The world needs a little crazy once in a while. Take Trump, for instance. No, really, take Trump. On a more serious note, the new 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is completely bonkers and brings with it some very good and some very bad.
I won’t go over the whole Shelby thing, but like many people over the years, I was fortunate enough to meet the man a few times including at the 2004 New York Auto Show (where Ford unveiled the 2005 Mustang). Based on what I’ve read about him, he’d be happy with the car. That should be endorsement enough.
However, as much as I loved blasting all over the place, holding 1st or 2nd gear while accelerating, there’s no way I would buy one and add it to my fleet of junkers even if I could afford to.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first. The 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is a chore to drive, and although I love that, I need a proper set of tools to tame the madness. More to the point, I think the steering wheel in this car, which is identical to that of other Mustangs minus the Alcantara, is a complete disaster.
In terms of body shape and size, I’m your typical average Joe, yet I couldn’t get a good grip on the steering wheel. This means that nearly all humans who will drive a Shelby GT350 won’t have full command of the car. I might be dramatic, but take a good look at the dual remote control-sized spokes and try to convince me that all will be fine as you clip an apex heading towards the exit of the increasing radius turn, experiencing much G force.
It’s no different on a normal road where the front end’s massive grip and tires pull you from side to side as the car sticks to every groove in the pavement. Despite this, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 will immediately head in the direction it is pointed with a good amount of feel and response.
The other thing that bugged me can easily be addressed. As it is, the Shelby GT350 is a one-person car. No passenger can enjoy spending more than 10 minutes on a ride-along before they become either motion sick or thoroughly annoyed. My girlfriend is a serious car nut who understands the GT350, but she’d had more than enough after a half-hour country drive.
So guys, if you want to impress and pick up women, this is NOT the car to do it in.
315 cubic inches
Then again, you might never really need a woman as the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 will make you feel all kind of things, all the time.
The madness comes on in full effect in the form of a flat-plane crankshaft 5.2L V8. How’s that? This high-revving, punishment-loving engine will spin itself to near oblivion, or so it sounds. As scared as you might be to keep your foot firmly mashed against the firewall, you’ll want to do it over and over and over again. With 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque, plus an 8,250 rpm redline, this mill is crack meets cocaine meets speed meets meth. That’s how addictive the rush is.
The sole available transmission is a 6-speed manual, and surprisingly, you don’t need massive calf muscles like Canadian bodybuilder Ben Pakulski’s to work the clutch. The shifter’s short throws are very mechanical and satisfying. What is it like to shoot for the horizon with the Shelby GT350? It’s like the sweetest kick in the groin.
With the stick in first, the clutch down, and the right foot jabbing the throttle, the anticipation rises. Side-step the clutch and imagine being hit by a train from behind. It surprises every time. And then there’s the phenomenal, mind-boggling thunder that comes with. The noise with the exhaust set in Sport mode rattles the soul.
Believe me, sensing the rear of the car squat, the tires dig in, and the Torsen limited-slip differential manage the engine’s furious rage is as awe-inspiring as it is epic. Short-shift 1st, as in upshift at 5,000 rpm, then pound the shifter into 2nd and this time hold to 8,000 rpm. Rinse and repeat. If you don’t get pulled over and arrested, you’ll do it over and over again.
As far as the ride goes, the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is nothing short of punishing. It’s always on edge, as though anticipating its next hit. Even when set in Normal mode, there’s no such thing as cruising around. The car is constantly in battle mode, which translates into a highly capable track monster.
Sadly, I did not have the opportunity to put the Shelby GT350 through its paces. Compared to the standard Ford Mustang GT, a front tower brace and wider track match up with recalibrated spring rates and bushings for maximum aggression.
All great power must come with great brakes. Here, the guys at Ford threw in some gigantic Brembo hardware including 6-piston front and 4-piston rear callipers. The middle pedal is firm and therefore requires a delicate touch at lower speeds.
You’ll never mistake it for something else
With Shelby comes not only power, but also great looks. The GT350 is squat, wide, crouched down to the ground, and all business. Personally, I like big derrieres and the current Mustang really does it for me. In Shelby trim, the extra diffuser and decklid lip spoiler make me gaga. Viewed from the front, the breadth of the car’s athletic stance is mesmerizing.
The cabin is very much Mustang, while aggressively bolstered seats and a few accents remind you that this is not a run-of-the-mill GT. Other than that, SYNC, Shaker, and MyFord Touch are all accounted for.
Go Big 3
The 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 competes with the Chevy Camaro Z28, and more or less with the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. I haven’t driven the most recent edition, but the previous Z28 was already a supremely competent track car. Anyhow, in this race, you belong to one of the three factions, so your choice is likely already made.