First Drive

2013 Ford Shelby GT500

New Shelby flexes more muscle but is equally adept as a daily driver

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 at Calabogie - Front

CALABOGIE, ON. – Mustang muscle can’t be defined any better than by the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500. With its 5.8-litre, aluminum-block V-8 cranking out 662 eager horses and 631 lb-ft of torque, it doesn’t get any better than this wickedly fast machine.

It can launch to 96 km/h (60 mph) in just 3.7 seconds and cover the quarter-mile run in 11.7 seconds with a terminal speed of 201 km/h. It’s flat-out top speed, for those who dare, is 321.86 km/h.

Those numbers are generated by the most powerful production V-8 in the world and there’s only one place to really experience that output to the max – on a race track.

So Ford arranged a preview of the Shelby on the challenging course at Calabogie Motorsport Park north of Ottawa. Can life get any better?

Clare Dear with 2013 Shelby GT500 at Calabogie.jpgMy only regret is that I didn’t know the Calabogie layout more intimately before attacking it in such a track-capable car. The Shelby’s racing-rich breeding made the car feel totally at home on this fast road circuit, even if the driver wasn’t quite as comfortable.

With so much power on tap, I tended to work the accelerator like there was an egg under my foot. The last thing I wanted to do was unleash all that power at the wrong moment and end up with the Shelby in the grass.

Fortunately, there was a skilled instructor sharing the roomy cabin and he knew his way around the Calabogie circuit, directing precisely where and when to put the hammer down. The result was an exhilarating few laps that had the adrenalin pumping as fast as that throbbing V-8 engine.

Powerful brakes

He also knew when to make the best use of the Shelby’s monstrous brakes, which have been upgraded to handle the increase in power. The Brembo system uses new, six-piston calipers up front and larger rotors front and rear, while the brake pads are more aggressive units, better suited to deal with the higher speeds the car is now capable of attaining.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500.jpgOwners can be assured their Shelby will have stopping power when they need it. Despite hours of continuous abuse during the media session, there was never a hint of brake fade.

After spending time at speed on the track, I must concede the Shelby proved to not be the monster I had expected. True, I had plenty of help from the several electronic traction and stability technologies that Ford has engineered into this car, as well as the instructor’s expertise, but at no time did I feel on the edge, about to slip over the cliff of adhesion.

Carving through the various curves of Calabogie the car felt stable, while its generous torque was easy to extract smoothly as I pulled from each apex and set up for the next challenge.

On the straighter sections, I could confidently put the pedal to the floor without any issues, the car tracking true throughout. If there had been time to increase my familiarity with the circuit, I’m sure my comfort level – and lap times – would have improved significantly because the car definitely had more to offer.

Engine makeover

Ford engineers have given the 5.8-litre V-8 a near-total makeover to gain the improvements in power and torque.

The 2013 iteration has a larger, more efficient 2.3-litre TVS supercharger sitting atop a revised intake manifold, with the camshafts that control the delivery and extraction of gases have been borrowed from The Ford GT supercar.

And, while there are huge gains in power and performance for 2013, there’s also a slight improvement in fuel efficiency: 13.9 litres/100 km in the city; 8.3 on the highway, compared to the previous rating of 14.5 and 8.8, respectively.

The increase in output also generates more heat, so the cooling system has been upgraded, including the addition of a larger cooling fan and high-speed pressure-release doors on the fan shroud. To ensure maximum airflow to the radiator and intercooler, the grille mesh has been removed.

The changes appeared to be effective during our afternoon on the track as no overheating issues popped up despite 30-plus-degree air temperatures and non-stop flogging of the Shelby on the race track by the media in attendance.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500 - Instrument Panel.jpgThe Shelby’s six-speed Tremec gearbox has also been reworked, with all gear ratios except fourth gear revised to ensure the torque gets to the ground efficiently. The bearings and gearbox housing have been beefed up, as well as the clutch, which is now a dual-disc type.

A new carbon-fibre driveshaft – 5.83 kilograms lighter than the current shaft – connects the gearbox to the rear differential, which now has a final gear ratio of 3.31. A Torsen limited-slip differential is available as part of the optional performance package – worth considering if you plan to play with your Shelby on track days.

Daily driver

The handling dynamics of this car, as you’d expect with the Shelby nameplate, are race-honed, yet the ride is still compliant enough to make daily driving an experience that’s more than acceptable.

As with other elements of the car, the Bilstein suspension components have been upgraded to handle the car’s increased potential, while electronic assists, such as the power steering, traction control and stability system, have been recalibrated as well.

For those drivers skilled enough to control the Shelby on their own, the electronic assists can be completely disengaged.

Overall, the preview demonstrated the 2013 Shelby GT500 certainly has enough power to satisfy the most demanding enthusiasts, yet that massive torque and horsepower can be easily managed. You can tear up a race track on the weekend and still drive it to the shopping mall or the office all week.

Pricing on the GT500 coupe starts at $61,699, while the convertible version has a base price of $66,699.

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