Test Drive: 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

"Dirty Jobs" star Mike Rowe shills for the Ford F-150 these days, but if he still hosted his old show, "The Most," the 2013 Mustang Shelby GT500 would make for much better subject matter.

Not only is it the most powerful Mustang ever, but also the most powerful American car of all time thanks to the most powerful series production V8 in the world: a 662 hp 5.8-liter monster that is more than twice as potent as the engine in that V6 Mustang you rented in Ft. Lauderdale.

The supercharger on it alone has a capacity of 2.3-liters, which was the displacement of the 88 hp four-cylinder engine in the 1982 Mustang L I drove in high school. That sad ‘Stang had an EPA highway rating of 26 mpg, while the Shelby manages to deliver 24 mpg despite having 7.5 times the power and two fuel pumps quench its thirst. Ford claims that the GT500 also has top speed of 202 mph.

Times have clearly changed for the better if this is your sort of thing, but let’s be honest with ourselves, the GT500 is so over the top that it seems like end of days kind of stuff. With 12/21/2012 fast approaching, not to mention 2025 and the 54.5 mpg fleet average, I suggest that you enjoy it while it lasts.

As you can imagine, the $54,995 GT500 is on the quick side. It’ll hit 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds in first gear. Few things are more of a thrill, but keep your foot in it and you will find out what they are. The quarter mile passes in 11.5 seconds at 125 mph and the engine just keeps pulling from there. I don’t care how super you think your car is, when you’re strapped into 3,800 pounds of American muscle moving like this it feels like nothing else in the world.

I touched 160 mph on the ¾ mile dogleg back straight at the Monticello Motor Club, where the GT500’s nemesis, the 580 hp Chevy Camaro ZL1, had trouble cracking 140 mph in my very unskilled hands. Chalk some of that up to aerodynamics. The ZL1’s body was optimized to generate serious downforce while the GT500’s is more of a slipstream job aimed at breaking that 200 mph barrier, which lies a couple of more miles up the road.

Test Drive: 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Slow things down to take a few curves instead, and the GT500 will surprise you with its handling. It’s not quite the scalpel that is the Mustang Boss 302, but it’s no one trick drag strip pony either…assuming you have feet as light as a feather.

Test Drive: 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Simply thinking about the accelerator too hard in the middle of the turn can spin the tires. They’re only made of rubber, not glue, after all. Brake in a straight line, turn, roll into the apex, then get back on the throttle when you dare.

There’s no magic to help you out with that last bit. Ford’s AdvanceTrac stability control is an on/off switch compared to the ZL1’s Performance Traction Management system, which can pretty much do the driving for you. The GT500 will quickly separate the men from the women who drive better than them.

If you do the above often enough, you’ll want to order the $3,495 performance package, which includes a Torsen limited-slip differential a tuned suspension with two-stage electronically adjustable shocks, plus the $2,995 track package that adds oil, engine and differential coolers.

Unfortunately neither comes with upgraded brakes. The stock ones look good on paper – 15-inch front rotors, Brembo calipers, etc. – but fade quickly after too few hard stops. They never give up, just drop a couple of degrees in effectiveness. Brake early, not often.

Unless you’re all about cruising and Christmas tree lights, you’ll also want to go with the $1,595 Recaro bucket seats. They offer excellent support, even if they ride a little high for a sports car with the GT500’s chops. Considering the car is more potent than any of Ford’s gasoline-fueled pickups, this may be appropriate. A couple of hundred miles of open road driving confirmed that they are comfortable, too.

For the most part, so is the rest of the GT500, although it does have a stiff suspension with quite a lot of travel in it. Hit a set of expansion strips or an undulating stretch of pavement and this Mustang bucks like a Bronco II. But on smooth, dry roads it is relatively serene. The slick body cuts down on wind noise, while an ultra high 6th gear keeps the engine ticking at around 1,600 rpm at 80 mph. That new highway in Texas with the 85 mph speed limit? It now has an official car.

The GT500 may not be the best sports car in the world, but it is easily the most amusing. A clutch kick can spin the wheels in 3rd gear at speed and brake stand burnouts will have the neighbors calling 911 as they reach for their go-packs.

Don't waste your time looking for signs that the Apocalypse is coming, it’s already here. Forget the four horsemen, the Shelby's logo is a Cobra. Why did you think the Mayans worshipped a snake that can fly?


2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Base Price: $54,995

As Tested: $63,080

Type: 2-door, 4-passenger coupe

Engine: 5.8-liter supercharged V8

Power: 662 hp, 631 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

MPG: 15 city/24 hwy