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First Drive Review: 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 does Carroll's legacy justice

When creating the new Mustang Shelby GT500, Ford had to meet potential buyers' high expectations. They did.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is all business. It's horsepower and torque and burning rubber and speed. But it's also so much more.

On the outside, the car has the hallmarks of the Mustang and Shelby brands. The Mustang's aesthetic is highlighted by Shelby cobra logos and unique GT500 badging. At the car's face are standard automatic high-intensity headlights with LED signature lighting emphasizing the car's beefy athleticism.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500The iconic cobra symbol is front and center.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford's Mustang models all share the same 107.1-inch wheelbase but their lengths vary slightly depending on the trim level.

The heart of the new Mustang is a hand built, supercharged 5.2-liter aluminum alloy V8 engine that is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It produces 760 horsepower and 625 pound-feet of torque. Smooth and strong, the powertrain pulls like a freight train, never letting up until you let off the pedal. It's exactly what you expect, and want, from the Ford. The automaker has electronically limited the Mustang to 180 mph.

Ford equips the car with a number of drive modes and settings including: Normal, Sport, and Slippery drive modes; line lock; and track apps. Each drive mode acts as advertised and the system's pages keep track of the car and driver's performance on the circuit or drag strip.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500The car comes loaded with track and drag strip performance tracking equipment.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The new Shelby GT500 is equipped with Ford's adaptive suspension, Brembo six-piston brake calipers with 16.5-inch rotors, and 20-inch carbon fiber wheels. It wears Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires.

The result is a car is more planted than the Mustangs that came before, delivering a well-rounded and purposeful drive experience. Ford set up a closed course for testing, which gave the Brembo brakes a chance to shine. The stopping power and steadfast nature of the vehicle gave plenty of confidence through the tight turns.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500The model rides on 20-inch carbon fiber wheels.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

This is a big change from the Shelby Mustangs of the past, which were great off the line, in a straight line, but couldn't handle the corners. Now, the track-centric car has become a possible daily driver.

The vehicle minded its manners on Las Vegas' streets on the way back into town from the raceway during testing. Throttle response reminded the driver that the power is available when wanted, but not willing to get in the way of gentle acceleration off the line in the city setting.

The interior of the GT500 boasts race-inspired premium materials and available Recaro racing seats with side bolstering that hugs you in tight turns. A safety harness is available.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500The Mustang knows how to mind its manners on the road.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The instrument cluster is a 12-inch color LCD instrument display. It and an 8-inch infotainment touch screen come standard. The tester came equipped with a custom-tuned 12-speaker B&O audio system that can blast Huey Lewis and the News as loud as a driver could possibly want.

Ford equipped the tester GT500s with the available Carbon Fiber Track Pack, which cut the seating capacity of the vehicle down to only two from the Mustang's customary four. The Mustang Shelby GT500 has 13.5 cubic feet of storage, which is better than most vehicles in its class.

The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 has a starting price just a hair over $70,000. The Carbon Fiber Track Pack adds $18,500 to the price. Including taxes, the price as tested was over $90,000. That's an expensive Ford.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500Ford has appointed the Shelby GT500 with race-inspired materials.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The big question with the model lies not in the Mustang itself, but in the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, which starts $10,000 lower than the Mustang and is said to be a very impressive drive. In reality though, the entire buying decision is a matter of taste. In the $90K range buyers can choose a Porsche though they'd end up shilling out significantly more for, say, the Acura NSX or Audi R8.

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The new Z starts at under $40,000.

Nissan

The new Nissan Z is finally here, and the 400-horsepower sports car is hitting the market with a reasonable price. The car starts at just $39,990 before a $1,025 destination charge. That's significantly cheaper than the least expensive Toyota Supra for a car with impressive specs and great style.

2023 Nissan ZThe Z gets a 400-horsepower V6 from Infiniti.Nissan

The 2023 Z comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 400 horsepower. It's paired with either a six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. That's the enthusiast's dream setup, and it's one of few cars available in the U.S. with a manual gearbox. The body is stiffer and features more reinforcements from prior cars, and the steering system now features electric assistance instead of hydraulics. 18-inch wheels are standard and 19-inchers are available.

When it announced the car, Nissan made a point to talk about its retro-inspired styling and classic proportions. The coupe features a sweeping roofline, a distinct front fascia, and is unmistakeably a Z car, through and through. Inside, the car features a three anlog gauges for a classic look, 12.3-inch configurable digital gauge cluster and a 9-inch touchscreen display. The cabin looks upscale and tech-forward, with deep bucket seats.

2023 Nissan ZThe 2023 Z lands this summer. Nissan

Nissan says the new Z will go on sale in summer 2022. Pricing starts at $39,990 for the base Sport trim, $49,990 for the mid-range Performance trim, and $52,990 for the limited-edition range-topping Proto Spec trim.

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Lincoln will not make a performance variant to compete with Cadillac.

Lincoln

TheLincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade have been duking it out at the top of luxury SUV rankings for decades, but there’s one area of the Caddy’s development that Lincoln won’t touch. In a recent interview, a company executive told Ford Authority that it has no plans to create a performance variant of the Navigator to compete with the upcoming Escalade V from Cadillac.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe new Navigator features several upscale touches and excellent tech. Lincoln

That means the Navigator will stick with the powertrain it’s carried for years, which is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a smooth ten-speed automatic and either rear- or four-wheel drive. While there’s more than enough power to get the hulking Lincoln moving, it’s not a powertrain that inspires excitement or engagement, and though beefy, it’s tuned much more for comfort and quietness than drama.

Though more than adequate, those specs are a far cry from the numbers we expect from the Escalade V. The full-size bruiser from Cadillac is expected to get a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, similar to the unit seen in the CT5-V Blackwing and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We don’t know power numbers yet, but the engine should deliver horsepower and torque numbers in the high 600s.

Cadillac Escalade VThe Escalade V will be massively powerful. Cadillac

That Lincoln is taking a different approach isn’t surprising. The automaker has already announced its intention to go all-electric, so pouring more time and resources into creating a performance gas-powered SUV isn’t in line with its goals. Company executives have also expressed a desire to avoid imitating rivals, so the decision to leave a performance Navigator behind is not surprising.

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