As we discovered in our tech test, the Shaker 500 stereo has plenty of power, but it also can deliver a reasonably refined acoustic output. As well as offering individual EQ controls for bass and treble, it features some advanced audio-tweaking options, including a compression mode for playback of digital audio and digital signal processing. This enables occupants to set the acoustic sweet spot to center on the driver's seat, the rear seats, or the back seats, which offer so little legroom as to be useless to anyone more than 10 years old. Curiously, there is no option to set the DSP to focus on just the front seats.
Aside from the stereo, the only other cabin tech features of the Shelby GT500 are found in its instrument cluster alongside its washed-out white-on-gray tachometer and speedometer dials. In keeping with its performance-focused persona, the Shelby GT500 has a couple of systems to notify drivers of when to shift gears. One of these is driver-configurable: using three hard buttons on the dash, drivers can activate a unique audio-visual notification signal to alert them when to shift gears. The notifications can be set to kick in at anywhere between 1,500 and 6,000rpm. Irrespective of the level that the latter system is set to, another warning light in the form of a yellow arrow on the left-hand side of the dash comes on at around 2,500rpm, also suggesting when to upshift.
The most frivolous tech feature on the Shelby GT500 also is centered on the instrument cluster. Using the same three-button cluster on the dash, drivers can select different colors for the instrument-cluster backlighting: to cater to the widest possible artistic range, the car offers six preset colors (red, purple, orange, white, blue, and green) and up to 125 user-configured colors, which can be made up by mixing different levels of red, blue, and green light.
A more useful feature of the instrument cluster is its two-line display beneath the tachometer that can be used to call up data for a range of systems, including: trip information, oil pressure, security system and brake systems, traction control, and range to empty.
Under the hood
With one turn of the ignition key, all cabin shortcomings of the 2007 Shelby GT500 are forgotten. The gutsy V-8 sneezes into life with the unequivocal message that the main entertainment to be had in this car will be via the gas pedal. The 2007 Shelby GT500 is offered with a single transmission option in the form of a heavy-duty TR6060 six-speed manual gearbox. With the short-throw shifter in one hand and the Cobra-embossed three-spoke steering wheel in the other, we set out onto the streets of San Francisco in homage to Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt.
For having such blistering performance characteristics (500 horsepower, 468 pound-feet of torque, and a zero-to-60mph time of 4.6 seconds), the GT500 displays relatively good road manners around town. With coilover spring MacPherson struts up front and a three-link live axle with coil springs in the rear, the GT500's suspension is tuned for spirited driving, but this does not translate into the bone-shaking ride that comes with many stiffened suspension configurations.
Unlike Steve McQueen, we had to abide by the road laws when driving around the hills of San Francisco, meaning we spent a good deal of time and effort with our left foot controlling the GT500's clutch. Clutch take-up is a bit high, but once we got used to the biting point, we managed to execute hill starts without burning too much rubber. One complaint we have with the Shelby in urban driving is the tendency of its back wheels to break traction when driving over the slightest of road imperfections. When this happens, the rear wheels undergo severe axle-hop, making the whole car judder and shake before regaining its balance.
The most entertaining thing about driving the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 around town (aside from burying BMW M3s in fast launches from the stop lights) was the universal admiration the car received from passersby. Middle-aged men in particular would crane their necks to watch us as we cruised past, and on the odd occasion we caught someone's eye, we were met with a knowing smile that said, "I can only imagine what fun you're having in that thing."
As ego-massaging as all this city slicking was however, there is only one place the GT500 is happy: on the open road. Gunning the throttle from standing results in a trainlike acceleration, and despite the car's reliance on forced induction, power is very linear without any noticeable surge from the supercharger. If you can't feel the supercharger, however, you can certainly hear it: when pushing the car beyond 4,000rpm (and brazenly disregarding the yellow upshift arrow light), the supercharger whines like a siren, an unhappy coincidence as this car is perhaps the biggest cop magnet on the road.
Flooring the gas pedal or kicking down a gear both result in the Shelby GT500's front end rearing up as power surges to the 18.5-inch ZR-rated rear tires, while squeezing the accelerator when cornering predictably results in loss of the back end. Shifts with the short-throw stick are smooth and assured, and the shifter snicks into each gate with a satisfying mechanical precision.
Unfortunately, we were restricted to public roads in our test of the Shelby GT500, and in a car that will break 100mph in second gear, we put our licenses on the line every time we got behind the wheel. We could go describing in great detail how it feels to drive this car--the exhilaration, the rush, the terror, but we'd rather let you experience in person: check out the CNET Car Tech podcast in which we take it for a spin.
In our all-too-short time with the GT500, we covered 225 miles, getting a lamentable average gas mileage of 13.7mpg. The only green concern this car's owners have is the color of the traffic lights.
Our 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 test car came with a base price of $40,930 to which was added a gas-guzzler tax of $1,300; $595 for the GT500 Premium Trim Package (featuring a leather-wrapped and stitched instrument panel brow and center console, upgraded door armrests and aluminum pedal covers); and $195 for Sirius Satellite Radio. With destination and delivery, the bottom-line sticker price was $43,765.
The 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 is a brash, brawny, barn burner. Its stripped-down interior and absence of rear legroom are eclipsed by the glory of its blown V-8. Just watch out when thrashing about on the open road: that siren sound might not always be the supercharger.