The 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 boasts 760 horses of supercharged-V-8 mayhem, but it also possesses the athleticism of smaller and lighter sports cars. Those accolades make it the most powerful production car Ford has ever built as well as the most immersive Mustang we’ve ever driven. At the center of the excitement is the Shelby’s supercharged 5.2-liter V-8, which plays a thrilling soundtrack through its bazooka-like exhaust pipes. A manual transmission isn’t available, but the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic operates damn near telepathically. The rear-drive-only coupe also accelerates so tenaciously that it should include a warranty on underwear. The GT500 feels equally thrilling when running down more exotic metal on a racetrack. Sure, it has terrible fuel economy and costs a lot for a Mustang–especially with the exorbitantly priced Carbon Fiber Track package–but the 2021 Shelby GT500 is a magnificent muscle car and a phenomenal sports car.
What’s New for 2021?
With Ford ending production of the Shelby GT350, that leaves the 2021 GT500 as the only Mustang to bear the Cobra snake badge. However, there are no significant changes for the latest model year.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The 2021 Shelby GT500 isn’t only the most powerful Mustang—it’s also the most expensive. While its maximum performance potential is unlocked with the Carbon Fiber Track Pack (20-inch carbon-fiber wheels, aerodynamic add-ons, stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, and other weight-saving measures), that package costs $18,500–roughly 25 percent of its base price. Even without all that hardware, we’re still extremely impressed with the GT500, so we’d recommend only a few options. The Handling package allows front suspension adjustments and adds improved aero with splitter wickers and a Gurney flap. The available Recaro front seats don’t have power adjustments or heated and cooled cushions, but they better match the car’s personality and are comfortable and supportive. Likewise, the exposed carbon-fiber instrument panel trim enhances the Shelby’s cabin quality.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The most powerful engine ever stuffed into a Ford production car lurks behind the Shelby GT500’s menacing mug. Aptly called Predator, the motor is a supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 that summons 760 horsepower and 625 pound-feet of torque. That prodigious power twists the rear wheels through a clairvoyant seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (sorry, the mightiest Mustang isn’t offered with a manual transmission). We’ve tested a GT500 with its standard summer tires as well as the ultra-sticky rubber offered with the Carbon Fiber Track package, which includes 20-inch carbon-fiber wheels. The latter was part of a comparison test with the 650-hp Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE and 797-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. While during testing the Shelby’s base wheel-and-tire setup actually provided better acceleration (hitting 60 mph in 3.4 seconds versus 3.6), the upgraded rolling stock contributed to higher cornering grip (1.13 g versus 0.99) and a shorter stop from 70 mph (142 feet versus 150). Optimized for racetrack duty, the Shelby GT500 proved that modern muscle cars can post quicker lap times than more exotic machines, such as the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 and Lamborghini Huracán Evo, at the most recent running of our annual Lightning Lap event. Even when the ultimate Mustang isn’t blasting down drag strips or terrorizing six-figure sports cars at the track, it makes daily driving extra exciting with its soil-your-shorts acceleration and surprisingly agile handling, considering its two-ton curb weight. Despite its racy demeanor, the GT500’s standard adaptive dampers provide a merciful ride quality, too.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Shelby GT500’s 760-hp V-8 is the antithesis of fuel efficiency. The government estimates that it’ll earn a measly 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. That’s less than the Camaro ZL1 and Challenger SRT Hellcat; they’re EPA-rated at 13/21 mpg city/highway and 13/22 mpg city/highway, respectively. The GT500 did average 20 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, part of our extensive testing regimen. For more information about the Shelby GT500’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Shelby Mustang’s interior is very similar to that of its mainstream counterpart. Although they share a design and have comparable passenger and cargo space, the GT500 offers options such as carbon-fiber instrument panel trim and more-aggressive, Shelby-specific Recaro front buckets along with a roster of desirable standard features. The latter includes a configurable 12.0-inch fully digital gauge cluster, dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed front seats with heated and cooled cushions, and a six-way power driver’s seat. Shoppers who prefer a more supportive pair of front buckets, albeit without the aforementioned functions, can opt for leather-trimmed Recaros. The Shelby’s standard aluminum dashboard trim can also be swapped for a piece made of exposed carbon fiber. Those looking to save extra weight can delete the rear seats, but that requires the extremely expensive Carbon Fiber Track package.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The infotainment system in the Shelby GT500 is very similar to what’s found in the regular Mustang: an 8.0-inch touchscreen that supports Ford’s Sync 3 software. Along with steering-wheel control and voice commands, the stereo’s volume and tuning functions can be controlled with physical knobs. Thanks, Ford. Desirable standard connectivity features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot. A 12-speaker B&O sound system is available for drivers who want to complement the supercharged V-8’s thundering soundtrack with beats of their own.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
For more information about the Shelby GT500’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Unless you count a powerful braking system and launch control as important driver-assistance technology, the mightiest Mustang offers a very short list of assists. The lone key safety feature is:
- Available blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Ford’s limited and powertrain warranties are the definition of average, but they align with the periods offered by and Dodge and Chevrolet. However, in this group, only the bow-tie brand offers complimentary maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
More Features and Specs