So where do you start with all the improvements that Ford has made to the new 2011 Ford Shelby GT-500? Well lets start with the biggest complaint that has befallen the GT-500 since it was introduced, its weight.
The 2011 Shelby GT500 is powered by an all-new aluminum-block 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 engine, which produces 550 horsepower and 510 ft.-lb. of torque, a 10 horsepower increase versus the 2010 model. The engine also is 102 pounds lighter than its predecessor, delivering a better power-to-weight ratio, improved fuel economy, acceleration, handling and steering precision.
In the presentation SVT’s Jamal Hameedi stated that the coupe is about 120 lbs lighter than the 2010 model. While 120 lbs doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of things, it makes all the difference in the front-to-rear balance which is what affects how the car drives and handles. On Ford’s test circuit, the 2011 GT-500 equipped with the SVT package was able to achieve a 3 second faster lap time.
And that engine didn’t just get a metal change in the block. The new engine uses state-of-the-art Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) liner coating, a process that applies a 150-micron composite coating that contains nanoparticles on the internal surfaces of engine cylinder bores, replacing cast-iron liners typically used in aluminum engine blocks.
This is the first Ford application of the technology, and it offers improved overall performance and durability, along with functional benefits of reduced friction between piston rings and cylinder bores, improved heat transfer due to increased surface contact area and a weight savings of 8.5 pounds compared to a typical steel-sleeved aluminum block.
The new engine also has its roots in the iconic Ford GT. The new 5.4-liter engine is an evolution of the GT engine, with improved block structure through the use of a unique bulkhead chilled process and six-bolt billet main bearing caps. This new advanced engine will exceed Ford GT performance with its traditional supercharger technology.
The 2011 Shelby GT500 combines power and fuel economy into one impressive package. This 2011 Shelby GT500 will be the first modern Shelby without the gas guzzler tax, thanks to the EPA-projected 23 mpg highway and 15 mpg city it will deliver. This is up from 22 mpg highway and 14 mpg city for the 2010 model. The 5.4-liter V-8 achieves 80 percent of its torque between 1,750 and 6,250 rpm, giving the car a higher level of performance feel. A larger two-row intercooler for the supercharger system has 40 percent more cooling capacity, helping to make power more consistent in higher ambient conditions. This all amounts to the elimination of the gas guzzler tax for the GT-500 which is a significant measure.
The big news besides the engine and weight improvements is the new optional SVT Performance Package. The SVT Performance Package features the first application of the all-new Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G: 2, a tire that offers superb dry traction and precise handling, complete with a high-performance tread compound with more grip. SVT engineers worked directly with Goodyear to develop the new compound, and it’s only available on the 2011 Shelby GT500. The tire is unidirectional, corner-specific – meaning the directional tread must match its specific location.
“We wanted to couple the improved weight distribution and the improved handling of the vehicle with the new tire, and with that offer the customer one of the most advanced summer tires from a manufacturer,” said Jamal Hameedi, SVT chief nameplate engineer. “That led us down a road to the new tire. It’s instantly recognizable with an all-new tread pattern and construction.”
As a result of the increased tire performance, the chassis was tuned to respond more like a race car. The front and rear shocks were also tuned, adding control to work better with the chassis and tire. The front springs are 20.5 percent stiffer than the base, and the rear springs are 9.5 percent stiffer, continuing an SVT performance tuning direction of adding more stiffness in the front and keeping the rear softer to aid acceleration traction. Roll stiffness also helps control cornering while on the track.
Nineteen-inch forged-aluminum wheels in the front, which are 4.7 pounds lighter than the base Shelby GT500’s, complement the all-new wider 265/40R-19 front tires. New 20-inch forged-aluminum wheels at the rear are 2.8 pounds lighter than the standard 19-inch wheel, and the new 3.73 rear axle ratio takes advantage of the new larger rear wheels and tires.
A lowered ride height of 11 millimeters in front and 8 millimeters at the rear improves handling and gives the car an even sportier attitude. High-temperature dry shaft center bearing bushing and shifter bushings – which are also on the base Shelby – ensure that no matter how hot the conditions get, the car will still perform at its best.
A unique rear spoiler Gurney Flap was developed for increased rear downforce and improves handling balance in high-speed corners. Introduced by racing legend Dan Gurney nearly 40 years ago, the flap is essentially a tunable element on a low-drag spoiler. Front downforce has been increased 25 percent through improved cooling pack sealing and a new front underbody closeout panel. Grippy bushing stabilizer bars provide improved roll stiffness.
Even with the stiffer springs, lower ride heights and increased damping, the ride remains very compliant, and the car can be easily driven on everyday roads due to SVT’s chassis tuning philosophy.
Design cues are added to set the package apart from the base Shelby GT500. The over-the-top stripes are narrower, and the stripes on the shift knob were removed. The performance shocks also are painted red to further differentiate the package. “This car has great handling and dramatically improved performance, and that should come out in better lap times and improved braking,” said Zinkosky.
Other running changes include slotted brake dust shields that improve brake cooling by about 50%, a new pedal box that improves clutch and pedal efforts, even more. Overall road noise is reduced by 20 percent versus the 2010 Shelby due to additional sound-deadening material on either side of the instrument panel, additional sound absorption behind interior trim panels, and a rear wheel arch liner to reduce noise on gravel or wet surfaces.
The Shelby GT500 convertible model features enhanced structural rigidity, with lateral stiffness improved by 12 percent versus the 2010 model. The V-brace has been stiffened by adding gussets. The secondary crossmember also has been stiffened, while a front Z-brace has been added, connecting primary and secondary crossmembers. A-pillar stiffening foam has been added to increase rigidity.
The structural improvements to the convertible gave SVT the opportunity to be more sport-oriented in the chassis tuning, without trading comfort. Along with the chassis and structural improvements, the 2011 model also will get standard 19-inch aluminum wheels.
“One of the biggest changes for this Shelby is that the convertible acts and feels like a coupe,” said Jamal Hameedi, SVT chief nameplate engineer. “Before, they had a very different character, and the convertible is taking a big step in the sportiness and handling precision area, without degrading the ride.”
GT500 gets a new exhaust for 2011 too, roaring with an even more aggressive sound than the 2010 model. The 2.75-inch exhaust with all-new tuning helped to deliver the additional 10 horsepower. On the standard features and options lists, the 2011 GT-500 gets more to love too. New for 2011 is an optional glass roof, providing customers with a less expensive option than a convertible and without compromising the coupe’s versatility, headroom or climate-controlled environment. This was also a benefit to the new structural rigidity enhancements.