Let’s get the hard part out of the way first: it’s not a Voodoo. The car you see here, the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, will run a 5.2-liter V8, but it’s not the flat-plane screamer that we love so dearly in the GT350. It is, however supercharged. Like, really supercharged. A 2.65-liter blower sits nestled deep in the vee of the aluminum block, capable of stuffing up to 12 psi of cooled air into the engine.
While exact power specs have not yet been revealed, at a Ford preview event the week before the car's debut at the 2019 North American International Auto Show, chief program engineer Carl Widmann assured us that the horsepower would be north of 700. For now, that’s good enough for us. That figure helps propel the GT500 to a claimed mid-three-second sprint to 60 mph. Ford also claims a sub 11-second quarter mile, useful for ruling the strip—and making that hoser with the old GT500 eat his hat. The automaker says this is the quickest-accelerating factory Mustang ever built, with the most powerful street-legal V8 engine ever offered by Ford.
But Ford isn’t just targeting drag times with the GT500. The automaker sees the GT500 out on tracks, dicing it up at your local HPDE events and wiping the smug look off that M3 driver’s face. "To be at today’s pinnacle of performance, [the car] has to turn" noted Jim Owens, marketing manager for the Mustang. The GT500 gets a specifically-tuned version of Ford's Magneride magnetorheological active damping system, which began as an option on the GT350 and is now available across the Mustang lineup.
Perhaps the most contentious point about the GT500 is the gearbox. Row-your-own fans, you might want to take a seat. The GT500 won’t be offered with a manual transmission. Instead, the GT500 will run a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission from Tremec.
The purist in us whimpers a little, but the realist gets it.
Look, the days of a stick-shift being faster are over. Additionally, Ed Krenz, chief functional engineer for Ford Performance, explained that a dual clutch transmission is much better for on-track behavior because of the smoothness and speed with which it can grab the next gear. A DCT is less likely to upset the car mid-corner compared to a manual. When asked if a manual was ever considered, Ford folks didn’t have much to say, other than to point out that a manual might not make much sense in such a high-power application. (The stick-shift Challenger Hellcat would like a word.)
Stopping this thing shouldn’t be a problem. Massive Brembo fixed calipers, six piston up front and four in the rear, clamp down on gargantuan steel brake discs. The fronts span 420mm, making them the largest front brakes available on any "domestic sports coupe," according to Ford. We believe it; they look like serving trays.
Covering those stoppers are 20-by-11-inch aluminum wheels (one inch larger than the GT350's, to accommodate the massive brakes) wrapped in custom-engineered Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.
It looks menacing, especially when fitted with the optional Carbon Fiber Track Pack, which adds front splitter endplates and a massive, carbon fiber decklid wing based on the unit designed for the Mustang GT4 race car. The wing has two settings, regular and track, the latter angling it up a few degrees for more downforce. According to Ford, that wing gives the GT500 more rear downforce than the outrageous Ford GT. The Track Pack also brings extremely lightweight 20-by-11.5-inch carbon fiber wheels, which reduce unsprung weight and rotational mass in addition to looking totally badass, and custom-compound Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. A less-aggressive Handling Package brings adjustable strut top mounts and a smaller spoiler with Gurney flap. Per Ford, there will not be a GT500R.
Is it any good? We'll withhold judgment until we get some seat time, but if its bloodline is anything to go from, it’s going to be excellent. For now, we’ll find solace in the fact that while Ford is killing exceptional cars like the Fiesta ST and the Focus RS and ST, it hasn’t completely forgotten how to make a car that gets our adrenaline pumping. The Big Snake arrives at dealerships this fall.