2011 Ford Shelby GT500 CoupePosted on February 1st, 2011
GT engine gives Ford’s pony car some serious bite
By Nina RussinThere’s horsepower and then there’s horsepower. On paper, all numbers look pretty much the same. But when it comes to actual performance, engine dynamometer statistics can overstate the power reaching the car’s drive wheels.
The 5.4-liter aluminum block in the 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 is the same one Ford used in the GT supercar. Making the supercar engine perform properly in a four-door sport coupe required some serious retuning of both the engine and Mustang chassis. Because Ford engineers took the time to adapt the GT engine to its new chassis, the resulting product is one that truly delivers on its promise.
They began by taking 100 pounds out of the engine itself, improving the Mustang’s front-to-rear weight balance and enhancing the power-to-weight ratio.
Larger exhaust pipes enhance airflow through the engine, improving both fuel efficiency and power. A new plasma cylinder liner coating in the engine replaces cast iron, dispersing heat better for enhanced high-speed performance.
The 2011 Shelby GT is stiffer than last year’s model: engineers beefed up the existing structure and added a front Z brace. They also lowered the ride height by 11 millimeters in front and 8 millimeters in the rear to reduce aerodynamic drag.
An optional performance package adds a higher rear axle ratio and stiffer springs, to give the car better launch characteristics and enhanced steering feedback at speed.
Nineteen-inch aluminum wheels and high-performance tires provide large contact patches for quick starts, while Brembo brakes enhance the GT’s stopping power. Large cooling ducts prevent the brakes from overheating and fading.
Supercharged engines have the advantage of developing peak torque early, and maintaining it through a wide range of engine speeds. In short, the Shelby GT can and will deliver all of its horsepower to the drive wheels. Chassis refinements help the driver to get the most of his time behind the wheel, be it on the racetrack, or a deserted two-lane byway.
Priced under $50,000Base price for the 2011 Shelby GT500 coupe is $48,645, not including the $850 delivery charge. While that may sound like a lot of money for a Mustang, it’s a good price for a Mustang with a supercar engine. Engineers enhanced fuel economy compared to last year’s model, eliminating a gas guzzler tax from the equation.
The SVT performance package described above adds $3495 to the base price. An electronics package on the test car adds voice-activated navigation with traffic and weather updates, and dual automatic temperature controls ($2340), bringing the price as tested to $55,330.
Good morning snake
Running into a snake in the Arizona desert isn’t unusual, nor is it particularly desirable. The diamondbacks which populate the area aren’t especially fond of people.
Not true for the cobra which pops up on the center stack display when I fire the GT’s ignition. The cobra, which appears to be smiling, wishes me a “Good morning.” This is a snake I don’t mind spending time with.
The roar of the exhaust pipes is pretty nice too. So is the gentle rattling under the driver’s seat: the product of massive valve overlap in the engine. I’ve always had a fondness for radical cams.
Ride and handling are in keeping with the Shelby’s muscle car roots. The clutch is stiff and steering weight relatively heavy. The car has a low chin spoiler, which hung up on my driveway apron despite backing out at an angle.
Designers added convex inserts in the side mirrors, which eliminate what would otherwise be large blind spots in the rear corners. Thanks to the side mirror design, I had no problems monitoring traffic to either side on the highway.
Fuel economy is pretty good for this type of car. Owners who want to stretch gas mileage beyond the EPA estimate can easily do so by shifting early and keeping the revs low. The engine reaches 80 percent of peak torque at 1750 rpm, so shifting below 2000 rpm maintains a reasonable amount of power.
Average fuel economy on my test drive was 17.2 mile-per-gallon. The Ford GT engine requires premium unleaded fuel.
Aside from the stiff clutch pedal, the manual gearbox is easy to use. The shift lever works easily and precisely, with no gear lash. Steering response at all speeds is excellent, thanks to the high level of torsional rigidity throughout the chassis.
My drive route included time on surface streets around my Phoenix neighborhood, highways around town and a stretch on a two-lane rural road in the Tonto National Forest. While the Shelby might not be the most practical car to drive in traffic, its performance on the sparsely trafficked byway made the extra effort worthwhile.
The car literally eats the pavement, sticking through decreasing radius turns like glue. The engine’s sweet spot is about 3000 rpm, at which point the Shelby’s power feels limitless. I would have to wonder seriously about anyone saying that they want more brute force than the Shelby GT500 offers.
Fortunately, the coupe can stop as quickly as it accelerates, thanks to the large Brembo disc brakes. I was pleasantly surprised by the traction on wet surfaces, since I drove the car through some intermittent rain.
The Shelby GT500 is typical of two-plus-twos: the rear seats are primarily a nod to the insurance companies. The car seats two adults comfortably, with some extra room in the back for small children, pets or parcels.
The bucket seat design is true to the car’s retro roots, but not especially comfortable for drivers who, like me, need strong lower lumbar support.
The steering wheel is a nice size, with redundant audio and Bluetooth controls to minimize driver distraction. I found both the gauge cluster and center stack displays easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions.
While styling recalls the muscle car era, engineers added all of the twenty-first century features tech-savvy buyers crave. Ford’s Sync voice-activated controls are standard, as well as high-intensity discharge headlamps for enhanced visibility at night.
There are two smallish cupholders in the center console. The console bin contains a 12-volt power point, USB and auxiliary ports.
The rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. With the seats folded flat, the Shelby GT can hold golf clubs, skis and snowboards. I wouldn’t want to try and stuff a bicycle inside, except in a dire emergency.
The Shelby comes with standard front and side airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control and SOS post-crash alert. The factory warranty includes up to five years or 60,000 miles of free 24-hour roadside assistance.
Likes: The Shelby GT500 combines muscle car styling, a supercar engine and SVT’s tuning finesse in a street legal car. Improvements in fuel economy over the 2010 model have eliminated the gas guzzler tax.
Dislike: Seats lack adequate lower lumbar support.
Model: Shelby GT500 Coupe
Base price: $48,645
As tested: $55,330
Horsepower: 550 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 510 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: N/A
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 15/23 mpg city/highway
3 responses to “2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Coupe”
[…] 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 Coupe review | Auto Reviews | The Carspondent GT engine gives Ford's pony car some serious bite By Nina Russin There's horsepower and then there's horsepower. On paper, all numbers look pretty. […]
2011 Ford Shelby GT500 coupe and convertible are powered by the same 5.4-liter all-aluminum engine that develops 550 hp and 510 ft.-lb. of torque which is 10 hp more than previous. The engine of the 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 is also 102 pounds lighter than the previous cast-iron engine.
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