The GT500 comes with bespoke suspension with unique spring, damper and roll bar settings, largely to offset the enormous 212kg weight penalty that the supercharger and gearbox bring relative to the GT350R. Twenty inch wheels are a necessity too as they house 420mm brake discs, the largest ever fitted to a Ford road car.
Nuts, but not in quite the way you might think. With the exhausts set to the rortiest of their four settings, it’s probably the loudest homologated road car I’ve driven. It is the sound of America turned up until the knob breaks off the dial. The acceleration is such that the ridiculous headline numbers actually seem plausible, not least because of the speed with which the gearbox slams through its shifts. This should be an experience so violent, so awe-inducing you might conclude that the only way of dealing with it is to pretend it’s happening to someone else.
But it’s not like that at all, and I’m still wrestling with whether that is a good thing or not. Because, in a straight line, this Mustang is almost too good. Traction is so strong that on but rarely smooth roads you can use all the power even in second gear so long as the road is also clear and empty. And those shifts: they don’t come hand in hand with a punch in the kidneys at all. In fact they’re remarkably smooth.
Which means you can commit in a way I’d not thought likely before I drove it. You just don’t have to worry about the incompetencies of the Mustang’s live axle past coming back to haunt you. We always knew the current car had a well-located rear axle, but you only find out just how good it is when you ask to transfer 625lb ft of torque to an uneven surface.
It is similarly unscary in the corners. It understeers mildly, but, if you lift and then use the engine’s almost limitless reserves to neutralise it, the car never snaps; it just neutralises its line and carries you on your way. Unfortunately, though, the car feels every one of its 1892kg. There is very little in the way of steering feel and, while you can trust it to get very near your aiming point when you pitch it into a quick curve, with all that mass to control and springs set so the car actually rides reasonably well, the damping has its hands full just getting you in the ballpark.
So this Mustang is better than simply a blunt weapon, but it is not a precision instrument or even close. It’s fabulously fun in the right circumstances, but it is not a serious driving machine.
The good news is that, if that’s what you want, a GT350 will provide it for a lot less money, and also gives you the unique howl of its flat plane crank spinning at 8200rpm. With all that weight removed, mostly from the nose, it is a far more fluent, engaging performer. On a tricky road, I’d bet plenty it would be quicker too.
The bad news is that if you want either, you’ll need to move to the US because the cost of homologation in the UK would far outstrip any profits that might otherwise result.
Even so, I was pleased to have made its acquaintance. Now that the Mustang name is to be applied to an electric SUV I think it’s more important than ever that Ford demonstrates it still knows the true significance of the brand. And, with the GT500, it has shown that it does in the most emphatic way imaginable.