Spending a week in the Shelby GT350 is one of the highlights of my life so far. Nothing else has come close to this level of animal aggression on the road. The GT350’s $60k pricetag feels like the bargain of the century. For a Mustang so special that it’s the 911 GT3 RS of muscle-cars.
A car this tight and taut feels like it’s doing 170-mph even at idle. No other Mustang gets anywhere near this power-on brilliance. High revs, high power peaks and few shifts are the way to rock GT350 around a racetrack fast.
This review and the videos herein are the result of about 200-gigabytes of media. A dozen cameras’ best work.
Of course, 100 of the best photos here too, along with Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing section-headings.
Kick it off with this stellar drive review video and its intense race revs…!
HD Drive Review Video
Shelby GT350 skips the 2018 Mustang facelift because its bodywork from the windshield forward was new for the 2016 launch of this Camaro-killer. That bodywork is sneaky in its newness. Yes, Mustang guys know from 100 paces — or 1000 if on throttle — that this is no ordinary Mustang.
But for the rest of us, it takes a few close looks to discover the newness beyond the vertical-slashed front widebody fenders. These are actually just to house the wider track and meatier rubber stance of the GT350 versus normal Mustang GTs. You can get a sense of the extra width on each side from the edges of the headlamps. Where the bodywork would normally meet and head into the fender, there is now a deep inch-wide extension of the design into the wider nose and wings.
The new hood is similarly sneaky in its newness. It is actually much lower than other Mustangs, rising to sharp pillar creases on each edge and to the central hump inbetween. Reverse breather vent is now a dedicated central unit instead of side-of-hood vent strakes. A tight honeycomb mesh matches the motif seen in other GT350 ventwork and in this new nose.
CFRP is the name of the game for the front clip. It is mostly a one-piece unit for the outside, with CFRP fangs running up from the double splitter edges down below and into the pinched, sharky intake tract. These wear a nice texturized plastic look but, in certain lights, you can see the underlying carbon weave.
Big additions below the metal: the aluminum front bumper beam, CFRP shrouds and aluminum tower-to-tower strut brace. These might not turn heads but have a huge impact on the road in the Performance section below.
VISUALS VERSUS GT350R?
Open-weave carbon fiber details for the aero and actual alloy wheels make up most of the GT350R cost upgrade over the ‘base’ GT350. The GT350 Track package, aka the R, also brings along red Shelby badges and a flipped rear spoiler to go with its stripped cabin, roll cage and yanked backseat/AC/audio systems.
Normal Mustang cues like the LED DRLS, bi-xenon projectors and retro halogen front blinker bulbs are the price to pay for such cheap race muscle for the road.
Into the profile, the GT350 seems to have a totally different pose thanks to the beltline and front fender vent integration. A smooth arc of steel shapes sets the tone for a unique experience.
Giant width for the sill extensions helps create ground-effect aero at speed, while the new diffuser out back aims to do the same thing. Quad pipes and special Shelby spoiler and snake badge wrap up the tail changes nicely. Even without new rear fenders, the Shelby’s giant wheel/tire package seems to fill out the fenders with extra machismo. This is a car bursting with power from ever surface and angle.
The vast majority of Shelbys have been sold in white, with blue and bright red coming next. Our Ruby Red example with white racing stripes is unique and lovable. But perhaps too subtle for this fast of a machine. Solid A-grade for GT350 design outside.
DOES THE SNAKE AERO WORK?
More on this in the Performance section. But one downside that linked this GT350 to many other Mustangs — and even the original GT350! — is the hood moving around slightly at high speeds. There is still too much air rammed into this engine bay to keep it strapped down! The lightweight materials do not help with keeping hood stuck down at triple digits. Nothing to worry about on safety, but it is distracting.
Shelby GT350 takes the GT cabin into beast mode. Like those clickbait ads showing the steroid muscle dudes?
Same guy did the bolsters on these Recaro race seats. Part-suede and sticky to the max. Once planted inside, your a** and shoulders are not going anywhere. Spin this sideways until sundown … and you will still have extra lateral grip.
How is it for the porkier gentleman? A bit tight, a bit hard to enter and exit, but overall tolerable and loveable.
The rest of the cabin is dechromed to avoid any glare sources on a racetrack. This brings dark machined metals, dark headliner and menacing mood overall. The numbered Shelby GT350 badge in front of your terrified passenger is one of the only clues to civilians that this is the Jason Bourne of ponycars.
The driver will never forget. The alcantara wrap and flat-bottom race cut of the steering wheel get that other hot Ford Performance mod: the red leather strip at the top of the wheel. How come? So you know where it’s pointed as you drift, silly!
