The current Ford Mustang is arguably the best all-around model to wear the pony badge since the car’s introduction 52 years ago. From the EcoBoost four-cylinder model to the Shelby GT350, it excels in virtually everything it does. And speaking of the Shelby, not only is it impressively powerful – the most powerful naturally-aspirated V8 in America – it also carves corners and handles a track well enough to keep Porsche owners up at night. But at the end of the day, the Mustang is a muscle car, we’re living through the fiercest muscle car horsepower war since Nixon was president, and the Ford is beginning to fall behind.
The 2013-’14 Shelby GT500 was a feat in itself, with the 660 horsepower and 662 pound-feet of torque from its 5.8 liter supercharged V8 rocketing the car to a top speed of 202 miles per hour. But in many ways, this GT500 was an old-school Mustang. It had a solid rear axle just like a 1965 model, and with all that power, it was a handful to handle even in a straight line, even if it was an improvement over earlier cars. Since then, Fiat Chrysler has thrown down the gauntlet with the 707 horsepower Hellcat cars, and Chevy has just released details on the supercharged Camaro ZL1, which is tuned for the track, cranks out 650 horsepower, and will arrive at dealerships with a relatively sane $62K price tag.
So for Ford, focusing on pure, straight-line speed isn’t going to cut it anymore. And we don’t think it’s a coincidence that right after Chevy announced info for the ZL1, a GT500 test mule was spotted in the wild around Detroit. As you can see from the camouflaged front end and rear deck, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the car, which will likely be the most powerful production Mustang – if not Ford – of all time. But here are the things we do:
1. It will be powered by Voodoo
The GT350’s ace up its sleeve is the 5.2 liter flat-plane crank V8 known as the “Voodoo,” thanks to its downright spooky characteristics. Aside from its distinctive rasp, the flat-plane crank – a technology more common in endurance racers than production cars – allows the engine to rev to an astonishingly high 8,250 RPMs. Now here’s where it gets interesting: At 526 horsepower and 426 pound-feet of torque, the Voodoo is the most powerful naturally-aspirated engine Ford has ever built. By adding a supercharger like on the old GT500, or a twin-turbo unit like on the Le Mans-winning GTs, the sky’s the limit. Some predict power will be as high as 800 horses; we’d be shocked if the ’17 GT500 cranked out anything less than 700.
2. It will go at least 200 miles per hour
This is almost a given. The ’14 GT500 weighed 3,900 pounds, but got out of its own way quick enough to hit 60 from a dead stop in 3.5 seconds on the way to its 202 mile per hour terminus. The current GT350 may be down on power compared to that car, but it also weighs about 100 pounds less. Even with a bigger mill, and various upgrades to handle all that power, we don’t expect there to be any big weight penalty over the last model, just a lot more power. Plan on the next GT500 shattering the old car’s 202 mile per hour top speed, and smoke it in zero to 60 and quarter-mile sprints too.
3. It’s loud
We love the GT350’s engine note, and with the recent spy video, it sounds like we’re about to be treated to a new symphony of sound from Ford. The forced-induction GT500 not only sounds different from the naturally-aspirated GT350, it sounds even more unhinged – and that’s no small feat. If you’re looking for new and inventive ways to make the neighbors hate you, a GT500 is probably the best way to do it.
4. It’ll be able to take a corner
Part of what’s made this current Mustang feel like a revelation is its fully-independent suspension, an innovation that became commonplace sometime in the early ’70s, and only took Ford about 45 years to buy into for its ponycar. The current GT350s – especially the GT350R – are some of the best track-focused bargains on the market at $55,595 (and just over $63K for the R). Sure, the GT500 will have a lot more power on tap, but we expect it to channel a lot of the GT350’s handling prowess in the twisties. Time was, the corners were the only chance for less powerful cars to outrun brutes like this. Those days may soon be over.
5. Supercar power, affordable price tag
So we’re looking at a cutting-edge, track ready, possibly 800 horsepower, 200-plus mile per hour Mustang coming just over the horizon. How much is this thing going to cost? Well, looking at the competition, probably not as much as you might think. The GT350R starts at $63K, the Camaro ZL1 starts at $62K, the Challenger Hellcat’s base is $62K, and the four-door Charger’s is nearly $66K. The last GT500 started well under $60K, but we expect it to be pricier than this current crop of tire-roasters, if only by a few thousand more. A good indicator is the last-generation Z/28 Camaro, a track-focused (albeit “only” 505 horsepower) corner-carver that started at $73K. The Z/28 is a thing of the past for now, but with the GT500 on the way, we don’t expect Chevy or Dodge to stay quiet for long. What a time to be alive.