“Hey toss me the keys to the Mustang.” I called across to my coworker in the hopes that he didn’t know what he was standing next to.
“Nah, this is the one thing I live for.” My efforts failed.
“Actually it’s stick, so never mind.” Score one for Oppokind.
I normally don’t care for Mustangs. In fact, within the past twenty years, I can name only three that ever made me whinny with satisfaction or desire to own one. But, I can appreciate a good one when it comes along, such as the 2012 Boss 302 or the newer GT350R.
But there’s always been one beast that will always take my bow, that will always gather the utmost respect that I can give. That which goes by one legendary alphanumeric moniker...
The GT500 really needs no introduction. It was born during the muscle car craze of the 60s, a high-performance Mustang breathed upon by the legendary Carroll Shelby. The original run of GT500s lasted from 1967-1970 (1971 if you count the Europe-only “Shelby Europa” models), but was then revived in 2007 on the fifth generation Mustang during the second muscle car wave of the 21st century (I did a whole article about that, which you can read here). In 2010, the fifth generation of the Mustang received an upgrade, as did the Shelby GT500, which you can see here.
The 2010 Mustang only showed a small bump in power compared to their 2009 counterparts, and the same was true of the GT500. The new model boasted 540 bhp out of its 5.4L supercharged V8, 40 bhp more than the previous generation’s model, as well as an increase in torque to 510 lb ft. Along with the slightly tuned engine, the suspension was lightly reworked to produce a firmer and touter ride, a new forged wheel was designed to reduce unnecessary weight, and functional vents and Gurney flaps were added to increase aerodynamics. Overall, it was a minor upgrade, but it was enough to distance itself from its predecessor, albeit, it would go on to be heavily criticized when the model was heavily reworked in 2013 with more power and more suspension tunings.
Regardless of your thoughts on the 2010-2012 GT500s, I’d hardly call this car a slouch. That becomes evermore so pertinent when you get a chance behind the wheel of it. The car oozes muscle, it reeks with unashamed “f*ck you” power. “Big d*ck energy,” I believe is what the kids call it these days. And it becomes obvious the moment you turn the key and that supercharged V8 comes to life.
You shift it into first gear (courtesy of one of the finest and most direct shifters I’ve ever felt in a car) and you let off the clutch, build up the revs, and...everything turns out fine. The car doesn’t snort and growl at you, it doesn’t lurch ahead like a Challenger SRT would. It just eases forward, which surprised me a lot. I was expecting it to snarl at me until I somehow found 100 mph in my job’s back lot. But, thankfully for me, and my employment, it didn’t.
But of course, that’s just how it is through first and second gears. Once you find yourself building up the speed you need, that’s when the car really comes into life. Around 55 mph, you feel as secure and confident as you can be. Around 70, it starts to feel like a beast. Anywhere above that, it becomes a road-eating monster. That’s only in a straight line, too.
While this generation of Mustang was by no means a corner-carver, it does at least try its best. In low speed situations on a long curve, it does manage to hold its own. Any harder than that, and it definitely feels like it wants to get away from you. I’m certain it could hang onto a big track like Willow Springs or Laguna Seca with competency, but I’d hate to try something like this on a murderous piece of pavement like the Nürburgring, or even my home track of Barber Motorsports park.
But would I call this car a handful? Certainly not. It does feel like it could kill you if you push it hard enough, but it carries itself with just enough confidence that even a novice driver like myself can manage to coerce it where it needs to go. Compared to the 5th gen ZL-1 and an SRT Challenger, this falls somewhere in the middle of the “sophistication to death wish” scale, and I really appreciate that.
If only I could appreciate the rest of the car as much, however. The updated 5th gen Mustang did bring us a quite updated interior compared to the 2005-2009 models, but it still lacks in so many areas. Bumps create rattles like you’ve never imagined, the plastic can be rough in some areas, and it’s admittedly fun to watch the center console fly and bounce open like a jack in the box. This was just around the time when America started caring about interior aesthetics and build quality, so maybe it’s not fair for me to cut down hard on it for this aspect, but it really is lackluster, to say the least, but hey...at least the seats were comfortable.
Finally, having all of this in mind, would I buy one of these behemoths? Well, I really don’t know. This one was on our lot for $35,000, which I suppose is a far price for how much car this is, but you could also get a few cars with equal power with better driving dynamics and build quality for the same price, or lower. But, you might have to sacrifice the Ford reliability for them (looking at you, AMG). I suppose the best way I can put it is this: There is a type of person this car is perfect for, and it’s the exact person that had it transferred to my store. For you, this car is everything you’ve ever wanted, and I hope you enjoy it through and through.
Overall, I have to say I was increasingly impressed with the GT500 managed to keep itself composed even while hosting 540 massive ponies. It’s a car that doesn’t boast or flex about what it has, unlike some other superpowered muscle cars that we have nowadays. That’s why I say it’s a Mustang that speaks my language: I like a car that knows what it’s got, but doesn’t throw it in your face every second.
If the Hellcat is a unashamed love letter in all caps to the roaring sixties, this GT500 is a subdued email written in Helvetica. With a “Sent from my iPhone” tag at the end. It’s power for power’s sake, but you’ll never know unless you push it. That part’s up to you.