2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 Review

A $50K Performance Monster

I had been driving the 2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 all wrong.

After a lap around the track, I realized that I’ve been short-shifting the GT350. I’ve been changing gears around 6,500 rpm – the usual sweet spot for a brawny V8 muscle car. But this monster is just beginning to stretch its lungs at that point. Peak power doesn’t arrive until 7,500 rpm and it will take a lofty 8,200 rpm before the fuel cutoff is reached.

Wait, a muscle car is ripping to 8,200 rpm? Welcome to 2016.

Ford achieves this Ferrari-like redline by utilizing a flat-plane crank in the Shelby’s 5.2-liter V8 engine. With an atmospheric redline, the eight-cylinder is able to unleash 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. But the power numbers may only be the second best aspect of the V8. The best part of this new engine is how it sounds.

2016-Ford-Shelby-Mustang GT350-10

Loud and Fast

Crank up the GT350, and it’s immediately apparent that this is a loud car. But it gets better. Flip the toggle switch to activate the sport exhaust, and the Mustang enters a whole other realm of crazy. It’s like acquiring your own personal volatile on-demand cumulonimbus cloud. Running from 1,000 rpm to 8,200 rpm in the Shelby is a religious experience.

With that sport exhaust open around 6,000 rpm, it sounds like the gates of hell are starting to open. By 7,000 rpm, the engine has whipped itself into such a fury, that I was certain it was going to blow apart. Then 8,000 rpm passes, and the flat-plane V8 sounds like 1,000 Tasmanian devils hopped-up on methamphetamines inside a steel echo chamber.

2016-Ford-Shelby-Mustang GT350-12

SEE ALSO: Watch the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Lap VIR

With this sound comes spectacular fury. Acceleration is smooth and linear. There are no peaks or valleys in the torque delivery. There’s just a predictable, generous amount of power at all times. It’s really confidence-inspiring around the track, as power can be put down early exiting a corner without fear of a sudden boost-build-up snapping the car sideways.

The only transmission available for the Shelby GT350 is a six-speed manual – no dual-clutch nonsense here. You need to drive this car, not operate it, but that doesn’t make the Shelby a finicky brute, though. It’s so easy to heel-toe the car and the clutch is very forgiving even if a throttle-blip is off by a few 100 rpm while downshifting.

2016-Ford-Shelby-Mustang GT350-05

A Proper Track Rat

In fact, the car as a whole is fairly forgiving and makes novice drivers look far more talented than they are. With the optional Magnaride adjustable dampers and steering set to sport mode, the GT350 communicates constantly what it’s doing back to the driver. Immediately, I felt comfortable behind the wheel and began to explore the Shleby’s insane limits – never coming close to fully exploiting this track weapon.

Unlike the regular Mustang GT that can be a bit tail happy, the GT350 is dialed in. Ford’s engineers have tweaked the chassis and suspension to deliver just the right amount of rear-end rotation, allowing the driver to better use the throttle, steering and brakes to manipulate the car through a corner.

2016-Ford-Shelby-Mustang GT350-07

Grip to Go, Grip to Stop

Equipped on the GT350 Track Pack are massive 295/35R19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires up front, while slightly wider 305/35R19 tires reside in the back. As should be expected with four steam-rollers, lateral grip levels in the GT350 are high. And helping to get the power down to the meaty rear tires is a standard torsen limited-slip differential.

Scrubbing off speed from the 3,791-lb muscle car takes a lot of brake and Ford has ensured the GT350 stops as well as it accelerates. Large 15.5-inch front brake rotors are clamped down by six-piston calipers, while slightly smaller rear rotors are squeezed by four piston calipers. Braking from 100 mph will have your eyeballs trying to vacate their sockets.

2016-Ford-Shelby-Mustang GT350-18

And When Not Turning Laps

But don’t let the Shelby name fool you. This is not an unwieldy monster on the street like the recent GT500. The GT350 is actually quite a livable car for day-to-day driving, assuming noise does not bother you. Wet or dry, the new Shelby can put around town like a 100 hp commuter.

SEE ALSO: 2009 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

But unlike the 2003 Toyota Corolla stuck beside the Shelby in traffic, the GT350 is sure to turn a lot of heads. The exterior upgrades are exactly what the new Mustang needed. It takes the overly conservative, somewhat boring looking regular Mustang and turns it into a monster ready to dine on fine European and Japanese mechanical delicacies.

The interior receives a few upgrades, highlighted by upgraded seats, a flat bottom faux-suede steering wheel and, of course, Shelby GT350 badging. Being the GT350 and not the GT350R, the Mustang retains its rear seats and can be optioned with a host of premium options like cooled seats, lane departure warning and a killer sound system.

2016-Ford-Shelby-Mustang GT350-04

The Verdict: 2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 Review

The 2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 sets a new standard for track-focused muscle cars. It’s not as dedicated and hardcore as the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, but still wholly capable. And starting at $48,695 after destination charges, it’s a hell of a performance bargain. The new Shelby GT350 is everything the original GT350 was during its time – a muscle car honed for the track that focused more on clipping corners than turing quarter-mile times.

And like in 1965, the GT 350 is ready to surprise the pants off a lot of high-priced European machinery.

Discuss this on our Ford Mustang Forum