What is it?
A revised 2010 version of the range-topping retro Mustang GT500.
Externally the GT500 gets a few minor tweaks to the classic Mustang shape, most notably an even larger bonnet bulge, larger wheels and twin racing stripes.
The theme continues inside (there are stripes on the seats and the gearlever), and elsewhere the cabin has been improved with better materials and a streamlined design.
Mechanically the GT500 uses the same 5.4-litre supercharged V8 as before, but with power increased to 540bhp and torque to 510lb ft. That matches the specification of the limited-edition GT500KR (King of the Road).
While Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) has also honed the suspension settings, this hasn’t extended to replacing the Mustang’s archaic live axle rear suspension.
What’s it like?
Rudimentary but entertaining. On the occasions when it’s possible to transmit the power to the rear wheels the GT500 is massively fast – perhaps not 540bhp fast, but certainly quick enough.
It also sounds sensational. Whereas a VXR8 Bathurst is all supercharger whine, the GT500 is more about the V8 warble. And when you back off the throttle it pops gently on the overrun. The trouble is, even with the assistance of a two-stage ESP system, the GT500 will break traction incredibly easily - although, to an extent, that adds to the sense of occasion.
For such a muscle car, the transmission is surprisingly easy to live with. The clutch action is light and the gearshift precise and mechanical without being cumbersome. Broadly speaking, this is the same unit used in the Corvette, except that the action is significantly more satisfying in this application. One contributing factor is the wonderfully tactile classic white billiard ball gearknob.
In other respects the cabin is a small but significant step forward. By the standards of most European cars, fit and finish is still poor, but with a decent touch-screen sat-nav and stereo and some consistency in the design, the Mustang is now just about acceptable. Ford has also added ‘mood lighting’ - which would be fine, except that the ‘mood’ Ford plumped for is best described as ‘provincial nightclub’.
In handling terms the GT500 has always been entertaining but basic, and this latest version isn’t going to change that summary. It is improved - there is now more steering feel and better body control - but by the standards of modern sports cars the GT500 lacks sophistication. Likewise, the ride is slightly smoother, but that rear axle still struggles with our bumpy roads.
None of this stops the GT500 from being enjoyable to drive. If you’ve got enough space to play with, it is frankly hysterical, but you do need to be of a certain mindset.
Should I buy one?
That depends on what you are looking for. Technically the Porsche Cayman and BMW M3 are much more accomplished cars, and there are many others we’d recommend before the Mustang.