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Jim Farley, Ford president, Global Markets, says the 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 will put out north of 700 horsepower when it hits the streets this fall.

Ford has traditionally offered the Mustang in fast, faster and fastest versions. The new Shelby GT500 making its debut at the North American International Auto Show this week takes things to a new level, cracking the 700-horsepower barrier for the first time.

Now, from a raw number count, it won’t be the top dog in the muscle car category, that crown going to the Dodge Challenger Redeye. But Ford claims it will give that competitor a good run for the money by holding down weight and adding an array of performance-enhancing aerodynamic features.

“As a Mustang, it has to be attainable and punch above its weight,” said Hermann Salenbauch, global director of Ford Performance vehicle programs. “With its supercar-level powertrain, the all-new Shelby GT500 takes the sixth-generation Mustang to a performance level once reserved only for exotics.”

The new Shelby GT500 is ready for the road as well as the track.

The GT500 is more than just an upgrade of the current Ford Shelby GT350, Salenbauch and other members of the development team stress. It has undergone some extensive modifications that are meant to enhance performance and handling – and also to ensure the massive powerplant under the louvered hood can breathe properly – and stay cooled.

(New Mustang hits — with a Bullitt. Click Here for the story.)

The basic look won’t come as a surprise to Mustang fans. But, beyond the snakes on the nose and tail, there have been some extensive modifications made to the 2020 Shelby GT500.

“It was all about making the car slippery, fast, agile,” said Melvin Betancourt, the chief designer. Add “cooling” to that list.

To that effect, start with the front end which is completely new from the A-pillar forward. You realize the extent of the changes nose-on, where the openings have been doubled in size compared to the GT350 to bring air into the engine and multiple radiators.

There are twin hold-down pins on that composite hood, meanwhile, to ensure it doesn’t lift during hard runs. Aero detailing includes significant revisions up front, with twin blades in the corner slicing the air, and a massive wing over the rear decklid.

A bigger snout on the new GT500 means more air into the system for better cooling and improved performance.

What you may not immediately notice is the heavy emphasis on lightweighting. It’s all about “weight, weight,” said Mustang Chief Engineer Carl Widmann. To get the mass out, Ford has not only opted for composites and aluminum, wherever possible, but even a magnesium tower bracket up front meant to increase stiffness.

Pick up the bracket and you’ll be surprised how light it feels. On the other hand, you’ll need to work at lifting the 2.7-liter supercharger that rams air into the 5.0-liter V-8 that’s the beating heart of the new Shelby snake charmer.

(Click Here to check out the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.)

Ford is consciously holding back on final numbers for the powertrain, saying only that it will deliver “more than 700 horsepower” once it comes to market next autumn. How close it will come to the Redeye we’ll have to wait to see. As for torque, we’re told, it will deliver “significantly more than the (GT)350.” The engine will be paired with a seven-speed Tremic dual-clutch transmission.

The roar that reminds zero to 60 mph is possible in about three seconds.

As for performance numbers, we’re promised the GT500 will hit 60 in the mid-3 second range, and clear the traps on a quarter-mile run in “under 11 seconds.”

“It’s the most powerful street legal Mustang we’ve ever had. Everything about the 500 is about (making) power,” said Widmann. But, “It has to have the ability to turn, as well as go in a straight line.”

To that extent, the 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 gets such handling enhancing technologies as a MagneRide suspension. The system uses – stay with us – a magnetorheological fluid that changes viscosity as more current is applied to magnets in the shock absorbers. In other words, it’s a fluid with nano-sized magnetic particles that become more dense when energy is applied. And the technology allows each individual shock to go from squishy soft to rock hard in the time it takes a wheel to travel two inches at 60 mph.

A symbol on the steering wheel to remind you who inspired this car.

To slow down, the GT500 gets 420 millimeter front Brembo brakes with 20% more swept area than on the GT350. The rear brakes are 370 mm. The one surprise is that Ford has decided not to offer a carbon ceramic brake option.

But for those who want to push the envelope there are several custom packages for the GT500, including one that shaves even more weight with carbon fiber wheels, as well as a larger, two-position carbon-fiber wing.

(California Dreaming: Click Here for a look at the Mustang California Edition.)

In an era when new fuel-economy mandates are requiring automakers to spend billions on new technologies such as plug-based drivetrains, the Ford Shelby GT500 is something of a throwback. And for performance car fans, it shows that the good times are far from over.

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