The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 has a lot riding on it, literally and figuratively. In the literal sense, it’s got nearly 4,200 hulking pounds of mass on its tires, the majority of which is over its front wheels. This is hardly a recipe for either handling or rear-wheel traction, the latter of which plays into the figurative pressure on this car.
The Chevrolet Corvette team may have moved on, but the engineers at Ford Performance still have unfinished business with the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive architecture of the new-for-2020 Mustang Shelby GT500. The Blue Oval’s last mother of all Mustangs, the 662-hp 2013 Shelby GT500, couldn’t outrun its live rear axle on a demanding road course or the best back roads, and the pursuit of a 200-mph top speed made that car a one-straight-line-trick pony. The latest GT500 is redemption and then some.
At first glance, it’s clear this is no ordinary Mustang. Ford has given the car double the grille opening for better cooling and, of course, the grille prominently displays the ‘GT500’ name and the signature Shelby snake logo. There is also a bulging hood with functional vents to accommodate the larger, supercharged engine along with wider bodywork to house the massive tires. As with the GT350, the GT500 utilizes the pre-facelift Mustang headlights as the designers felt they worked better with the car’s squared-off aesthetic.
Optionally, the GT500 can look even more like a race car with a massive carbon fiber GT4 wing and front splitter wickers. The former is only available as part of a pricey Carbon Fiber Track Package but the latter can also be optioned as part of a much cheaper Handling Pack. The Carbon Fiber Package also includes a set of exposed carbon fiber wheels from Carbon Revolution, which look fantastic and reduce unsprung weight on the car.
The GT500 beast is a 5.2-liter V8 with a 2.65-liter roots-type Eaton supercharger generating a whopping 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque. For the first time ever, power is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed Tremec dual-clutch rather than a traditional automatic or manual. Ford claims the GT500 can crack 60 mph in 3.3 seconds and clear the quarter-mile in 10.7 seconds on a drag strip prepped for optimal traction. In our testing, we expect a 3.5-second run to 60 mph and a 11.0-second quarter-mile.
The 5.2-liter is a supercharged version of the GT350’s 5.2-liter 526-hp V8, albeit fitted with a conventional, crossplane crankshaft. The engine note is 100% Mustang once again, filled to its screaming 7,500-rpm redline with violence and orchestra in equal measures.
The GT500’s chassis is good, whether it’s hustled up a mountain road in Normal mode or driven on edge in its Track setting, the Shelby cuts into corners with finely honed sharpness. It steers with the same accuracy and immediacy that helped the GT350 to a recent comparison-test win, and the electrically assisted rack allows for just-right heft, feeling neither too light nor artificially heavy. The brake pedal stroke is on the long and soft side of perfect, but that’s by design rather than due to thermal fatigue.
The interior design already include an optional Recaro racing buckets, which exist as an option in place of heated and ventilated leather chairs. We found the Recaros to be well-bolstered without restricting movement, though the base seats will likely be more comfortable if you plan to drive the GT500 every day. The Carbon Fiber Package dresses the dashboard with some exposed carbon and also includes the Recaro buckets and a rear seat delete.
It also has a trunk space that isn’t compromised at all, meaning the GT500 offers the same 13.5 cubic feet of storage found in all other Mustang Coupes. Rear seat space is identical as well, meaning the back is only ideal for children and small adults on short journeys. We don’t mind sacrificing the rear seats in the pursuit of performance because they are not very useful to begin with.
Perhaps the better comparison than putting a GT350 up against a GT500 would be to match it against the also brand-new 2020 C8 Corvette Stingray. The two cars’ prices are far more similar than their power ratings — the GT500 starts at $71,395. Fully equipped with the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track Pack (which includes carbon-fiber wheels and those ultra-sticky Cup 2 tires), the ultimate performance Mustang is just more than $90,000 — similarly priced to a Z51-equipped loaded Corvette.