Mustang Shelby GT500: Let’s Talk About The New Rotary Shifter

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When Ford dropped an all-new Shelby GT500 from the ceiling of the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, Mustang fans and automotive enthusiasts around the world rejoiced over the fact that this would be the most powerful production Ford vehicle to date, promising “more than 700 horsepower.” Well, more than 700 horsepower it has – 760, to be exact, finally delivering a Mustang capable of rivaling a Dodge Challenger Hellcat or a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.

But then, Ford dropped another bombshell by saying that the only available gearbox for its hyper pony car would be a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. While such a setup will undoubtedly allow the Mustang Shelby GT500 to set lap records, some fans were saddened. To make things even worse, this new range-topping Shelby won’t feature an actual gear selector/shifter, but instead has a rotary gear selector, like the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Let’s take a look at the new Shelby GT500 rotary shifter.

Now, many will argue that once a car goes automatic, the way those gears are selected – whether by way of a lever, a dial or even buttons – it’s irrelevant, because the gearbox does all the shifting anyway, especially when you’re going full-tilt at the track. That’s half true. While, yes, steering column-mounted paddles will be available, removing the actual shifter from a Mustang is a big deal.

That’s because driving a Mustang is a sensory experience. Even with an automatic, the art of holding onto a big meaty shift lever is part of the thrill and, to many, nostalgia. Removing it is like taking away the Mustang’s signature trio of vertical tail lights.

But we get it, Ford is moving to a digital gear selection technology – much like on several Lincolns (via the push-button selectors) and on the refreshed Edge and new Explorer. Even so, the new Shelby GT500’s rotary shifter simply doesn’t feel right. Let’s hope that the rest of the car makes up for it.

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Written by William Clavey

Automotive journalist from Canada, owner of claveyscorner.com

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24 Comments

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    • I agree. That sentence “the art of holding onto a big meaty shift lever is part of the thrill and, to many, nostalgia.” is for old and lonely men who need to grab something phallic since they are missing some male vitality.

      We live and drive with our brains, and so does the new Fords. Those old men can go to and grab some other men’s meaty “shift levels” in private.

      • Wow, what an uninformed response, why do you have to try and insult people who have different preferences than you…just shows your ignorance. I bet you don’t even know how to drive a stick shift? I’m an owner of an awesome 2017 Shelby GT350 and am so happy it is a manual. Canyon driving on a Sat morning “snicking” through the gears is a real treat. Much more involvement in the driving experience with a manual. Traded my 2014 Carrera S PDK for the GT 350 and so much happier with the enhanced driving experience of the manual trans. Who cares if the dual clutch is a couple 10’s faster in the Qtr mile…was teaching my neighbors 17 yr old son to drive it this past weekend and his smile was priceless!!

  1. No way! My heart just sunk to my stomach! I do not like automatics. I feel it takes away my fun, and responsibility of actually making the car move! Someone’s going to find a way to mate-up a T56 or some 6 speed! This is just awful. C’mon Ford, what’re you thinking? Fix this issue! I know a lot of people that won’t be buying now. Including me. Guess I’ll settle for a 5.0 with bolt-on’s. WE WANT OLD SCHOOL!!! That Red eye or ZL1 is looking better and better. Maybe an older GT500? forget this….I want my Hurst sticker.
    Disappointed ?

  2. Oh Jeez… I realize that auto shifted cars are ultimately faster than manuals at the track but in everyday driving, if you’re into doing your own shifting, sticks are way more fun.

    Instead of a rotary shifter knob and dual clutch trans I wish Ford would give me an unimpeachable manual trans with smooth short shifts in all weather. Wouldn’t it be nice to take in a Mustang road test where you read things like “the clutch is lined with velvet, the shifter stirs cream”…..
    That of course is Car &Drivers description of a Porsche manual, but wouldn’t a Mustang with 760 horses and the best manual in the business be a blast to own? Imagine: 760 horsepower and you can access every bit of it effortlessly with a good six speed manual…..Heaven on earth.

  3. I was always a fan of sticks until I got a couple of paddle shift cars. Way more fun than sticks. Think this through – the only thing you’ll do with the knob is activate the transmission. From there you pick street, sport, race mode. Grab the wheel, fingers on the paddles and hang on.

  4. Nothing better than today’s beast 8 and 10-speed autos. While you geezers are back their blowing your tires off, or missing a gear, I’ll just have my foot planted and be dozens of yards ahead. Sticks are for wannabes.

  5. i dont care i’ll never be able to afford this car SO<< i'll be happy driving my 66 coupe with its 351W 4spd

  6. I’d rather miss an occasional shift, which I doubt, that just sit back and floor it! How fun that? Ford, YA, DONE MESSED UP! You dressed up the biggest badass, in a too-too! Give us a 6speed and I’ll row the gears!

  7. I started driving mustang’s around 2010 or 11′. And I’m only 25. It started with an 01′ v6 and have driven many since then including my current 2019 Mustang GT manual. Up until now I was driving all automatics. And it’s very true that having a physical shifter instead of a rotary is much more satisfying for people who truly enjoy driving. Whether it be auto or manual.

  8. This was a kick right in the nuts to us about to retire and buy a new GT500!
    Now I’ve got my eye on a 2013 Shelby!

    I’ll admit, it’s a nice setup, but to look in the car and see a round baby rattle on the console……no thanks!

    • Haha! Funny gadget. I don’t know about you folks, but when buying a new or used Mustang, if givin the option, I always check the “manual” box in the search. I don’t want an automatic! But that’s just me.

  9. Rotary shifter caused me to reconsider buying this car. It’s like mutilation. Unbelievable. Glad I did, if I’ve gotta not have a shifter might as well be the new Vette!! Thanks Ford marketing…you saved me the 70k of disappointment…..maybe you can bring back the Edsel or Pinto too…! WTF

  10. Had my sights on the new 2020 Explorer. Took a test drive and DID NOT like the rotary shifter.
    Bought a 2019, instead, with the “stick” shifter. (Saved alot of money, too!)

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