Expert Reviews

Preview: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500


“It’s time to embarrass some supercars at a Ford price,” said Jim Farley.

Say it again with me: “Shelby, Shelby, Shelby….”

Few names in the car biz as a whole – and even fewer, if any, in the American muscle game – speak so much to the enthusiast’s ears as that name: Carroll Shelby. The big, often Stetson-wearing Texan has left his mark on some of the most significant Mustangs – and most significant muscle cars in general – we’ve ever seen. Even now, six years after his passing at the age of 89, his name still carries weight in the form of this: the 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500. With over 700 hp and probably similar amounts of torque, it’s not just the “most powerful street-legal Mustang ever”; that power figure makes it the most powerful street legal Ford ever. More than the last Shelby GT500, more than the current GT350 – and yes, more than the GT. Oh my.

As if those figures weren’t eye-catching enough, Ford literally dropped the car from the rafters at Detroit’s Cobo Hall during its presentation.

Powered by a hand-built, 5.2L supercharged V8 with an aluminum block, enlarged connecting rods, and high-flow aluminum cylinder heads, this latest Mustang is sure to push the envelope of what the platform can handle.

Indeed, making a Mustang that can both break the sound barrier in a straight line and also handle – a key element of this new GT500 – was no simple task.

“There has been relentless dedication to crafting this incredible vehicle,” said Carl Widmann, chief Ford Performance program engineer. “It’s a car that comes alive once you reach 100 mph on the track.”

President of global markets at Ford, Jim Farley, was a little less political in his comments. “It’s time to embarrass some supercars at a Ford price,” he said.

The handling thing is not all talk, either; the same team that developed the GT Le Mans car and Mustang GT4 race car was behind the chassis development of this car; magnetic adaptive dampers are standard, while the brake rotors expand to 420 mm (the largest, Widmann says, available on any domestic coupe today) shrouded by optional 20-inch carbon-fibre wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, optional adjustable strut top mounts, carbon-fibre wing, and integrated dive planes. The front grille opening can best be described as “gaping” – you gotta get a lot of air to an engine like that, to the tune of 50 percent more than the GT350 gets.

The wing really has to be seen to be believed; pictures don’t really do justice to the fact that it’s bigger than anything we’ve seen on a Mustang previous, looking more like something from a hot European or Japanese tuner, all carbon-fibre-y and adjustable and mounted on giant struts. It’s functional, of course, but no less eye-catching.

Transmission duties are handled by a single choice, and it’s one that will likely disappoint some: a seven-speed dual clutch auto, with no manual option in sight. Ford says that since the GT500 has been developed to do work on the track, and an auto transmission was the best way to do it.

“It’s the best way to get the torque down for a track-based Shelby,” said Wildmann. “It needs that straight-line performance, but it has to handle and stop, too.” That, it appears, is all there is to it. Keep in mind that when on the track in a 700-plus hp super-muscle beast, you may not want to have to think about reaching for a shift lever. To make it even easier on the driver, Ford has crafted extra-large magnesium paddles for the Shelby, making them all that much easier to reach when sawing the wheel.

Speaking of sawing the wheel: not much changes inside save for an optional carbon-fibre appliqué for the centre stack, plus some new suede and stitching colours. When you’re not clipping apexes and hanging the tail out, standard fitment of Ford Sync3 infotainment and its 8-inch display and a 12-inch digital instrument cluster are on-hand to keep you as comfortable as you’re going to get in a fire-breathing car like this.

Look for the 2020 Shelby GT500 to start arriving in dealers in the fall.