The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is the most powerful Mustang to date, and I would venture to say, one of the last without an assist from an electric motor. Enjoy it while it lasts. These sorts of fossil fuel-burning, greenhouse gas-emitting monsters from Detroit are long for this world. Want an over-the-top, muscle car feel? Get the GT350. Want a supercar experience at a pony car price? Get the GT500. It’s nearly a mischaracterization to call the GT500 a muscle car. The GT350 is a muscle car with its standard transmission and raw 5.2L flat-plane crank engine. The GT500, with its supercharged 760 HP engine and dual-clutch transmission, is something more refined. It’s not a supercar, nor is it a muscle car. It’s just a fantastic sports car living its best life.
Purists will decry Ford’s use of an automatic transmission in this car, saying the GT500 should have a standard instead. It’s understandable. A manual transmission results in a commanding feeling of control. And for those looking for such experience, the much-less expensive GT350 is worth a look. The GT350 offers much of the usable power of the GT500 in a more traditional package. In the run-up to driving the GT500, I borrowed a 2021 GT350 for a week. It’s a beast, and I loved it. The steering seemed more direct than the GT500, and the manual transmission resulted in the feeling of unhinged power that’s somewhat lacking in the carefully packaged GT500.
New Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 2021
As the most powerful and quickest factory Mustang ever, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 blends modern sports-car performance with iconic muscle-car presence. It builds on the same racetrack-capable chassis as the excellent Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, with an additional 234 horsepower that lends it credibility at the drag strip as well. The GT500 makes speed effortlessly with equal parts brains and brawn, including a supercharged V-8 that hammers out 760 horsepower, a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and magnetorheological dampers. Optional carbon-fiber wheels, track tires, and aerodynamic aids are available for drivers looking to get the most out of this monster Mustang. The Shelby GT500 sits at the pinnacle of American muscle cars alongside the 650-hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the 797-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye.
The new Mustang Shelby GT500 is palatial compared with the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. But if you want comfort with your tire-smoking burnouts and quarter-mile launches, you can’t do better than the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. The GT500’s cockpit is tighter than the Dodge’s, and its suspension is firmer. That said, the Mustang is surprisingly livable for how laser-focused it is on performance. The magnetorheological dampers keep the body under tight control and yet still take the shock out of hard impacts.
The optional Recaro seats ($1595 as a stand-alone option or part of the Track pack) will hug you tight at all times, so avoid them if you have personal-space issues. The Shelby’s rear seats are crowded even for young children, particularly if they’ll be sitting behind even a moderately tall adult. If you plan to actually use the rear seat, it’s the Dodge you want. The GT500’s trunk, at 14 cubic feet, is significantly larger than the Camaro’s (9 cubic feet), but slightly smaller than the Challenger’s (16 cubic feet).
The Mustang also has an impressive list of available safety features. Adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking are all available. Performance comes first. Sports cars aren’t known for being comfortable or well-built machines, but the Mustang’s quarters are tight, especially for a sports car of its size, and isn’t that polished.
While the Mustang retains its classic 2+2 seating layout, the back seats are only acceptable for children. The Mustang’s interior design and upscale features make it easy to overlook subpar materials and cramped cabin, but they still exist. Don’t look to save money at the pumps, either. The Mustang may be offered with a four-cylinder engine, but it’s hardly what we would call efficient with a combined fuel economy rating of 25 miles per gallon, according to the EPA.
Standard equipment on the base trim includes two USB ports, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 4.2-inch screen, wi-fi hot spot, Bluetooth, six audio speakers, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Move up to one of the Premium trims, and the sports car comes with a lot more convenience features. Dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, nine audio speakers, remote keyless entry, and LED exterior lights are standard for Premium trims.
If you really want a Mustang that could fit into a movie set, there’s the Bullitt. The trim has unique exterior and interior accents that include Shadow Black or Dark Highland Green paint colors, a cue-ball shifter for the manual transmission, special 19-inch wheels, black exhaust tips, and more. For fans of the movie “Bullitt,” the special trim is the prettiest Mustang in the family. Surprisingly well equipped. There are quite a few available trims for the Mustang, but even the base model is well equipped. The level of standard equipment on the Mustang is surprising because sports cars are scarcely this well equipped.
We’ve driven the Shelby GT500, but we haven’t yet tested the car to know how its real-world fuel economy compares with its official fuel-economy figures. The EPA estimates the Shelby GT500’s fuel economy at a thirsty 14 mpg combined, 12 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. Both the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat are rated at 16 mpg combined with highway figures in the low 20s.
At the top of the range sit the Shelby models. The Shelby GT350 and GT350R have 5.2-liter V8s that are rated at 526 hp. New for 2021 is the Shelby GT500 that has a supercharged version of the 5.2-liter V8. It’s the most powerful Mustang ever with 700 hp. Shelby models are meant to be track monsters and come with high-performance components that lower Mustangs don’t get.
