Racing is embedded in the Ford Mustang’s DNA, reaching nearly to its inception and wholly amplified through Ford’s association with the late Carroll Shelby. In recent years, Shelbys have come with the stickiest tires, biggest wings, and all the power necessary to make them ideal dates for track days. Looking at the car before us, the snake in the grille tells you this is no normal Mustang.
There are a few other indicators, too – starting at the front splitter embossed with “SHELBY”, hood heat extractor, and large fender vents to further dissipate heat from heavy driving. Aggressive ground affects, large spoiler with “Gurney flap” to enhance downforce, and 19” black alloy wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 performance tires keep the car glued to pavement. Triple barrel taillamps, rear diffuser, and dual exhausts with quad tips show tail to poseurs.
Looking at the bulging hood and crisp fender creases from the driver’s seat brings great expectations. It’s a tight squeeze to slide beneath the sueded flat-bottom steering wheel and into the deeply bolstered Recaro seats, but once implanted, most will find the GT350’s interior the right blend of comfort and sport. There are no heated seats, power seats, nor power sunroof, but there is dual-zone automatic climate control, booming B&O Audio, and navigation – the latter controlled thought an intuitive touchscreen. Devices connect via Bluetooth and USBs. A dash plaque conveying the Shelby’s production number and suede door inserts add finesse. From big round gauges to the twin-cowl dash, the rest is classic Mustang.
But, holy slithering snakes, this car is sinful to drive. Under the bulging hood is a 5.2-liter V8 delivering 526 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque – all routed to the rear wheels through a limited slip differential. A 10-speed automatic is available but have none of that and get the very firm 6-speed manual. Fuel economy is rated a disgusting 14/21-MPG city/highway, but nobody promised a Prius. A switch on the dash lets you select from two exhaust modes: “Neighborhood stealth” and “Get your ass out of my way”.
Buckle up, buttercup! Toss your cookies in the trunk before they appear anywhere else. Hair-sensitive steering with adjustable feel, electronic MagneRide suspension, and multiple drive modes. On no setting would you call the GT350 “comfortable”. Even in “Normal” touring mode, the suspension is quite stiff, but it’s livable on the Interstate and well paved roads. Bumps will cause dry cleaning bills should you be enjoying morning coffee. MagneRide does a good job of filtering out road rough but drive down a crowned country road and you’ll feel like Godzilla wrestling an antelope as the steering seemingly grabs for every pebble.
I didn’t see anything close to the car’s claimed 180 mph top speed, but from the extreme rightward sweep of the speedometer I did witness, there’s no doubt in my backside the GT350 can greet that number with a warm hug. It’s a Shelby and everything about this car tells you it was built to ferociously eat asphalt, though it enjoys it most on a closed track. Given that, an as-tested price of $64,860 seems almost rational. Competitors include the Dodge Challenger SRT, Chevy Camaro ZL1, AMG C63 S Coupe, and BMW M4.
Contact Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.