Ford has unveiled the 2011 Shelby GT500, ahead of its official debut at the Chicago Auto Show. Full coverage inside

Ford has unveiled the 2011 Shelby GT500, ahead of its official debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

Looking virtually identical to the 2010 model, the 2011 GT500 features an aluminum 5.4-liter V8 engine. Based on the 5.0-liter V8 found in the 2011 Mustang GT, the new engine has an additional 0.4-liters of displacement, an improved block structure, six-bolt billet main bearing caps, and a supercharger.

Weighing 102 pounds less than the previous cast-iron engine, the aluminum engine has a "state-of-the-art Plasma Transferred Wire Arc (PTWA) liner coating, a process that applies a 150-micron composite coating that contains nanoparticles on the internal surfaces of engine cylinder bores, replacing cast-iron liners typically used in aluminum engine blocks." Despite sounding like PR-speak, Ford says the process "offers improved overall performance and durability, along with functional benefits of reduced friction between piston rings and cylinder bores, improved heat transfer due to increased surface contact area and a weight savings of 8.5 pounds compared to a typical steel-sleeved aluminum block."

Thanks to the advanced engineering, the engine produces 550 hp (410kW / 558 PS) and 510 ft-lb (691 Nm) of torque (up 10 hp from the 2010 model). While Ford declined to release performance specifications, the company stated the 2011 Shelby GT500 will be the first modern Shelby to be exempt from the U.S. gas guzzler tax because it is expected to get 15 mpg city / 23 mpg highway.

Besides the new engine, Ford revised the electric power steering system, added slotted brake dust shields, installed a new pedal box (for improved clutch and pedal feel), reduced the ride height (11 millimeters in front, 8 millimeters at the rear), and created a new exhaust system.

If you aren't impressed by all the changes, perhaps the optional SVT Performance Package will sway you. It features unique styling accents, stiffer springs, a higher rear axle ratio, and lightweight wheels wrapped in specially-developed Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G: 2 tires.

According to Jost Capito, director of global performance vehicles and motorsports business development, "The SVT team continues to push the performance standards of the Shelby to even higher levels and better refinement. All the changes we made reflect a desire for even better handling and outstanding driving dynamics - from weight savings to improved balance."