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Ford Shelby GT500 (2021) review: 5.0/5

Prepare to want the mental GT500. And prepare to be disappointed, as well...

Matt Robinson

Words: Matt Robinson - @MttRbnsn

Published on: May 20, 2021

Words: Matt Robinson - @MttRbnsn

Published on: May 20, 2021

Tech Specs

Model testedFord Shelby GT500
Irish pricingMustang from €69,818, Shelby GT500 not sold in Europe
Engine5.2-litre supercharged 'Predator' V8 petrol
Transmissionseven-speed Tremec dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
Body styletwo-door, 2+2 coupe
CO2 emissions393g/km
Motor tax€2,400 per annum
Combined economy16.8mpg (16.8 litres/100km)
Top speed290km/h (limited)
0-100km/h3.5 seconds
Power771hp at 7,300rpm
Torque848Nm at 5,000rpm
Boot space408 litres
SafetyEuro NCAP safety rating for Ford Mustang

Noise. So. Much. Noise. And speed, too. Oh, and mega handling. Welcome to the bonkers Ford Shelby GT500, the angriest and most talented Mustang of them all. And guess what? It's not coming to Europe. Boo!

This continues a fine tradition of us enthusiasts in the Old World being denied the Mustang in its grander guises... or, indeed, at all for 50 years, but at least now we have our own desirable models to be getting on with. Such as the recently released Mach 1, which takes much of its aerodynamic inspiration from this very GT500.

By way of a reminder, the Shelby American company was started by the legend that was Carroll Shelby. If you've seen Ford v Ferrari, or Le Mans '66 depending on in which country you saw it, this colossus of the motoring world was played by Matt Damon. Since 1965 it has been producing the most intense, go-fastest versions of the mighty Ford Mustang, almost all of them destined solely for the Pony Car's domestic market of the good ole US of A.

It started with the unutterably lovely GT350 of 1965-66, but there have been further GT350, GT500 and Super Snake models since. That last honorific comes about as they're also sometimes known as 'Mustang Cobras', because Shelby's most famous automotive confection - the AC Cobra - used a Ford 427ci V8. That's a 7.0-litre V8, in case you're wondering.

Anyway, there have been various Shelby Mustangs over the years, with such models meeting varying degrees of critical success, but surely none have been quite as thunderously violent as this one. Coming just as Ford's 533hp GT350 take on the current Mustang bows out of service in its homeland, the GT500 is like some demented tuner's fevered dream of what the most outlandish expression of a Stateside muscle car would be like.

In the Metal:

You're looking at 1.9 tonnes of pure, unadulterated aggression. Its correct name is the Ford Shelby GT500, although we're inserting 'Mustang' throughout this review, purely so you know roughly what you're looking at.

It is blistered, scowling and hulking, with a front-end arrangement of grille and intakes that looks like it could swallow small towns without a moment's hesitation. The bonnet bulges up to cover the monstrous motor underneath, with a louvred grille sitting in the middle of it to allow both hot air to escape the engine bay and also to permit those skulking near the Shelby's front wings a sneak peek in at the V8 that lies beneath.

Signature Shelby 'Cobra' snake badges are everywhere you look, there are bright body colours and 'Daytona' stripes running the length of the car and, at the back are four huge exhausts sitting either side of a meaty diffuser, as well as a big spoiler perched on the lip of the boot.

The Shelby GT500 just exudes menace and presence in equal measure, but an optional Carbon Fibre Track Pack adds 20-inch carbon wheels, loads of carbon addenda, adjustable top mounts on the suspension and the deletion of the Mustang's rear seats if you want even more show-stopping drama.

Talking of the interior, the cabin of the GT500 is enlivened by yet more Cobras, a pair of glorious, body-hugging Recaro sports seats, an Alcantara-clad steering wheel and a special plaque on the passenger-side dash. It's obviously familiar from the regular Mustangs, but it certainly feels awe-inspiring to sit in the Shelby, peering out over its domed bonnet at the road ahead in trepidation of what's to come...

Driving it:

Under the bonnet is not some development of the Coyote V8 that powers the normal 5.0-litre GT model, and the Mach 1 too, but instead a completely different V8 named - scarily enough - the 'Predator'.

The V8 in question is a 5.2-litre unit, to which Ford straps a 2.65-litre roots-type supercharger - and the end results are predictably spectacular. All told, the Predator kicks out 771hp and 848Nm of torque, stats that make it easily the most powerful production car Ford has ever made. Yep, that includes the GT supercar, too.

Even though the Mustang only drives its rear wheels through a seven-speed Tremec dual-clutch gearbox, and it weighs a mighty 1,897kg, the traction-limited GT500 runs 0-100km/h in 3.5 pulverising seconds and has to be restricted to 290km/h.

Supercar pace, then. And supercar noise as well. Quite fantastically scandalous noise, if we're honest. We got our one chance to have some time behind the wheel of the Shelby GT500 on track, at an event where there was a whole host of other supercars and high-performance specialist machines from the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, BMW, Lotus and more circulating the venue at high speeds. And nothing, absolutely nothing, got even remotely close to the outrageous bellowing of the 771hp Mustang.

