The latest Shelby GT500 is a scorcher but how does it stack up against Ford’s GT4 racer?

We’ve already seen the new Shelby GT500 for a while now, ever since those images from a Ford dealer meeting got leaked, but it’s always nice when everything is official including those ludicrous figures: over 700 horsepower from a 5.2-liter supercharged V-8 and a 0 to 62 mph time of just 3.5 seconds. Is it enough to topple the race-going Mustang GT4 based on the lesser GT350?

Ford stepped back in the GT4 arena late in 2016 with the Multimatic-built Mustang GT4 that was ready for the 2017 season. It sports everything you’d expect to see on a race car of its kind: a bigger splitter, canards around the corners of the nose, a bigger wing, lighter body parts, a race-tuned engine, and a stripped-out interior. The result is a championship-winning car, but it may get a run for its money from the freshly-unveiled GT500, the fastest road-going Mustang ever.

Comparing a Road Car to a Race Car Doesn’t Seem Fair, But the Numbers Tell a Different Story

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The new Shelby GT500 brings to the table such outrageous figures that you have to compare it to the only race-going Mustang out there to really understand just how much of a leap this car makes in terms of performance over your average Mustang GT with its 5.0-liter 460 horsepower V-8.

Right off the bat, I’ll point out the obvious: Ford hasn’t released exact power and torque figures just yet but expect the GT500 to offer over 700 horsepower (anything between 720 and 760 horsepower is possible) and over 600 pound-feet of torque.

That could be as much as 200 horsepower over the Mustang Shelby GT350 which comes with a flat-plane crank version of the 5.2-liter V-8 engine.

The GT500’s party piece, besides the fact that the 5.2-liter V-8 is of the cross-plane crank variety, which helps it gain bucketloads of ponies over the lesser GT350 is a 2.65-liter Roots supercharger. Even looking back at the old 2013-2014 Shelby GT500, this new one is a significant step above as that one was powered by a 5.8-liter V-8 that boasted 662 horsepower and 621 pound-feet of torque.

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Then there’s the way all that power reaches the back wheels. Purists are still fuming at the fact that the new GT500 ditches the manual for a Tremec-sourced twin-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission which sees times between shifts drop to below 100 milliseconds. This allows for a 0 to 60 mph time of about 3.5 seconds. That’s almost supercar territory right there, stunning for a car that should weigh a bit more than the 3,760 pounds of the GT350 that comes with a 6-speed manual.

The 2019 GT500 should also fly through the quarter mile in under 11 seconds, but this new beast is trackable, which is why it’s worth comparing it to the GT4 model. Carl Widmann, the Mustang’s Chief Engineer, said that "[the GT500] has to not only go straight but also turn," adding that "It has to take the power in the corner and put it down on a track."

It does that thanks to a lot of things. First up, the body: the front fascia has obviously been redesigned, and all those extra holes that piece through the bumper allow for 50% more airflow up front compared to the GT350, and that means more downforce too.

The brakes are huge by default with 16.5 dual-rotor front steel brakes from Brembo with 6-piston brake calipers.

Oh, and talking about the bodywork, the hood and fenders are made out of composite materials for obvious reasons.

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But the Mustang Shelby GT500 really becomes a beast on a road course if you go for the Carbon Fiber Track Pack that gives you everything the Handling Pack comes with, chief among which are strut mounts for camber adjustment, and then some. For instance, the standard wing gets replaced by a GT4-style carbon fiber one and so do the wheels which are swapped in favor of some 20-inch carbon fiber rims that are cradled by Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. The standard tire for the GT500 is the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. Furthermore, you get updated springs that lower the ride height minimally and adjusted anti-roll bars while the electronically-adjustable Magneride shock absorbers are tuned for track use.

All of this points to a natural conclusion: the latest GT500 will be a beast on the track.

Before we find out just how good it is, let’s delve into the myriads of the non-road-legal GT4 Mustang. First off, the accolades: the 2016 Mustang GT4 helped the Blue Oval bag the Manufacturer’s title in the formerly-known IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Championship this past season while the Roush-backed Kohr Performance team finished runner-up in the Team’s standings. Mustangs have won four times in 2018 including at Sebring and Watkins-Glen. In 2017, it won five times across the Pirelli World Challenge and the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.

The engine is the same 5.2-liter flat-plane crank V-8 as seen on the GT350, but it’s been modified by Roush-Yates and has twin-independent variable cam timing. Power is dependent on the air restrictor fitted by the sanctioning body as the GT4 class it’s complaint to utilizes the Balance of Performance system whereby different cars receive weight gains or breaks as well as increased or decreased air filters on their intakes to limit their performance with the aim of a tight pack of somewhat equally-performing machinery. Still, it does make well over 400 horsepower.

Those race-bred ponies reach the wheels through a flappy-paddle Holinger HD-6 sequential transmission mated to a ZF RCS 200 clutch. The driveshaft is made out of aluminum, and there’s a 3.31:1 "Mustang GT4-specific" limited-slip differential at the back.

To save weight, the GT4 Mustang with its Ford Performance-designed body kit has carbon fiber doors, trunk, roof, hood, wing, and splitter.

The 18-inch Foregline GS1R rims wrapped by racing slicks sit in front of 14.96-inch Brembo disc brakes up front with 6-piston calipers while at the back the discs are 12.32-inch in diameter with 4-piston calipers. So, the road-going GT500 has 1.5-inch-larger disc brakes up front that the GT4 championship-winning car!

Quick Comparison: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 vs. 2016 Ford Mustang GT4 High Resolution Exterior
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The GT500 you will be able to buy as early as this fall and park in your driveway, though, won’t weigh just 3,262 pounds even though the Carbon Fiber Track Pack you also lose the rear seats. The GT4 car, though, has a thoroughly depleted interior with only a black suede-wrapped racing steering wheel, carbon fiber center console with MoTec incorporated and a Sparco seat with a 6-point harness. The Multimatic-built machine also sheds some pounds by utilizing a carbon fiber rear undertray.

Finally, there’s the competition-grade suspension with adjustable Multimatic DSSV strut that can be tweaked to lower the ride height and two-way dampers. The caster and camber are also adjustable but so is the case with the Shelby GT500. At the back, there are Multimatic-designed lower control arms with Multimatic DSSV two-way adjustable coilovers and appropriate dampers. The steering is power-assisted, and you also get traction control as the GT4 category caters towards gentleman drivers.

Quick Comparison: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 vs. 2016 Ford Mustang GT4
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At the end of the day, don’t hold your breath for a race car-beating GT500 but it’s certainly going to be a closer call than some might think if you get up and slaps some slicks to the Shelby (equipped with the Carbon Fiber Track pack). It also depends on the nature of the track as the lighter, more nimble GT4 ’Stang will out-maneuver the otherwise faster in a straight line GT500.

2020 Shelby GT500 specifications

Engine 5.2-liter aluminum alloy V-8
Horsepower +700 HP
Quarter mile < 11 seconds
Transmission shifts < 100 milliseconds
0 to 60 mph mid 3.0 seconds

Further Reading

Quick Comparison: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 vs. 2016 Ford Mustang GT4
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Read our full review on the 2020 Ford Shelby GT500

Quick Comparison: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 vs. 2016 Ford Mustang GT4 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Ford Mustang GT4.

2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review of the 2013-2014 Ford Shelby GT500

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