(More) Power to the People: Ford's New 662-HP Beast Reclaims the High Ground, Posts 11.6-Second Quarter
The great Pony Car War has been raging longer than many of us have been alive, with countless skirmishes between Chevrolet and Ford over the last 40-plus years. The latest battle began with the arrival of Chevy‘s new 580-hp Camaro ZL1. But Ford has quickly regained the high ground with its all-new 2013 Ford Shelby GT500. Boasting 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque, the GT500 is the most powerful production car made in America and a fitting tribute to the late Carroll Shelby — one of the leading generals in Ford’s decades-long war against Chevy.
For our first official drive of the 2013 GT500, we headed to Atlanta, where we sampled the latest super ‘Stang at the track and out on the open road. Rolling along on the highway, the GT500’s extra horsepower and torque isn’t as noticeable as you might think. For instance, in top gear at around 80 mph, turning roughly 1500 rpm, it’s a complete pussycat, with minimal engine and exhaust noise. No, it’s the getting to 80 that’s the fun part. Hammer it from a stop and the rush of 631 lb-ft engulfs your body, pinning your head and torso to the optional $1595 Recaro bucket as the GT500 blasts from 0-60 mph in a scant 3.5 seconds, on toward a quarter-mile time of 11.6 seconds at 125.7 mph. For context, the previous GT500, which put out a relatively pedestrian 550 hp and 510 lb-ft, needed 4.1 seconds to reach 60 and 12.4 seconds at 115.8 mph to eclipse the quarter, while the aforementioned ZL1 required 3.8 and 12.1 @ 117.4, respectively. Big power equals big improvements for the GT500. But beware of that big power: get too overzealous with the throttle, and the tires will quickly resemble burnt toast. Luckily, the new GT500’s obscene power is absolutely controllable.
So how do you control 662 horses? Launch control. First seen on the Boss 302, the new launch control system in the GT500 has been upgraded with RPM hold, a feature intended for the more advanced drag racer. Set the desired RPM via the track app screen, flat-foot the throttle, quickly lift off the clutch — but don’t dump or sidestep – and the system slips the clutch and feeds power in relation to the traction available. You can turn on the launch control at any time by pushing the button on the dash, but it is only active once the vehicle is up to operating temperature. During testing, full launch control with traction intervention provided the fastest and most repeatable runs. The test team was wary of getting enough traction (a reasonable concern when you have 662 horsepower), but the new system allowed for easy launches: simply dial in the revs, release the clutch, and hold on.
One trait we noticed during the drive was that the clutch is much stiffer than in cooking-grade Mustangs, but not difficult to operate. Upgraded to handle the increased torque, the clutch is 10 mm larger than that in the 2012 GT500, with stronger springs and higher-performance friction material. Further, the clutch housing has been strengthened and there’s a 33-percent increase in the clutch clamp. Ford also made the engagement point higher on the clutch pedal uptake and revised the shifter of the Tremec 6-speed manual. Roughly the same as that in the 2012 GT500, but with every component improved, the tweaked Tremec boasts stronger gears and an output shaft with a new 40-tooth setup. As a result, some of the shifter’s notchiness is gone, which makes it easier to get in and out of gear, but you still can’t rush it. The GT500 now also comes with a one-piece carbon fiber driveshaft. Another key to cracking the 200-mph barrier, according to Ford, the driveshaft is 14 pounds lighter, helping reduce rotational inertia, noise, and vibration, while increasing durability.
Since our drive consisted of smooth highway miles for most of the way, we didn’t get much of a chance to truly experience the differences between the car’s comfort and sport suspension settings. All-new Bilstein electronically adjustable dampers, part of the $3495 SVT Performance Package, are adjustable front and rear, and can be set to normal or sport with the simple push of a button. Normal provides a smooth and comfortable highway ride while sport is specifically tuned for race-track use or a Sunday drive on a favorite canyon road. Not surprising, over the few seams and road irregularities we did encounter, the softer setting seemed to absorb the imperfections, while sport relayed every nook and cranny. It doesn’t rattle your teeth but it feels noticeably firmer. New 19-inch front/20-inch rear forged wheels were also deemed necessary in order to help handle the GT500’s higher performance capabilities. Nodules protruding from the wheels’ bead surfaces embed in the tires (still Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2) to help prevent the tire from slipping on the rim under hard acceleration and braking.
The track was where we really got to experience how the new GT500 differs from the previous car. Whereas the old car tended to exhibit front-end push, the 2013 displays crisper turn-in, the front Goodyears really biting into the asphalt and responding quickly to steering inputs, allowing you to be more aggressive with the throttle application mid-corner. In comfort mode there’s a hint of body roll, but in sport the car stays nice and flat. With all that extra power and torque, it’s easy to kick the rear end out, but — unlike the old car — when you get the rear loose in the 2013 GT500, its slide is progressive. The last-gen car would start to go, then suddenly it was gone. The 2013 is far more predictable, so it’s easier to modulate exactly how far you want to swing the rear out.
During our figure-eight testing, the GT500 posted an impressive 24.2 sec @ 0.80 g result, managing an equally impressive 0.98 g (avg) lateral acceleration. Even better: comparing the new Shelby to its predecessor, testing director Kim Reynolds declared it, “simply a much easier car to drive.” Part of the improvement is attributable to the Torsen differential — another piece of the SVT Performance Package – that provides a full-time torque-sensing system to help optimize traction and handling. Still, the old car, while more of a handful, was no slouch, edging its successor with a figure-eight time of 24.0 sec @ 0.82 g and maximum lateral acceleration of 1.01 g (avg).
