Promises of 700-plus horsepower and cornering to go with the straight-line speed
It’s the biggest snake yet. Literally. When the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 goes on sale in the fall, you won’t miss it. The satin-finish snake up front, on the back, and on the sides has grown substantially. It’s fitting for the new GT500, which promises to be the quickest and best-handling to date.
Under the hood is a hand-built, supercharged 5.2-liter cross-plane V-8 as opposed to the naturally aspirated flat-plane-crank 526-hp, 429-lb-ft 5.2-liter in the GT350 about to hit showrooms. In addition to forced induction supercharging, the GT500 has a new Tremec twin-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission—no manual for 2020–and a new rotary gearshift.
Engineers tell us the GT500 will easily exceed 700 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque. Ford is not releasing exact numbers yet. The car does not go on sale until fall, and engineers will continue to work on squeezing out every bit of power. In the past they have released specs early and had to revise them when they coaxed more from the powertrain. They fully expect better numbers with this one, as well, by fall.
Quick enough to need pins
The car will do 0–60 mph in about 3.5 seconds and the quarter mile in less than 11 seconds. It is so much quicker than the GT350 that it needs hood pins to keep the massively vented composite hood locked down, chief Mustang engineer Carl Widmann said. The front fenders are also made of composite and are widened considerably to accommodate the wider tires, but the rear quarters are unchanged, which allows the tires to peek out a bit (one of many things that make it impossible to homologate the GT500 for Europe or Japan).
The engine had to be lighter and more compact to avoid a huge dome in the hood impeding the driver’s vision.
The last GT500 (2013–14) had a 5.8-liter V-8 that generated 662 hp and 631 lb-ft of torque.
This time around, “it has to not only go straight but also turn,” Widmann said. “It has to take the power in the corner and put it down on a track.”
More air, more spark, more power
Everything had to be engineered to achieve and handle the big performance numbers. There is cross drilling for more cooling, two large radiators that necessitated doubling the grille area but which results in 50 percent more airflow than the GT350. To reduce front-end lift from all that air entering the engine compartment, there’s a giant vent in the hood—it is the largest hood scoop louver Ford has ever made. A rain tray attaches underneath it to keep the engine pristine, but you need to remove it for track work. A new oil pan design will keep more oil in the sump in the turns.
The 16.5-inch two-piece front rotors of the Brembo brakes are said to be the largest on any domestic sports coupe. Among production vehicles, it is not far from the Lamborghini Urus with its 17.3-inch rotors. Ford didn’t set out to break any records; it just happened. They’re steel rotors with aluminum centers, and they feature 20 percent more swept area than on the GT350 rotors. Carbon-ceramic rotors are not offered because the steel rotors have no thermal fade issues and the (also very pricey) carbon wheels are an even better way of reducing unsprung mass.
Carbon Fiber package
In back are four 5-inch exhaust tips and a base spoiler; it gets a Gurney flap if you opt for the Handling package, which also adds strut mounts that allow for camber adjustment. Track hawks who go for the Carbon Fiber Track package get the adjustable carbon-fiber GT4 track wing to create rear downforce and the integrated dive plane splitter wickers in front to reduce lift. All GT500s get electronically adjustable Magneride shocks, with different internal tuning between base and Track Pack cars.
The carbon-fiber package also includes 20-inch carbon-fiber wheels that are 0.5 inch wider in the rear and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, sized 305/30 in front and 315/30 in the rear. (Michelin Pilot Sport 4S is the standard tire.) Unique springs and anti-roll bars come with this package, lowering the suspension slightly. Inside are Recaro seats, and the rear seat is deleted to reduce weight, but there is a radio and air conditioning. Carbon-fiber trim abounds. On the exterior everything from the water line up is glossy black, and below that is non-glossy. There is an optional black roof and, of course, stripes. The Gurney flap, the wing, the splitter-wickers, and the Recaros (retaining the rear seat) are all expected to be offered as a la carte options.
“Mustang is a lifestyle brand,” said Jim Owens, North American Ford Performance manager, who worked for Carroll Shelby for four years. He said Shelby declared, at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, that the ’13 Shelby GT500 was his favorite. Owens is certain if Shelby were still alive, he would choose the 2020 model.
The GT500 takes its place as the pinnacle of the Mustang lineup, now in its sixth generation.
Showrooms will be filled with testosterone: The GT350 is going on sale in February, starting at $60,235 USD, and will be joined by the GT500 in the fall.