The latest high performance variant of the Ford Mustang bearing the Shelby name has been unveiled at the 2011 LA Motor Show, and it's a beast. Packing a 5.8-liter supercharged V8 producing a headline-grabbing 650 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque, Ford claims the new 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 is the most powerful production V8 in the world. While the Mustang has never been the most aerodynamic vehicle on the road, the vehicle's completely reworked drivetrain provides the power to propel it to a top speed of over 200 mph (322 km/h). And as surprising as the grunt under the hood, Ford says the new Shelby GT500 even manages to avoid the United States' Gas Guzzler Tax.

While the 1964 Mustang provided the template for a new class of car dubbed the "pony car" by the editor of Car Life magazine, Dennis Shattuck, it was the high performance variants built by Shelby American from 1965 to 1970 that really pushed the vehicle into muscle car territory. In the summer of '69, Carroll Shelby terminated his agreement with Ford but after a break of over 30 years, Shelby and Ford teamed up yet again in 2005 for the Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 show car. Other vehicles followed, culminating this week in the new 2013 Ford Shelby GT500, which 89-year-old Carroll Shelby was on hand to unveil in L.A., proclaiming it his "favorite Mustang of all time."

Ford says producing the new GT500's additional horsepower required nearly every part of the powertrain to be optimized. This includes a new cross-drilled block and heads, updated camshaft profiles, new carbon fiber driveshaft, upgraded clutch, transmission and axle, and a new TVS Series 2300 supercharger that creates 2.3 liters of displacement.

The new 5.8-liter engine also sees updates to the entire cooling system, with a larger cooling fan, fan shroud with high-speed pressure-relief doors, more efficient charge air cooler, higher-flow intercooler pump and an intercooler heat exchanger with 36 percent more volume.

To manage the torque and make the car more "driver-friendly," nearly every gear on the 2013 GT500 has been revised. After considering more than 35 gearing combinations, engineers finally decided on one they say transmits balanced torque all the way through the wheels and grip to the ground. The six-speed manual transmission has a final drive ratio of 3.31:1, while the dual-disc design clutch has increased torque and rpm capacity.

While the 3,850 pound (1,746 kg), 2013 GT500 doesn't really look any more aerodynamic than its forebears, Ford claims significant work has been done in this area to ensure the car has the proper downforce for optimum performance at all speeds. Modifications to the front fascia and splitters were made to handle the extreme loads felt at speeds of 200 mph and plant the vehicle's 19-inch front and 20-inch rear forged-aluminum wheels more securely to the road. Ford says that, compared to the 2011 model, the 2013 Shelby GT500 offers 33 percent more effective aero loading at 160 mph (257 km/h).

The vehicle is also designed to be as at home on the track is it is on surface streets, with the traction control system and electronic stability control settings that can be completely disabled for skilled drivers in controlled track situations, or fully engaged for maximum safety in normal driving situations or in less-than-ideal traction conditions. There's also an intermediate sport mode that permits more aggressive driving before the traction control and electronic stability control cut in.

"We took a completely different approach with this car so drivers can choose their settings instead of a computer making the selection," said Jamal Hameedi, Special Vehicle Team (SVT) chief engineer. "Nearly every system the driver interacts with can be tailored to his or her situation including the Bilstein electronic adjustable suspension, launch control, AdvanceTrac and steering assist levels."

To keep all those horses under control on the street or on the track, the optional Performance Package includes a Torsen limited-slip differential and SVT0-designed Bilstein electronic adjustable dampers that can be accessed on the dash with a push of a button. In Normal mode, these provide a more comfortable ride over bumpy roads, while Sport mode delivers improved response times on the track with less body roll while cornering and pitch under braking.

"The adjustable shocks let us develop our car on the track without any compromise," said Kerry Baldori, Ford SVT Global Performance Vehicles chief engineer. "Before, we had to tune the car with street implications in mind. Now we can go as extreme as we want on the track setting and still offer the customer a comfortable ride on the road."

Those looking for all-out performance can upgrade the Performance Package with an additional Track Package that includes an external engine cooler, rear differential cooler and transmission cooler. These coolers improve the durability of the vehicle by preventing crucial components from overheating under high-speed conditions.

Ford is yet to reveal the vehicle's acceleration times, gas mileage or pricing of the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500, but says it will built at the AutoAlliance International Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, with sales due to begin next year.

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