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Ford Shelby GT500 review (2012 onwards)
What - Ford Shelby GT500
Date - October 2012
Where - Brands Hatch, UK
Price - $54,200 - $71,200 (£34,000 - £44,500)
Available - Now
Extraordinarily fast and powerful, the Shelby GT500 transcends performance car motoring as we know it in Europe
Key rivals - Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Dodge Challenger R/T, Nissan GT-R
We like - Stupefying acceleration, king-of-the-road style, bargain pricing
We don't like - A hell of a challenge to drive quickly, drinks like a camel
This is no normal MSN Cars review. In fact it's a track test. Three laps of Brands Hatch were all that was allowed, though we stretched that by missing the pit entry a couple more times.
Ford has shipped over a couple of Shelby GT500s from the States for a few journalists to drive, but they were keeping us and the cars within the confines of a racetrack, with an instructor alongside to make sure we didn't stuff one into a barrier.
A big power boost to a staggering 662hp
This most potent Mustang derivative has, for 2013, a big power boost to a simply staggering 662hp. To put this in context, that puts plenty of headroom between the Ford and cars such as the Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren MP4-12C and Mercedes SLS.
Yet the Shelby costs just 20% of the price of these, and even if you shipped one over and paid the duty, you'd still have change for a spanking new Mercedes S-Class plus fuel for both of them for a decade.
There have been earlier Shelby GT500s, but Ford decided that for 2013 it needed to make it significantly quicker than the Mustang Boss 302, as well as rivals like the 580hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and 638hp Corvette ZR1.
Supercharger, brakes, suspension, aerodynamics, they were all changed and then developed at the famous Nardo proving ground in Italy. That's where the 202mph top speed and 0-60mph acceleration figures of 3.7 seconds come from.
It helps that the Mustang gets to 60 in first gear. There is no auto box like you might expect, just six-on-the-floor and a very meaty clutch pedal. You'll get the 3.7-second result only by using the launch-control system. Unless you are very, very good.
Whichever way you approach it, the Shelby GT500 is a brutal machine. The noise, the way you are thrust back into the seats, the sheer big-boy torqueiness of the engine are simply miles away from the eloquence of the European machines. You probably wouldn't want it any other way.
Ride and handling
Mind you, despite all the chassis work, this Mustang is light years from the handling sophistication of European sports cars too. It has, and this is hard to believe from this side of the Atlantic, a live rear axle.
That is as antiquated as, well, hanging the engine out the back of the car, where the luggage space should be. Yet like Porsche, Ford has honed the Mustang way beyond what should be possible. Unlike Porsche, the Mustang is a cheap car, so there are limits.
The optional Performance Package gives two-stage adjustable dampers stiffening up the Shelby GT500 for track use. There's stability control as standard plus a limited slip differential and simply enormous Brembo brakes.
Sounds good. It probably is too, yet with such power and torque it needs a near miracle to make the Shelby a manageable proposition.
Then it gets interesting. Really interesting.
Blindingly fast down the straights, there is a tonne and three-quarters to slow when it gets to the bends. The brakes are up to it, but then it gets interesting. Really interesting.
You have basically two choices. Coast around the corner and then get on the gas when the road straightens. Or drive it through the corners and possibly, probably, scare yourself witless.
Get the application of power just a fraction wrong and the Shelby squirms and wriggles and, if you lift off in fear, squirms and wriggles even more.
Carry too much speed into a corner - easy to do despite the fabulous grip of the massive tyres - and you are heading towards the outside of the bend before you can utter an expletive.
Rumour had it that in the wet at Brands Hatch a day earlier, the 662hp Mustang was 10-seconds-a-lap slower than the new 250hp Focus ST. That's down to the Focus being simply a peach to drive quickly.
The upside of this is that, if you live long enough, you'll always find the Shelby GT500 provides driving excitement and a fresh challenge. We rather like that.
It's a 2+2 in either coupe of convertible form. There are few options, most of which you'd be mad not to specify, like Recaro seats and an upgraded stereo.
American cars don't often win plaudits for the quality of their interiors and the Shelby GT500 doesn't break that mould. But take the price into account and it's fine. Honestly.
Economy and safety
"The Shelby GT500 is exempt from the (US) federal gas-guzzler tax," says the media release. What? Can there really be US cars worse than this?
In theory it can average 18mpg, that's US gallons which equates to 21.6mpg in imperial gallons. We reckon half that will be more like it.
There is plenty of safety equipment, including four airbags. The child seat restraint system is different to the ISOFIX we have in Europe.
The MSN Cars verdict
The Shelby GT500 is not like any car you'll normally come across in Europe. Stupendously fast, and with a heritage that runs back decades, it sometimes feels as if it needs a good kick into the 21st century.
And yet. If you covet sleeves-rolled-up, biceps-flexing, hairy-chested driving, the Shelby GT500 is simply awesome. We wouldn't have it any other way.
Need to know
Engine, petrol: 5.8 litre supercharged
Power, hp: 662
Torque, lb ft: 631
0-62mph, secs: 3.7
Top speed, mph: 202
Mpg, combined: 21.6
CO2, g/km / Tax: 18/35%
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