FIN Drives: 2011 Ford Shelby GT500
A set of drag radials would have sent our GT500 into the 11-second range with little trouble.
November 2, 2010
By: Christopher Ihara
To the untrained eye the 2011 Ford SVT Shelby GT-500 looks just like the 2010 Shelby GT-500. To see the difference you need a few things: a dyno, a scale, a lift but most of all a stopwatch - if you only have the latter, that will be enough. When you open the hood, the only visual difference is that the 2011 does away with the 2010's black supercharger and utilizes a natural finish. The new aluminum block is only visible from underneath and you'll need a decent scale to find the 2011's weight loss.
What you'll really notice is the reduction in 0-60 times from 4.3 to 4.1 seconds and quarter mile times from 12.7 to 12.4 @ 117 MPH. With a weight savings of over 100 pounds off the nose of the car, the balance is better, resulting in dramatically improving handling. 2010 GT500 coupe weight was 3,924# with 58% of that mass up front and 42% in the rear. The 2011 GT500 improves upon this by tipping the scales at 3,820# with only 56% of that weight up front.
Less weight means better fuel mileage and better acceleration. For the first time since its introduction the GT500 has no gas guzzler tax with EPA estimates of 15 MPG city and 23 MPG highway. Driving around town in our project car yields around 16-18 MPG city and a little over 24 MPG on the highway.
We managed to get the 2011 GT500 to 12.12 @ 115 MPH on street tires during testing at Mason Dixon Dragway. With full street pressure in the tires, it's necessary to heat them up really well if any traction is to be found. Otherwise the 550 horses do nothing but obliterate the tires and point the nose of the car towards the wall. First to second must be "granny shifted" and then a smooth application of the throttle through second will help keep the tires from spinning to the car's redline. The second to third shift can be power shifted provided you have enough heat in the tires to deliver some grip. Another power shift into fourth gear just before the end of the 1320 yields the lowest E.T. we could get.
The final numbers from our best time slip look like this:
60' - 1.940
330' - 5.254
1/8 Mile - 7.959
MPH - 90.28
1000' - 10.227
1/4 Mile - 12.129
MPH - 115.38
A set of drag radials would have sent our GT500 into the 11-second range with little trouble. This would bring up a whole new set of safety equipment requirements though. With a little more time at the track, it may have been possible to knock another tenth of a second off with street tires, but not being able to use full power in first and second gear is a serious detriment.
The thinner over-body stripes of the SVT Performance Pack are one of the few visual indicators that there is even more of an already potent formula in this car. The addition of 3.73 gears, unique wheels and super sticky 265/40ZR19 Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G and 285/35ZR20's in the rear. Adding to grip levels are uprated shocks, struts, and springs. Front springs are 20.5% stiffer than the base GT500 and rear springs are 9.5% stiffer. These also serve to lower the ride height 11mm in the front and 8mm in the rear. A Gurney flap on the rear spoiler of the SVT performance pack adds additional rear downforce.
Handling is balanced and acceleration is deceptively fast. Despite the car's tenacious grip the ride is comfortable, yet firm. Interior fit and finish is excellent and the seats are comfortable and supportive. Unique SVT details adorn the interior from the lighted door sills to the instrument cluster where SVT specific MyColor dash configurations provide an additional "Red, White and Blue" display, unique to the GT500.
But if you are self-conscious you may want to skip the GT500, because everywhere you drive the car, fingers point, heads turn and eyes stare like they're watching Lady Godiva riding down the street. Make no mistake about it, they will be looking at you.
Now for the bad news. The GT500, for all the praises we can sing for it, has a few issues. The car has the worst shifter we've ever used in a Mustang. It is sloppy, vague and notchy, and until we replaced it with a Shelby aftermarket shifter, we had no idea just how bad it was. It is amazing that such a small part could totally sap the enjoyment of driving the GT500, but an integral part like a shifter is used quite frequently.
