February for an instrument cluster that may go blank on start-up, but no other issues have since presented. With the Predator's insane power output, we'll have to wait a while for customers to use the car consistently to determine if there are any long-term issues lurking.
A three-year/36,000-mile bumper to bumper warranty covers the new GT500, as does a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. No complimentary scheduled maintenance is offered.
The 2020 Mustang received an IIHS rating of Acceptable in the driver-side small front overlap crash test, but attained the agency's best possible score of Good in all other crash tests. Similarly, the NHTSA gave their best score of five stars out of five overall.
The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is an incredibly focused and almost single-minded vehicle with very minimal safety equipment. The wing mirrors house a blind-spot magnifying portion and you get a rearview camera. Beyond that and the airbags, you're on your own unless you specify the Technology package. This adds blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. You do also get SOS post-crash alert, but there's very little to stop you from getting in a crash in the first place. Should the inevitable happen when your 760 rampaging horses do eventually lust for human flesh, at least you and your passenger will be protected by dual front, front side, curtain, and knee airbags.
Looking at the safety and comfort features of the Shelby GT500, the answer to the above question is a resounding no - it's not a good car. There's almost nothing to prevent you from drifting into oncoming traffic or taking out someone in your blind spot. However, if the question is rephrased with the designers' and engineers' vision in mind, the answer is a deafening yes. The 2020 Shelby GT500 is a technical marvel. Despite its relative simplicity, it does not have just the power, but also the grip, to be an absolute titan in the sports coupe segment. This car will, without a doubt, be a collectors' item one day, much like the GT350; but, unlike that car, you don't have to be an obsessive wannabe racer to appreciate what it can do. The GT500 allows for dim-witted driving so long as you don't take too many chances, and for the keen driver who knows how to deal with such bombastic power, it's just as rewarding - even without a DIY gearbox. A future icon? Probably. A performance pièce de résistance for all drivers? Definitely.
The official list price of the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is $70,300, but you still have to add another $2,600 for gas guzzler tax and another $1,095 for destination and delivery. It's only available in a single trim, so that's it, right? No. If you want the fastest GT500, you're gonna have to splash out on the Carbon Fiber Track Pack for another $18,500. Along with some other add-ons to make the car more hospitable for daily use (navigation, blind-spot monitoring, a better sound system), along with some pricey paint and stripes, it's easy to make the GT500 clock over $105,000.
The GT500 is a $70,300 car only available in a single trim, although you can enhance its capabilities by adding some packages. It is equipped with a supercharged 5.2-liter Predator V8. The power plant sends 760 hp and 625 lb-ft of twist to the rear wheels exclusively through a seven-speed Tremec dual-clutch automatic transmission.
As standard, you get leather seats that are heated and ventilated, as well as power-adjustable. You also get dual-zone climate control and Ford Sync 3 infotainment with an eight-inch touchscreen and nine speakers. The sound system can be upgraded to include a total of 12 speakers from Bang & Olufsen as part of a package that also adds blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and navigation. Other features included with the car are MagneRide magnetorheological adaptive dampers, a valved adaptive exhaust system, a 12-inch digital driver info display, a Torsen limited-slip diff, line-lock, launch control, and performance measurement digital gauges through Ford's Track Apps. Keyless entry is also possible through an app on your smartphone, but most buyers will be more interested in optional features like adjustable top shock mounts, carbon-fiber wheels wrapped in more extreme Michelin rubber, and a larger GT4 carbon rear wing, all of which are part of an optional track pack.
5.2-liter Supercharged V8 Gas
Three packages are offered with the GT500, of which the first two cannot be specced together. The first is the Handling Pack at $1,500. It adds a Gurney flap for the rear wing and splitter wickers, which are both placed in the car for the owner to install. The second, more extreme package, is the Carbon Fiber Track Pack. It adds 20-inch exposed carbon wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Cup Sport 2 tires, Recaro seats, splitter wickers, a GT4 carbon rear wing, a sprinkling of carbon on the interior, and adjustable top shock mounts. It also deletes the rear seat as well as the princely sum of $18,500 from your bank account. The last, more comfort-oriented package offered is the Technology package. This one costs $3,000 and adds navigation, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a B&O 12-speaker audio upgrade, and heated wing mirrors.
For ultimate exclusivity, you can opt for hand-painted racing stripes over the top in Oxford White or Kona Blue, but at $10,000 it's one hell of an expense.
In terms of getting the most aggressive and focused performance out of the GT500, there's no question that the Carbon Fiber Track Pack with its weight-savings and more aerodynamic body addendums is top of the list for making your GT500 the ultimate street-legal daily-drivable Mustang. However, it's a very expensive package for an already pricey car. Instead, we'd stick with the original seats with their heating and ventilation, and rather spend a bit of extra cash on the Technology Package, adding navigation, blind-spot monitoring, and an audio upgrade. In this form, the car would remain as comfortable as possible, without compromising much in the way of outright performance.
When comparing lesser versions of these two pony cars, the Camaro is almost always the one that comes out on top as the better handling and less compromised of the two. With the introduction of the GT500, that perception is likely to change. Despite having a bigger, 6.2-liter supercharged V8, the ZL1 produces 110 hp less than the GT500. It also has a smaller trunk, and would, therefore, appear to be less worthy than the 'Stang. However, not all specs favor the Mustang. The Camaro costs more than $7,000 less, can be had with either a six-speed manual or a ten-speed auto, and gets better fuel economy. It also has a bigger gas tank and can be had in convertible form. Overall, it's going to be a tough choice between the two, and you'd have to take both for a test drive to see which suits you better, but based on the way the GT500 manages to be both track-ready and road-friendly, we're slightly biased towards the Mustang.
With a similarly singular approach to performance with little room for compromise, the baby brother GT350 is a thorn in the side of the GT500. With a starting price which is more than $10,000 cheaper than the GT500, the naturally-aspirated GT350 makes one question why you need so much power. The GT350 is slower, since it only has 526 hp, but its engine is blessed with a flat-plane crank that gives it a unique and phenomenal sound. Its delivery encourages high revving and with a six-speed manual as the only transmission option, it's a truly characterful alternative. If you've never driven the GT500, the GT350 may be all you could want. However, just one lap of your favorite racetrack may be enough to convince you that the GT500 is more than just a marketing exercise. It's clearly a dedicated and purpose-built track weapon that will come flying past the GT350 regardless of the circuit. For fun and character, the GT350 is better, but to decimate lap times, the GT500 is without a doubt the king.