Twist the key in the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500’s ignition, and it burbles startlingly to life after that extra second of cranking that says something angry is about to wake up.
It announces itself with a drawn-out snort accented by popping and crackling as spent fuel fills its big-bore exhaust and fist-sized tailpipes.
The sound invites enthusiasts to smile, laugh gutturally and mutter expletives under their breath. Some even throw their arms into the air and toss their heads back, staggering a moment, as if they’d just been blessed by the gods of horsepower, testosterone and tire-vaporizing awesomeness.
It’s largely what you’d expect from the most powerful production V8 on the road. Ford’s new 5.8-litre unit has an Eaton supercharger the size of a Civic’s engine jammed between a set of cylinder heads as wide as Brock Lesnar.
Output levels smash any number of exotics costing three or four times as much. There’s no more powerful production V8 on the road. It’s 662 horsepower, if you’re wondering.
Putting these to work is an experience unparalleled in its ability to put drivers into a world of fearsome, nearly-terrifying acceleration and noise.
Easing off of the sensitive, grabby clutch with just a few revs on the tachometer causes the GT500 to leap ahead as if its leash were being held too tightly. Even a slight reduction in clutch-pedal pressure transmits enough torque rearwards to scrub the tires.
Stand on the right-most pedal, and the nose lifts sharply as the rear-end squats and squirms about for traction. The acceleration squeezes the air from your lungs right away, and the rocket-booster levels of thrust could make your favourite church-going aunt drop an f-bomb before the supercharger even gets into its game.
All the while, the rumbling exhaust sounds flood and saturate the cabin thickly, overlapped by a sharp “zing” from the twin-screw blower as it comes into play about halfway to the 7,000 RPM redline.
There’s no lag. No waiting for a turbo to kick in. No anticipation of a trick variable valve timing system to ramp up engine power. Hammer down, and the GT500 simply blasts toward the horizon, steadily and linearly, immediately sucking occupants into their seats. It’s as if the gas pedal is attached to one end of a pulley system that connects the Shelby with the horizon ahead.
So, it’s fast as all bloody hell. And much of the experience is wasted on roads with speed limits. You’ll wish the 360 km/h speedometer and tachometer had demerit points and dollar signs, instead of velocities and revs.
But for speed-freaks and bragging-rights enthusiasts, it’s a shock-and-awe display of American firepower not to be missed.