Obviously the future is here. It would be easy for SVT to rest on the laurels of the new styling and myriad improvements offered by the SN10 platform upgrades, but the most compelling improvements are under the new GT500, in the suspension and steering systems. While engineers obviously borrowed from the KR and increased the spring rate, damping, and pitch sensitivity to give the car more control, they also took some of the plush and assist out of the steering, so the car not only does a better job getting around the corners, it also does a better job communicating what it's doing to the driver.
"We focused most on improving the steering and dry handling attributes because they are the ones that matter most to the customer," says Andrew Vrenko, vehicle dynamics engineer. "We wanted to give the steering more feel, and have the car really feel as if it's more connected to the road."
Quite simply, they succeeded, as this car was a joy to drive over the two days of twisty roads and race tracks, but nowhere were the upgrades more readily apparent than on the figure-eight autocross we put the car through. I already knew that the AdvanceTrac electronic stability control could make even me look like a hero in the Mustang GT, and that was just as apparent in the GT500. However, this GT500 left behind any hints of the wallowing, pushing front end of the last generation.
The '10 will still plow at the edge if you drive it like a maniac, but when driven with control, it's so calm and tossable that even I could post a respectable time on the figure eight. If only an '09 car was there to quantify that there really is no comparison. Engineers report that in addition to tweaking the springs and dampers, they stiffened the chassis and reduced the ride height. "What we came out with is a chassis that feels more controlled and reacts faster," Kerry explains. I can assure you, he's not kidding.
Perhaps more impressive to me is that the car seems to carry even more of an edge than the KR it learned so much from. Where the KR impressed me with its superb balance of handling and ride quality, the '10 GT500 skews that tuning more toward the handling end of the spectrum. After years of driving lowered Fox Mustangs, our tolerance for a rough ride is higher than most. It's not that the car beats you up, but it does talk to your backside a bit more over uneven pavement. I'd gladly trade that for the huge leap in handling, but I'm sure the car will get beat up by IRS lovers because of it. However, the beauty of this car is that it doesn't try to be something it's not. It's a high-performance car--period.
There's another side to that story, however, and it's in a straight line. Ford's official quarter-mile time is a 12.5 at 116 mph, but engineers confide that when everything clicks on a sticky track, they occasionally see times as low as a 12.1. For a change, we actually had a dragstrip available at a press event, which was way cool. Sadly, there was a stiff headwind, a slippery track, and, in my case, a bad driver. I only managed a 13.0 pass but that was with the traction control off. Doing this on the slippery track with a heat-soaked car wasn't the best recipe. A press type on the next wave managed a 12.3. We have no doubt a skilled driver will put this thing in the 11s in stock form, though at higher launch rpm the familiar wheelhop seemed one of the few carryovers from the previous model.
I certainly hope to get another crack at this car, but I think you have to admit that a solid-axle was the move in a car capable of 11-second quarters. Just wait till you maniacs start putting on sticky tires and turning up the wick. That these cars will be quarter-mile animals is no surprise to us, but as you can tell by now, the '10 GT500 is no longer just a lumbering musclecar built for plush street drives and quarter-mile blasts. It's a do-it-all dynamo capable of everything from commuting to corner-carving to quarter-miling, and it leaves me with few complaints.
Actually manufactured by a...
Actually manufactured by a billiard-ball company, the striped shift knob ties in the traditional H-pattern logo with the dual-striped goodness of the '10 GT500, in a comfortable package that doesn't hold in the temperature, so it's not too hot or too cold to the touch like a metal ball. Besides, it's tough to carve stripes into a metal shift ball. The boot on both the shifter and parking brake handler are also Alcantara and look great. Surprisingly, the shifter doesn't seem as smooth as the KR unit, but it's actuated with that smooth new clutch, which is guarded by an ominous sounding "clutch protection strategy" in the Spanish Oak.
Not only is the new steering...
Not only is the new steering wheel beautiful, but it's amazingly functional. From the comfortable feel of the Alcantara suede grips to the convenient functionality of the steering wheel controls for the A/V system the new wheel offers an appropriate way to harness the potential of the car. Better yet, it is connected to a newly tuned steering system that offers just the right heft and feel for a performance car, where the prior car's steering was a bit over-assisted and light.
A nice surprise and delight...
A nice surprise and delight is this GT500-specific welcome screen that greets you with the time of day. Part of the Electronics Package, this gorgeous head unit does the usual touchscreen navigation, but also controls the dual-zone climate control and offers myriad A/V sources, from DVD video to Sync digital audio player control. It can even rip your CDs to its hard drive so you have tunes when you forget your iPod. It's capable of receiving Sirius XM satellite radio and the company's handy Travel Link service, which delivers info on weather, fuel prices, sports scores, and movie listings.