Ford says "over 650 horsepower" in L.A., but we were told over 700 in Detroit last January.
Update: Ford has responded, and we're happy to say the 650-horsepower figure is incorrect. Ford representatives have confirmed the original statement of over 700 hp in the new Shelby GT500 is accurate. Read below to see how this issue transpired.
The new Mustang Shelby GT500 is coming. In fact, we know exactly when and where it will arrive: January 14, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan ahead of the North American International Auto Show. We know this because yesterday Ford opened up a cool display at the Los Angeles Auto Show saying as much, but that display said something else that caught our eye.
The new mega-muscle Mustang will deliver “over 650 horsepower.” Sounds neat, but there’s just one problem. Ford already said in its original GT500 teaser video (below) that the car would make over 700 horsepower. Interesting.
So what’s the deal here? There’s clearly some conflicting information to scrutinize, and though we’re talking about a relatively minor discrepancy, there could be some major implications. More on that in a minute.
The obvious interpretation is that Ford has revised its horsepower estimate from the first teaser, suggesting the new car won’t be as powerful as originally claimed. Yes, “over 650 horsepower” could still mean a figure north 700, and yes, automakers do sometimes intentionally underrate performance claims. It makes absolutely no sense, however, to backpedal from a different figure already released just to be coy. Aside from creating confusion, it just makes Ford look bad. Still, putting on a poker face could be the game plan, lulling people with a lower figure in hopes they’ll forget the 700-hp teaser from January, then bushwhack them with something extraordinary at the launch. It sure would be a sloppy move on Ford’s part, but we've seen sloppy moves from pretty much every automaker at some point.
It could also be a simple mistake. A company as large as Ford will have numerous internal departments as well as outside contractors handing a wide range of marketing and PR functions, and communication isn’t always the best. The crew tasked with representing Ford at the L.A. Auto Show may have simply got wrong information, not realizing a public confirmation of over 700 horsepower already existed. Anyone who’s worked events for large companies will know this sort of thing happens quite often.
Gallery: 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 teaser at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show
As for the major implications, let’s theorize that the first interpretation is true and Ford has revised its horsepower estimate below the 700-hp mark. The LA Auto Show display also says the new GT500 would be the "most powerful street-legal production Ford ever built." That means it would need at least 663 hp to surpass the previous-generation GT500, but if it's not over 700, that's not a significant improvement for a highly anticipated muscle car that's been off the market for five years. More importantly, it wouldn’t give Ford any bragging rights in the high-horsepower domestic segment, where Dodge’s 707-hp Hellcat engine powers everything from Challengers to the insane Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. And let's not forget the 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1. No, the 'Vette isn't a direct Mustang competitor, but it's still an American performance icon with a lot of power.
One way or another, we’ll get to the bottom of this in a couple months when the covers come off for the Detroit Auto Show.