The 5th-generation Ford Mustang is easily the most changeable car in history, with special editions coming from Ford itself, GTs from the renewed Ford/Shelby partnership, and a slew of souped-up steeds from powerhouses Saleen and Roush. The car seems to have more versions than there are flavors of Vitamin Water. The S197 Mustang is also nearing the end of its life expectancy, as the car gets set for a 2010 mashup—undoubtedly to keep trot with other pony cars like the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
2008 Mustang GT
The GT handles as expected on track—it’s a big car, it has all-season tires, and the brakes fade after a couple of laps. However, it does handle, which is quite impressive considering the car weighs almost 3500lbs. A little turn-in understeer is easily fixed with less input on the wheel and the 300hp/320 lb.-ft., V8 lump under the hood helps the ’stang pull off the corner quite nicely. This is the Mustang you’ll see high school kids punishing—if they’re lucky.
2008 Mustang Bullitt
The Bullitt is a purist Mustang, built to release the inner McQueen. The Bullitt has improved handling over the GT, absolutely no glitz and an extra 15hp on tap. It’s also quite an upgrade on track compared to the GT—braking is more stable thanks to upgraded front pads and a 3.73 rear-end (the GT has a 3.31) gets the Bullitt up through the gears much faster. It also just looks the part. The Bullitt screams, “get me out to San Fran so I can chase a black Dodge Charger.”
2008 Shelby GT500
Finally, a Mustang that wants to get out and run free. The GT500 trounces the GT and Bullitt in the power department with a 500hp supercharged V8, and is the first steed we tested with proper brakes—four-piston Brembos up front, giving the middle pedal great feel and the ability to be easily modulated on track. Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) also upped the ante with a race-tuned suspension and the improved ride is apparent on the track, where the GT500 shows little sign of understeer, the mother of all things evil.
2008 Shelby GT 500KR*
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ’68 Shelby GT 500 “King of the Road,” the ’08 GT 500KR is the pinnacle of the Mustang brand (it also has about eleventy-billion badges on, in, and around it to prove the point; even the washer fluid bottle has one). On the track, the KR does absolutely amazing things and is more like an angry, despotic autocrat than just simply a “king.” The supercharged 540hp 5.4L V8 mill (40hp up on the GT 500) provides torque from anything above 2000rpm, and the KR-specific Goodyear R-comp rubber is like butter in the twisties. Buyer Beware: with just 1,700 examples being produced worldwide, you better have your AMEX Centurion card ready—the $80,155 MSRP will likely be shattered.
*A first for Ford and Shelby, the GT 500KR features an exquisite work of art—a carbon fiber hood that also plays an important role in terms of performance. Not only is the hood extremely light, it’s also highly functional—the design of the bonnet creates two pressure zones under the hood: one high-pressure zone for cold air induction (straight to a cone-type filter), and a low-pressure zone for hot air extraction (vented out through louvered ducts). The CF piece also helps manage underhood air pressure, keeping the GT 500KR aero-friendly at high speeds.
Story Thomas Lyman