In terms of current auto news, there weren’t many headlines come late-January that weren’t based around the North American International Auto Show, held in Detroit from January 14th – 27th. And despite the wealth of newsworthy reveals, announcements and teases, you’d have to be living under a rock not to have recognized the anticipation and excitement over Ford’s release of their reimagined 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500. Easily one of our favorites, we couldn’t wait to scarf down the details as quickly as they were thrown at us.
And thrown at us they were, with the epic reveal designed playfully around video game play. Cinematic displays showed a digital simulation of the Mustang incorporated into an energetic driving game and, once complete, the vehicle was shown being airlifted by a helicopter. Then, in full destruction of the proverbial fourth wall, the actual 2020 Shelby GT500 was lowered from the ceiling, by cables secured around the car’s hubs. Truly an epic, and innovative reveal.
And while the reveal would continue to be replayed twice an hour, through the rest of the show’s (near two-week) running time – it really does little to diminish its impact. Because the Shelby is far from just another reimagined muscle car, contributing to the possible over-saturation of hi-po’d offerings. It’s something truly iconic that the lineup has been missing for a long time now, a reminder of classic pony car greatness that Ford seemed to have traded in for more modern iconography.
And while it’s not the one that fell from the rafters, the display model of the GT500 proved immediately evocative of the classic styling that we were hoping for. Equipped with the track package, the blue Mustang with white racing stripes felt overflowing with ‘cool’, merging many of the strongest design notes from various eras into some kind of uber-Stang.
Aggressive in its visual ferocity, we couldn’t wait to dig deeper. So here’s a closer look at the badassery of the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, exploring some of its more prominent (and easily overlooked) strengths (at least in terms of the floor model).
Getting Under the Hood
While it might seem like an arbitrary place to start, it would feel like we were jumping the gun, talking engine configuration without mentioning hood access. Why? Because the inclusion of functional hood pins is one of those tasteful touches that brings us back to classic Mustang styling. Albeit redundant when combined with traditional hood release latching, it makes for a cool and thoughtful touch.
Beneath the Hood
While an actual look under the hood was prohibited (at least initially) Ford has been forthcoming about the Shelby’s powertrain, at least in terms of mechanical specs. The rear-wheel drive Mustang is powered by a 5.2-liter supercharged V8 paired to a Tremec 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Keeping Us Thirsty For More
While actual power ratings have yet to be delivered, the cross-plank V8 is expected to wrangle over 700 horses. While that lacks some definite specificity, it echoes the absence to-date of an actual torque-rating, which also has yet to be confirmed. And since these are the details we’re really aching for, let’s take some time to explore some of the GT500’s other features that made the reveal truly worthwhile.
Let Us Vent
Closing the hood, it’s hard not to recognize the massive nature of the functional hood vent. Easily modified, it adds a degree of aggressive flair (do those words go together?) that help to sell the Shelby’s front-end appeal. And judging by other reviews, it seems that we’re not the only ones wondering if it just might rank as the larges grille we’ve ever seen on a Mustang.
The GT500 is a lot to take in visually, and the impact is immediate. Stepping back from the hood, you can attempt to absorb the design in one glance but there are countless fine details, in tribute to both form and function, that make doing so a bit of a tall order.
Of course, the iconic Shelby Cobra badging is emblazoned across the hexagonal honeycomb style grille. Arguably the largest iteration of the Cobra ever, the unapologetic boldness of the emblem seems to be a sentiment that flows through the rest of the Mustang’s design. No identity crisis here, people.
And speaking of the grille, the GT500 boasts a gaping maw of epic proportions, evocative of a prowling beast, open wide and ready to consume. While it’s a design choice that we’ve seen more and more of lately, even in the redesign of economy sedans. It’s never more effective than when placed on the style of vehicle it was intended for, complemented by all of the visual fixins’. This Shelby is a perfect example of how an open front end can prove visually impactful.
A more subtle touch comes in the splitter wickers placed on either side of the front bumper. Designed with integrated dive planes, Ford has reinforced the multi-plane design of the vehicle which helps to feed its aggressive vibe. And while this feature of the Carbon Fiber track pack are removable, why would you want to?
A walk around reveals the carbon fiber wheels also included in the enhancement package, with the exposed Brembo brakes which speaks to its performance pedigree. Shown with a pair of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, the 12-inch wide wheels are easy to picture, screaming away.
With an angular contour, the Shelby’s tapered physique is complimentary of its low, slowing roofline. And a walk around to the rear reveals massive quad, five-inch exhaust pipes ready to make some noise. It’s just another small detail representing a sense of massive scale. Everything on this car feels bigger, meaner and hungrier. (And we love it!)
The massive tips are bound to pump out the noise, but we can only expect that they also pump out a whole lot of heat. As such, Ford has shown caution in the placement of gray trim riding which protects the vehicle from exhaust burn (a problem which other performance vehicles have been fools to ignore). It speaks to the prudence of design, and we applaud it.
Since a show like the NAIAS wets our palate with the most polished, idealized version of every vehicle it displays, we can’t wait to see the finished product once it hits dealer floors (expectedly late this year. While not everyone will echo the aggressive design philosophy appreciable in the track equipped display model, it’s easy to see how even the base Shelby GT500 will be inarguable in its appeal.
While appearing as a natural progression of Mustang styling, it summons instant sense memory of its predecessors. It pays tribute to them. It honors them. Merging the best of yesterday and tomorrow, it’s well deserving of its status as the topic of today. As such, we’re not surprised to find out that so many Mustang enthusiasts felt vindicated in the excitement they’d felt prior to its reveal. This is a Shelby, tried and true, and we for one are glad to have it back.
Have you seen the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 yet? What do you think? We want to know.