2007 Shelby GT500 vs 2006 Corvette

Chevrolet Corvette verses Ford MustangFor decades the Mustang and Camaro have held a bitter rivalry, with each side competing to be America’s #1 ponycar. This battle raged back and forth spanning multiple generations of bodystyles, with dominance changing hands nearly every time. Well, the Camaro is no longer around (although it’s rumored), so Car and Driver published a comparison test between the 2007 Shelby GT500 and the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette.

Below is taken from their test of the GT500. It’s unfortunate they rated the Corvette higher, and even more disappointing that the GT500 didn’t perform well at all. Still though, $43k (if you can get it for that) is still a hell of a bargain for 500 horsepower.

2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 

The GT500 is at its best on the boulevard, where its decent ride and comfortable interior make it a great place to hang out in between heavy dips into its swollen torque curve.

Rated at a full 500 ponies, the supercharged 5.4-liter DOHC V-8 under its striped hood responds immediately and strongly at any rpm. It feels more responsive at lower revs than the Corvette’s 6.0-liter V-8, which is itself hardly a slouch in the torque department. And if you like supercharger whine, you’ll love the GT500’s soundtrack, but you’d better love it because you can almost always hear the blower.

However, when it comes to pure performance, the GT500 has trouble hanging with the Vette. It prevailed in only two tests, beating the Vette in the lane change by 1.3 mph and outgunning the Chevy in the 50-to-70-mph top-gear acceleration run — 8.8 seconds versus 9.1.

The major reason is the GT500’s weight and how it is distributed. The hardware needed to turn the 5.4-liter DOHC V-8 into a 500-hp monster makes for a long and massive list. There’s the supercharger with its drive pulleys, the intercooler with its pump and water lines. Even the 5.4-liter heavy-duty block weighs more than the 4.6-liter assembly in the Mustang GT. All told, these parts add about 150 pounds to the car — most of it up in the nose. Combine those extra pounds with the GT500’s large brakes, 19-inch wheels and tires, and six-speed transmission, and the result is a porky 3896-pound Mustang.

That adds up to 321 more pounds than the last Mustang GT we tested and a more forward weight bias, degrading from 52.5/47.5 percent to 57.7/42.3 percent.

The Vette is not only 616 pounds lighter but also splits its weight 51.9/48.1 percent front to rear. That more even distribution means more traction off the line, stronger braking, and better handling balance.

At the test track, physics would not be denied. Despite being on tires similar to the Corvette’s in size and specification, the GT500 achieved only 0.90 g on the skidpad, whereas the Vette pulled 0.95 g.

During our brake tests, the GT500 nose-dived dramatically but stopped only a little worse than the Corvette. In our usual 70-mph stop, it needed 172 feet. In a much more punishing 120-mph stop, the GT500 came to a halt in 485 feet. The Vette edged it at 161 and 462 feet, respectively.

What surprised us, however, was the GT500’s loss in the acceleration runs. Its 100-hp advantage should have been enough to leave the Vette in a cloud of rubber dust. The GT500 also has a useful launch-control system that’s part of the standard traction control. To get a nearly perfect hole shot, all you have to do is rev the engine to 3200 rpm, dump the clutch, and floor it. The system automatically modulates engine power to make the driver look like Kenny Bernstein. With it, we hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.

But we were able to go even quicker without it, thanks to the terrifically tractable engine that makes it easy to keep the tires hooked up. Moreover, the Shelby has a programmable shift light and audible chirp to free your eyes from monitoring the 6000-rpm redline on the tach.

Under full human control, we shaved 0.1 second from the 60-mph sprint, lowering it to 4.5 seconds. The quarter-mile required only 12.9 seconds at 112 mph, 150 mph came in 30.3 seconds, and an electronic tether limited top speed to 155 mph.

Although those are terrific numbers, they don’t seem quick enough for a 500-hp car. Sure it weighs a lot, but the last SVT Mustang Cobra we tested [“Rotary Revival,” C/D, April 2003] posted the same quarter-mile time and speed despite a 20-percent-worse power-to-weight ratio (110 fewer horses, 216 fewer pounds). And the BMW M6 tested in this issue [see page 68], which is also rated at 500 horsepower and weighs 12 more pounds than the GT500, ran the quarter in 12.4 seconds at 121 mph. Ford says that its own quarter-mile tests are 0.1 or 0.2 second quicker with 115-mph trap speeds. The 500-hp figure was obtained using the latest SAE-certified test protocol, so it’s unlikely that the GT500 isn’t delivering the promised ponies. Maybe we were off that day.

In any case, the fiberglass wonder from Chevy ripped to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and through the quarter in 12.8 seconds at 113 mph. It was also 3.5 seconds quicker to 150, which is hardly surprising given the Corvette’s sleeker shape and smaller frontal area.

Despite the Ford’s disappointing straight-line acceleration, the GT500 happily bounded around Grattan for several laps. Thanks to its reassuring understeer, the GT500 was rock solid at high speed, confidently carving through the faster white-knuckle parts of the track, with the back end always staying in line. The brakes were also strong, showing hardly any fade, even when slowing from about 130 mph into Turn One. In the slower corners, however, the nose tended to plow too much, making it difficult to apply the power early for a strong exit.

Our best time was 1:33.30, about three seconds slower than the Vette, and it’s hard to forget the GT500’s extra poundage. One tester commented, “I’m always aware of the high center of gravity compared with the Vette’s, and the GT500 really bounds and bobs. But I could spend a day lapping this car and never get bored.”

Astute readers might remember that we lapped Grattan in a Dodge Charger SRT8 in 1:32.65 [“Bahn Burners, Episode 39,” January 2006]. But it had rained hard the night before we ran the GT500 and Corvette, and we’d be willing to bet our own dough that the GT500 would be faster than the Charger if we tested both on the same day.

On the road, the GT500 settles nicely into a relaxed cruise. At posted speeds, its behavior is not at all hot roddish, and the ride is quite subtle for a car festooned with racing stripes. Like the original GT500, the ’07 car feels more like a competent all-arounder than an all-out speed machine. It’s refined and fairly quiet, and the steering has a natural weight to it. The seats are too flat for track use but are fine for long trips. If the clutch effort weren’t so pronounced, the GT500 could be a daily driver.

And it’s always ready for those unexpected stoplight duels with its reliable launch control and light, positive, and accurate shifter.

In the end, we wish this GT500 had more horses to go with its lofty price. The last SVT Cobra only cost $35,000 and was just as quick. We also couldn’t stop thinking about a one-off project Mustang we tested in February 2000, the Ford-built, 3587-pound FR500. With a naturally aspirated 415-hp V-8, it was as fast as this GT500, it felt a whole lot less ponderous, and we loved it. We expected the GT500 to mirror it. It’s close, but it’s still a few hundred pounds away. As four-seaters go, the GT500 is the best bang for your buck around, but for pure performance at the price, there’s a better alternative.