When Ford announced in April that it was done building cars for the United States, and would instead focus on the SUVs and pickup trucks Americans actually want, it made two exceptions. The first was for the Focus Active, the sporty hatchback that it builds in China. Americans won’t be able to buy that any more, thanks to President Trump’s tariffs. So if you’re dead set on driving a Ford car, you’ll have to settle for the designated survivor: the Mustang.
And as far as leftovers go, that’s very much OK. Especially since this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford unveiled the most powerful street-legal Mustang ever—which also happens to be the most powerful Ford production car, ever. The 2020 Shelby GT500 will produce more than 700 horsepower, sending it from 0 to 60 mph in about three seconds and down a quarter-mile track in under 11 seconds. And, Ford says, this overpowered muscle car also comes with the highest lateral acceleration ever from a Mustang. Translation: Unlike so many hulking, entirely American pony cars, this Mustang will look as good in the turns as on the straights.
The first Shelby GT500 smoked its tires in 1967—it was the big brother to the GT350 that famed designer Carroll Shelby created so the good people of the streets could have a real racing version of the Mustang. More than half a century later, Ford is still looking for ways to pack extra fun into the pony. That means more power, more features, more … more.
For the 2020 car, all that power comes from a hand-built, supercharged 5.2-liter aluminum alloy engine. Ford won’t release exact specs until this summer, but it’s a good bet total power will beat the 707-horsepower, burnout-happy Challenger Hellcat, which seemed ludicrous when it debuted in 2014. (Well, it was ludicrous, at least until Dodge topped itself with the wheelie-popping Challenger SRT Demon.) Drivers will “control” it through a seven-speed automatic transmission that changes gears in less than 100 milliseconds. Which, yes, is faster than you can move the shifter, but doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be more fun as a manual.
To rein in the power surge, Ford stuck 420-millimeter brake rotors on the 20-inch wheels. They cover 20 percent more territory than the stoppers on the GT350. The standard rear spoiler helps keeps the Mustang’s Michelin tires planted, and you can pay extra for carbon fiber wheels. If you plan on finding the (so far unreleased top speed), you’ll want to first secure the ball joint hood pins that will keep the slab of metal from flipping up into the windshield. Six heat exchangers keep things from overheating. The hood vent covers six square feet. Even the oil pan is doing extra work: It’s designed to add strength to the car’s structure, and limit vibration.
In the name of weight savings and eliminating potential distractions like children, Ford killed the rear seat. Complete the “this car is about me ” look with color choices like “red hot” and “twister orange.” And yes, you should pay whatever Ford charges for the optional racing stripes. Whatever slug of an SUV your neighbors park in their driveway won’t look anywhere near as good.
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