“You do have to countersteer a fair amount at times, but it isn’t excessive and you can easily stay ahead of the tail; it’s never snapping so quickly that your arms have to race to catch it,” Reynolds added. “That said, you do need to respect the power here; you absolutely cannot just slam down the pedal exiting a corner. It has to be fed in.”
In order to achieve the GT500’s monumental performance increase, Ford first upped the engine displacement from 5.4 liters to 5.8 liters. Since the cylinder walls were thinner, Ford deployed its plasma-transferred wire arc cylinder-liner coating technology, replacing the old cast-iron-sleeve design. The liners improve performance and durability while also reducing friction and lowering heat transfer. The cylinder heads have been cross-drilled into the engine block, adding 3 mm coolant passages. Oil-squirters have been aimed at the underside of the piston to help keep heat in check. Ford extensively reworked the rest of the cooling system of the GT500 in order to further beat the heat. All GT500’s have a charge air cooler with its own separate heat exchanger fed by a separate coolant pump. If you opt for the $2995 SVT Track Package, you also get an axle-cooler and pump, a transmission cooler, and an external engine-oil-to-air cooler.
The engine internals of the 2013 GT500’s 5.8-liter have all been redesigned or modified. A cast aluminum oil pan allows for complex shapes and now holds 8.5 quarts. The windage tray/pan gasket keeps windage below 5 percent, even at high RPM. The new forged-steel crankshaft was developed in an effort to handle the extra strain on the low end. A bigger engine needs more fuel, so the injectors have been increased from 47 lb/hour to 55 lb/hour. To deliver all that juice, two 5.0-liter Mustang pumps were added, capable of pumping 79 gallons per hour. Force feeding the new 5.8-liter is a new Eaton 2.3L Roots-type supercharger that has an increased displacement over the 5.4-liter and uses a smaller pulley at 69 mm compared to 72 mm.
To help achieve the lofty 200-mph top-speed goal Ford set for the new GT500, significant modifications had to be made to the car’s front end. Every opening has been modified or enlarged to minimize drag, maximize downforce, and improve cooling. The most noticeable changes are the new front splitter and downforce-generating front grilles. Ford says the changes have resulted in a 14-percent reduction in drag and a 66-percent increase in front-end downforce — essential to getting the GT500 to its claimed 200-mph Vmax, which engineers had personally promised Carroll Shelby they would deliver.
To be an all around performance vehicle, the GT500 has to stop as well as it accelerates, and it more than gets the job done, erasing 60 mph in just 101 feet (the previous GT500 needed 104 feet, the ZL1 needed 108 feet). The test team did report that the brakes started to smell after several hard stops, but they did not feel any noticeable fade. Ticking the Performance Package box gets you a larger front stabilizer bar (34.6 mm — an increase of 1.4 mm), which helps keep the GT500 flatter, minimizing body roll during cornering. The front brakes have massive 15-inch vented Brembo rotors and 6-piston Brembo aluminum front calipers with high-performance friction pads. The rear brakes are 13.8-inches (2-inches larger than a Mustang GT’s) with single-piston calipers. New front-brake dustshields help protect parts from heat while providing maximum cooling airflow.
Even with all this newfound power, the 2013 GT500 is more livable and user friendly than it ever was before. Ford has improved its monster Mustang in every way possible — better handling, more technology , increased power, and even a 1-mpg improvement in highway fuel economy (avoiding the gas-guzzler tax). This truly is the most potent factory pony car the Blue Oval has ever produced. Savor it while you can because this is likely the last major change we will see to the GT500 before the next-generation Mustang debuts with an independent rear suspension. Will that car make 700 hp? If it’s still wearing the Shelby name, you can bet the answer will be a resounding yes.
|2013 Ford Shelby GT500|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, RWD|
|Engine type||Supercharged 90-deg V-8, alum block/heads|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|Displacement||354.7 cu in/5812 cc|
|Power (SAE net)||662 hp @ 6500 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||631 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Weight to power||5.8 lb/hp|
|Suspension, front; rear||Struts, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; live axle, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|Brakes, f;r||15.0-in vented disc; 13.8-in vented disc, ABS|
|Wheels||9.5 x 19-in; 9.5 x 20-in forged aluminum|
|Tires||265/40ZR19 98Y; 285/35ZR20 92Y Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2|
|Track, f/r||61.9/62.5 in|
|Length x width x height||188.2 x 73.9 x 54.8 in|
|Turning circle||37.0 ft|
|Curb weight||3871 lb|
|Weight dist, f/r||57/43%|
|Headroom, f/r||38.5/34.7 in|
|Legroom, f/m/r||42.4/29.8 in|
|Shoulder room, f/r||55.3/51.6 in|
|Cargo volume||13.4 cu ft|
|TEST DATA </strong|
|Acceleration to mph|
|Passing, 45-65 mph||1.6|
|Quarter mile||11.6 sec @ 125.7 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||101 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.98 g (avg)|
|MT figure eight||24.2 sec @ 0.80 g (avg)|
|Top-gear revs @ 60 mph||1300 rpm|
|Price as tested||$64,770|
|Dual front, front side, f/r side, front head, f/r head, front curtain, f/r curtain, front
side/head; f/r side/head, front knee, driver knee, passenger knee, pedestrian
|Basic warranty||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|Fuel capacity||16.0 gal|
|EPA city/hwy econ||15/24 mpg|
|Energy cons., city/hwy||225/140 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 emissions||1.08 lb/mile|
|Recommended fuel||Unleaded premium </strong|