Our Kona Blue test vehicle was loaded with the optional SVT Performance Pack and the electronics package, which adds navigation, and was priced at an MSRP of $55,537. The Performance Pack includes newly designed Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 rubber, which SVT engineers worked hand-in-hand with Goodyear to develop specifically for the GT500. The Performance Pack also adds optional 19-inch front wheels and 20s in the rear. Tires check in at 265/40R19s and 285/35R20s respectively. The newly designed Eagles add to the GT500's sure-footedness on the street, road course, and dragstrip.
In addition to the improved rolling stock, the Performance Pack adds thinner stripes and the aforementioned 3.73 gear ratio for better acceleration.
The heart and soul of the '11 GT500 is a redesigned all-aluminum, 5.4L modular powerplant. Derived from the aluminum bullet found in the Ford GT supercar, the GT500's new mod mill plays host to a slew of technological advancements. Ford-patented Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) cylinder-liners replace the cast-iron sleeves used in other aluminum blocks.
The PTWA coating is a 150-micron-thick layer, which is applied using electricity to create a 35,000-degree plasma jet. Steel wire is melted by the plasma jet and fed into a rotating spray gun; then blown onto the cylinder walls, which have been specially machined to accept the coating. As the coating is applied, the melted steel wire oxidizes and creates a composite coating of iron and iron oxide. This coating reduces friction between the cylinder walls and piston rings, and saves 8.5 pounds over traditional cast-iron sleeves.
The aluminum block, coupled with the weight savings from the PTWA liners, offers a weight reduction of 102 pounds over the '10's cast-iron equivalent. Shedding over 100 pounds from the nose contributes to the rest of the improvements made to the '11 GT500. Fuel economy, acceleration, handling, and steering precision are all affected by the improved power-to-weight ratio.
"Cutting weight to improve performance is a tradition among hot rodders," adds Carroll Shelby, founder of Shelby American. "It might not be as sexy as adding horsepower or bigger brakes, but shaving pounds is the single smartest move you can make."
The SVT engineers paid close attention to improving the handling of the '11 GT500. One of the most significant improvements came in the form of Electric Power Assist Steering. The EPAS system makes driving the GT500 an absolute pleasure. The near-effortless steering while stopped and/or at low speeds makes tight maneuvering a breeze, while the increased weight (or feel) from the steering system at speed gives you an amazing feeling of precision and control. The EPAS, combined with the sticky Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 tires, allows you to navigate through serious twisties with the utmost confidence.
Additional changes to the GT500's suspension included lowering the ride height 11mm in the front and 8mm in the rear to improve its corner-carving ability and add a sportier feel on the street.
The extreme performance and abundant power are apparent when you let out the clutch. There is more than enough power for any situation on the street. The ride quality is firm, yet comfortable, and the growl of the supercharged mod motor is subtle but healthy under throttle application. The feeling of being planted in the seat combined with the tone of the exhaust creates an assault on senses.
Acceleration is quick and smooth, but the amazing part about the GT500 is its refinement and comfort level. There is nothing terrifying about using all 550 hp. The power gets to the ground rather efficiently and isn't quick to annihilate the tires (of course with 550 hp, smokey burnouts are not hard to achieve).