04/25/07 — 2007 Shelby GT500 gets blood pumping with 500 horsepower, race-inspired styling

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2007 Shelby GT500 gets blood pumping with 500 horsepower, race-inspired styling

Ford Shelby (2007)

There’s only one reason to put a 500-horsepower Mustang in your garage.

It’s certainly not for fuel efficiency. It comes with an SUV-like gas mileage rating and a $1,300 gas guzzler tax.

And it’s not because we enjoy lining the pockets of insurance companies. But a painful hike in your auto insurance premium will surely follow your purchase.

Ford Shelby, 2007

And it’s definitely not be-cause states have eliminated maximum speed limits on their highways. You know anyone with an abandoned runway?

There’s nothing practical about the 500-horsepower Mustang Shelby GT500. It exists simply for the enjoyment that cutting-edge automotive performance brings.

And this Shelby delivers incredible pleasure at an affordable price of $42,975. If you can buy it at sticker, it delivers more bang for the buck than anything in the automotive world.

What a bargain for entry into the 500-horsepower club. There are only two other 500-horsepower sports cars currently made in America, the Corvette Z06 with a base price of $65,690 and the Dodge Viper with a base price of $86,995.

For us older folks it’s like a time machine taking us back to the muscle-car era of the late ’60s and early ’70s when monstrous V-8-endowed cars could be found on every street corner. A time when 0-to-60 times broke six seconds and quarter-mile runs could be completed in under 14 seconds at more than 100 miles per hour.

That’s pretty tame stuff these days in our technology-driven society where highly sophisticated engines can turn light-weight cars into land-based rocket ships.

But for the most part modern speed is accomplished without the feel of the rumbling V-8s of the past. The GT500, although driven by a modern supercharged eight-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, comes as close to the feel of those old machines as anything on the road. Just pretend the whine of the supercharger isn’t there.

With the new retro Mustang body it also has the look of the late ’60s.

And it delivers excitement. We’ve driven attention-getting machines in the past, but none has created more hoopla than the Shelby GT500.

One example. The only available parking space while visiting a friend was in front of his neighbor’s house. The neighbor came over an hour later and said he appreciated the Shelby out front. He called a couple of his car-loving friends who dropped what they were doing to drive over and see the “purchase” he had just made.

Before the week was over we felt like an attraction at Disneyland. Except we didn’t charge for the rides.

The new Mustang look — Ford’s only real styling success in recent years — still attracts people even as the newest pony car enters its third year of production. So it follows that the Shelby with the menacing-looking Cobra insignia on the sides and on the black mesh grille, the GT500 logo on the side, huge Le Mans racing stripes and special 18-inch machined aluminum wheels attract people like a magnet attracts medal shavings.

The real attention-getter is behind the wheel, foot into the accelerator and hand on the shifter hurtling down the road encased in nice-fitting sport bucket seats.

Oh, what a feeling.

Here’s the guts of this beast — a 5.4-liter V-8 with an Eaton supercharger attached to create 500 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque, a heavy-duty six-speed manual transmission, huge 14-inch Brembo cross-drilled rotors with four-piston calipers up front, three-inch diameter exhaust tips and a stiffened race-tuned suspension.

It’s not so much the muscular engine that separates this Shelby GT500 from the famous Cobra’s of 1967 and 1968 as the suspension and braking. Those nostalgic cars were for straight-ahead speed. This new Mustang is for cornering at god-awful speeds and stopping faster than you can say “what the hell,” dropping from 60 miles per hour to a dead stop in a straight line in a breath-taking 112 feet.

While the old Cobra did not have the handling and stopping prowess of this new beast, it can be argued it didn’t have the forward momentum either. The 2007 Shelby GT500 has been measured from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds and completing a quarter mile in 12.7 seconds at 114.2 miles per hour.

Achieving near-four-second time is tough, however. It requires a perfect launch, something not easily accomplished without practice. But the power is there, just use it wisely and use it in dry weather. While traction control is standard equipment, there is no stability control available.

The GT500 glues itself to corners, but in return offers a bit of a stiff ride due in part to its solid rear axle. On balance, the ride is just fine, no worse than other sports cars and roadsters.

The driving position is excellent and the manual transmission, complete with a stiffer clutch than you might be used to, is not difficult to operate in routine driving. Crisp and precise shifts are offered.

We love the interior, which is beautifully understated. Black leather seats and a black dashboard scream all business. Wood and large areas of brushed aluminum are not part of this package. Our tester did come with red seat inserts and a splash of red on the door panels, and we think the $595 trim package is worth the price. It gives the interior just the right amount of pizzazz.

Unlike other sports cars such as the Corvette and Viper, getting in and out of the GT500 is nearly as easy as entering and exiting a sedan.

There’s also a rear seat, mostly good for storage — the seatbacks fold down for really useable trunk space — but only inhabitable by full-sized adults for short rides and with the front-seat occupants willing to move their chairs far up on the rails.

The GT500 also comes in a convertible, which delivers the best of all worlds to open-air lovers. The drop top starts at $47,800.

While the Shelby is not as sophisticated and fast as the Corvette Z06 or as race-car oriented (read, hard to drive) or as fast as the Viper, it does a remarkably good job for which it was designed — offer exciting performance and styling at a price that many people can afford.

Is this a great time to be alive, or what?

Jim Meachen can be contacted at meachen@mac.com.

By Jim Meachen
Published in Car Reviews on April 25, 2007 9:42 AM