It promises 700-plus horsepower from a supercharged 5.2-liter V-8, but there’s no manual transmission.

It had to happen. You didn’t thinkFord
was going to sit around in Dearborn, Michigan, gnawing on chicken
shawarma sandwiches while its competitors built Hellcats and ZL1s, did
you? Carmakers might be dumping increasingly large loads of money into
ride-sharing schemes and electric cars, but meanwhile the big-boy pony
cars are playing with 700-plus horsepower. Seven-hundred-plus
horsepower. Think about that for a second. The Le Mans–class-winning,
half-million-dollar Ford GT makes 647 horsepower. A $300,000 McLaren
720S only just crests the 700-hp summit. And the Porsche 911 Turbo S
produces a paltry 580.

So, yes, Ford has
launched the latest salvo in this power war with the 2020 Shelby GT500.
It is what longtime Mustang designer Melvin Betancourt describes as the
model line’s “holy shit” car. Holy shit indeed.

Greg PajoCar and Driver

The supercharged V-8 thumper makes—drum roll,
please—”700-plus” horsepower. Ford won’t say precisely what the GT500
will be rated at and claims it won’t have official numbers until this
summer, mere months before the vehicle goes on sale. But it doesn’t make
much sense for Ford to produce a vehicle that makes less power than its
main adversaries. The Blue Oval will need to best the output of Chevy’s
650-hp Camaro ZL1 and the Dodge Challenger’s updated 717-hp Hellcat.
We’re guessing that the GT500 will come in around its rumored 720
horsepower and pump out in the neighborhood of 650 pound-feet of torque.

Whatever the numbers, they’ll come from a supercharged DOHC 5.2-liter V-8 derived from the one-rung-lower GT350’s engine. The GT500’s shares the lesser Shelby’s 94.0-millimeter bore and 93.0-millimeter stroke but not its flat-plane crankshaft, and it redlines at 7500 rpm, 700 lower than the naturally aspirated engine. But who needs insane revs when an Eaton TVS R2650 supercharger is nestled atop the engine? It’s the same 2.7-liter unit used in the 755-hp Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and crams 12 psi of boost into an internally strengthened V-8. The engine has a new cast-aluminum structural oil pan, which has both static baffles and hinged doors that open and close under high g-forces to fend off oil starvation. Ford Performance chief functional engineer Ed Krenz says this allows for sustained track survivability without a dry-sump system. Likewise, says Krenz, the upgraded cooling package compared with a GT350 will keep the engine happy on long track runs. It includes an air-to-liquid intercooler mounted atop the supercharger, an upgraded radiator, an engine-oil cooler, and a transmission-oil cooler. Greg PajoCar and Driver

Torque flows to a
Tremec-sourced seven-speed dual-clutch transmission developed for this
application. There will be no manual. Krenz claims that the transmission
is capable of shifts in about a tenth of a second; roughly what a
Porsche PDK can do and about twice as quick as shifts from the Chevy
ZL1’s optional 10-speed automatic. The dual-clutch will respond
differently depending on the drive mode selected. Drag mode will deliver
shifts with no torque interruption, and Track mode will take steering
angle, among other parameters, into account to prevent an abrupt shift
that could destabilize the car. It can be left in automatic mode or
controlled via magnesium shift paddles. Predictably, the software
includes launch control and a line-lock feature. Power routes rearward
through a carbon-fiber driveshaft to a Torsen limited-slip rear end
carrying 3.73:1 gears and out to the wheels via beefed-up half-shafts
and CV joints. Exhaust gases exit through four tailpipes, each a girthy
five inches in diameter.

Ford is adamant that,
unlike previous iterations, this GT500 will go left and right just as
well as it proceeds in a straight line. Using the brilliant-handling
GT350 as a basis for the big-power car is a good start. It will carry
the same basic strut front and multilink rear suspensions as the GT350.
But in addition to using stiffer springs, fatter anti-roll bars, and
retuned magnetorheological dampers, the GT500’s front suspension has
revised geometry aimed at reducing the tramlining that’s omnipresent in
the GT350—we expect that the GT350 will also receive this modification
soon. The increased stiffness helps to manage the GT500’s greater mass
compared with the GT350 and the increased unsprung weight of the
standard 20-inch wheel-and-tire package. The standard wheels are
aluminum and wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, sized
305/30ZR-20 in front and 315/30ZR-20 in the rear. The optional Carbon
Fiber Track package brings carbon-fiber wheels wearing Michelin Pilot
Sport Cup 2 track tires, an adjustable carbon-fiber wing, a rear-seat
delete, and dive planes up front. All GT500s carry a strut-tower brace
made of an elaborate magnesium latticework. The 20-inch wheels were
necessitated by the standard two-piece iron-and-aluminum brake rotors.
Measuring 16.5 inches, the front rotors are grabbed by six-piston Brembo
calipers. The rears are 14.6 inches in diameter and carry four-piston
calipers.

Greg PajoCar and Driver

Apart from a new rear
diffuser and different optional wings, the GT500 is little different
from a GT350 from the A-pillar rearward. Forward of the A-pillar,
though, pretty much everything is new. The front fenders, made of sheet
molding compound (SMC), are 0.4 inch wider on each side to make room for
the front rubber. The power-bulge hood that accommodates the increased
height of the engine is also made of SMC and incorporates hood pins and a
massive vent to exhaust hot air from the engine bay and reduce
aerodynamic lift on the nose. This huge (31-by-28-inch) opening is why
the GT500, unlike the GT350, has an enclosed intake element; gotta keep
it dry. Ford also includes a removable rain tray. Pull it out for
maximum air extraction; insert it for minimum water intrusion. The
gaping maw is underlined by a big splitter.

Ford says the GT500 will do zero to 60 in the mid-three-second range, which we think might be a bit conservative (an automatic ZL1 will do a 3.4). The company further claims a quarter-mile run of less than 11 seconds, a good half-second quicker than the ZL1. In both performance parameters, the GT500 should trounce the Hellcat. Yes, even the 797-hp Hellcat Redeye Widebody. Advantage: Ford.

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