Not to be a pretentious twat, but most cars don’t dazzle me. Working with a luxury dealer for a few years skews your perceptions pretty badly. Oh, it’s got four hundred horsepower? I guess that’s acceptable. Even with astronomical power figures, most cars these days are so micro-managed by microprocessors that you never need to worry about it. Enjoy that twin turbo V8 as you sip your latte. But then, every once in a while, comes something a little different, like the 2014 Shelby GT500. It scared the ever-loving fuck out of me.
The GT500 is the only car I’ve ever driven that seemed angry about the fact that you were trying to go in a straight line. The first time I drove it, I remember being surprised at how lackluster the acceleration was. But then I realized that the revs were climbing faster than the speedometer. Oh. It’s not slow, we’re just doing a rolling burnout down the street with traction control on. I honestly do not know that the traction system in that car does, other than sometimes turning a little light on. “Yep, you don’t have traction now, just so you know.”
It’s not that the car spins the tires, plenty of cars do that. In fact, the same week that I was driving the Shelby, I also spent time in a C6 Z06. The Chevy liked to squirm around under hard acceleration, but it never made me nervous. Just keep the wheel squared up, let the Akropovic exhaust bellow, and don’t do anything too stupid. That is a package that inspires confidence. At the end of the day, it was just a car, and was as easy to drive as anything else, aside from the low nose.
But driving the GT500 took concentration at all times. The clutch was a weird combination of being stiff, yet not grabbing until the very top of the travel. That is paired to an incredibly notchy shifter. So you’re always trying to manage a smooth take off, while not overpowering the rear tires. This is not a relaxing car to drive in rush hour, I’ll tell you that.
This winds up being a car in which you never get too much into the throttle, just out of concern for your own safety, as well as anybody in that zip code. Every time we rolled onto the gas, in any gear, at anything less than highway speeds, it immediately tried to crab walk sideways. This is certainly amusing, but it never feels controlled. Sure, If I needed a car to do donuts in an empty parking lot, the GT500 would be at the top of my list, but for actually driving on the street, around sturdy objects, it’s less than ideal.
I hate to ever say that a car has too much power, but the Shelby might have finally hit that point for me. Not that the 662 horsepower is inherently too much for every vehicle, but I do think it’s too much for that car on the street. Maybe on a prepped track, with better rubber it would be usable. But on the street, it will be embarrassed by cars with significantly less grunt.
Look, I know all of you are running to grab your Car and Driver reviews and Wikipedia articles to tell me that I’m an idiot, and that the Shelby will do 0-60 in well under four seconds, and that it can totally put the power down easily. Well, on a prepped surface, that may be true, but in the real world…not so much. When a third gear roll-on at 35mph, with all of the aids turned on, still causes the rear bumper to try and mate with a fire hydrant, things are not going well.
After some discussion with my colleagues, all of whom are used to piloting some of the most obscenely over engineered German metal in the country, we finally came to a conclusion. In basically everything we get our spoiled little mitts on, wheelspin is the order of the day. Twin turbo V8s are our bread and butter. But in most of those cars, when it lets go, you are totally assured in your ability to gather up the slide, and continue on your merry way. In the Shelby, when I was a passenger, I was petrified each and every time it pitched sideways on me. Thinking “this is it, this is where we hit the light pole” on every block does not make for a relaxed experience.
So yes, the Shelby GT500 is a marvel of engineering, and makes a statement like nothing else in it’s price range. But, as hard as this is for me to say, I never want to drive one on the street ever again. I just don’t have the nerves for it.