RE: Ford Shelby Mustang GT350: Driven

RE: Ford Shelby Mustang GT350: Driven

Monday 28th September 2015

Ford Shelby Mustang GT350: Driven

An American performance car that doesn't need any excuses. Yes, really



For all the honest charm that standard versions of the Mustang have possessed for most of the last 50 years it's fair to say that tuned versions have often missed the point like broken pencils. They've had more power and more speed, but have almost always been without the dynamic talents necessary to take on the proper sports cars they find themselves priced against; all brawn and no brain.

The last-generation Shelby Mustang GT500 was perhaps the best example of this. On paper it looked like the definitive muscle car, with a 650hp supercharged V8 and a top speed claimed to be north of 200mph. In reality it was a huge, crude lump of a thing - imprecise, harsh, permanently battling for traction, and with barely more chance of reaching that alleged double ton than a Reliant Robin towing a parachute up an Alpine pass.

Which is my way of explaining that I categorically don't think the new GT350 is a good car because it's a tweaked Mustang, more despite the fact it's a tweaked Mustang.

The wait is over!
The wait is over!
Back to the new school
The GT350 is the Ford-developed performance iteration of the new Mustang, not to be confused with the tuned-by-Shelby versions you can also buy. It will be sold in the US and certain other territories, but not Europe. Which, after being lucky enough to drive one around its Michigan homeland, I can report that we should be treating as a serious disappointment.

This is far more than a set of stripes and an ECU turned up to 11. Indeed, Ford seems to have taken to heart most of the criticism levelled at the GT500, and the 350 is a car that's been designed to be driven hard rather than deliver some arbitrary numbers. It's fractionally lighter than the standard Mustang, and considerably faster thanks to an effectively all-new flat-plane V8 engine.

Yes, this shares its block with the 5.0-litre unit in the Mustang GT, but has been given a full organ transplant with the new crankshaft and some trick friction reduction turning it from a slugger into a top end screamer. With a red line set at 8,250rpm this is, by our reckoning, the highest revving engine that's ever been fitted to a production Ford.

There's no doubting how different it is from the moment you fire it up. The regular GT V8 starts with the sort of bubba-bubba idle that's been the soundtrack for American performance since the year dot; the GT350 has a far busier idle note - bababababababa - that makes it sound like it should be sitting in a pit garage. Even with the switchable exhaust left in its standard mode it's loud. Switch to 'Sport' using the steering wheel button and it's already bordering on being anti-social before you've driven anywhere.

Predictably enough the V8 is epic
Predictably enough the V8 is epic
Plain cranky
Not that the GT350 is an undriveable special. For all its been designed for regular track use (especially the GT350R variant, more on which in due course) it remains happy to do everything you'd expect from a standard Mustang; from trundling down a drive through lane to challenging a Camaro to an impromptu stop light drag race. The clutch pedal feels slightly heavier than the standard GT, and although the 350 has switched to a Tremec six-speed gearbox (which weights slightly less than the standard Getrag) the shift action for the six-speed box feels pretty much identical. The engine is tractable at lower speeds although without much torque. It starts to pull hard around 3,500rpm and from then on it just gets better, and louder.

Indeed there's enough sound and fury going on by around the 6,500rpm mark - where the standard Mustang GT calls time - that you have to resist the urge to change up. You need to - it pulls with increasing vigour all the way to 7,500rpm at which peak power arrives and, while it tails off slightly beyond that, the 8,250rpm limiter will be useful for holding gears longer on track. A nice touch is the repurposing of the dash-mounted LEDs that basic Mustangs use as part of their collision warning system, and which are turned into ultra-bright shift-up lights.

You want it to be good? It is. Really good
You want it to be good? It is. Really good
The real deal
Yet for all the appeal of the charismatic new engine it's the suspension revisions that have done most to transform the GT350 into a proper performance car; one that doesn't need any of the usual "for a Mustang" provisos. It's much more agile and responsive than the standard car, grippier and far more composed, doing a superior job of dealing with rougher roads despite riding on firmer suspension. Switchable dampers are part of the optional $6,500 'Track Pack', which was fitted to the car I drove, but even in their firmer Sport setting these are not too harsh. Tyres are bespoke Michelin Pilot Super Sports, and although the basic electric power steering system is the same as the standard Mustang, unique tuning and revised front suspension geometry give more direct responses and noticeably crisper feel.

It takes a few miles to realise what the combination of a high-revving naturally aspirated V8 and a properly sorted chassis is reminding me so strongly of. Don't laugh, but it's the E92 BMW M3. Granted, the GT350 doesn't possess quite the same level of Teutonic finesse, but it has a similarly well-judged balance between engine and chassis, with the relative lack of low-down torque meaning it can be driven hard with the stability control system either switched to its more permissive Track mode, or even sent to the kennel, without worrying about unscripted sideways moments. Of course, if you do want to make things turn smokey, the GT350 is equally happy to oblige.

