Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A 200mph Mustang? [Updated]

2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

The new Chevy Camaro ZL1 hasn't even hit dealers yet and already Ford has strangled the Bowtie. You can now have your 2013 Mustang Shelby GT500 with 650hp, 600lb-ft of torque and a 200mph+ top speed. You read correctly: 200.Miles.An.Hour.

Think the muscle car wars were a thing of the past?

Think again.

While Dodge has seen it fit to limit itself to road presence and natural aspiration for its high output HEMI SRT8 machines, Ford and Chevy are left to duke it out among each other for muscle car bragging rights. Only these cars now add "sports" to their resumes. First the Camaro ZL1.

With the Corvette ZR1 already out hunting Ferraris and Cadillac CTS-Vs running down Mercedes AMGs, it was only natural that the ridiculously powerful supercharged 6.2 LS9 V8 would be planted between the fenders of the Camaro (albeit in tamer form) for Mustang challenging duty. In its most powerful iteration, the LS9 produces 638hp and 604lb-ft of torque in the aforementioned ZR1, mostly thanks to the dry oil sump pan that allows more efficient cooling of the engine's body parts thus enabling a higher boost pressure for the Eaton supercharger. In milder, 556hp/550lb-ft guise, the CTS-V becomes the de-facto American luxury sports sedan to challenge the luxury German marques on their own turf (with the infamous Nurburgring times to prove it). Back to the Camaro however. In SS form, the Camaro uses a normally aspirated 6.2 V9 with 426hp and 420lb-ft on tap, barely besting the Mustang GT's 5.0 412hp V9 (the new 2013 model gets a power upgrade to 420hp even).

2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Anticipating the ZL1 challenge, no doubt Ford decided to put serious work into not only one-upping the Bowtie bruiser but flat out humiliate it with the 2013 edition of the GT500. The SVT engineers started off by boring out the all-aluminium V8 from 5.4 to 5.8 liters, equipped it with new heads, new camshaft profiles, a carbon fiber crankshaft and a larger more efficient Eaton supercharger (essentially the same unit Chevy bolts to the LS9). Larger, more efficient intercoolers, cooling fans and ducts were also added to keep the new engine's temperature in check. Transmissions were also upgraded to handle the 5.8's newfound torque. The exterior was also given a thorough aerodynamic revision in order to meet the 200 mph target and the Mustang now boasts a more stable and planted feel at speeds over 160 mph. You'd think that an engine this powerful would be subject to the dreaded gas guzzler tax that high-powered cars usually attract but, according to Ford, many transmission gearing selections were reviewed and the one chosen was the best at putting power down while limiting the fuel used.

supercharged 5.8 liter V8 produces an LS9 trouncing 650hp and 600lb-ft of torque

No the archaic live rear axle hasn't been chucked for the GT500, but that doesn't mean Ford's engineers didn't tinker with it. Rather substantially at that. A new, optional Performance Pack upgrades the suspension bits with SVT-designed Bilstein shocks for two modes of driving, "Normal" or "Sport" while a Brembo brake package keeps all that speed and power in check.

2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1, the Shelby's mortal enemy

The biggest advantage the GT500 has going for it (and something noted elsewhere in this blog) is the nearly 300lb weight difference between it and the heavier Camaro. Chevy has touted that the ZL1 was developed on the Nurburgring and boasts about the ZL1's sophisticated magnetic suspension enhancing its track performance. With 580hp, the Camaro is indeed a formidable beast but with the new 2013 Mustang GT500, Ford may have just had the last laugh.

It'll be interesting to see how Chevy responds.