What makes this even more astounding is that noise restrictors on the track in question meant the Ford had to run in the quietest of its four exhaust settings. In such a mode, it triggered a cacophonous 112dB on the meters. About as loud as standing next to a chainsaw running at high revs, in case you want a point of ear-splitting reference.

And it's a sensational, rumbling, furious V8 din the GT500 makes. It's deafening as the Mustang rips past you as a bystander, but even in the car, you'll hear precious few vehicles that can match the Shelby for acoustic theatrics. To be honest, while it would fail every noise test on every single track day you could possibly take it to, we have to say the disgracefully magnificent roar of the GT500 is a huge part of its appeal.

Appeal that is only strengthened when you get to drive it. First of all, there is no way a rear-drive, 770hp brute like this should deploy its power in such a fuss-free fashion. You don't have to treat the throttle like a detonator on a particularly powerful bomb; instead, galvanised by the torrent of feedback coming to you through the steering wheel and the base of the seat, you soon realise you can quickly hook up the V8 to the tarmac with devastating effect once the colossal 315-section rear Michelin tyres have settled out of a bend.

And when you do, the Shelby GT500 doesn't underwhelm you in the slightest. The way it rips from 160-250km/h has to be experienced to be believed, because it's not just fast - it's insane, is what it is.

However, this is no point-and-squirt, rough-around-the-edges hunk of American pig iron. Even the mighty Mach 1 doesn't have a front axle that is as marvellously keyed into the road's surface as the GT500's snout is. From corner one, when it scythes its way in at the apex of the bend like a 500kg kit car, not a two-tonne coupe, you are agog at the directness of the steering and the sheer bounty of feel you get through the wheel's rim.

It's such a dependable, grippy axle leading the way up there, despite all the supercharged V8 weight sitting above it, that you'll find next-to-no understeer is prevalent in the Shelby's dynamic repertoire at all. And with the epic balance of the Ford and the otherworldly traction from the rear axle, what you end up with is a beastly looking behemoth that actually turns out to be a limber, lithe delight on track.

Oh sure, there are European cars that are better suited to a circuit than the GT500, but you'd be surprised just how phenomenally talented this torque-abundant Mustang really is. We were blown away by it.

What you get for your Money:

No good complaining - the Predator V8 just isn't capable of being homologated for sale in European markets at a cost that would make the Shelby GT500 anything like viable over here. In America, it costs $72,900 without the Carbon Fibre Track Pack and $91,400 with it, which on a straight conversion would be a crazy-low €59,975 or €75,195.

However, import duties, taxes, VRT (the GT500 emits a ludicrous 393g/km of CO2 and achieves no more than 16.8mpg combined) and more means the Mustang is going to be a very pricey thing to import if you fancy taking the monumental risk of doing such a thing. Oh, and it'd be left-hand drive too.

Summary

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 has absolutely corrupted our souls. We adore the Mustang anyway, but one that sounds like this? That looks so terrifying? That handles and goes as searingly well as it does? Well, it's a dream machine. And it will regrettably have to remain so, given it will not and indeed cannot be sold over here. But we're glad to know the demonic, deranged Shelby even exists in the first place.



Alternatives

Car Reviews | BMW M4 Competition Coupe (2021) | CompleteCar.ie
BMW M4 Competition vs. Ford Shelby GT500 (2021): for noise and sheer straight-line speed, an M4 wouldn't know which way the GT500 went. For availability and a bit more handling finesse, the BMW is perhaps ahead of the Ford.

Car Reviews | Ferrari F8 Tributo (2019) | CompleteCar.ie
Ferrari F8 Tributo vs. Ford Shelby GT500 (2021): if you want 700-odd horsepower and loud noises from your car, you could always look at the Ferrari. Hmm, Ferrari and Ford... have we already mentioned their rivalry in this piece? We have? Oh.
Car Reviews | Maserati Granturismo MC | CompleteCar.ie
Maserati GranTurismo MC vs. Ford Shelby GT500 (2021): as something that is as leftfield as a 771hp Mustang, the Maserati is a good shout. The only problem is that it's no longer officially on sale, so you're looking at used examples. If you can find them.

Tech Specs

Model testedFord Shelby GT500
Irish pricingMustang from €69,818, Shelby GT500 not sold in Europe
Engine5.2-litre supercharged 'Predator' V8 petrol
Transmissionseven-speed Tremec dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive with limited-slip differential
Body styletwo-door, 2+2 coupe
CO2 emissions393g/km
Motor tax€2,400 per annum
Combined economy16.8mpg (16.8 litres/100km)
Top speed290km/h (limited)
0-100km/h3.5 seconds
Power771hp at 7,300rpm
Torque848Nm at 5,000rpm
Boot space408 litres
SafetyEuro NCAP safety rating for Ford Mustang