After some of the Shelby intensity has subsided, perhaps on day three of driving, you start to be happy for the equipment levels as standard. This means SYNC3 touchscreen audio, proximity key, push-button start and full HVAC. Dimming mirrors and defrost? Check.
On this, our road racer!
Mercifully, the seats and steering wheel are heavy and manual!
Thumpin’ audio, nav and dual auto climate control takes adding the $3k Electronics package.
You can have your GT350 with even more goodies, and we would: the heated/cooled leather seats would be very nice to class up the cabin a bit. As ever, it is very Mustang-moody with a dark atmosphere and limited — albeit better than Camaro — visibility versus normal sedans or FWD coupes.
A final kiss hello each day comes from the Ford Performance sills. These match the window sticker of the car — as this is technically a Ford Performance release and not a ‘Ford Mustang,’ as far as the paperwork — and your obsession — are concerned.
Beauty Roll Video w/ Drone Aerial Cameras
Despite what some of those video clips might suggest, the Shelby GT350 is designed to be an anti-Mustang in a lot of ways.
This is a pony-car that only wants to stick to the pavement no matter what. Straight lines or tight corners alike — the GT350 uses all of Ford’s engineering skills to maintain traction and cut laptimes. This fact alone makes it twice the car of any GT, even the new 2018 model with its 10-speed automatic.
You see, Mustangs have kind of a spotty reputation, even in this latest independent-rear-end era. Here’s what happens: all is going well, you’re burning rubber or doing donuts (like normal) then you lose it. SOmething happens with the lack of chassis rigidity or spooky suspension/tire combo — and you lose control. Usually stopped safely in a huff of white tire smoke and fully clenched a**holes. Fast, fun.. but not quite your blood brother in terms of trust. Make sense?
Boner-Inducing Hard Engine Revs
Obviously, with this repuation and memory of shi**ing our Tommy Johns… GT350 took some time to learn limits. On paper, the 4.1-second sprint time to 60 is savage. In real life, it is as scary as a self-circumcision the first few times. It never stops revving! Power keeps coming on stronger and stronger!
The 9000-RPM redline and flat-plane crank make for an insatiable dance partner. When you first really lose traction in this Mustang, you might be doing 90mph in third!??
You get better as a driver though. Your balls or lady-balls grow. You push it harder than ever, and come out alive.
Shelby GT350 has the best handling of any American muscle-car ever made.
How the hell did they do this? We have a few theories, and they all come back to chassis strength.
MUCH STIFFER BODY STRUCTURE
We strongly think that this Shelby has at least 50 pounds of extra welds and hot steel in its subframes. Like a NISMO model, then this Shelby just fizzes with tactile energy and strength at speed. The new nose structural pieces help tremendously but the tail is tauter than ever too.
Two-piece vented brake rotors the size of Captain America’s shield and six-pot Brembo brakes are a hint at the second magic touch.
Flowing suspension that can be tight as a snare drum or loose for crusing? Enter Ford’s first application of the latest MagRide 3 dampers along with sharp race springs. Up the steering bite with a much, much faster rack — but keep its tunable weight settings for Comfort or no-assist Race modes. Sticky icky ick race rubber and box-tight front end make for a GT350 that positively dives into corners.
Hunts ruts like a truffle-sniffing pig and and has more feeling than a RawDog invisible condom.
Amazing levels of body control at speed are demonstrated on the drive video above. As fast as I’ve ever driven a road car.
This 5.2-liter V8 engine needs little introduction. With its unique race-friendly crankshaft and active, dual-mode exhausts — Shelby GT350 is clearly designed all around this motor.
It is such a special piece of engineering. So unique in this day of turbos and superchargers. This track-star of an engine costs at least $8k of the upgrade from $45k GT to $56k GT350.
Our Shelby GT350 stickered at $55,195 but added $5170 in options to reach a bottom-line of $60,365.
$395 for Ruby Red, $1k for Gas Guzzler tax, $475 for racing stripes and $3k for electronics package. We’d budget a bit for the leather cooled buckets.
GT350R is about $10k more, and is triple overkill.
GT350 is already the most erect road racecar in decades.
A lot of innuendo, ententre and man-splaining in here. Just so hard not to get more macho after a few days at the wheel.
Shelby GT350 is America at its finest. Taking a car we already do better than anyone, like the Mustang GT, and taking it to another level completely. The most American thing about GT350 is its availability. BMW does this for M4 as the M4 GTS… and charges $148,000 for the favor. Those 911 GT3s are literally triple the cash of stock Porsches — mostly for what they leave out.
Ford Performance took a long, strategic look at where Mustang could go from GOOD to GREAT as a racecar. Then they put plates on it, and make our dreams come true.
Why Shelby GT350 instead of cowling 2018 Mustang?
Because only one
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.