Since the mid 1960’s, the Great Pony Car Wars have been waging on for more than half a century. Ford debuted the Mustang, and to answer back Chevy rolled out the Camaro and Pontiac had the Firebird. Chrysler got into the mix with the Charger and Challenger among others as well. They’ve been trading punches like Frasier and Ali, over and over, back and forth, with momentum swinging from one side to the other with each new model that bows into existence. The Mustang actually knocked out the Firebird and Camaro in the 2002 and the GM twins didn’t regain consciousness until 2009 — at least the Camaro did. We’re still waiting with baited breath for the (very apropos) rebirth of the Firebird. But the latest iterations of these machines are just silly. The Camaro ZL1 is a full blown race car with a back seat. It has a 650 horsepower supercharged V8 borrowed from the mighty C7 ZO6, and despite the undeniably visceral and emotional response the current Shelby GT350 provides, the ZL1 has it beat in most performance tests. So Chevy wins this round right?
But new for 2020, in this corner, weighing in at 4,200 pounds, the newest heavyweight challenger for the thrown — the Shelby GT500. Simply put, the GT500 is a lot like at GT350, but on performance enhancing drugs. It is a bigger stronger faster version of a car we already know and love. There is one difference between the two cars though and that is that the Voodoo V8 in the GT350 is a flat-plane crank which helps it wind to a soul-tickling 8,000 rpm. But, because Ford wanted to eclipse the 700 horsepower mark, they knew forced induction was going to be necessary to keep up with the ZL1. So while the Voodoo engine would lend itself nicely to a set of turbochargers, for a myriad of reasons, engineers decided to go with a more conventional dual-plane crank, and thus the decision to supercharge was an easy one. And the results? Well, out of the 32-valve DOHC 5.2-liter all aluminum V8, we get a disturbing 760-horsepower and massive 625 lb-ft of torque. That power gets funneled through a 7-speed dual clutch automatic that actually bypasses the powertrain control module and gets wired directly into the transmission controlled. This is done to enhance response time and make a quick shifting car, even quicker.
Quick it is. 0-60 mph takes just 3.5 traction-limited seconds, while 0-100 takes 7.0 seconds flat, the quarter mile flies by in a scant 11.0 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 180 mph. But this car is no slouch around the track. Much like its little brother, the GT500 is built to be a track car, not a drag stripper. Keeping that power in check (or as well as possible) are a set of magnetorheological and some race ready Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, that have just enough tread to be considered street legal. Of course fuel efficiency isn’t exactly a bragging point, but it’s all about perspective. Sure a 12/18/14 city/highway/combined mpg isn’t great compared to your average Corolla, but then again, thirty years ago, if you were driving around a nigh-10 second track car, you’d probably be using race gas and your shoes would be melting to the fire wall. So, all in all, not bad for an almost-800 horsepower car.
Another consideration is cost. Yes, the GT500 starts at $73,995, which is a considerable amount more (about $9,300) than its chief rival, the ZL1. And although the Track Package may sound expensive at $18,500, if you tried to piece all the parts together yourself — 20-inch carbon wheels, adjustable strut-top mounts, extra bolstered Recaro seats, rear-seat delete, front splitter and and adjustable rear wing, you’d end up spending almost all that money on the wheels alone. And even with all that, you’re still getting a bonafide supercar for less than 100K.
The only reservations we have about awarding this a TKO for the Shelby is the fact that it only offers a seven-speed auto. And sure, it can shift faster than we can, but its not just about track times, driving cars like these are about a connection to the experience. And while the 7,500 RPM redline of a supercharged V8 is intoxicating, we still wish that the Voodoo V8 could’ve been used in some way, because there are few engines this side of Maranello that give us literal goosebumps at redline.
But all that being said, the 2020 GT500 is back and ready to take back the title. So start training ZL1, because this Shelby is a baaaaaad man.