Ford dropped a bit more information on its new Mustang Shelby GT500 today, talking at length about the car’s aerodynamic prowess and how the range-topping Pony Car will tackle the lateral arts instead of being a straight-line dominator. Somewhat buried in that press release were two mentions of 180 mph, along with references of downforce at that speed. Ford didn’t specifically say the new Shelby tops out at 180, but Car and Driver reported that figure as the car’s governed top speed. We contacted Ford for clarification, and yes, the 2020 Shelby GT500 officially has a manufacturer-limited top speed of 180 mph. For the record, that’s 20 mph slower than the previous-generation GT500.

There is а method to the madness. For starters, Ford has significantly recast the new GT500 has a corner-carving dynamo, and that affects top speed. To help showcase that capability, Ford’s latest GT500 press release talks about the extensive testing and development that took place, including the use of supercomputers and 3D models to study airflow cooling for the engine and brakes, not to mention added downforce for all GT500 trim levels.

“This all-new aero design merges state-of-the-art design and materials technology with the craftsmanship of Ford racing expertise to create the most aero-capable Mustang ever,” said Steve Thompson, Ford Performance vehicle dynamics engineer. “It’s powerful, balanced and consistent – even over extended track runs – which works to deliver more fun and greater confidence for drivers.”

Gallery: Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Design And Aerodynamics

On Shelbys equipped with the optional Carbon Fibrе Track Package, a big rear wing generates roughly 250 kg of downforce at the car’s maximum speed. The standard GT500 still benefits from aero tweaks, however, with a hybrid wing/spoiler dubbed “swing” that produces 172 kg of downforce, also at 180 mph. Up front, Ford says the new fascia increases cooling capacity for the GT500 by over 50 percent compared to the GT350.

Considering the GT500 has considerably more horsepower than the GT350, extra cooling is never a bad thing. In any case, turning blistering lap times or 10-second quarter-mile passes doesn’t require a car to exceed 200 mph. And honestly, we doubt such a lofty speed matters to GT500 buyers anyway.

There’s still quite a bit we don’t know about the new GT500, including exactly how much power its supercharged 5.2-litre V8 will produce. “Over 700 bhp” is the vague figure Ford has stuck with for over a year, but the automaker does at least say the Shelby will turn a sub-11-second quarter-mile time. We also know the car goes on sale this summer, so presumably all the GT500’s figures will be revealed in the next couple months.

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DEARBORN, Mich., March 13, 2019 – When the 2020 Shelby GT500 goes on sale later this year, it will be the quickest-accelerating, most aerodynamically advanced street-legal Mustang ever, thanks to virtual testing in supercomputers and 3D printing.

Borrowing best practices from more than a century of racing, Ford Performance designers, powertrain and aerodynamics engineers functioned as a virtual racing team to test hundreds of designs both digitally and physically. They used state-of-the-art digital and additive manufacturing prototyping tools as part of a mission to make the ultimate, most advanced performance street-legal Mustang of all time.

“We created and studied designs among the engineering teams and proved out different strategies long before we built our first prototype cars,” said Matt Titus, Ford Performance vehicle engineer. “Not only did this improve the effectiveness of the designs, it dramatically reduced the time it took to develop the GT500 – and the costs associated with that.”

Every millimeter counts for the Mustang Shelby GT500 to deliver on downforce, braking and cooling targets. The team leveraged Ford’s vast resources of advanced design simulation tools, including the Ford Performance technical center in Concord, North Carolina, and rapid 3D prototyping systems at its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Michigan. To physically validate the improving designs, Ford’s wind tunnels in Michigan and Windshear rolling wind tunnel in Concord were also used.

Real-world testing still matters, so the Shelby GT500 team ran extended high-speed tests on some of the most notable racetracks across the United States – including Virginia International Raceway, NOLA Motorsports Park and GingerMan Raceway – to refine the aerodynamic designs and help the all-new Shelby GT500 deliver the fastest track times ever in a production Mustang along with improved driver control for greater confidence behind the wheel.

Delivering more than 700 horsepower using 93-octane fuel, maximizing cooling at the front is critical to the Shelby GT500’s vigorous track performance, and where the team focused much of its efforts. At wide-open throttle, the cooling system needs to extract up to 230 kilowatts of heat energy, enough to heat a dozen homes. The massive front brakes reject another 100 kilowatts of heat at maximum braking, so the team utilized advanced 3D airflow modeling to maximize overall cooling while working to minimize impact on front-end lift and drag.

More than 500 3D cooling and aerodynamic designs were analyzed to maximize aero performance and cooling, with more advanced design models driven on full chassis simulators at the Ford technical center with professional racing drivers. Key modeling simulations included cooling systems, front fascia and splitter designs, along with brake ducting, rear spoiler designs and a large 6.03 square-foot louvered hood vent. 

Speeding development time, the most promising designs were printed in a matter of days, not months, allowing the team to increase the fidelity of performance and aerodynamic refinement. For example, more than 10 front splitter wickers were printed and tested, some with minute modifications to perfect their design, with multiple versions of parts simultaneously sent out for track evaluation.

The team achieved maximum rear downforce of 550 pounds at 180 mph, leveraging the Mustang GT4 race-proven rear track wing to deliver the most downforce ever on a street-legal Mustang with available Carbon Fiber Track Package. An innovative new rear spoiler design, standard on the base 2020 Shelby GT500 and known by the aero team as “the swing” – a hybrid between a spoiler and a wing – is a result of the advanced simulations and prototyping process. With available Handling Package and Gurney flap installed, the swing works to deliver 379 pounds of rear downforce at 180 mph.

Keeping cool and precise on the track

High-performance cooling targets also factor into the design and virtual testing to help ensure consistent heat management and power delivery over extended sessions at the track. This includes a new performance fascia design that doubles the front opening volume and increases cooling pack airflow through six heat exchangers at top speed by 50 percent versus the existing Mustang GT350 design.

A removable rain tray further aids cooling and works to reduce underhood air pressure at high speeds, while a Shelby-specific rear diffuser helps channel under-car airflow.

A new dual-side thermostat routes coolant to a new auxiliary radiator, and a 600-watt brushless electric fan motor and performance aero fan shroud with 16 speed flaps improves cooling pack airflow while mitigating drag and front-end lift. Two new race-style oil and transmission coolers further improve powertrain cooling.

“This all-new aero design merges state-of-the-art design and materials technology with the craftsmanship of Ford racing expertise to create the most aero-capable Mustang ever,” said Steve Thompson, Ford Performance vehicle dynamics engineer. “It’s powerful, balanced and consistent – even over extended track runs – which works to deliver more fun and greater confidence for drivers.”

The 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 goes on sale this summer.