The Most Powerful Mustang Ever

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

Actually, the headline above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to statistics. The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 is the most powerful street-legal Ford ever produced, as well as the most powerful street legal car ever produced in North America, period.

The number is almost mind-bending. Under the new Shelby’s hood is a supercharged V8 that produces 662 horsepower. For a car that passes 2013 federal emissions standards, is completely drivable in day-to-day use, and even avoids any kind of gas guzzler tax, that’s pretty amazing.

Obviously this is a very special car, in limited production, and it carries a pretty lofty sticker price. The GT500’s $54,200 MSRP would buy you a base 2013 Mustang coupe and convertible, with money left over. But for what you’re getting in this super Mustang, it’s actually kind of a bargain.

Though it’s comfortable and docile for street use, the 2013 Shelby was really designed to be a car to take to a racetrack. Don’t laugh; lots of people actually do this on any given weekend. For a fee and the price of an approved helmet, you can take almost any car to one of our local road courses (Willow Springs Raceway just north of Lancaster is particularly fun and convenient) and exercise a car like this without fear of a speeding ticket.

Ford’s Special Vehicle Team engineers paid particular attention to the needs of on-track duty, with just about every system on the car beefed up or modified to handle sustained high-speed operation. There’s even an optional Track Package for serious weekend racers that includes extra cooling for various systems – even the rear differential.

With all the work that went into mechanical and aerodynamic improvements, the Shelby has been clocked at over 200 miles per hour on a test track. Again, this is with a street-legal production car, built in America. To go that fast in something else, you’d have to spend a whole lot more money for a car from overseas.

To put the new ultimate Ford into perspective, let’s look back at what we used to call the “good old days” of 1969-1970, when American muscle cars had reached their performance peak. The mighty Boss 429, a special Mustang with a huge NASCAR-type engine stuffed under its hood, produced 375 horsepower and enough torque to melt the rear tires right out from under the car.

But while that Mustang made lots of power (in a former rating system that fudged things a bit), its tires, suspension and brakes were laughably inadequate by today’s standards. The Boss 429 from the Age of Aquarius might have been powerful and quick, but its credentials ended there.

The new Shelby can stop rapidly enough to have passengers straining against the shoulder belts, thanks to special Brembo disc brakes and grippy Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar rubber. Those ultra-soft tires also help it handle corners like only a purpose-built racecar could not all that long ago.

There are downsides to putting one in your driveway and making it your everyday car. The clutch for the 6-speed manual transmission is pretty heavy. (What, you want an automatic? Ford and the enthusiast community say “HAHAHAHA, very funny!” to that notion.) And while the adjustable suspension has a mode called Normal, even that setting produces a pretty stiff ride.

There’s also the gas mileage. Ford is raving about the fact that the Shelby’s EPA fuel economy ratings of 15 mpg city and 24 highway keep it out of gas guzzler tax territory (unlike its archrival the Chevy Camaro ZL1), but in very careful around-town driving and a bit of time on the freeway, I was barely able to keep the fuel economy computer in the 12-13 mpg range.

Do most people who lust after this car care? Nope, not a lick. For someone with the assets to purchase one, none of that matters. (By the way, the coupe I tested had a final sticker price of just over $62,000 with the major option packages. And there’s a convertible available too with a base price $5,000 higher than the coupe.)

This is a chance to own the most powerful car ever to roll off an American assembly line. And for that significant automotive boast, the downsides are almost insignificant.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ Twitter: @dave_kunz,Facebook: ABC7Dav

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