The 2011 Ford Shelby GT500 is here and is ready to take the top-end performance pony car to a whole new level. Designed by Ford's Special Vehicle Team (SVT), the stunning muscle vehicle houses a brand-new aluminum-block engine, better driving dynamics and handling, improved fuel economy and more output power than ever.

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

Under the bonnet of the new GT500, the SVT engineers have mounted an all-new supercharged aluminum-block 5.4-liter V-8 power-plant, which is capable of producing 550 horsepower and 510 ft.-lb. of torque. Slightly more potent - 10 horsepower - than the previous model's power unit, the new engine strikes with improved weight - 102 pounds lighter, fuel economy, acceleration, handling and steering precision. The engine achieves 80 per cent of its torque between 1,750 and 6,250 rpm, delivering remarkable level of performance feel. Moreover, its supercharger system is packed with a larger two-row intercooler, which brings 40 per cent more cooling capacity.

"Cutting weight to improve performance is a tradition among hot rodders," said Carroll Shelby, founder of Shelby American. "It might not be as sexy as adding more horsepower or bigger brakes, but shaving pounds off of a car is the single smartest move you can make."

The Shelby GT500 for model year 2011 will be the first modern Shelby without gas guzzler tax, thanks to its EPA-projected 23 mpg highway and 15 mpg city fuel economy.

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Thanks to its new sound-deadening material on the instrument panel, sound absorption behind interior trim panels, and a rear wheel arch liner, which reduces the noise on gravel or wet surfaces, the Shelby GT500 boosts 20 per cent overall road noise reduction compared to the 2010 model.

The convertible version boasts enhanced structural rigidity, which 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 benefits from 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."

Furthermore, the 2011 GT500 is packed with a new exhaust unit, which renders even more brutal sound than its predecessor. Standard HID (high-intensity discharge) headlamps, MyKey system, integrated spotter mirror and fold-down rear headrests are standard for the new model.