The 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 offers super car performance at a bargain price. But actually finding one may prove difficult
The Shelby name is synonymous with high-performance, and as a result, the Ford Motor Company is very selective as to what type of products they deem worthy of carrying this iconic moniker.
Carrol Shelby, the late Texan speed merchant and design wizard earned his reputation for race craft on some of the greatest tracks in the world, and his legend continues for 2016 with the arrival of the most potent Mustang yet, the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350.
Now some may argue that any capable mechanic or tuner could simply buy a standard fare Mustang GT and bolt on some aftermarket equipment to create an equally capable machine, but this is where you would be sadly mistaken. The reality is that the 2016 Shelby GT350 is much more than a Mustang wearing an assortment of speed equipment. In fact, the car is a carefully engineered automobile that has been painstakingly designed to deliver world-class performance to the enthusiast driver at a price that puts many so called super cars to shame. Add to this the fact that part of the car’s design plan called for it to be reliable enough to offer the consumer the ability to use the car as a daily driver, and you soon realize that this car really is very special.
Under the hood: A flat-plane crank V8 engine
The heart and soul of the Shelby GT350 can be found under the hood. The flat-plane crank V8 engine is a marvel of engineering which fires manages to produce more power than a traditional design by firing evenly between its two banks of cylinders. This incredible sounding, lightweight power plant displaces 5.2-litres and will readily rev up to its redline of 8,250 rpm. This engine, codenamed the “Voodoo” engine, produces a glorious rumble that is further enhanced by the car’s dual exhaust system which utilizes active valves to transform this mechanical symphony into a vicious roar worthy of a NASCAR stocker.
When operating below 3,200 rpm this engine is more than comfortable providing the user with the momentum required to complete daily driving duties, but as you traipse through the TREMEC 6-speed manual gearbox and explore the engine’s abundant torque curve above that marker the GT350 really comes to life.
On the road: Driving impressions
Acceleration is visceral as the engine pulls with enough authority to push the driver and passengers deep into their seats, especially if you choose to utilize the standard Launch Control program or Electronic Line Lock features. What sets this car apart is that there seems to be an almost endless supply of torque available, and as the needle on the tachometer s climbs the engine just continues to pull you forward along your chosen trajectory. And this car tracks as well as it hustles, as it rides on a lightweight chassis equipped with ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires mounted to featherweight aluminum wheels which are directed by an advanced suspension setup.
The optional Ford MagneRide damping system has been designed to constantly monitor the action and has the capability to adjust itself thousands of times per second to produce a dynamic driving experience. In fact, Ford’s engineering team has carefully selected suspension components so that the springs, sway bars and dampers all work together with the precision of a fine watch. There are also five Selectable Drive Modes available- Normal, Sport, Weather, Track and Drag- to allow the driver to optimize the car’s handling, traction and response parameters to best meet road and weather conditions.
During my time behind the wheel carving up secret back roads and lofty mountain passes I found the steering to be light enough to react quickly to my inputs, as are the pedals, but all controls still provide sufficient resistance feedback to communicate with the driver and help maintain and inspire his or her confidence in the equipment.
The same confidence comes along with this car’s brake package, which is comprised of massive, cross-drilled, two-piece rotors sourced from the wizards of stopping at Brembo. I will be the first to admit that these big binders hold up to constant abuse, are resistant to fade, and produced stopping power forceful enough to loosen your fillings.
Shelby GT350 Styling
Visually there is no mistaking that the car shares many of its styling cues with lesser Ford Mustang models, but upon closer inspection you will notice that the Shelby is lower, wider, and much more aggressive looking. It almost looks like it is ready to pounce, as it sits back on its wide fenders which quickly draw the eye to a full complement of aerodynamic aids that were carefully integrated into the design after much work was done in the wind tunnel. The Shelby GT350 features unique front and rear fascias, a bold front splitter, exaggerated rocker panels and a functional rear valance with an integrated diffuser. The look is the perfect melding of track weapon and pro-touring muscle, and gives the car a heavy dose of curb appeal to go along with its outstanding performance and handling capabilities.
The interior largely resembles that of a Mustang GT, but the car does get special RECARO sport seats complete with synthetic suede ascents, suede door inserts, special door sills and badges, as well as an Alcantara wrapped steering wheel. A 330 km/h speedometer, 9,000 rpm tachometer, and the company’s Track Apps suite of performance gauges and timers are all onboard to keep the driver informed of the car’s performance.
Add to this the fact that the GT350 comes equipped with a host of comfort and safety goodies, as well as Ford’s SYNC and MyKey systems, and it becomes even easier to justify its seemingly lofty price. There are a couple of big ticket option package bundles available including a Track Package ($8,100) and a Technology Package ($9,400) to further enhance your Shelby, as well as a long list of stand-alone options like navigation, dual-zone climate control, SYNC-3 and leather trimmed seating surfaces.
Just in case the Shelby GT350 is not quite extreme enough for your needs, Ford offers an even angrier model, the Shelby GT350 R ($79,499) which comes standard with the Track Package. The GT350 R benefits from a number of equipment upgrades to allow it to earn the title of the ultimate-handling Mustang ever. This super muscle car employs the same powertrain as the GT350, but the chassis has been further tuned to make optimal use of the special carbon-fibre wheels wrapped in more aggressive Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. The GT350R also benefits from the addition of a downforce-generating, trunk-mounted rear wing and a larger front splitter. In an effort to give the R model a slight performance edge the car is stripped of its rear seats, air-conditioning, floor mats and audio system to reduce overall weight by a significant 50 kilograms.
If ever there was a car that was capable of reigniting your love for the act of driving, it is this car.
Technical Specifications: 2016 Ford Shelby GT350
- Base price: $62,599
- Price as tested: $74,349 (Includes optional Technology Package: $9,400; Over-the-Top Racing Stripes: $600; Destination and delivery: $1,650; Federal excise tax: $100)
- Type: 2-door, 4-passenger performance coupe
- Layout: Front engine / rear-wheel drive
- Engine: 5.2-litre, DOHC, Flat-Plane Crank V8
- Horsepower: 526 @ 7,500 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft): 429 @ 7,250 rpm
- Transmission: TREMEC 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 1,705 kg
- Wheelbase: 2,720 mm
- Length: 4,783 mm
- Width: 1,928 mm
- Height: 1,376 mm
- Cargo capacity: 382 L
- Fuel consumption (L/100km): City: 16.9 / Hwy: 11.0
- Super car performance for a bargain price
- The manual transmission lives!
- The glorious sound of the flat-plane crank V8 engine
- Good luck finding one for MSRP
- Ever other gearhead will want to drag race you at stoplights
- The car attracts more police officers than a Tim Hortons