Time with GT350R limited, sadly
Time with GT350R limited, sadly
Brakes are equally impressive, with Brembo calipers gripping vast vented discs that use aluminium 'hat' sections in the centre to reduce weight. They work extremely well and - having been designed for track use - it's unsurprising that there was no hint of fade under hard road driving. The cabin has also been shorn of some of the standard car's gimmicks, including the mildly irritating 'Ground Speed' legend on the speedometer. There's not much standard kit unless you specify the $7,500 Technology pack - stripped out special and all that - but it's a comfortable enough place to spend time. The only real criticism is with the spread of the gear ratios, with the engine turning at just 2,000rpm at an indicated 70mph in sixth gear. Good for economy, but not really suited to the engine's lack of low-down torque; it would have made more sense to close everything up.

Say R?
I also got to drive the harder-cored GT350R, although only on road rather than the track environment it's really designed for. The R is another $13,500 on the GT350, losing rear seats and around 60kg of weight through various lightweight parts, including carbon fibre wheels. It rides on super sticky Pilot Sport Cup tyres and gets an even firmer suspension set-up, has the switchable dampers as standard and even boasts a carbonfibre rear wing that's claimed to deliver positive downforce.

Imagine a UK track day in this!
Imagine a UK track day in this!
On a circuit I'd bet that it's epic, but having exclusively driven it on some of Michigan's cambered, cresty back roads I have to say that I preferred the GT350...

Mustang savvy
We probably shouldn't even mention prices when it comes to reviewing US models in the US. It's a cruel tease, even if they did cross the Atlantic the asking would always end up being vastly more than anything close to a direct translation. But, for the record, the GT350's $49,995 is £32,800 at current exchange rates. In the 'States a BMW M4 is $66,395 unoptioned, and by contrast the Mustang looks like an outrageous performance bargain.

Perhaps more realistic perspective comes from considering the Mustang V8 GT's $33,000 base price in the US. That's not too much of a supplement for what is undoubtedly the best handling Mustang that Ford has ever built. Now we just need to persuade them to bring it over here.

Watch the video here.


FORD SHELBY MUSTANG GT350R
Engine
: 5,163cc V8
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 526@7,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 429@4,750rpm
0-62mph: N/A
Top speed: N/A
Weight: 1,658kg (GT350: 1,705kg)
MPG: 16 (EPA-estimated)
CO2: N/A
Price: $63,495 (GT350 $49,995)













   










Author
Discussion

gweaver

Original Poster:

497 posts

94 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
The only real criticism is with the spread of the gear ratios, with the engine turning at just 2,000rpm at an indicated 70mph in sixth gear. Good for economy, but not really suited to the engine's lack of low-down torque; it would have made more sense to close everything up.




If you want to be changing gear every three nanoseconds and wasting fuel on a long run you could specify the shorter axle ratio?

sumpoil

357 posts

100 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
"It will be sold in the US and certain other territories, but not Europe. Which, after being lucky enough to drive one around its Michigan homeland, I can report that we should be treating as a serious disappointment."

Having followed the development and US release of this car, I've been desperately hoping Ford would bring it to the UK - even in LHD. Can anyone give a definitive reason(s) as to why it won't be available in Europe? Is there an actual technical reason that prevents the car from being legal in Europe? .... or is it just a (bad, IMO) marketing decision?

W00DY

11,277 posts

162 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all


Hello.

PanzerCommander

5,023 posts

154 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
sumpoil said:
"It will be sold in the US and certain other territories, but not Europe. Which, after being lucky enough to drive one around its Michigan homeland, I can report that we should be treating as a serious disappointment."

Having followed the development and US release of this car, I've been desperately hoping Ford would bring it to the UK - even in LHD. Can anyone give a definitive reason(s) as to why it won't be available in Europe? Is there an actual technical reason that prevents the car from being legal in Europe? .... or is it just a (bad, IMO) marketing decision?
I'll take a guess at it being emissions related; no doubt this would seriously screw the EU fleet emissions level for Ford. As for RHD we have to sacrifice power to have a RHD GT so this one is going to be even more hurt by a funny shaped manifold to get around the RHD steering parts.

Its a shame that this car isn't coming over here officially but if you can wait you can get an import anyway so its not like all is lost. The good thing about the import is you won't have to put up with the awful clear rear lights.

Clivey

4,583 posts

140 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
W00DY said:


Hello.
I say, old chap! Ding dong!

smokin

One of the few new cars I can get genuinely excited about...it just burns that the Americans get offered this sort of thing whilst every bore over here is fapping about Haldex-equipped shopping trolleys for the same money.
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burningdinos

122 posts

57 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
Lovely noise cloud9
In this age of downsized, muffled turbo engines, that's something to applaud. I'd never expect an engine like this in a Mustang, but here it is.
The americans really have it easy, what a bargain. Massive want.

sumpoil

357 posts

100 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
PanzerCommander said:
sumpoil said:
"It will be sold in the US and certain other territories, but not Europe. Which, after being lucky enough to drive one around its Michigan homeland, I can report that we should be treating as a serious disappointment."

