There are a lot of super cars available today. You can buy all kinds of cars with ridiculous amounts of horsepower with capabilities beyond the talents of most people at even more ridiculous prices. In a world where the manual transmission is almost extinct and control of the car is mostly done by computers, what does a true enthusiast do to have some affordable fun? The answer is as close as your nearest Ford dealership.
The Shelby GT350 Mustang is one of the most spectacular machines available today and it will blow you away with its capabilities. The GT350 is a serious driver’s car. It has not been softened up to increase sales and it does not make any pretenses. If you don’t enjoy driving, you will hate this car. It rides on the harsh side, does not have much room, gets relatively poor fuel economy and is pretty loud. The GT350 is like buying extra strong coffee, and if you are used to that watered-down supermarket stuff, you will know what I am talking about.
The GT350 was made to be a great car on a road course. Unlike some previous Mustangs, it is really not a great drag race car. Its development target was the BMW M4 and it is quicker than the BMW on most circuits and it has an engine that makes the BMW sound as good as Justin Bieber’s singing.
The new GT350 builds on Carroll Shelby’s original idea, transforming a great every-day car into a dominant road racer. The engineers admit that they had many limitations but they should be proud of their accomplishment. They have transformed a simple Mustang to an all-day track car that’s also street legal.
The heart of the GT350 is under the hood. A new engine was designed solely for the GT350, which is no small task. The new 5.2-liter V8 engine is the first-ever production V8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft, usually only found in very exotic engines. Unlike a traditional V8, where the connecting rods are attached to the crankshaft at 90-degree intervals, this design evenly spaces all crank pins at 180-degrees intervals. The 180-degree, flat-plane layout permits a cylinder firing order that alternates between cylinder banks, reducing the overlap of exhaust pressure pulses. When combined with cylinder-head and valvetrain advancements, this permits better cylinder breathing, further extending the performance envelope of the V8.
The result is the most powerful naturally aspirated production Ford engine ever, at 526 horsepower, with a torque peak of 429 pound-feet. The engine uses a 12:1 compression ratio and features forged pistons and connecting rods, aluminum block and heads, tubular stainless-steel headers and variable valve timing, and revs to an amazing 8,250 rpm. Being a serious driver’s car, the GT350 is only available with a Tremec TR-3160 six-speed manual transmission and comes standard with a Torsen limited slip differential.
A great engine would be useless in a poor chassis, and the new Mustang platform is the strongest in the history of the brand, with torsional stiffness increased 28 percent over the previous model. That stiff structure ensures the suspension geometry remains consistent, even under hard driving on back roads and tracks. Ultra-quick responsiveness to changing conditions is provided by the first-ever Ford application of continuously controlled MagneRide dampers. The system does not just make the car handle better, but it makes it easier to push hard and gives you greater confidence.
“Everything we changed on GT350 is purely functional-driven design, with the goal of improving the overall performance of the car,” said Chris Svensson, Ford design director, The Americas. “We optimized the aero shape of the car, and then fine-tuned what was left to increase downforce and cooling airflow.” All bodywork from the windshield forward is unique to the GT350 and is up to two inches lower than Mustang GT.
The GT350 is a serious car and you can see it when you scroll through the menus of the dash. There is a programmable sequential shift light, adjustable steering boost, adjustable shocks, adjustable stability control, line locks, lap timer, adjustable exhaust and so much more.
At the track, the GT350 drives like a dream. It can embarrass some serious race cars and then you can drive it home in comfort. On the street, the GT350 is a blast and that engine at redline makes some sweet sounds. Perhaps the problem with the GT350 on the street is that it is too fast. With that much power, in a few seconds you are in triple digit territory and are constantly worried about the presence of police.
Another amazing fact about the GT350 is that it is actually affordable. The base price for the GT350 is only $56,145. The Mustang comes pretty much fully equipped for that price and while you can’t call it cheap, it is a bargain for the level of performance that it offers. Hopefully your local Ford dealer will not mark up the price.
|Engine:||5.2-liter flat-plane V8|
|Horsepower:||526 @ 7,500 rpm|
|Torque:||429 @ 4,750 rpm|
|Front suspension:||Independent McPherson strut with double ball joints|
|Rear suspension:||Independent with coil springs|
|Transmission:||Tremec TR-3160 six-speed manual|
|Rear axle ratio:||3.73:1 limited slip|
|Curb Weight:||3,760 lbs.|