2016 Shelby GT350
The Mustang achieves perfection.
Hang on just a minute…didn’t you gush over the Boss 302 a few short years ago proclaiming “Best. Mustang. EVER?”
Guilty as charged- we blurted out that claim while basking in the glory of what used to be the zenith of the Mustang model range. It was an incredible car, and its greatness is still fresh in our minds as well as the collective enthusiast community and will still command an asking price remarkably close to the windshield sticker when it was new. The Boss took the Mustang’s 5.0 litre V8 and live axle rear suspension and honed both to deliver every last millimeter of performance they could offer within that framework. When the current S550 generation with its independent rear suspension dropped in 2014, we eagerly awaited to see how Ford would attempt to outdo itself. When they started to tease the GT350 in the media and slowly lifting the veil of what kind of hardware it’d be packing, we started to salivate profusely. Consider the hype not only lived up to but exceeded- they have built not just the pinnacle of the Mustang’s lineage, but something that will strike fears into a who’s-who of renowned performance machines. The engineers had iconic heavyweights in their crosshairs; namely, the BMW M4, Porsche GT3 and Camaro Z/28.
Geez guys, get a hold of yourselves.
Sorry. But we find it hard to rein in our unapologetic praise of such an extraordinary machine, and we’ll apologize in advance if our decorum falls by the wayside and we start to foam at the mouth in delirium while trying to tell you what it’s like to drive the GT350. In the era of motoring we currently find ourselves in, there simply aren’t many cars like this and probably will be hard to come by for the foreseeable future. Everything nowadays is overtly digital and features small displacement engines augmented by turbos. The GT350 is a nuanced love letter to all-motor natural aspiration and cars that are built with a clear, single purpose- to put a smile on the face of petrolheads while allowing them to achieve almost absurd levels of speed and finesse. We’ll do our best to keep it together.
Let’s start with the engine. Much has been made about the “Voodoo” flat plane crank V8…
Ford’s Performance division engineers reasoned that if a flat plane crank is good enough for Ferrari’s 488 GTB, it’s good enough for the Shelby. A quick Google search will tell you how a flat plane crank architecture works much better than we ever could, but suffice it to say that it gives the hand built (!) 5.2 litre V8 a healthy set of lungs and an insatiable appetite for revs. In order to achieve the magic 100 horsepower per litre plateau without turbos or supercharges Ford had to employ some nifty tricks to get there. This is one of them.
So it must sound ok, then?
Uh…yeah, you could say that. With the Sport Exhaust activated, it sounds good even just off idle. At 4,000 rpm it starts to really wake up and at 8,000 it sends tingles of delight to the farthest reaches of your nervous system. It’s hard to adequately describe how this engine sounds- it’s kind of like a wood chipper gargling titanium Sawzalls spinning at full tilt. Think of what a would happen if Ferrari V8 mated with a Mustang 5.0 litre, and you’re not far off. It’s so loud that we had to pinch ourselves as a reminder that this came from a modern-day manufacturer in a mass-produced setting that you can pick up right off of the showroom floor. There is a switch to quiet down the exhaust which is ostensibly there to be less annoying to people around you. Be that as it may, we surmised that by not having it in Sport mode every single time we drove it that we were doing a disservice to ears everywhere. People gave us all kinds of looks of amazement when we would roll by in a lower gear bathing the auricles of pedestrians and fellow motorists in delicious sonic malevolence. Then there’s the way it builds rpm. It will leave you awestruck- it feels like it has hardly any flywheel at all. When you put your foot down at delivers a scintillatingly pointy whip-crack response that you’ll only find in say, a naturally aspirated Porsche accompanied by that dizzying soundtrack. It is nothing short of a masterpiece.
The chassis must have the proper bits to match the engine, right?
Exactly right. Mustangs have always been well endowed under the hood and you probably get how incredible the GT350’s engine is by now. In order to make sure the performance capabilities met or exceeded the high end bogies they were gunning for, equal attention had to be lavished on the chassis. Starting north of the A-pillar, everything is unique to the GT350- bespoke steering knuckles, a carbon fibre radiator support and a generously wider track are but a few of the changes that were mandated. There are some carryover bits from the plebeian GT in the suspension and steering gubbins, but the brakes are not one of them. Gargantuan rotors front and rear (at 394mm and 378mm respectively) squeezed by calipers with many pistons apiece shed speed with startling ease and with a perfect pedal feel to match. Helping the brakes and aiding the prodigious road holding forces the car can generate are equal parts huge and sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sports sized 295/35/19 up front and 305/35/19’s out back. This is weapons grade stuff, folks, and it all works to make the GT350 a fearsome track day car but also alive and engaging on the street.
What’s it like inside?
The GT350’s cockpit didn’t get the same obsession as the dirty bits did, and we’re OK with that- there wasn’t much to fix in the first place. Out goes MyFord Touch for the vastly superior Sync3 infotainment system. The seats are heated and cooled Recaros that do a great job keeping you fresh on longer journeys while also holding you firmly in place when it’s time to boogie. It is a functional and comfortable place to be and honestly, if you’re complaining about a few pieces of cheap plastic here and there you probably are in the market for the wrong car. Buy a Fusion instead.
What might go wrong?
Pretty much nothing. We had to really stretch to find any negative stuff to say about the GT350. At first we thought we would complain that it’s a pig on fuel, but we achieved 13.2L/100km over the course of our Road Test and frankly, that is laudable for a car that wasn’t driven daintily and has this much firepower. Then we thought we would take issue with the threat of all these go-fast parts threatening to fail over the course of ownership except everything is fully covered under Ford’s bumper-to-bumper factory warranty. The only thing left to gripe about was that they aren’t making enough of them and that fanboys like us will have a tough time procuring one years down the road for cheap, just like its Boss 302 cousin. And you didn’t believe us when we said the Mustang has reached perfection.
2016 Shelby GT350- Specifications
- Price as tested: $74,349
- Body Type: 2-door, 2+2 passenger coupe
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Engine: 5.2-litre V8 with flat plane crank, DOHC, 32 valves
- Horsepower: 526 @ 7,500 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 429 @ 4,750 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,722 kg (3,796 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 13.2L/100km (18 mpg)