The Shelby GT350 uses an all-new 5.2L V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft.
Since 1964, the Ford Mustang has been one of the most iconic North American cars sold. More than fifty years later, the magic hasn’t faded one bit. Fully redesigned for the 2015 model year, the latest Mustang employs a turbocharged four-cylinder along with its V6 and V8 motors to try and attract a new breed of buyer. This is something completely different though – the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is the most powerful and most manic model currently offered for sale, and it spent a week in our garage for a week’s worth of evaluation.
Not to be confused with the 5.0L “Coyote” V8 in the regular Mustang GT (reviewed here), the Shelby GT350 uses an all-new 5.2L V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft. Unlike regular GT’s cross-plane setup, this one has its pins in a straight line for a 180-degree plane. This improves performance, and offers more balance and overall efficiency. Similar to certain Ferrari engines, this crank allows for a much higher revving engine, unlike characteristics of the standard Mustang – 8,200RPM is where the engine’s song comes to life.
The thunderous noise is incredible and defines the personality of this car, and it can be increased even more by flicking the toggle switch on the dash, marked with an exhaust drawing on it. Output from this “Voodoo” motor is 526 horsepower peaking at 7,500RPM and 429 lb-ft of torque. The Shelby is a monster in every way, and power delivery is so linear it’s easy to forget to watch the speedometer. Throttle response is responsive, and the natural aspiration helps deliver immediate power with no hint of any sort of lag.
Despite its weight of nearly 3,800lbs, the Shelby is very sprightly in nature. Steering turn in is particularly sharp and the suede-wrapped wheel is a pleasure to grab. The fat tires help with grip and the GT350 has no issues hurling itself in and out of corners fluently. Of course, with 526 horses on tap, all it takes is a quick blip of the accelerator to induce oversteer. The steering is electrically assisted, and Ford claims they have tried to reduce dartiness, but the tires followed imperfections in the pavement. Some may complain about this – we found it to be endearing, and this tendency gives the GT350 some of the most responsive steering feel in the industry today.
Ride quality is very firm, as expected from a track rat like this car, but the adjustable dampers have a “Normal” setting that softens things up adequately for everyday driving. In the “Sport” setting, the car is sharp and planted, but the wide tires require perfect pavement in order to track perfectly straight. The chassis has been tweaked just enough to provide the perfect balance between ride quality and handling prowess. If anything, the Shelby’s ride on city streets is only marginally better than the last track-oriented Mustang we drove; which was the seductive Boss 302 back in 2013.
Even in a day of domination by automatic and dual-clutch transmissions, the GT350 is only offered with a six-speed manual. This is an important decision by Ford that we completely support, as this is one of the most engaging cars available today. The shifter’s throws are light and effortless, and the clutch is on the heavy side but forgiving enough to master relatively easily. Unlike the new Camaro SS (reviewed here) we just tested, the Shelby doesn’t have any active rev-matching technology, which means it’s a car that demands to be driven, rather than overpowering the driver with electronic nannies and artificiality.
I particularly was taken aback by how much of an improvement the interior is over the last Shelby Mustang (the GT500). There are still extremely supportive Recaro seats, upholstered in leather and suede, but they are unusually comfortable for what this car is. The seats provided fantastic support during the everyday commute, and after we briefly drove the car at a track event earlier this year, we came to the conclusion that they’re equally useful on track. The driving position is bang on, and the Mustang has far better sightlines than its biggest rival, the Camaro.
Despite us making generous use of the horsepower and torque under the hood of the Shelby GT350, it was surprisingly efficient throughout our test. Granted, we didn’t have any track time with this particular tester, but by no means was the car driven like a Prius (reviewed here) or hypermiled. Somehow, we managed to average 12.3L/100km over a week’s worth of driving, about 500km. To save weight, the fuel tank is only 60L, which means fill-ups will be more frequent, but the overall efficiency was remarkable. The Shelby requires an absolute minimum of 91-octane premium fuel.
Pricing for the GT350 starts at $63,788, which is a significant amount more than the regular Mustang, but the two simply cannot be compared. Our test vehicle was painted an appropriate shade of Race Red, and had a matching white racing stripe, an additional $600. Additionally, a $9,400 Technology Package adds everything you would need to make this vehicle daily drivable. This includes the MagneRide dampers, heavy-duty front springs, SYNC 3 infotainment (reviewed here), heated and cooled leather-trimmed seats, navigation, dual-zone climate control, Integrated Driver Control, and power front seats. This brings the total of our GT350 to $75,538.
For those who want even more performance, Ford will sell you a Shelby GT350R, which has the same powertrain, but tightens things up considerably. This model can only be described as even more shocking, with more balance and crispness. Ford says the GT350R’s 15.5” rotors give it the “best brake-pedal feel in the world”, and its carbon fibre wheels save over 60 lbs. compared to the ones on our GT350 tester. Pricing for the GT350R in Canada starts at $80,688. It’s worth noting that both models come standard with launch control, which is engaged via a toggle on the center stack.
The 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is something out of the fantasies of my childhood. Even though I have never had a huge obsession with American muscle cars, it’s hard to deny the capabilities of a vehicle packing over 500 horsepower while being completely usable on a daily basis. Our test took place in the summer, so there was no winter exploration required with the Shelby, but I actually had to face a massive rainstorm with the car. Even on its Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer-only tires, it never once skipped a beat, and only reinforced its Jekyll-Hyde personality. Ford has a hit on their hands here, and this is a car that will go on to become a collectible someday. For now though, it’s one of the most raw, enchanting and exhilarating cars available for sale, regardless of price.
2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Gallery
*Photos by Krish Persaud and Theron Lane*