By Terry Box The Dallas Morning News
Thin clouds seemed to trail the sinister blue Mustang, their contents probably shredded and ingested by the car’s big supercharger.
Dogs barked at its collection of nasty noises, which sounded like the rumbles and quakes from some distant urban war.
Most of your neighbors will glare at the 2013 Shelby GT500, too, a wildly muscled-up Mustang that flashes more horsepower beneath its puffed-up hood — an astounding 662 — than several minivans combined.
But after a week spent with a deep-breathing, grabber-blue GT500, I can report that this wonderfully excessive ‘Stang is considerably more than a hard-hitting race car with an air conditioner and mufflers.
Get this: Ford claims that the street-legal GT500 — the most powerful production car ever in the U.S. — can exceed 200 mph.
If you drive it like a grown-up, however, the hulking Mustang is almost as tame as a tepid Taurus sedan. Kind of.
The GT500 — the baddest Mustang available from Ford — was no slouch last year, with 550 horsepower thundering through its aluminum 5.4-liter V-8.
This year, Ford’s SVT group bumped the engine to 5.8 liters, fitted it with cams from the late, great Ford GT, boosted the compression and bolted on a bigger supercharger.
Besides the nuclear reactor that SVT slipped into the Mustang’s engine bay, the car got improvements to its aerodynamics, drivetrain, cooling system and suspension.
It even looks a little better. My intensely blue Shelby featured prominent white skunk stripes over the hood, top and trunk, and slightly more subtle white side stripes.
Although the body and overall styling were mostly carried over from last year, the new GT500 is easy to spot because it has no center grille to slow the flow of critical cool air to the engine.
It felt fierce. Up front, intense HID projector headlamps added to the Mustang’s already considerable scowl.
Sitting about an inch lower than a Mustang GT, the Shelby looks bulky and brooding. Dark 19- and 20-inch wheels wore huge 265/40 and 285/35 tires, respectively, that filled the wheel wells.
The Shelby announced its intentions with 3.5-inch stainless steel exhaust tips that could blow cellphone signals out of the air – and good riddance, I say.
While the ‘Stang will never be mistaken for a four-cylinder tea-sipper, it is rated at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway, an astonishing 1 mpg better in highway mileage than last year’s car.
And unlike the less economical Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the Shelby’s archrival, the Mustang avoids the gas guzzler tax.
You might wonder about the car’s pretty basic interior, though, especially considering its hefty $63,080 price.
I viewed it as a nice mix of modern and retro, but I say that as a Mustang owner.
The GT500 I had featured black leather Recaro sport seats with white skunk stripes down the middle.
Likewise, the rear seats had matching white skunk stripes that will probably look fresh and new for years because no adult over 5 feet tall can fit back there, including me.
In addition to the Recaros, you get a great white cue-ball shifter for the six-speed, a nifty three-spoke steering wheel wrapped partly in velour and a semi-realistic 220 mph speedometer.
What more do you need?
Everyone will know when you’re behind the wheel, preparing for blastoff.
The big blue engine fires off with a guttural snarl, settling in to a slightly lumpy old school idle from its new cams.
Let me warn you: The clutch is stiffer than some of the leg machines you use at the gym, but you’ll get used to it.
That cue-ball shift lever is heavy, too, but its engagements are positive, and I’ll take stiff and positive any day to the soft and sloppy shifter in my Mustang GT.
One of the beast’s oddities is its relatively high 3.31 rear-end gear ratio, which complicates the car’s drivability, I think.
The high gears help with those astronomical top speeds that maybe a dozen people will experience. But they make it a bit more difficult to smoothly depart stops.
You end up either leaving at too low an rpm, causing the car to stumble some, or juicing it up to a nice healthy level and getting sideways in a billowing cloud of tire smoke, just as that mean Dallas cop pulls through the intersection.
In short order, though, you’ll get accustomed to that, too.
Most of the Shelby’s immense power is clustered up fairly high, between 3,000 and 6,500 rpm, so you can putt around town pretty discreetly if you want to do that for some reason.
If you really prod the Big Snake, which is vastly more fun; it will bite you in the blink of an eye.
As you might expect, first gear is all mayhem and wheel spin, and good for nearly 60 mph. The engine doesn’t just push you back into the seat. It body-slams you.
Once, while entering an interstate, I got wheelspin in second gear at 55 mph when I attempted to, uh, merge quickly. Whoooeee, Andy.
Zero to 60, incidentally, roars by in a mere 3.5 seconds, according to Motor Trend.
Meanwhile, the ride was tolerably stiff. On smooth pavement, it felt firm and well-controlled, banging hard only on potholes.
What was surprising was how crisply the brutal, 3,900-pound Shelby turned into corners. Though not as agile as the Boss 302, it dived into moderate-speed curves with glee, displaying minimal lean even when the suspension was set for street.
I never pushed it really hard, remembering that big hammer up front waiting for the next fool to step up. But I can well imagine how vicious it might be in a high-speed corner on a track.
And while the Brembo brakes were superb, stopping the big Shelby from 60 mph in just 100 feet, the steering felt kind of murky and thick.
Though quick and reasonably precise, it just wasn’t as impressive as the engine and suspension.
Nonetheless, this is easily the best GT500 ever.
Somewhere, as Automobile magazine noted, old Carroll Shelby is smiling.
2013 FORD SHELBY GT500
Type of vehicle: Four-passenger, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe
Price as tested: $63,080
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 24 highway
Weight: 3,871 pounds
Engine: Supercharged, double-overhead-cam, 5.8-liter V-8 with 662 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Performance: 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds
Safety rating: Unrated
SOURCES: Ford Motor Co.; Motor Trend
&Copy;2012 The Dallas Morning News
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