Ford finally pulled the wraps off of the much-hyped Mustang Shelby GT500 at the Detroit Auto Show. The legendary GT500 name is back to take the fight straight to the Dodge Hellcat cars with more than 700 horsepower (we’re still waiting on an exact horsepower rating) and a sufficiently hyperbolic aesthetic. However, there’s one mechanical detail that’s still a bit cloudy: it’s been neither confirmed nor denied whether the new GT500 will ever be available with a manual transmission.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but don’t get your hopes up. The car is launching with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as the only gearbox option. While this sounds like a promising transmission, Ford won’t come out and say whether it will ever be available with a manual. “Right now, we’re DCT-only, [but] we get feedback, and we’re real tight with the Mustang crowd,” Ford Performance head engineer Carl Widmann told Road & Track. “We always listen to what our customers want, right?” he said in response to being asked directly if a manual option was on the table.
Sorry, folks, but to me, that sounds like we enthusiasts are being let down easy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t expect this generation of the GT500 to ever have three pedals. If we can accept that this is probably the case, we need to ask ourselves; is that a bad thing?
Let’s take a look at the manual take rate for this car’s closest competition — the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. According to Dodge, about 35 percent of Challenger Hellcats sold are equipped with manual transmissions, which is quite a high take rate for any car in which you have a choice between a manual or an automatic.
However, the manual take rate for the Charger SRT Hellcat is exactly zero percent, since it isn’t an option. Nobody seems to mind that a manual Charger Hellcat isn’t available. Could that be because we’re starting to accept that modern automatics can shift faster than humans can? Is this just another step in manual transmissions continuing its shrinking popularity in the U.S.? Or is it the fact that sedans are a different world than coupes?
Regardless of the answer, Dodge is having no problem selling automatic Charger Hellcats — and I don’t think Ford will have any difficulty selling automatic GT500s. Only having one available transmission simplifies the manufacturing process for the car. Offering one transmission that everyone knows how to use brings down barriers and allows more people to drive what’s shaping up to be a spectacular muscle car.
Do you think a manual variant of this Ford Mustang GT500 is a pipe dream — or am I being too pessimistic?