New 2021 GT500 – 1st Ever Mustang Owner Impressions – DCT vs Manual

Hello everyone. I can’t say how much all the threads and youtube videos were to me during the past few months, so I felt it only right to return the favor and put this out there in hopes that maybe it also helps someone else in the market.


– Me (on the right) and my salesman Spencer (who is also my client, which worked out perfect) –

So, this was supposed to be a Mach 1. Just like many of you, ordered back in the summer and have been keeping an eye on all the drama going on at the ford plant. I absolutely fell in love with the HP mach 1 and the attraction was strong enough to hold me…. for awhile. I may have held on too, but a client of mine (I own a strength training facility here in Braselton) is a salesman at Akins Ford (I think its the 6th largest ford dealership in the country??) and we would always talk about the cars, the delays, etc. He sent me some pics and said “look what just rolled off the truck”….



(lucky me, it was optioned EXACTLY how I would have optioned it, minus the car cover)

THE STRUGGLE BEGINS!!!! I cannot tell you how many times I re-watched every video I could find on both the Mach 1 and the GT500 ( I must have watched the Jay Leno one 10 times). Again, they were all helpful and that’s why I’m doing this. I lost sleep, had stomach problems, couldn’t focus…. To make it even harder, I wasn’t allowed to test drive the GT500 and no one was allowed to take it for a test drive either haha. It had just rolled off the truck so it hadn’t gone through PDI, but at the same time they had just listed it on the website and already had people calling about it. Braselton and the surrounding area is pretty well off, so not a stretch to think someone would just randomly walk in and buy it any minute. That same week (last weekend as of writing this) Ford started sending out cancellation notices on the HP Mach 1’s and others were getting dates pushed back. So that, on top of the fact that this was all supposed to be a birthday gift to myself and that if I had waited on the Mach 1 I likely wouldn’t be bringing it back here till December and then all the fun driving weather will be gone, I bit the bullet. Like they say, if you’re going to cheat, cheat up, not down, and the only thing above the Mach 1 right now is the GT500.

BIGGEST FEAR – Giving up the manual for a DCT
There is a lot to review on this car, but I’ll get right to the part most might be interested in. The DCT vs a manual.
I love cars and the science of driving / racing. One thing I could not wait the most for was driving that tremec in the Mach 1. Watching all the review videos and hearing how happy people were when driving it made me just know beyond a doubt that it was a piece of heaven. My thinking was even WITH 760 HP from a supercharged 5.2 engine, I was going to be giving up a hell of a lot of enjoyment in driving by going with the Shelby.
I cannot say how wrong I was, and I don’t think there is a proper way to transmit this through just writing it in the boring text you’re reading on your computer.
NOW, I will say that the GT500 is the only experience I have with paddle shifters on a DCT. I have to believe that it’s just not this good on most other applications (and the reviews echo the same thing). For example, a manual Mach 1 vs the A10 Mach 1, you’re going to have a whole lot more fun with the manual, hands down.
It was said in one of the reviews I watched somewhere (maybe about the ZL1, as I was considering that at a time too) that at a certain point in power and capability you almost feel like you’re not getting the most out of a car with a manual anymore. I immediately disregarded that comment when I heard it, especially since it was coming from a very feminine like journalist anyways. Now though, I think there is truth to it. This car is F***ING INSANE. North Georgia has some awesome roads to drive and just taking this thing down public roads at maybe 6/10ths has you white knuckled. Everything is happening so fast, and that exhaust (which sounds like it was equally made by God and Satan) is screaming at you and just taking your senses to 11….. AND THEN THE GEAR CHANGES!!!! God, they’re so satisfyingly fast and aggressive. I’m smiling while writing this and just thinking about them. Yes, I will say it and die by it, THIS DCT (specifically THIS one on THIS car) is better than a manual in my opinion. I have zero regrets on it after having dug into it on the roads (and I still have plenty of tenths to reach on my way to getting all 10 out of 10 from this machine). Its something you have to experience I think. And no, just driving around town in normal mode and hitting the paddles while staying under 4k is not the experience that is going to change your mind. You need to be downshifting from 70 mph+, hard breaking into a turn, keeping it above 4k, hearing the pops of the exhaust, and getting right back on it on corner exit, experience just how quick you get back to redline, BAM shift, climbing, shift again, no loss of speed, no feeling the car jerk…. its incredible.
I still love manuals obviously, and I think for most cars around or under 500 HP you’ll still get everything out of it with a manual. When you’re reaching 800 HP though in a car that can ACTUALLY put that down, and brake, and handle, and turn…. you get way more out of it with the DCT. Also, I believe the sound of the exhaust is made even better by just how fast it shifts. I don’t think it would sound as mean and glorious if it took just that little bit longer with a manual.
Then even with all the craziness that the DCT offers, I do have to point out that it is nice to just go back to full auto and not always have to be so engaged.

