One of the highlights of Ford's display at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit will be the debut of the 2010 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 that has been blessed by 86-year-old Ol' Shel himself. The GT500 is equipped with the same powerplant that was fitted into last year's limited-edition GT500KR, a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 cranking out 540 hp at 6,200 rpm and 510 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm.
The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission with an improved short-throw shifter. A new twin-disc 250-millimeter clutch made from organic material provides a smoother engagement of all that torque. A new 3:55 limited-slip differential is standard.
While the powertrain is virtually the same as on the KR, the new GT is fitted with some new sheetmetal that puts an even more aggressive-looking Mustang on the road. The exterior is dominated by the large-mouth front grille and an increased power dome in the hood. A functional air extractor in the hood helps to vent hot air and keep things cool.
Speaking of cool, the Shelby cobra logo was moved from the traditional left side of the grille to the right to make way for a snorkel that routes cold air to the V8's intake.
Jamal Hameedi, chief program engineer for the car, said that Shelby blessed the change. "Shelby said, 'Does it make more power?' I told him it did, and he said, 'I like it.' "
The car rides on standard 18-inch wheels and tires, with new 19-inch forged-aluminum wheels optional. At the rear of the car, a large spoiler with a Gurney flap adorns the decklid, and the letters spelling out "Shelby" stretch across the entire width of the rear.
Inside, the exterior racing stripes are picked up in the seats, stitched into the leather. Aluminum surrounds the gauge bezels in an understated treatment.
"We were charged with creating the ultimate GT," Hameedi said. "I think we did that, but I'm a bit biased. This car is the direct result of all the work we did on the KR. But this car has a better ride, better handling and a more refined powertrain. The better chassis balance gives us the better ride and the new tires [Goodyear F1 Supercar] provide better grip."
The GT500 has been fitted with new springs that are 13 percent stiffer in the front and 7 percent stiffer in the rear. Four-piston Brembo calipers clamp everything down.
The electronic controls have been upgraded as well, with a three-mode electronic stability-control system. The system can be switched on, off or to sport mode. The car is electronically limited to 155 mph, and while Ford would not release a 0-to-60-mph time, it is expected to be in the range of the KR at 4.3 seconds.
Hameedi said the GT500 has gained 20 pounds from the old model, thanks in part to more sound deadening to improve the car's NVH. "It's quieter and faster," Hameedi said. "This is a better car in every respect than the car it replaces."
The Shelby GT500 will be available in both coupe and convertible models, with the take expected to be 70 percent coupes to 30 percent ragtops. The car should be in dealer showrooms in June.
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