When shifting from first to second, the lever squishes against the soft bushings until finally there is a snap, like breaking the stem of a champagne glass, as the gear disengages. Continuing to pull the lever into second gear generates increasingly more sloppy resistance until a double snap brings the transmission into gear. Forget going from fifth into any of the other lower gears easily. If you're trying to get a little extra "oomph" to pass that tractor trailer, the vague feedback means that you're just as likely to hit sixth or second gear as you are to hit fourth.
To be fair the engineers at Ford have "two evil masters" that must be served. On the one hand buyers of the Shelby GT500 are performance enthusiasts who insist that function take priority over comfort and noise reduction. On the other end of the spectrum are buyers who purchase this car and don't want to hear the transmission or any other noises inside the car. Finding a way to quiet interior noise while still providing decent functionality is a difficult task indeed. Fortunately Shelby's short throw shifter is a definite cure for this problem. Knowing these are the two target buyers for this car, Ford should offer an upgraded shifter as part of the SVT Performance Package.
One of the unintended consequences of the Shelby's carbon fiber clutch plates in the Traction-Lok rear, is a moan around tight corners at low speed. This is a mild annoyance that we can live with given the benefits of the GT500's upgraded rear. It is only heard at low speeds around parking lots so it's a minimal intrusion into an otherwise quiet cabin. This is caused by the carbon fiber clutch plates, which have significantly better durability and consistency when they get hot.
Traditional fiber clutch packs like the ones found on the GT tend to change torque bias when they heat up. Dropping to as low as 80% / 20% torque bias to the wheel that is slipping. The Shelby's carbon fiber clutch plates bring this number to around 60% / 40% torque bias. So a little moan in exchange for added performance is worth it in our book.
Another problem we and many other Shelby owners have reported is a grinding when shifting into second gear. When we took the car in for service the tech (who also owns a 2011 Shelby GT500) reported that he has the identical problem. Ford's Tech line solution was to ensure the driver's seat was moved up an inch and to make sure the clutch was being pushed all the way in. We believe there is a larger problem at hand as this is not an isolated issue. Internet forums abound with chatter about this issue.
When the transmission is cold this problem is more prevalent. It happens when shifting fast from first to second gear, at any RPM or road speed above 20 MPH. Once the transmission warms up this doesn't seem to be as much of a problem, although high-transmission loads seem to play a factor.
One of the other problems we encountered within two-thousand miles was a vibration in the steering wheel. The vibration started at about 50-mph and grew progressively worse as speed increased. After our second trip to the dealership Ford released TSB# 10-16-4 which deals with the Electric Power Assist Steering system. For some reason GT500's manufactured between April and August of 2010 have the EPAS's active nibble cancellation turned off. This TSB turns this functionality back on which will solve the steering vibration problem.
Despite having our fair share of issues, the dealership has worked very hard to make things right. Time will tell if this project car will live up to its name. For the price premium paid, we expected a nearly flawless vehicle which is not what we got. Once the Ford Racing supercharger kit is available as a dealer installed option, there may be no reason to buy a GT500. It will be possible to obtain a Mustang GT for less money with equal or better performance.
What you won't get is the exclusivity of limited production. Whether that alone will justify the price or not remains to be seen. But, when you consider the fact that a Mustang GT optioned out with nearly equivalent hardware will cost approximately the same price as a GT500, it may be a bit of a toss-up. The deciding factor would then be what you want for a horsepower limit? The Mustang GT starts with 412 horsepower and should safely make around 525 horsepower. With that, the engine will likely require a rebuild at some point in time. The Shelby GT500 starts with 550 horsepower and should reliably make over 600 horsepower or more with very few modifications.
Our new project car rolled off the final assembly line on April 1, 2010 and so we've decided to call it Project April. But the car is no joke - it is fast down the quarter and nimble on the roads. Excellent features, ride, comfort and head snapping style certainly make this an excellent performance foundation to start with. We'll be looking forward to see just how far we can push the performance envelope with the 2011 Ford Shelby GT500.
Christopher Ihara is the Founder of Corral.net