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First, Ford announced the new V6 for the 2011 Mustang with its 305 horsepower and 30 MPG. Then came the announcement of the new GT, with 412 horsepower and 25 MPG. Now Ford announces the upgrades to the Shelby GT500, the big kahuna of the Mustang lineup. The 2010 Shelby made due with only 540 horsepower; the ’11 bumps that up to 550. Torque stays at 510 lb.-ft. The engine is now made of an aluminum block instead of the iron block, and this contributes to a 102 pound weight reduction for the engine. The weight reduction helps the ’11 Shelby improve fuel economy from 14 city/22 highway to 15/23. This might not sound like much, but the 1 MPG improvement results in the first Shelby not subject to the dreaded gas guzzler tax.

New for 2011 is an SVT Performance Package for those who want even more performance out of their Shelby GT500 for racetrack-ready driving dynamics. Complete with all-new Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G:2 tires that SVT engineers worked directly with Goodyear to develop, the car is ready to race. The tires offer superb dry traction and precise handling, complete with a race-inspired high-performance tread compound.

The optional package also offers unique styling, lighter wheels, a higher rear axle ratio and stiffer springs, and it is available on both the convertible and coupe. Ford’s data show the 2011 coupe with the SVT Performance Package is 3.0 seconds faster per lap than the 2010 Shelby GT500 on a 2.3-mile test track.

For 2011, Shelby GT500 also benefits from NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) improvements. Ford improved road noise by 20 percent versus the 2010 Shelby by adding sound-deadening material on either side of the instrument panel, sound absorption behind interior trim panels, and a rear wheel arch liner to reduce noise on gravel or wet surfaces – all resulting in the driver hearing more exhaust and engine sound and less road and air noise.

The Shelby GT500 convertible model features enhanced structural rigidity, with lateral stiffness improved by 12 percent versus the 2010 model. The structural improvements to the convertible gave SVT the opportunity to be more sport-oriented in the chassis tuning, without trading comfort. Along with the chassis and structural improvements, the 2011 model also will get standard 19-inch aluminum wheels.

One of the biggest changes for this Shelby is that the convertible acts and feels like a coupe,” said Jamal Hameedi, SVT chief nameplate engineer. “Before, they had a very different character, and the convertible is taking a big step in the sportiness and handling precision area, without degrading the ride.”

GT500 gets a new exhaust for 2011, roaring with an even more aggressive sound than the 2010 model. The 2.75-inch exhaust with all-new tuning helped to deliver the additional 10 horsepower.

Thus completes the powertrain upgrades for the 2011 Mustang. With a lineup that starts at 300HP and goes up to 550, the Mustang has the best engine lineup in the segment, perhaps the industry. Hopefully, I will be able to test drive this demonic engine, or at least one of its tamer brothers, sometime soon.

That’s what I think – how about you? Please leave your comments below.

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