2015 Shelby GT Street and Track Drive
More Than the Sum of Its Ford Racing Parts
What do you do when the boss asks you to spend your weekend flogging Shelby American’s latest creation on a racetrack? You cancel any plans and drive 277 miles from the Motor Trend headquarters to Shelby’s Las Vegas production facility. Especially when the public relations manager calls you en route to ask if you want to meet the Shelby staff at 8 a.m. Saturday to drive the yellow 2015 Shelby GT test car nearly 60 miles from the shop to Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club outside of Pahrump, Nevada.
The 2015 Shelby GT is a 2015 Ford Mustang GT turned up past 11, created in conjunction with Ford Racing. The 2015 Shelby GT was developed as a complete car rather than an add-on package, according to Shelby. We spent time behind the wheel of the new Shelby GT on the streets and at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park to verify these claims.
A Ford Racing/Roush 2.3-liter TVS supercharger and a Ford Racing/Borla exhaust topped off with unique Shelby tips boost the 2015 Ford Mustang GT’s 435-hp, 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 to 627 hp and 514 lb-ft of torque. In order to put the newfound power to the wheels, Shelby adds a Ford Racing short-throw shifter (still in development and not installed on our testers), and the rearend has been upgraded with a 3.73 gear ratio and Ford Racing performance half-shafts.
Weld Racing provides the Shelby Venice wheels, size 20-by-9.5-inch front and 20-by-10.5-inch rear, wrapped in Michelin performance tires, 275/35ZR20 and 305/30ZR20, respectively. The meaty treads help put the power down in a straight line and in the corners. The Ford Racing handling pack with revamped dampers, springs, and anti-roll bars further improves handling. A set of Wilwood six-piston front brake calipers and four-piston rear calipers brings the supercharged pony to a halt.
Styling upgrades include new aerodynamic bits made of carbon fiber, such as a hood with functional air intakes and heat extractor vents, a front splitter, a decklid spoiler, and a two-piece rear diffuser. Nonfunctional styling pieces include a carbon-fiber hood extension, rocker panels, decklid applique, and mirror covers. The yellow test car featured unpainted carbon fiber, but the red photo car featured painted carbon-fiber bits. The 2015 Shelby GT also comes with the requisite Shelby striping and badging outside and inside as well as a triple gauge dash pod to keep an eye on engine parameters and supercharger boost.
With the stock clutch (and shifter), the yellow 2015 Shelby GT was a breeze to drive in light Saturday morning traffic on the way out of Las Vegas. In fact, the clutch was much easier to modulate stoplight to stoplight than the one in the 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra SVT I owned in college. The supercharger whine and gurgle from the Borla exhaust grabbed as much attention as the bright paintwork and contrasting carbon-fiber bits.
Although I drove the yellow car out to Spring Mountain Motor, my first stint on the track was behind the wheel of a factory-stock 2015 Ford Mustang GT with the six-speed automatic. Why? Because the crew at Shelby wanted me to get a feel for the difference between a stock Mustang GT and the Shelby GT and because until that point the only 2015 Mustang I had driven was the EcoBoost with six-speed automatic. Being an automatic car (both Shelby GT testers had the six-speed manual), this particular base Mustang GT wasn’t fitted with the GT Performance Package and rode on 235/50ZR18 tires. Why didn’t Shelby have a manual-equipped Mustang GT with the Performance Package for the comparison? This car will be used as the prototype for the automatic-equipped 2015 Shelby GT. Fair enough.
The road course at Spring Mountain Motorsports (home of the Ron Fellows Chevrolet Corvette Performance Driving School) features more than 6 miles of track and can be configured in more than 50 different ways. Our time was spent on the west end of the track on a 1.5-mile long course that included a variety of left and right turns as well as a fairly tight S-turn.
My first several laps behind the wheel of the stock Mustang GT were used to familiarize myself with the track and the car. After getting down what I thought was the driving line, I hopped into the passenger seat of the black Shelby GT for a track lesson from Vince LaViolette, senior designer and head of R&D at Shelby American. Talk about a rush. LaViolette not only showed me the track’s actual race line but also the true potential of Shelby’s latest creation. After several laps with LaViolette, we traded seats while he gave me pointers on how to get around the track quicker lap after lap.
With my times improving as the day went on, I switched into the yellow Shelby GT I drove to the track. That car features the optional caster/camber plates that were dialed in for track duty with more front caster and more negative camber. Despite a seemingly small change, the yellow Shelby GT was noticeably more confidence-inspiring than the black Shelby GT, which was already on another level than the stock Mustang GT.
