The bragging rights and sheer spectacle of the car will most likely be worth it for fans of the marque
The 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is a stunning accomplishment from the Blue Oval. While the V8-powered Mustang GT's performance prowess grew significantly with the introduction of the current generation platform (in particular its independent rear suspension system), the Shelby GT350 is something else entirely: a sports car wearing a muscle car suit, and a vehicle that feels almost nothing like its progenitor out on the road.
Much as the Boss 302 proved that the Mustang could carve corners with the best of them, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 takes that several steps further with a bespoke engine, the first magnetically-adjustable suspension system to be offered with the pony car, and long list of chassis adjustments and aero upgrades. You'll pay a price, of course, to get behind the wheel of the best Mustang money can buy - and that amount has been boosted significantly for the 2017 models now on sale - but the bragging rights and sheer spectacle that come with the car will most likely be worth it for fans of the marque.
- The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350's 5.2-litre V8 is a piece of work. With the ability to rev past 8,000 rpm, there's really no precedent for it in a Ford street car, and the sport exhaust system's almost-unmuffled roar is unique among high-horsepower coupes, at any price. Unlike the brute force approach of the last Shelby (the 662 horsepower GT500) the GT350 shrinks output down to a more usable 526 horses and 429 lb-ft of torque, and it doesn't attempt to kill you by swinging the tail out sideways every time you mash the throttle.
- It's a crazy world where 526 hp seems 'reasonable,' but helping to keep the Shelby GT350 in check is a magnetic suspension system that automatically adapts to road conditions. You also get a limited-slip rear differential and a standard 6-speed manual transmission that's truly a joy to play with when trying to keep the engine above its 4,000 rpm sweet spot. MagneRide, as it's called, is part of the optional 'Technology' package, which will set you back an additional $9,400, and which also includes a long list of other niceties including the SYNC 3 infotainment interface, leather sport seats that are heated and cooled, and navigation.
- The blue stripes on white paint look of our tester garnered an incredible amount of response every time we drove it. Other drivers and pedestrians were constantly giving us the thumbs up, when they weren't running for their lives from the enormous exhaust note, and the front splitter, side fender cut-outs, and unique hood also help to make the GT350 the best-looking Mustang you can currently buy.
- If you want to go completely crazy, you can opt for the R package, which installs 19-inch wheels made out of carbon fibre, all the heavy-duty cooling you could need for extended stays on a road course, and Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which are simply outstanding in terms of grip. You also get even more aggressive aero gear and a suspension tuning that's focused on lap times, not commuting. If you want just the MagneRide, a strut-tower brace, upgraded front springs, and better cooling, you can opt for the Track package, instead (but this locks you out of the Technology package).
- The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 really doesn't feel like a street car, particularly with regards to how its chassis has been setup. Right from the factory, the GT350 tramlines with the best of them, following ruts and bumps in the road so aggressively that you have to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel at highway speeds, lest you be drawn into the lane beside you. It's also a rough car to drive over broken pavement, and while I wouldn't call it punishing, even with MagneRide installed and set to its softest you'll notice a difference compared to the Mustang GT.
- We loved the 5.2-litre motor, but we'd be remiss to not point out that power peaks pretty high, and low-end torque isn't a priority for this eight-cylinder beast. At the drag strip you risk being left behind by a GT with sticky tires and aggressive gears, and while 100 km/h is available in a scant 4.3 seconds, don't count on the launch control system to get you there - you'll have to slip the clutch yourself for the best results. We saw 12.8 seconds @ 113mph (182 km/h) in the standing quarter mile (400 meter) dash.
- For 2016, Ford priced the Shelby GT350 at $62,599, but asked you to pay a hefty fee to load up on any packages that included 'must haves' like MagneRide. Those cars are gone now, and Ford's only selling 2017's on its website - which come with a huge $11,000 price increase. The reason for the new $73,678 base MSRP stems from the decision to include the Track package as standard equipment, leaving you to fork over $4,000 if you want either the Electronics or the Convenience packages (which add to the luxury side of the ledger). Either way, a near-$25k premium over the GT is a lot of money to pay for a Mustang, no matter how indisputably amazing it might be.
Photos: Benjamin Hunting