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2011 Mustang SHELBY GT500

Heart Pounding Pony Car

By Linda Sharp


Is there any better way to welcome a beautiful day than to drop the top of a heart-pounding convertible? For real auto enthusiasts, probably not. We would argue that you would be hard pressed to find a better example of such a vehicle than the 2011 Mustang Shelby GT500. With American roots as deep as the concept of muscle cars themselves, the Shelby embodies all the performance and mystique that goes with the name Shelby. Shelby – as in legendary automotive icon Carroll Shelby.

A Shelby GT500 is cut from a different cloth than its Mustang brethren. Its heart is an all-new 5.4-liter all-aluminum engine which is 102 pounds lighter than the previous cast-iron engine and uses Ford-patented plasma-coating technology, that produces 550 horsepower (a ten horsepower increase from last year) and Clydesdale like torque of 510 foot pounds at 4,500 rpm. Our test vehicle was a six-speed manual. Ford gets high marks on their greatly improved shift linkage.

The EPA numbers of 15 city and 23 highway should not shock anyone considering a vehicle such as the Shelby. We were pleased when our numbers were a bit better, with the potent pony car turning in 17 mpg city (with just a small amount of horseplay with the throttle) and a very respectable 24 hwy after extensive 6th gear cruising. The 2011, Shelby GT500 offers improved fuel economy in city and highway from 2010, thus eliminating the gas guzzler tax. In addition to the motor, there is much more that sets this racehorse apart from the rest of the Mustang corral.

One of the really pleasant surprises came when we opened the hood. Amazingly, what we saw actually looked liked an engine. In an era where engine compartments are shrouded in plastic with an invisible “don’t touch me,” sign; it was really refreshing to see throttle linkages, air cleaners, real valve covers and the like. It was a pleasing trip to days when “cars were cars” and not computers with wheels. The pleasant trip down memory lane continued with full body racing stripes, and the sweet rumble of the Shelby’s tuned exhaust.

The Shelby stopped on a dime thanks to 14-inch front Brembo brakes with vented rotors. Other safety features included electronic stability control, dual stage air bags, side impact air bags and SOS crash alert system that automatically flashes the signal lamps and sounds the horn following deployment of an air bag or activation of a safety belt pretensioner.

Our test vehicle was a convertible. Much to our pleasant surprise, this Mustang ragtop was whisper quiet inside when the top was up. There was not the first hint of wind noise. That alone says a lot about Ford quality these days. You did have to flip two windshield area levers to lower and secure the op, but it wan an effortless operation. Ford includes a soft tonneau top cover, but we found the way the top folded almost like a clamshell into its boot was quite sufficient. We never bothered to fight with the tonneau.

For both top up and top down driving, excellent sound is provided via a premium Shaker 100 audio system – am/fm stereo with in-dash cdx6, mp3 and 10 speakers which works well with the voice activated SYNC system. The Shelby has what most would consider the ultimate Mustang interior with real leather on all seats, real aluminum on the instrument panel and brilliant contrasting inserts on the seats and steering wheel. The Shelby specific shift knob features a racing stripe, which wraps into the traditional H pattern.

Of course the best part of the Shelby is in the driving. It’s rare these days to find a car that will “chirp” the tires in multiple gears.


STATS:


Horsepower: 550 hp, 510 ft-lbs of torque

Mileage: - 15 city / 23 highway

Price as tested: $53,700

Seating capacity: four

Premium fuel required

 

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