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The Shelby V8

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Justin Pritchard
Hammering down in the most powerful V8 on the road
The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 burbles startlingly to life after that extra second of cranking that says something angry is about to awaken. The machine announces itself with a drawn-out snort and series of pops and crackles as spent fuel fills its big exhaust plumbing and fist-sized tailpipes.

The sound makes enthusiasts laugh gutturally and mutter expletives under their breath. I saw a few throw their arms into the air and toss their heads back, staggering a moment, as if they'd just been blessed by the gods of horsepower, boost and high octane, tire-vaporizing awesomeness.

2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 front 3/4 view
Photo: S├ębastien D'Amour

It's what you'd expect from the most powerful production V8 on the road. Ford's new 5.8L unit has an Eaton supercharger the size of a Civic's engine jammed between a set of cylinder heads as wide as Brock Lesnar. Output levels smash any number of exotics costing 3-to-4 times as much.

662 horsepower, if you're wondering.

Putting these to work is an experience unparalleled in its ability to launch drivers into a world of fearsome, nearly terrifying acceleration and noise.

Easing off the sensitive, grabby clutch with just a few revs on the tachometer causes the GT500 to leap ahead as if its leash were being held too tightly. Even a slight reduction in clutch-pedal pressure transmits enough torque rearwards to scrub the tires.

Stand on the rightmost pedal, and the nose lifts sharply as the rear end squats and squirms about for traction. The acceleration squeezes the air from your lungs right away, and the rocket-booster levels of thrust could make your favourite church-going aunt drop an F-bomb before the supercharger even gets into its game.

All the while, the rumbling exhaust sounds flood and saturate the cabin thickly, overlapped by a sharp "zing" from the twin-screw blower as it comes into play about halfway to the 7,000 rpm redline.

There's no lag. No waiting for a turbo to kick in. No anticipation of a trick variable valve timing system to ramp up engine power. Hammer down, and the GT500 simply blasts towards the horizon, steadily and linearly, immediately sucking occupants into their seats. It's as if the gas pedal is attached to one end of a pulley system that connects the Shelby with the horizon ahead. It goes "right now."

Long gears (we're talking over 100 km/h in first) mean acceleration comes long and hard and with vast amounts of pavement consumed before an upshift is required.

Said upshifting creates a brief moment of silence and zero gravity as cogs are swapped -- followed by another body-check into your seat and more lusty, throaty, whining sounds flooding the cabin once the clutch is released. An interesting abruptness.

2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 engine
Photo: S├ębastien D'Amour

So, it's fast as all bloody hell. And much of the experience is wasted on roads with speed limits. You'll wish the 360 km/h speedometer and tachometer had demerit points and dollar signs, instead of velocities and revs. This car will do to your license what Panda Express's Kung Pao chicken does to a digestive system: annihilation.

However, for speed freaks and bragging-rights enthusiasts, this Shelby Mustang Cobra offers an extremely cost-effective way to use your rich buddy's Ferrari, Aston Martin or AMG as a chew toy.

Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert