Supercar vs. Muscle Car Showdown: Acura NSX vs. Ford Shelby GT500
Some weeks my neighbors might really question what I do for a living. With one or two different vehicles in my driveway week to week, they probably think I either work for a car dealer or a drug dealer.
This week especially, it looked more like the latter with not one, but two very fast and furious cars in my driveway. This week, I got to experience the 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. I wrote my full thoughts and review here on this extraordinary muscle car.
To summarize (but really click the link) this muscle car is super fast (to the tune of 760 horsepower). Emphasis on the word tune as the throaty growl of the Shelby was absolutely amazing, not to be outmatched by the pristine seven-speed dual clutch transmission. In short, the Shelby was awesome!
But I had a choice to drive another vehicle too. In fact it’s my job to drive it. It’s a hard life I tell you! Also in my driveway for the week was the Acura NSX in Indy Yellow Pearl. The Shelby GT500 I had was also in a new color (for the model year): antimatter blue. The impressive paint coats alone, having nearly $300,000 in cars in front of your house can garner attention.
Of note, I also had a third vehicle, the Lexus NX 300H the same week. It says something when a Lexus is the “shabbiest” of your vehicles for the week. But for the sake of this article, we’re going to look at these two vastly different, but equally appealing cars.
I realize that this might be the only comparison between a Shelby Mustang and an Acura NSX ever done. So, hurray for a unique Google search. And obviously, these two cars have little to nothing in common and really can’t be compared. Instead, I’ll focus on what these cars do best.
Shelby GT500 – The Muscle Car of All Muscle Cars
That above statement alone might have the Mopar community up in arms with Hellcat enthusiasts weighing in. But for me, the 2021 Shelby GT500 is the perfect muscle car. It is the total package with looks, performance and sound to go along with a “competitive” price point. It’s almost as value-oriented for what you get as the C8 Corvette is.
My tester came in with a price tag around $78,000, but many Shelbys have been selling for more than six figures. And certainly this muscle car has the opportunity to retain its value or even grow its value. It should be an instant collector car.
Acura NSX – Supercar With Big Price Tag
I have yet to write my official review of the Acura NSX, so I’ll hold back some of my thoughts for a later date. But I was thrilled to be given a chance to drive the NSX. It was one of the few “supercars” I had yet to experience. And truth be told the one thing that works against the NSX is that it lacks cache. It’s not an Audi R8. It’s not a Lamborghini. It’s not even a Ford GT. And really the GT, not the Shelby GT500 is the fairer Ford comparison to the NSX.
The NSX looks the part of being special. With the new special paint color that Indy Yellow Pearl makes it stand out more. I received a lot of thumbs up, second looks and people taking photos of the NSX during my time with it.
The MSRP of my beautiful yellow supercar came in at a staggering $197,995, which makes the Shelby’s price of $78,000 look like quite a bargain. Heck, you can get two Shelbys for the price of NSX.
That brought me to the next question.
Is the Acura NSX Better Than A Shelby GT500?
Better is a subjective word. Is it twice better than Shelby, since the price would dictate that it is? I can’t really say as the two cars are just so vastly different.
Let’s break down the powertrain and performance. The Shelby GT500 has a 5.2-liter supercharged V8 engine that produces 760 horsepower (stock). The growl and sheer muscley performance is tough to rival. And I’ve sang the praises of the seven-speed Tremec transmission. Seriously it’s the best transmission I’ve ever experienced.
As for the NSX, it also has a dual clutch transmission but with a 9-speed. You’d think two extra “gears” would make it better, but the engineering of the Shelby outshines the very good transmission of the NSX. That’s not to say the NSX’s transmission isn’t stellar because it is.
The NSX is technically considered a hybrid with an electrified drivetrain mated to a 3.5-liter Twin turbo V6. That’s right it’s a V6 (but remember so is the Ford GT). Out of that V6 engine Acura manages to pull an impressive 573 horses. And the tune of the NSX is very sweet with a much-different sound than the Shelby, but still very exhilarating. Four modes, includes track mode change up its dynamics.
If you’re comparing strictly by horsepower numbers there’s no comparison. But that’s where trying to compare the two is really not fair. The NSX actually is faster in 0-60 MPH testing with a rating of 2.9 seconds. The Shelby, which is a lot heavier clocks in just over 3 seconds.
Both cars are blazing fast and both cars are super fun to drive. But the experience is totally different as each car has a different driving dynamic and personality. The differences are easy to tell not just by looks, but by the numbers, which tell the tale.
The Shelby weighs 4,182 pounds compared to the light Acura NSX which weighs in at 3,878. The NSX’s wheelbase is smaller too at 103.5 inches to the GT500’s which is 107.1.
Both cars are special and both cars are amazing. I’ll remember my time with them mostly because it happened during the same week. Both cars begged to be driven. I made a loose comparison that it was comparing which you like better NASCAR or Indy Car.
The raw power and popularity of NASCAR is what the Shelby represents while the more exotic, and refined performance and handling of the all-wheel drive Acura NSX represents Indy cars. Both are fun to watch for different reasons just as both of these cars oh-so-fun to drive for different reasons.
I was sad to see both cars. This week was a blast and will be a lasting memory for sure.
As always, leave me your thoughts and comments.
Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.