627-hp Shelby Mustang Makes Things Interesting

One of the stars of the 2015 NAIAS was without a doubt, the new Shelby GT350R, looking menacing and promising hardcore performance to those in need of a track-ready muscle car.

If I have one complaint about the new 2015 Mustang GT it would be this: It doesn’t feel special enough.  However, out in the deserts of Nevada, we may have just discovered the solution — a 627 hp, mildly crazy solution called the Shelby GT.

Ford has watered down the 2015 Mustang GT, softening its edges and refining its character. It’s what European buyers want, they say. But we’re not so sure…time will tell. Shelby America though, has done something about said dilute softness. The company is determined to keep the spirit of the late Carroll Shelby alive, and to do so, it must keep the Mustang alive, too. That means the muted exhaust note is the first thing to go, replaced by a snarling Borla pipe that makes the Shelby GT sound like a pre-historic, saber-tooth beast dreamt up by a clan of opium-infused tribesmen. In other words: It sounds glorious.

Power derives from the 5-liter Coyote V-8, only now with a giant supercharger bulging from within the custom carbon-fiber hood. Shelby engineers say 627 hp is the right power number, although torque figures and performance stats are still being uncovered. Further carbon graces the body, along with 20-inch WELD wheels, Wilwood six-piston front brakes and Ford Racing suspension and sway bar upgrades. When it arrives on sale in a few months, a short throw shifter with 3:73 rear gears will come standard, and a performance upgrade with output beyond 700 hp will also be optional.

Sure, the Shelby GT looks good in pictures, but in flesh – holy mother of evil. Like Loki running a combination pawn shop/orphanage evil. It deserves a garage in the depths of Alcatraz, or Mordor, or Deadwood.

What’s it like, then?

Well, it’s not as track-focused as a Chevy Camaro Z/28, or as wildly inappropriate as a 707-hp Dodge Challenger Hellcat. It’s somewhere in between, with a distinct edge towards the Z/28. Shelby says it wants the car to be highly capable on the track, accessible to drivers of all talent and yet still retain that daily usability one expects from a Mustang.

The usability determination will have to wait for another day, but on the track, you can sense it isn’t backbreaking like the Z/28; it’s considerably more powerful, and yet far easier to extract its inherent speed. But the Shelby GT is less serious, and it understeers more; it rolls around the axles, it’s slower through the corners, but it’s predictable and would still embarrass cars costing far more.

And it makes the Hellcat look like a (very fast) lump of jelly.

Which brings me to the touchiest of all subjects – the price. A base Mustang GT from the Ford dealership will run you some $32,000. Shelby will demand a further $40,000 to turn it into the fire-breathing hell-spawn I drove a few days back. That means you’re looking at over $70,000 for a Shelby GT, and that isn’t far off Corvette Z06 money. It’s also $20,000 more than the Shelby Mustang GT350, for just 100 more hp.

So, is it worth it?

The Shelby GT is a riot to drive, and the torque hits you like a pile driver to the head, even from near idle. It’s so fast and wonderfully capable, like the car you wish the current GT500 was. But you’d need to be a keen Shelby fanboy to justify the price.

That said, many folk are, and the Shelby name still holds weight. Being that the GT is created by what is effectively a tuner company, the engineering team wasn’t hampered by as many regulations, allowing them to go a bit more mad. Yet in true Shelby fashion, it doesn’t feel “tuned.” It feels straight off the dealer lot.

As a track car, sure, it understeers a bit much due to the inherent weight over the front axle (you can thank the whopping supercharger for that), but the flip side to this issue is how stable the GT is under high speed cornering. One section of Spring Mountain contained a right hand bend with a jump in the middle. The car literally caught air, and yet it was never flustered…