As for power output, Ford announced last month that the 2021 Shelby GT500 5.2-liter supercharged Predator V8 engine would make 760 horsepower and 625 pound-foot of torque. Ford touts the GT500 as the most powerful street-legal Ford ever made. We are still waiting on some key factoids, like when the order banks will open for those ready to buy. It wasn’t a surprise that the 2021 GT500 was so expensive, but stepping into the realm of nearly $100,000 Mustangs is still a shock.
Ford engineers fitted the Shelby GT500 with a powertrain that will devour tracks. The dual-clutch transmission keeps the 760 HP supercharged engine in line. During my time on the track, this DCT performed admirably, gleefully holding shifts until the right moment and rev-matching downshifts while dipping into corners. Sure, a manual transmission would be fun at times, but using this DCT means peak performance is more obtainable.
The 2021 Shelby GT500 attacks corners, unlike any most muscle cars, dipping and diving without a hint of the brakes fading. It grips better than expected, holding the tires on the tarmac even during the most extreme cornering. The on-track performance is impressive for any car, let alone a Mustang. The GT500 offers class-leading track performance. A Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye will beat the Mustang to a quarter-mile, but the Mustang will pull ahead at the first corner.
On the drag strip, nearly anyone can hit an 11-second quarter mile. During my time at the track, there was a stiff headwind, and it took me four runs down the strip to go from 11.4 seconds to 10.98 seconds. Ford says the car can do it in 10.9, and I see little reason to doubt that time. Monster burn-outs are a few menu options away. With just a couple button presses, a novice can lock the front wheels and spin the rears to create a massive plume of burning rubber.
Ford offers several active safety and driver-assistance features on lesser Mustangs that are unavailable on the GT500. Despite the high sticker price, Shelby buyers have to make do without automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beams. A backup camera is standard (it’s required by law), while blind-spot monitoring is included in the $3000 Technology package. Key safety features include:
- Standard rearview camera
- Available blind-spot monitoring
We already know the other key factoids about the 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 like power and price. Ford announced late last month that the 2021 GT500 would start at $73,995 for the base model, and get much more expensive from there. The big daddy for price increase is the Carbon Fiber Track Package that adds $18,500 to the base price.
- Shelby GT500: $73,995
The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 2021 has a base price of $73,995, which can be inflated past $95,000 for a fully loaded model with the few options that are offered. The $1500 Handling package adds adjustable strut top mounts, an oil catch can, a Gurney flap on the rear spoiler, and splitter wickers with integrated dive planes on the front fascia. The $3000 Technology package includes navigation, blind-spot monitoring, SiriusXM satellite radio, heated mirrors with Shelby puddle lamps, and a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system. The big-ticket buy is the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track pack, which is aimed at anyone planning to lap their Shelby on the track. It deletes the rear seats and adds carbon-fiber wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 track tires, Recaro seats, a larger rear wing, carbon-fiber interior trim, and the same oil catch can, splitter wickers, and adjustable strut top mounts as in the Handling package.
The 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 single powertrain—a 760-hp supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 that revs to 7500 rpm with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic—is engineered for speed but trying to put the engine’s full might through only the rear tires means this Shelby isn’t as quick as you might expect. We anticipate the GT500 will be good for a 3.5-second rip to 60 mph and an 11.0-second quarter-mile once we run one through our testing protocol. Cars with significantly less power but more rear grip, such as the mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette, will handily outrun that zero-to-60-mph time.
Of course, it’s not all about straight-line performance. On a racetrack, the GT500 snaps off raucous shifts and sounds every bit as menacing as it is. Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires are standard, but it’s the optional Cup 2 tires that transform the GT500 into an apex-hunting machine. While it’s heavy with an estimated curb weight of 4200 pounds, the GT500 corners with confidence and turns in without hesitation. We wish the brake pedal were firmer, but the massive Brembo brakes hold up nicely to track abuse, with no evidence of fade.
Every new 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen running Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The standard setup also includes SiriusXM satellite radio, a CD player, two USB ports, and nine speakers. Ford’s own navigation and a 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system are available as part of the $3000 Technology package. Every GT500 has the ability to be locked and unlocked from the FordPass phone app and to serve as a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot with a data subscription.
The Mustang Shelby GT500 is all new for 2021, reviving a nameplate originally introduced in 1967 and last used from 2013 to 2014. The 2021 Shelby GT500 is the best-performing Mustang to ever exit a Ford assembly plant.
The new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 2021 is one of the better sports cars on the market. Whether you’re looking for something that’s exciting to drive, that draws attention, or that’s great for a Sunday cruise, the Mustang manages to be all of these things. A plethora of available trims and powertrains make it easy to find the perfect model. Regardless of what kind of Mustang you get, you’re sure to have a fun time behind the wheel. The only complaints we have are small ones that are average for the segment. The sports car’s rear seats are nearly unusable and material quality could be better. But as far as Mustangs go, the latest model is certainly the best one in the lineage and one of the better pony cars on the market.