The 500 Club: An elite group of sports cars that meet and exceed the 500 horsepower barrier. These expensive power junkies squeeze everything they can out of their engines, with turbochargers and superchargers pushing air around more effectively than Lance Armstrong's lungs. The Ford Mustang GT500 is the only muscle car to make it into that exclusive society, and it’s been generally known more for its straight-line enthusiasm than cornering abilities, with drivability being stymied by sub-par handling. However, that’s all about to change with the 2010 model. For the next-generation Shelby GT500 Mustang – their top-of-the-line pony – the horses have reared their heads for another 40 hp to bring the official tally to 540. With great power must come great handling, so dramatic modifications to the chassis have ensured that the level of performance matches the Shelby renown, a great relief to those who want to stretch their car’s legs on winding roads. And unlike so many of the 500 Club members, the Mustang’s $46k price tag is within reach of us peons. That’s what American muscle is all about.
What's to Like
The new suspension and steering mean the Mustang’s handling no longer resembles a hog’s trajectory through a mud hole. A new clutch system has lightened the clutch considerably; it’s easier to meet the higher engagement point. Cosmetically, there have been significant improvements to the interior. And did we mention the extra horsepower?
What's Not to Like
Convertible buyers have to make do with 2007’s suspension and steering – the car’s weakest points. Seats are still missing the grip and hold that you really need when power sliding in a 540 hp muscle car and the quality isn’t all that either. Polka-dotted aluminum dash coloring looks like it should be on an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny bikini, not a Mustang.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
When you have Shelby on your side, anything’s possible; especially updating the biggest drag of the ’07 model – the handling – in order to deliver the massive amount of power through a grounded and competent chassis. The 2010 Mustang sees firmer damping and stiffened spring rates, which reduce pitch and roll. No more nose diving at red lights. Dropping the clutch and going full on the throttle will produce the sweet sound of an American V-8 all the way to the 6,250 rpm redline, punctuated only by the entrance of the supercharger’s high-pitched whine. The 5.4-liter engine delivers immediate punch, and revised gear ratios can see you hitting triple digits in third while fifth and sixth have been lengthened for better fuel economy. Three modes, Sport, Traction Control On and Traction Control Off leave driftability in the hands of the driver, though Sport does a great job of keeping the car in control without interfering too much during spirited exercises. Peeking out from the 19-inch aluminum wheels (18s for the convertible) are the 14-inch Brembos, which have enough stopping power to bring the 3900 lb ‘Stang to a halt and leave fat rubber marks in the process.
Engine and Drivetrain
Ford's SVT team has upped the engine output to 540 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque, now meeting the output of last year’s limited edition GT500KR
. This rear-wheel driver boasts a 5.4-liter DOHC supercharged V-8 engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission with an all-new clutch system and a 3.55:1 final gear ratio. A limited-slip differential helps keep the car in line.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
If, for some extraordinarily bizarre reason, drowning out the throbbing burble of the V-8 seems like a good idea, the best way to do that is with the 1000-watt Shaker audio system with 10 speakers and MP3 capability. Interior features include Alcantara wrapping on the steering wheel for a softer grip, a cue ball shift knob with racing stripes and seats with stripes to match the exterior colors.
Key Technology Evaluation
When it comes to technology, Sync's navigation and entertainment system is best in class. It uses voice-activated commands for hands-free browsing and calling. With Sirius Travel Link you’ll also have access to weather forecasts, movie listings in your area and even sports scores. A reverse camera is the only thing needed to complete the 2010 update, but the rear spoiler forces the tech wizard’s hand.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
If you’re even thinking of buying a car with this much power on tap, fuel-economy probably isn’t high on your priority list. Still, it’s surprising to learn that – thanks in part to the longer top gears – the GT500 manages 14 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. But tell that to your friends and they'll tell you to shut up and drive.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The much-improved interior does still have its faults. Particularly, the polka dots and hard plastics really have to go. Seat stripes can be had to match that of the exterior’s double lines, and the SVT logo glows red on the good-looking instrument panel. Friends stoked for a few hours of hoonage will see their enthusiasm quickly wane if they’re crammed in the rear seats.
At 188 inches, the Mustang isn’t what anyone would call a shorty, but the Cobra-esque nose blunts the length to create a shorter overall appearance. Sexy 19-inch aluminums on the coupe fill the wheel wells nicely and the Cobra logo is firmly attached to its gaping mouth. A rear spoiler crowns the new rear end, which is emblazoned with the name 'Shelby’ written above the ringed taillights.
Market Segment and Pricing
Perhaps we need to reiterate what an amazing deal the Mustang’s price versus power actually is. At just $46,325 for the Coupe and $51,225 for the Convertible, nothing comes close to matching it. The more powerful Cadillac CTS-V
at $60,700 is your next best bet – and it’s quite a competitor. Less powerful fun can be had in cars like the Pontiac G8 GXP, BMW M3
and Lexus IS-F
. Privileged members of the 500 Club (with prices to match) include the $87,700 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
, $74,755 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
and the $91,220 Dodge Viper
What We Think
The GT500’s handling improvements solidly place it among the most passionate performers on our roads. Exterior styling and interior fit and finish have been significantly modified to bring a newly modernized feel to the car as well. And with the MSRP steal versus the competition, you’ll have enough saved up for daily trips to the laundromat. How else will you get the smell of burned rubber out of your clothes?