In a little over three years since we euphorically flogged the mighty 662 bhp / 631 lb-ft Shelby GT500, returning it with just enough tread to reach its final destination, we conclude a week-long immersion into its pseudo replacement (rumors still linger that a real GT500 will make a comeback in 2018), the all-new 2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, and walk away with a little frown in my brow. Is the GT350 all what Ford proudly claims it to be? Mostly yes.
The old short-lived supercharged 5.8-liter V8 was a magnificent powerplant that was not optimized in the previous generation D2C platform, so I had hoped that Ford would reapply the engine to the robust new chassis that now has fully independent rear suspension. In a straight-line, we were able to safely and confidently breach 300 km/h consistently in the ferocious old GT500, but once corners, legal speeds, and regular roads came into play, it was an unrefined and even clumsy super musclecar. It was like riding a pogo stick and the brakes could just barely manage the performance capability of the car. Not unlike using a massive sledgehammer to drive thumbtacks through a corkboard. It may not have had a great aural soundtrack either even on full boil but ironically, we got better fuel economy figures in it compared to the considerably more sophisticated new GT350.
Instead of the incredible but heavy force-fed engine, Ford installed a completely new flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter (code-named the Voodoo) 526 bhp V8 version of the current cross-plane 435 bhp Coyote 5.0-liter engine used in the standard GT. Instead of monumental grunt from down low which would overwhelm the limits of the old chassis, the GT350 is an energetic high-revving beast that sings with fluidity as it soars to its 8,250 rpm redline (peak power is actually achieved lower at 7500 rpm)! You can regulate how you want to announce your lunacy too through the dashboard switchable standard quad-exhaust system, from “check me out” to “release the dogs of war!”
Our test unit had the new Ruby Red Metallic paint with the signature white stripes over a bountiful amount of new yet purposeful skin with an array of scoops and ducts for more areas to slice roadkill and harness air. I prefer the more classic white with blue stripes. It’s been said that when the facelifted Mustang is released in fall this year that the GT350 and its more focused GT350R brother will carry-on as it is because so much of the panels are already new and unique to the model. For example for the front end, only the headlights are the same as the Mustang GT. Other huge upgrades to support the fantastic new powerplant is the very best suspension setup ever in a Mustang backed up with the very best brakes found in a Ford short of the new GT supercar. And there is still so much more! The GT350 comes with adaptive and selectable MagneRide™ dampers (changes can be made to each corner every 7 milliseconds through five performance settings) that make it the very best handling AND most comfortable Mustang ever, and you get to choose the behavior! Then there are the bespoke two-piece cross-drilled SHW 15.5-inch front discs squeezed by Brembo™ 6-piston calipers while the back is handled also by the iconic brake brand with 4-pistons on matching 14.7-inch discs from Germany!
The tires are also the highest performing tires ever installed in a Mustang, gigantic bespoke 275/35R19 100Y front and 305/35R19 102Y rear Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires on 10.5-inch wide front and 11 inches at the rear on unique black alloys. The torsional stiffness has also been increased by 28% over the previous model with liberal application of more aluminum bracing. The GT350 also uses special Recaro™ front seats with abundant suede throughout the cabin. Considering all the high-performance equipment and more substantial bodywork, the GT350 is only 55 pounds heavier than a standard Mustang GT with a manual. Speaking of manual, Ford used a very slick Tremec 3160 six-speed which is lighter than the Getrag unit of the standard coupé and superior to the Tremec TR6060 used in the old GT500. It was very easy to modulate, one of the very best manual transmissions that I have ever experienced. Speaking of the old GT500, the only thing the new GT350 shares with it is that it also uses a TORSEN Limited Slip Differential. Unfortunately, the carbon-fiber driveshaft was dropped for cost concerns.
The Shelby GT350 was so entertaining to drive and always felt faster than any Shelby before it but with surprising composure. It certainly surpasses the dynamic figures of the old 2011 550 bhp GT500 but after our repeated instrumented testing the results were still short of the last GT500 in a straight line. But as an overall high performance American musclecar, it still has serious competition to contend with even if it is the very finest of the breed.
Specification – 2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350®
Engine: V8, 5163 cc, dohc 32V, Port Injection, 6-speed MT
Max power: 526 bhp @ 7500 rpm
Max torque: 429 lb ft @ 4750 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 4.5 sec.
Top Speed: 285 km/h (178 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 14 mpg City & 21 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 60,365.00
C! RATING 10/10
+Gloriously entertaining, best handling and most purposeful Mustang to date, best manual in an American musclecar ever.
-2018 model facelift around the corner, future uncertain despite its deep abilities.