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Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

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By Scott Burgess / The Detroit News

The first 100 miles in a 2008 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 only takes about an hour.

Pretty simple math to figure out how fast it goes.

But it's an easy equation when you're goosing this supercharged V-8.

I've tried to wrangle the GT500 before, wrestling it like a modern day cowboy breaking a bull. Its power feels raw and unbridled.

But unlike a steer, I'm not sure if the GT500 will ever be broken. It's the one Mustang I would never loan to a friend. They might not be able to handle it.

And therein lies the fun of getting behind the wheel of the GT500. You never know if this cruise will be your last. If any car offered fear as the standard emotion, it would have to be one with a deadly snake on its grille.

The GT500 puts you to work. When you put it through the paces, driving it hard into turns, opening it up on the highway, it requires your complete attention. When you hop in this car, turn off your cell phone. Disconnect your Blackberry. Just drive.

First, there's the 500-horsepower engine. On the highway, even at 80 mph you can drop the six-speed manual transmission from sixth to third and it will launch like Carroll Shelby at LeMans.

The namesake of the GT500 continues to play a role with this beast. The car is a collaboration between Ford Motor Co.'s Special Vehicle Team, aka SVT, and Shelby Automobiles Inc. in Las Vegas.

The GT500 begins its life in Flat Rock, built along the line of other lesser Mustangs. But the GT500 takes on a whole different look. The front end bulges, as if the 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 had to be crammed under the hood with a crowbar. Adding to this Cobra's venomous looks are the set of heat extractors on the hood, the big splitter below the bumper and the slanting high intensity discharge headlamps.

The extra wide LeMans stripe continues over the coupe's body all the way back to the oversized spoiler attached to the rear deck lid. The spoiler is so big that when you look out the car's rearview mirror, you want to hop out and make sure the trunk isn't open.

But it's the guttural rumble that people notice most. When you take off, and that high pitched supercharger kicks in, there's a burst of power that can take your breath away.

The toughest part of taming this ride is trying not to push the gas too hard. The clutch is firm and if you tip in the accelerator too quickly, you'll feel the traction control fight the 480-pound-feet of torque that wants to spin the wheels like a top. It takes a little time adjusting to the GT500's clutch to find the groove to blast off.

The power, however, extracts a price. The big engine may come with an EPA gas mileage of 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, but I drove it the way it was supposed to be driven (meaning hard and fast), so I was never close to those numbers, averaging 13 mpg.

There's one thing I didn't like about the GT500. The smooth transmission felt more like it was designed with fuel efficiency than performance. When wanting a little extra boost, I often dropped two gears instead of one to push the engine closer to its power curve -- which is why I ended up with lower- than-normal mileage numbers.

But it was fun, and I was willing to pay for it (or at least expense it).

The ride is stiff but was never too firm for a highway cruise. The solid rear axle does cause slight panic on any turn where you try to accelerate and touch a seam or bump. The whole back end jumps and then powers through it.

Inside, the GT500 is as comfortable as any Mustang. The seats sit low and the bigger hood cuts into your view slightly, but not dramatically. There's plenty of room to stretch in the front. The second row, however, only seats two people, two very small people at that.

There's a simplicity inside the GT500 that I enjoy. My test model included a navigation system and straight forward controls on the center stack.

This car was made for driving. I could fiddle with the 500-watt stereo or play with the programmable interior lighting (there are seven colors to select through) or sit and admire the satin aluminum trim inside the cabin, but all of those are distractions.

This beautiful car is only truly appreciated when sitting in the driver's seat as you brace for the next downshift


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