Shelby GT500

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2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Overview

Lighter, faster, and cheaper – three welcome words, whether talking about cars or women. There’s a lot to be said about the Ford Shelby GT500 in 2011, and all of it good. So where to start? How about 100 pounds, since Ford managed to shave more than that off its formidable flagship ponycar. Most of that is due to the use of a new aluminum block for the supercharged 5.4-liter V8, an engine that alone weighs 102 pounds less than last year’s powerplant.

In fact, the 5.4 got the full treatment, including the application of Ford’s Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) process, which coats the cylinder walls with film only 150 microns thick. It provides a lighter and smoother coat than traditional iron or steel sleeves, is just as tough, and even reduces internal friction to increase efficiency. Sound impressive? The Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation seemed to think so when they awarded the guys who developed it at Ford the 2009 National Inventor of the Year award.

Ford has also switched from the traditional dry sump lubrication system to a wet sump, the same used in the Mustang lineup, which is purported to produce a 10,000-mile oil-change interval. In order to address concerns of performance reduction in warmer climates, a larger two-row intercooler for the supercharger has been employed and is said to improve cooling capacity by 40 percent. These modifications, along with tuning to a revised 2.75-inch exhaust account for a 10-hp increase, now at 550 hp total and peaking at 6,200 rpm. With 510 lb-ft of torque available at 4,500 rpm, and 80 percent of that available from 1,750 rpm all the way up to 6,250 rpm, the 2011 GT500 improves its 0-60 trot by a full tenth of a second.

Ford has also improved aerodynamics around the vehicle, especially underneath, but the big news in efficiency is the use of electronically assisted steering here, as well as across the Mustang lineup. Ford claims it’s an improvement to the old hydraulic system, offering advantages like a dynamic boost profile, and so far testers seem to agree – at least in non-Shelby application. All of these improvements and upgrades were enough to increase fuel efficiency by 1 mpg up high and down low - it now rates 15/23 mpg - enough to push the Shelby GT500 past the gas-guzzler mark. That’s right, the $1,000 gas-guzzler tax has been dropped, too.

The suspension has been tightened all around and dropped 11mm up front and 8mm out back. Slotted brake dust shields are said to improve brake cooling, and even the convertible got some individual attention. With a revised V-brace, a new front Z-brace, and stiffening foam around the A-pillars, it’s supposed to have a torsional rigidity 12 percent better than the 2010 version. Because of these improvements, Ford now feels confident to shoe the drop-top with 19-inch wheels instead of the 18-inchers that were used last year in an attempt to soften the ride.

It’s not all about performance, as HID headlights, integrated spotter mirror and turning signals, fold-down rear headrests, and a revised pedal layout are all new standard features. You also get a MyKey programmable vehicle key, and the glass roof that looks so stunning on the GT coupe is now an option for the GT500 as well. But the option stealing all the press is the SVT Performance Package. Click that, and you’re treated to a revised and stiffer suspension, a more aggressive rear axle ratio, and unique lighter wheels wrapped in all-new Goodyear Eagle SuperCar tires developed specifically for the GT500 in conjunction with SVT engineers. Ford claims a 3-second improvement over the 2010 GT500 on a 2.3-mile test track, and I’m inclined to believe them.

For most, however, I think the “base” GT500 should be fast enough. But that’s the best part about the GT500. Yes they added power this year, not that they needed to, but most of the attention was placed on a very simple premise – reducing weight. Even the suspension adjustments were mostly made to compensate for the changes in handling that occur when you drop 100+ pounds. And with a power-to-weight ratio that bests both its rivals, it all goes a long way toward reinforcing the idea that the Mustang can be a road king as well as a drag queen.


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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Shelby GT500

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