Update: Ford's beaten it's own performance goals! The 2013 Shelby Mustang GT500 is now rated at 662hp and 631lb-ft of torque! Insane! Preliminary testing has 0-60 times averaging 3.5 seconds and within 11 seconds in the quarter mile! Check out first drive impressions here
Images courtesy of and

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Short Test - 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8

2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 tester

Base Price - $43780
Price as Tested - $47140
Basic Specs
Engine - 6.4 OHV V8 470hp, 470lb-ft of torque
Transmission - 5 speed automatic
Rear Wheel Drive
4 wheel independent suspension

You can hear it from down the street. I'm talking about the 6.4 liter beast of a HEMI engine as the vehicle comes into view. A subtle, yet guttural growl that announces its presence in a way that takes you back to the golden age of muscle cars (yes, yes, I wasn't born in time to partake of that era but I've watched enough videos and been around enough vintage cars to know that sound). The car in question is the 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 (392 for the engine size in cubic inches if you're from that era) and it sounds mean. Dodge's modern take on the muscle car has been around since 2006 when it debuted in concept form at the North American International Auto Show to much acclaim from the public. Despite being modernized, it was obvious that the Challenger took its design cues from its 1960s predecessor. Based on a shortened version of Chrysler's LX platform (Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger/Magnum) the Challenger has low and mean look to it, that definitely exudes presence and aggression, something the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang lack.

SRT8 = Street & Racing Technology via 8 cylinders

My test vehicle was a Challenger SRT8 equipped with the aforementioned 6.4 HEMI V8, putting out 470hp and 470 lb-ft of torque through the rear wheels via a 5 speed automatic with a manual shift mode. The 6.4 is a revamped version of the 6.1 liter that debuted in the original 2008 SRT8 version with 45 more horses and with the addition of Chrysler's cylinder deactivation system in an effort to enhance fuel economy. The pre-2011 models had an interior directly transplanted from their 4 door brethren i.e. cheap, thin and plastic looking surfaces that were as dull to look at as they were atrocious to touch. Now under Fiat ownership, Chrysler has done a substantial redesign of the Challenger's interior, opting for high quality materials, a new three spoke steering wheel (a vast improvement over the previous truck-like version) and soft touch surfaces. The suspension also had a thorough revision, lowered with stiffer springs, dampers and a change in wheel camber to enhance stability and improve cornering. Despite all this, the Challenger is a heavy vehicle weighing north of 4100lbs and as such, doesn't change direction as eagerly as the smaller Mustang.

Upgraded Interior

Settling into the comfortable, leather clad driver seat, I felt at once enclosed and at one with the car. The cockpit is roomy but still had an enveloped feeling to it. The ground was still wet with the recent rain and the route (see previous Dodge Durango review) was not conducive to any sort of high speed hijinks or handling tests. Despite it's firmed up suspension, the SRT8 still had enough give to absorb the rough edges as we motored around the streets of Miami Beach. Turning onto a long straight, which was unusually devoid of traffic, my Dodge rep flicked the transmission into Sport, engaged first gear and uttered two of the loveliest words one can hear when driving this sort of car: "Floor it".

And I did.

20" wheels with Brembo brakes

What resulted was a melodious few seconds of V8 roar, the rear wheels instantly breaking traction and the rear end stepping out slightly but not to the extent that I couldn't catch it. Traction control quickly intervened, hooking up the rear tires and the Challenger simply bolted to the next traffic light with a speed and ferocity perfectly suited to this kind of car. The brakes, large dinner plate sized Brembos, were firm and powerful, bringing everything to a halt at the next traffic light. I looked in the rear view mirror to see both my father and nephew grinning wildly. The Dodge rep smiled and said, "That my friend is what this car is all about."

No doubt.

Short as it was, driving the Challenger SRT8 is an aural as well as visual treat. The HEMI constantly reminds of its presence but not to the point of annoyance and exterior look of car drew attention whichever way we turned. The SRT8 version isn't cheap by any means: with a base price of $43780 it hunts in the same class as the smaller and more powerful 550hp Mustang GT500 as well as the upcoming 580hp Chevy Camaro ZL1. However, if you just want the looks (and don't mind the smaller fuel bill...who doesn't want that?) a base Challenger with Chrysler's much improved 305hp 3.6 Pentastar V6 can be had for a base of $24895. If you just gotta have a V8, then the R/T version with the "base" 390hp 5.7 HEMI stickers for $29895.

Dodge has done an outstanding job with the Challenger, imbuing it with classic muscle car styling and the engine power (and sound) that will give any driver a taste of what it was like to live life a 1/4 mile at a time.

2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392

stock photo courtesy of