Having followed the development and US release of this car, I've been desperately hoping Ford would bring it to the UK - even in LHD. Can anyone give a definitive reason(s) as to why it won't be available in Europe? Is there an actual technical reason that prevents the car from being legal in Europe? .... or is it just a (bad, IMO) marketing decision?
I'll take a guess at it being emissions related; no doubt this would seriously screw the EU fleet emissions level for Ford. As for RHD we have to sacrifice power to have a RHD GT so this one is going to be even more hurt by a funny shaped manifold to get around the RHD steering parts.

Its a shame that this car isn't coming over here officially but if you can wait you can get an import anyway so its not like all is lost. The good thing about the import is you won't have to put up with the awful clear rear lights.
I have a GT on order, but this is the Mustang I really want .... I actually like the clear rear lights (probably something to do with not being a life-long American car/Mustang fan). As for the drop in power, I don't see why it would be any more than the 5bhp that the standard GT has been reduced by. However I'd be quite happy with a UK-spec LHD and no reduction in power! biggrin The GT350R is just an awesome bit of kit (to me it's SO much better than the Focus RS). I've got everything crossed that Ford decide to do the decent thing and give it to us deserving folks in the UK yes

Jflowers123

5 posts

72 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
No need to worry about a false emission test :P

Clivey

4,583 posts

140 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
sumpoil said:
PanzerCommander said:
sumpoil said:
"It will be sold in the US and certain other territories, but not Europe. Which, after being lucky enough to drive one around its Michigan homeland, I can report that we should be treating as a serious disappointment."

Having followed the development and US release of this car, I've been desperately hoping Ford would bring it to the UK - even in LHD. Can anyone give a definitive reason(s) as to why it won't be available in Europe? Is there an actual technical reason that prevents the car from being legal in Europe? .... or is it just a (bad, IMO) marketing decision?
I'll take a guess at it being emissions related; no doubt this would seriously screw the EU fleet emissions level for Ford. As for RHD we have to sacrifice power to have a RHD GT so this one is going to be even more hurt by a funny shaped manifold to get around the RHD steering parts.

Its a shame that this car isn't coming over here officially but if you can wait you can get an import anyway so its not like all is lost. The good thing about the import is you won't have to put up with the awful clear rear lights.
I have a GT on order, but this is the Mustang I really want .... I actually like the clear rear lights (probably something to do with not being a life-long American car/Mustang fan). As for the drop in power, I don't see why it would be any more than the 5bhp that the standard GT has been reduced by. However I'd be quite happy with a UK-spec LHD and no reduction in power! biggrin The GT350R is just an awesome bit of kit (to me it's SO much better than the Focus RS). I've got everything crossed that Ford decide to do the decent thing and give it to us deserving folks in the UK yes
I wonder if an aftermarket exhaust manufacturer would be able to find a solution to the "Funny-shaped manifold" issue?

Something else to point out; you could always use an importer to bring one of these over. Granted, it won't be cheap but it is possible.

ruggedscotty

1,314 posts

145 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
anyone know what the emissions is on this ? that may be an issue here in europe - noise etc....

R6VED

986 posts

76 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
Oh hell yes!! I just watched the vid with my 2yr daughter and asked her what kind of engine it had, she looked at me and said "petrol". She then went on to say "I can see the noise Daddy" I know what she means :-)

Vroom101

801 posts

69 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
I'd happily sit on the wrong side of the car to have an engine note like that!

BMW M3 or import one of these? I know where my money would go (here's a clue: not to Germany)


I'm surprised the story didn't mention the option the car has that changes your jeans into race overalls and magics racing gloves from thin air (watch the video again smile)

sad61t

1,078 posts

146 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
The video has engine noises and no music track.
The car has a V8 at 8000rpm and a manual shift.
Someone at Ford has finally remembered what we want.
And we're only allowed to look over the neighbour's fence
weeping

redroadster

791 posts

168 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
Top of my want list as an everyday user.

ManOpener

4,031 posts

105 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
This is the one with the flat-plane crank right? On paper it seems about as much as a bdisation as filling your hamburger with Currywurst but the finished product looks and sounds amazing and I really like how distinctly unconventional that engine is for an American muscle car.

lee_erm

709 posts

129 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
£33k equivalent. That's crazy!

This must be the first properly mass produced car to have a flat plane crank too is it not? The most mainstream car I can think of with a completely flat crank is an Esprit.

Sf_Manta

1,600 posts

127 months

Sunday 27th September 2015
quotequote all
I'm not a Ford man myself.. usually have BMW's..be it older.

However, if finances ever allowed for one of these.... biggrinbiggrinbiggrin
With track pack please!

rb26

692 posts

122 months

Monday 28th September 2015
quotequote all
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-ki1R0r0s0

Why, why must we care about polar bears....

stuckmojo

1,936 posts

124 months

Monday 28th September 2015
quotequote all
Wow. My favourite car at the moment. Love everything about it and I'd have this over an M3/M4 in a heartbeat.

dvs_dave

5,216 posts

161 months

Monday 28th September 2015
quotequote all
Such a cool car, and so delightfully unconventional. M4 or GT350, definitely the Ford for me.