After driving both Shelby GTs on the track, I climbed back into the stock Mustang GT to see how much better I could do with the stock car now that I was more familiar with the track. My second stint in the Mustang GT was much improved, but I could now better understand the limitations of the stock vehicle. Besides having nearly 200 fewer hp than the Shelby GT, the stock Mustang had noticeably less powerful braking capability. Further, the front tires would give out, and the car would begin to push in the corners.
In comparison, the Shelby models begged to be driven hard on the straights and through the corners with the rowdy Borla exhaust proudly announcing throttle position, whether under wide-open throttle or lifting and braking through the curves. The wider and stickier front tires never gave out, and the fat rear wheels were able to put down all 627 hp on the back straight. Top speed before the braking zone was around 95 mph on the automatic-equipped stock Mustang GT; the Shelby GTs were able to reach past 115 mph. Not only were the Shelbys able to exit the corner leading up to the straight faster, but the more powerful engine also accelerated the cars quicker, and the Wilwood brakes allowed the car to carry more speed farther into the braking zone.
After three stints in each of the three cars, the lapping session came to an end for the day. The next day, however, I was able to sample a stock 662-hp 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 back-to-back-to-back with both 2015 Shelby GT models. Like the previous day, I took the GT500 out first to familiarize myself with the car before hopping back into the Shelby GTs. After driving the black and the yellow Shelby GTs, I hopped back into the GT500 for another session.
The differences between the Ford Shelby GT500 and the Shelby GT are drastic. The Shelby GT is powered by an all-aluminum, 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 topped with a Ford Racing supercharger, and the GT500 is powered by a supercharged, 5.8-liter Modular V-8 with aluminum heads and block. Both engines are backed by a six-speed manual gearbox. Based on the 2015 Ford Mustang, the 2015 Shelby GT also features an independent rearend with a limited-slip differential and upgraded 3.73 gear ratio. The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 has a solid rear axle with a Torsen differential and 3.31 gear ratio. The Shelby GT wears 275/35ZR20 and 305/30ZR20 tires front and rear, and the GT500 has 265/40ZR19 and 285/35ZR20 tires front and rear.
With the heavy iron engine block over the front end and the solid axle out back, the GT500 is a handful on the track. The Shelby GT carves through the corners, but the GT500 is more of a point-and-shoot car. Despite having 35 more hp and 114 more lb-ft, the GT500’s powerband and rearend gear ratio make it feel lazier to rev than the Shelby GT. In fact, on the back straight, the GT500 was only able to hit 105 mph while still solidly in third gear, whereas the Shelby GT was able to do more than 115 mph in the same spot. And that was even after bouncing off the rev limiter at the top of third gear and then standing on the brakes and downshifting for the corner shortly after grabbing fourth gear. (Those wanting to spend any significant time on the track in their Shelby GT will want to invest in a shift light.)
The Shelby GT’s more balanced suspension setup also allowed it to come off the last turn before the straight at a much higher speed than the GT500. Additionally, the GT500’s brakes were less confident, and the rear end constantly seemed to be on the verge of stepping out at any given moment, especially through the turns. Although not nearly as fast as the GT500, the stock 2015 Mustang GT felt better balanced and more communicative than the blown solid axle car.
With the upcoming Ford Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R aimed to succeed the Boss 302 and Boss 302 Laguna Seca as the Blue Oval’s track-oriented Mustangs, Ford has yet to announce a successor to the Shelby GT500. The new Shelby GT could be just the answer. Some may argue about the difference in price between the now-defunct GT500 and the new Shelby GT, but the pricing isn’t as wide as one might think. Although the GT500 is out of production, the configurator for the 2014 Mustang is still live on Ford’s consumer site. A loaded 2014 Ford Shelby GT500 costs $71,159. But for $64,020, a 2014 GT500 could have been picked up with just the performance upgrades (SVT Performance Pack, SVT Track Pack, Recaro seats).
The 2015 Shelby GT adds $39,995 on top of the cost of a 2015 Ford Mustang GT. A base Ford Mustang GT with the six-speed manual starts at $31,125, which means a 2015 Shelby GT starts at $67,120 before (factory or Shelby) options. Not bad for a more track-capable car with a wider and sticker wheel and tire combo, Wilwood brakes, and a better suspension starting point. Oh, and don’t forget about all the real carbon-fiber bits and Ford Racing powertrain and suspension upgrades.
Hopefully we can get a 2015 Shelby GT to the Motor Trend headquarters to put it through our standard battery of tests to get concrete acceleration, handling, and braking numbers.