MODES – This feature took me by surprise even after all the review videos. To really appreciate it I think you have to put everything into track mode, hit an on ramp to the highway, maybe go a touch over the speed limit and then back off and throw everything into normal, with steering set to comfort and exhaust to quite. Its like 2 completely different cars its so crazy! It hilarious how fast it can still accelerate and not make any noise haha. This is another area where the DCT helps bring more out of the car than a manual could. In full auto the modes completely change the throttle response and shifting characteristics of the car and I feel it really helps to enjoy and appreciate the different modes even more. I’ve seen a few review videos of the Mach 1 driving manuals and they’ll switch between modes and not notice too much from one to the other (sans the polar opposite modes).

THE COLOR – this was another big point weighing on me between the Mach 1 and this particular GT500. That jet fighter grey and the decals really do help to make it standout, and again, that car was love at first sight for me. The 500 was not. I’ll be completely honest about that. At first I could look at it, look away, and not turn my head back to see it again. It didn’t help that there are a lot of people who voice opinions that black makes details about a car disappear and blend in with other cars. Now, when I initially went to go see the 500 and it was a little dirty from transit and still had the packing materials on it and did not have the handling pack aero on it, it was not visually impressive to me.
I am very happy to report that again I was so so wrong and have since fell in love with the shadow black.



Now, I can’t imagine owning any other color. I’ve driven past a few other 500s this past week too. Some were even the color combos I think I would have chosen. Yet none now look right to me after having this. I’m very anxious to get this to my detail guy next week (Chris at Zero Defects here in Braselton) because I know black can be taken to a whole new level of shine in the hands of a professional ceramic and detail job. Following a few suggestions from here, I will have him run the clay bar over it as well.
Visually I’m super happy with this car. I did add the red Shelby lettering on the splitter because I though it matched well with the calipers and the taillights, giving it a red accent all the way around. The only other thing I’ll be doing visually to it here soon is getting the carbon fiber hood vent. I think just that one tiny carbor fiber accent will look very nice (and it ties in with the carbon fiber dash option on the car).
To further drive home to myself that I was happy with my choice, I finally drove past a Mach 1 the other day. I had never seen one in person before, and while driving over 85 a black HP mach 1 drove past ( a member on here too, Ive seen him post pics of it ). I still love it. I think that Mach 1 is a beautiful machine that screams race car from every angle. Yet, I felt no regret. They’re both beautiful and they can be. If I had the money to also buy a second fun car, I would instantly buy that Mach 1, and I may still yet in the future.
Everything seems to be put together well on this one, no factory faults I’m aware of yet. I already scheduled my first oil change for next week and Akins is supposed to have a very good Shelby mechanic. I’ll have him take a deeper look into it to see if there were any mis guided wire pathways or screws not tightened like I’ve seen on here in the 2020 models. I will say was initially concerned with how the transmission feels in the beginning while it’s “learning”. It was very jerky and inconsistent, but now it has calmed down a lot and is smooth in any setting. I go back and forth between my driving characteristics, from soccer mom to adrenaline junkie. The manual does give you the impression though that the DCT is not meant to be feathered and driven half assed. Like I told my wife when she drove it “if you want to go, go. If you want to stop, stop. The car doesn’t like it when you second guess yourself.”

So if you’re around the area, feel free to say hi. I have a very stand off-ish face and demeanor ( Marine, 0311, from 05-09, a few combat tours will do that to your face), but if you’re opening line is “I love that car” or similar, I’ll be happy to talk haha. When my plate comes in it will say PL1SKEN. I couldn’t think of a better one being a black cobra and a huge Kurt Russell fan.

Side notes-
B&O SOUND SYSTEM – I’m maybe a little bit above a rookie audiophile, I do have a nice system in my daily driver truck, I have a very nice home theater room in my house, so I have a little bit of a picky ear and I feel the sound system is good enough that I don’t feel the need to upgrade anything. The bass is more than sufficient, its enough to fill the car and feel it but you’ll need more if you like being that annoying ass on the road who ruins the commute of everyone around you. The only weakness is maybe the mids. I’ll have to play around with the mid setting more, but that’s the only fault I hear and I only hear it when I’m being picky.

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