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Ten Best Engines logoWard’s 10 Best Engines

A funny thing happened while Ward’s 10 Best Engines judges were pondering the expanding list of Mustang variants in search of the best way to sample the auto maker’s modular 4.6L SOHC V-8: Ford’s on-the-ball press-fleet coordinators hustled over one of the first examples of the Shelby GT.

Most of us didn’t get out of the parking garage before scrambling for a pen to wax eloquent about this seemingly innocuous tweak to the 4.6L V-8, the brawny and vocal new generation of Ford’s excellent modular V-8 family that scorched its way to a 10 Best Engines win when launched two years ago.

That’s because the even growlier exhaust note is immediately evident when bouncing off concrete walls. Not that it really needs any augmentation. The 4.6L V-8’s exhaust symphony simply is the best on the market, but the new Shelby GT specification of the 4.6L somehow improves on what we were convinced already was V-8 aural perfection.

This comes by way of Ford’s Racing components unit, which supplies for the Shelby GT a Ford Racing Power Pack that fits a cold-air intake (an import tuner-market staple), a revised crossover pipe for the dual exhaust and some engine-management software fettling.

The result is an extremely noticeable 25-hp improvement over the standard 4.6L V-8’s stout 300 hp and a slight gain in torque, from 320 lb.-ft. (434 Nm) to 330 lb.-ft. (447 Nm). The shorter final-drive ratio, 3.55:1 compared with the Mustang GT’s 3.31:1, also is a likely conspirator in notably nastier in-gear acceleration.

The Shelby GT, by the way, is the civilian version of the Shelby GT-H, which only can be sampled by renting one from Hertz.

The Ford Racing Power Pack “really wakes this engine up,” says one Ward’s editor, reminding that one of our only reservations regarding Ford’s modular V-8s is some low-rpm sleepiness that isn’t erased until the engine gets “on the cam.”

But as usual with this V-8, the sounds leave as much impression as the power.

The cold-air intake, for example, isn’t shy about making it’s presence known. With the Power Pack, the revised 4.6L V-8’s intake bark can single-handedly raise the national terror-threat color. Coordinating with the even more luscious exhaust, the 325-hp 4.6L V-8 is about as subtle as a truck-stop breakfast.

If you don’t yearn for all that sturm and drang, go for the 4.6L V-8 in standard 300-hp trim, which is one of the market’s unqualified excitement-per-dollar leaders and is more convincing than most engines while just idling in the driveway.

And as one reader reminded just minutes after posting this year’s 10 Best Engines winners on WardsAuto.com, you don’t need the admittedly limited-purpose Mustang GT to partake of the 4.6L V-8’s special character: Ford also offers this engine (in iron-block form) for the Explorer and Explorer Sport Trac.

But really, the Mustang Shelby GT – 325 hp, 330 lb.-ft. and 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in about 5 seconds, all for about $35,000. We see more 10 Best Engines awards in the future with numbers like those.