Marc UrbanoCar and Driver
Lap Time: 2:44.6
Class: LL3 | Base: $92,595 | As Tested: $94,760
Power and Weight: 760 hp • 4067 lb • 5.4 lb/hp
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, F:305/30ZR-20 (103Y) FP R: 315/30ZR-20 (104Y) FP
For more than a decade, deputy editor Tony Quiroga has strapped on his chaps and wrangled Ford’s hottest Mustangs at VIR, but with the pandemic keeping him in California this year, Quiroga could only offer advice: “Bring underwear,” he said. “Lots and lots of underwear.” And then he hung up laughing.
Sphincter-clenching moments are part of the deal with the 760-hp Mustang Shelby GT500, the most powerful production car Ford has ever made. The supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 outmuscles a rogues’ gallery of exotica, including the Lamborghini Huracán Evo, the Porsche 911 Turbo S, and even the McLaren 765LT. But those exotics have a couple of distinct advantages over Ford’s relatively affordable badass. They’re lighter, and they mount their engines behind the cabin, giving the rear tires more bite. And the Lambo and Porsche transmit torque to all four wheels.
Like a race car, the GT500 takes time to learn. Brake hard off the straight and dive into Turn 1 and the gooey Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber wrapped around carbon-fiber wheels holds the pavement at 1.16 g’s. Exiting that long, flat corner is tricky in rear-drive cars with a ton of horsepower. The Ford rep on hand suggests, “If it’ll take a quarter-throttle [on corner exit], it’ll take all the throttle.” Yeah, sure thing, crazy. But we try it and somehow the GT500 allows us to floor it earlier than we ever would’ve thought possible. The engine’s rage churns into the rear tires, the GT500 hooks up, and then it explodes out of the turn.
Between the corners, the Predator V-8 lives up to its name by devouring every straight with supercar-grade acceleration. The speedo flips through digits quicker than the National Debt Clock. The GT500 torpedoes down the front straight, reaching a peak velocity of 161.9 mph. We arrive at the uphill esses at a palpitation-inducing 142.7 mph.
The GT500’s eight cylinders of fury, fed by fuel lines the size of garden hoses, empty the tank like André the Giant draining a beer keg. The car guzzles more than two gallons per 4.1-mile lap. The gas might run out before the giant 16.5-inch iron rotors up front start fading. Lap after lap, the brake pedal remains firm.
In Bitch, an off-camber right-hander, the GT500 demands more patience than normal. Go to the loud pedal too early and the Michelins will leave streaks on the asphalt to match the one in your briefs.
Throughout the slower infield, the 4067-pound Stang shuffles in left-right transitions with the ease and fluidity of a car that’s a quarter-ton lighter. Steering feel is crisp and clear and Porsche-like. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic downshifts under braking so it is always in the correct gear. Throw in perfect redline shifts and we never found ourselves needing to reach for the paddles.
The GT500’s 2:44.6 shares top honors in LL3 with the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Ford believes there are a few seconds left in it, which we will not contest, but the résumé of Ford’s test driver boasts hundreds of development laps with the GT500 and a couple of stints at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; we had three days. We’ll happily take a lap time that splits the two times we set with the $500,000 2017 Ford GT and that gets us home in a clean pair of Hanes.
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