By Steve Turner
Photos Courtesy of Ford Motor Company and Steve Turner
From the moment the 2020 Shelby GT500 rolled onto the stage at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan, we could almost hear the whir of the 2.66-liter TVS supercharger pumping 12 pounds of boost into its 700-plus-horsepower 5.2-liter V8 engine as it screams down the drag strip to a 10-second pass. Yeah, Ford Performance, built a do-it-all dream machine that will be just as at home on the drag strip as it will on the road course or the street.
“We succeeded in making the GT500 everything it needs to be in a straight line and on the track,” Ed Krenz, Chief Functional Engineer at Ford Performance, said. “That was really the engineering challenge. Historically, the GT350 went around the curves and the GT500 went straight — and this GT500 does both.”
Helping to enable that level of performance is a first-in-segment dual-clutch transmission from the gearbox specialists at TREMEC. Featuring an all-new design, this DCT features seven gears and delivers either fully automatic or paddle-shifted gear changes and complete integration with the GT500’s drive modes — Normal, Weather, Sport, Track and, our favorite, Drag.
Of course, it channels power from the aforementioned 5.2-liter V8 engine, which is similar to the 5.2-liter Voodoo engine in its sister vehicle, the Shelby GT350. It features a number of upgrades designed to bolster the engine’s durability for sustained use under power. The aluminum block uses the same is machined and bolstered to support longer head bolts, while the valvetrain atop the higher-flowing heads is revamped to withstand higher cylinder pressures. The internals are different as well. This engine uses a traditional cross-plane crankshaft matched with forged rods and pistons.
All told it delivers mid-3-second 0-60 times and 10-second quarter-mile e.t.’s on a prepped drag strip.
“With its supercar-level powertrain, the all-new Shelby GT500 takes the sixth-generation Mustang to a performance level once reserved only for exotics,” Hermann Salenbauch, global director, Ford Performance vehicle programs, said. “As a Mustang, it has to be attainable and punch above its weight. To that end, we’ve set a new standard among American performance cars with our most powerful street-legal V8 engine to date, plus the quickest-shifting transmission ever in a Mustang for all-out precision and speed.”
The integration of that transmission and the drive modes enables those light-speed shifts in Sport mode, but in Drag mode the shifts let the supercharged 5.2 pour on the steam while banging through the gears.
“In Drag mode you are looking for power-on shifts. It is equivalent to a manual trans. You just stay on the pedal and the engine just keeps humping right through the shift,” Krenz explained. “That’s what we do in Drag mode. It is a torque-on shift that gives you maximum straight-line performance. With that comes a little bit of a feel of acceleration through the shift.”
Certainly this car will accelerate in a hurry, but running into the 10-second zone wasn’t part of the original engineering target for this halo Mustang. However, when it became a possibility the engineers kept pushing.
“We spent as much time refining the vehicle in the drag environment to get the halfshaft stiffnesses right to make sure you are getting the most grip out of both rear tires as possible,” he added. “Every detail was looked at to squeeze that out. Our original target was not sub-11-second on the quarter mile. We started getting close and once we got close, we were like, ‘It’s gotta happen.’”
And, happen it did. Ford hasn’t announced the exact official elapsed times yet, nor have they locked in the final power rating for the boosted 5.2 as engineers are continuing to tweak the combination for max power. However, we do know they were able to push the car into that rarified drag strip territory during testing.
“…It’s in the 10s on a prepped drag strip, and that’s everything to do with continuously getting the torque to the ground. It starts with our Michelin tires, which are the next evolution of the Cup 2s on our track version. The goal from a gearing perspective was hitting zero to 60 in second gear so you don’t have a second shift, and continuing to deliver power through the shift event,” Krenz told us.
In all it definitely delivers the power, Ford says the 2020 Shelby GT500 is the most advanced, most powerful, and quickest street-legal Mustang ever created, and we can’t wait to see what it can do when it hits the drag strip in competition.
“Carroll was always working on the next faster Shelby, I think he would love this Mustang more than any other,” Jim Farley, Ford president, global markets, said. “A takedown artist, the new Shelby GT500 will surprise supercar owners with its Ford Performance racing tech, supercharged engine, and visceral swagger.”