Anything that can be bought, can also be rented. Okay, not food, toilet paper and chemical insecticides, but everything else. Including, starting this summer, high performance Mustangs tweaked by Shelby American at Hertz stores near several mild weather airports. That’s all to the good. The question becomes whether or not the amped-up 2022 Shelby GT-H or the ‘roided, 900-horsepower, supercharged GT500-H are great enough to be worth renting.
Based on short familiarization drives, here are some answers. Keep in mind, it’s a rental. Commitments are conditional.
GT-H Coupe and Convertible
The GT-H is fairly close analog to the original 1966 Shelby GT350-H as rented back then by Hertz. It’s also close to the 2006-2007 and 2016 versions of the GT-H Hertz has previously offered up to the public.
Like the original ’66, the GT-H is available with an automatic transmission. In fact that’s the only way it comes. It’s the same 10-speed automatic that’s used in so many Ford and GM vehicles and it’s pretty good. But it’s also not a quick-shifting dual-clutch super-performer. The transmission by itself tempers the car’s behavior; there’s only so much going to happen.
At its essence the GT-H is a 5.0-liter Mustang GT that’s been slightly thumped. Hit the start button and the Coyote V8 dibbles up to an idle enhanced by the spongy warble from the Borla-built, Shelby-branded exhaust system. Shelby and Hertz claim that the exhaust system is enough to raise the output from Ford's claimed 450 horsepower to… more than that.
The other big performance change is the fitment of 20-inch wheels wearing Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires in 255/35R20s on nine-inch-wide wheels in front and 275/35ZR20s on 10-inchers in back.
With its aggressive decoration, the GT-H has a definite presence a regular Mustang GT can’t match. There’s a bit of tire noise from the big meat at each corner, but that’s also true of the regular GT. In fact the tire widths are the same as used on the 19-inch diameter wheels Ford fits to Mustang GTs.
What the GT-H packs most powerfully is visual excitement. The stripes, the cool Hertz-specific hood and the splashy tail panel with the Shelby logo running across it all look great.
The rentals on the GT-H run at $99 a day with no mileage limitations. There will be “about 400” in the rental fleet according to Hertz, evenly split between the hardtop coupe and convertible. There aren’t going to be many better ways to spend a summer weekend in Miami than cruising a GT-H convertible.
And really, it may not look like the ’66, but the convertible is the best way to appreciate the GT-H.
The idea of a 900-horsepower anything let loose on America’s highways and byways is ludicrous – in many glorious and occasionally terrifying ways. But there will be 25 of these Whipple-blown studs out ranging the country starting this summer. Rentals start at $399 a day with 75 miles of use included. Additional miles will go off a 99-cents each. So, doing the math, a record Cannonball run in one of these could come in under 24-hours. Figure 2906 miles… that’s $3201.69 plus fuel and snacks. Might be a deal. Some complications will ensue.
Start the Hertz GT-500H and it does a mini-eruption. It’s Mount Vesuvius spitting out through a Borla exhaust with a wicked whine from its Whipple screw-type supercharger (replacing the GT500’s Eaton Rootes-style lobe unit). It’s not a normal car – much less a normal rental car. It has an abnormal (claimed) 900-horsepower aboard. While that’s a lot, in a world of Tesla Model S Plaids, it’s not that much.
The 900 or so horses are funneled through the stock seven-speed, dual-clutch Tremec transmission. Shelby has worked with Tremec to tweak the shifting for the GT500-H, but it works with the same seamless ease as it does in the buyable GT500.
It's not like the Ford’s 760-horsepower, production Shelby GT500 is a laggard. Our rural friends at Car and Driver have tested it blasting to 60 mph in 3.4-seconds blurping through the quarter-mile in 11.3-seconds at 132 mph. That’s a whole hog definition of blurp.
The initial 25-percent of throttle travel or so brings only a modest engine response. It feels as if it has been tuned to make reassure the neophyte driver that this is something manageable. It’s not going to bark angrily or bite dangerously. It’s a car and not a death wish.
Combine that easygoing throttle tip-in with traction and stability controls and the result is a very benign driving experience. Around town, it could be any other Mustang with a bit more tire noise, exhaust rumble and intake whoosh.
Find a slice of open road, however, and the thundering hooves of all those ponies show up. It doesn’t have the instantaneous torque of an electric like the dual-motor Teslas, but it rises up and goes faster and furious-er as if Vin Diesel was embedded in the supercharger case.
This is a rear-drive machine with enormous tires. Push it beyond its limits and the consequences will be headline news. But there’s something clever about how this GT-500H presents plenty of high-performance sensations without inviting the driver to indulge their most moronic fantasies.
On this limited drive, there was little chance to explore the cornering ability built into the GT500-H. The 305/30ZR20 front and 315/30ZR20s rear tires are the same width as those fitted to the regular GT500 on larger diameter wheels. But these Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, not Sport Cup 2s. Great tires, but built for all-season daily use, not track hero hijinks.
Similarly, there was little chance to test the big Brembo brake (in Hertz drag) during this short exposure. They felt good. The only available comparison would been nosing the GT500-H into the water barrels protecting the gore point of an off-ramp on the I-15 running south out of Vegas. Somehow, that temptation was avoided.
With all its power channeled through the rear wheels, launches can only be so hard on the GT500 or the GT500-H. There’s only so much rubber available and only so much even a well-programmed launch program can do to overcome the limitations imposed by physics. It may be quicker than a GT500, but it’s not likely to be so much quicker in the context of the traction available.
Where the extra power may show up is at the top end. The GT500-H feels like a 200+ mph car, even if there was no chance to explore that on public roads in Nevada. At least no chance that didn’t risk winding up in Lovelock Correctional Center. But it’s best to appreciate it as an incredibly fast car anyone can sample that, driven within their limits, will be relatively safe.
So, here’s the complication on that theoretical Cannonball run. The GT500-H must be returned to the Hertz office where it was rented. No one-way rentals are allowed. So, after the blast one-way, it must be driven back on a return run. Think of it as an opportunity to set two records – there and back again.
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