By John Legan 10/29/2019
Okay, let me explain. Ever since I first drove the Shelby GT350 back in 2015 I have wanted one. At the time it was the most track oriented version of the Mustang and the soundtrack from the quad tipped exhaust and flat plane crank 5.2L V8 was intoxicating. My first track experience ever was in a Shelby GT350 during the GT350 Track Tour held at Lime Rock Park. A few months later I drove a GT350R on the road course at Pocono. In the years since, I have almost pulled the trigger on purchasing one a handful of times. It has been my dream car. Until now.
Earlier this year I heard rumors that Ford would be doing another track tour to introduce the 2020 Shelby GT500. In September I got my invitation to attend the GT500 Track Tour in Las Vegas.
I arrived at Las Vegas Motor Speedway early on Sunday morning with high expectations. With 760 horsepower on tap and rumors of the performance capabilities, the new GT500 has to be great, right?
My group was the first of the day to go out on the road course. It was lead follow with an instructor from the Ford Performance Racing School in the lead car. My car for the road course was a Velocity Blue GT500 with the Carbon Fiber Track Package. Like some other Mustang enthusiasts, I had mixed feelings about the new car not being available with a traditional manual gearbox. As we prepared to pull on to the track, we were instructed over the radio headset to rotate the rotary shift knob on the center console to Drive.
Pulling on to the track, the cold Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2's spun as I got on the throttle a little too aggressively. It was instantly apparent the GT500 was a much different animal than the torque deprived GT350. After a lap, the warmed up tires gripped and the car would rocket forward with any throttle input. The lead car pushed harder into the corners as we got more comfortable with each lap. The new GT500 is confidence inspiring and easily makes you feel like a better driver. It feels much lighter than its approximately 4,200 lb curb weight as you toss it into the corners and rocket out on to the straights. There is endless grip and the huge Brembo binders slow this heavy car down in a hurry. The quick shifting Tremec transmission is always a step ahead of you, always in the right gear, right in the powerband, and is the perfect setup for this car.
Next up was the informational session at the Ford Performance display with Jim Owens, Ford Performance Marketing Manager. Jim went over the various systems and components on the GT500. It was pretty interesting to see how technological advances including 3D printing have aided rapid development during the design process. The carbon fiber wheels on the GT500 are wider and an inch larger in diameter that the wheels on the GT350R but somehow manage to weigh the same. These small details add up to increased performance on the track. That big wing that comes with the Carbon Fiber Track Package? It's good for 550 lbs of downforce. Those massive 16.5" front rotors? They are larger than the diameter of the wheels that were equipped on the first gen GT500.
Then it was off to the drag strip. There were a number of base GT500's lined up ready for some drag racing action. This was my first time down the drag strip but again the GT500 made it very user friendly. Stage. Left foot brake. Press the accelerator pedal to the floor and hold. Let off the brake when the light turns green and hang on! With the launch control engaged and the launch rpm set to 1,500 there was a little noise from the tires as they fought for traction. The GT500 acceleration is brutal yet very linear. The 0-60 run clicks by in 3.3 seconds. Shifts are lightning fast. The car never stops pulling and the 1/4 mile is over in no time at all. The official best the 2020 GT500 has run is a 10.6 at 133 mph. In stock form.
The 2020 Shelby GT500 is the best, most powerful Mustang I've ever driven. It delivers insane acceleration with polite street manners and creature comforts.
I'll take mine in Velocity Blue, white racing stripes, and the Carbon Fiber Track Package. Thank you.