Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsFeatured Vehicles
First Drive: 2016 Shelby GT350 & GT350R Mustangs
No blower? No problem. Ford’s 526hp Shelby Mustang has a sound and performance that will change your life.
The music pouring from the 2016 Shelby GT350’s 5.2L flat-plane crankshaft engine is unmistakable and euphoric. It’s worth the sticker price alone. And these days, $47,795 for a base GT350 (assuming you can get one for sticker) is modest considering the world-class performance and comfort, and the abundance of nifty technology. The GT350, along with the track-ready R model ($61,295), serve up copious amounts of power, aggressive style, and untouched cool. Somehow, Ford has designed, built, and delivered a Mustang with little to no compromise. It accelerates, devours corners, brakes like a racecar, and yet maintains excellent compliance on the street—just like Carroll would want it.
It’s no secret that a Shelby renaissance is upon us. Enthusiasts are embracing it. Built on the successful 2003-2004, 390hp Cobra, Ford introduced the 2007 GT500, then the fun-to-drive Shelby GT, and you can find handful of Hertz rentals out there too. Though a suitable handler, the GT500’s focus was raw power. And in 2013 and 2014 GT500 served up 662 hp and 631 lb-ft of torque, but you knew that. Those GT500s hold a special place in our hearts; they’re big, fast, and representative of the 428-powered Shelby Mustangs of yesteryear.
But to Shelby purists the Holy Grail of Shelby is the 1965 GT350—the first one. Carroll and his team massaged a handful of 1965 Mustang fastbacks to compete in SCCA Production-B racing. They did so by enhancing the suspension and interior, and by increasing the output of the 271hp K-code 289 engine to 306 hp. They also added the familiar Guardsman Blue Le Mans racing stripes to the Wimbledon White paint. Approximately 562 1965 GT350 models were built, including 34 R models. The GT350 Mustang, along with the mighty Cobra, made Carroll Shelby a household name. Calling any new Mustang a Shelby GT350 is serious business—it’s got big shoes to fill.
Fire the rowdy 5.2L Voodoo engine and you’ll immediately know that Mr. Shelby’s spirit lives on. It purrs at idle and pours its guts out when you ask it to. It is simply magical, as if Carroll’s cells are transformed into horsepower with every revolution of the flat-plane crankshaft.
“When we started working on this car, we wanted to build the best possible Mustang for the places we most love to drive—challenging back roads with a variety of corners and elevation changes, and the track on weekends,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Ford global product development. Methinks they’ve accomplished the mission.
Jamal Hameedi, chief engineer, Ford global performance vehicles, added, “Our mission was to develop a Mustang with balance and harmony, we’ve gone beyond where we ever went before and more engineers have worked on this Mustang than any previous Mustang. Everything was created from scratch.”
During our press drive we spun up many miles on the odometer on both the GT350 and the GT350R. We cut and sliced our way up and down Pacific Coast Highway near scenic Monterey, then diced our way around the world-renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
We fired up a red Track Pack–equipped GT350 and hit the road for about three hours of highway bliss. The race-inspired Recaro seats clinch you tightly, and we loved the feel of the Alcantara-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel. Shifting the new Tremec six-speed is smooth and positive, even when throwing gears at the 8,250 rpm redline. The Tremec is hooked to a dual-mass flywheel and dual-disc clutch—both are optimized for an overall reduction in inertia and weight. Clutch feel is on the lighter side, with predictable, smooth release. The clutch is suitable for the track or the daily commute.
The gauges are smartly placed, and the Track Pack gives you oil pressure and coolant gauges located at the very top of the center stack. Ford also includes a nifty heads-up displayed shift light so you can stay focused on the road or that approaching apex. We found this feature to be especially useful. Of course, you can scroll through the various gauge selections and Track Apps in the display between the speedo and the tach to monitor engine function or performance.
The GT350 suspension is a work of art. MagneRide is available with the Technology and Track packages (standard on the R), and it’s the celebrity attraction. “The all-new integrated driver control system allows selection of five unique modes that tailor ABS, stability control, traction control, steering effort, and throttle mapping in the Shelby GT350,” said Hameedi. The modes include Normal, Sport, Weather, Track, and Drag, and the system is awesome.
“The dampers are filled with a hydraulic fluid impregnated with iron particles. When an electric current is passed through the fluid, near-instantaneous adjustment of the suspension performance can be made. With wheel position sensors monitoring motion thousands of times per second combined with other vehicle data, changes can be made to each corner every 7 milliseconds for optimum handling performance,” added Hameedi.
Engineer Kerry Baldori, Ford Performance chief functional engineer, explained, “Tireless calibration and tuning has resulted in an integrated driver control software, which monitors wheel position, steering angle, damper temperature, signal quality, vehicle position, and much more. This advanced software rides on top of the car’s drive modes and provides a degree of suspension performance never before seen in a production Mustang. This system is not just designed to make the car handle better, but to instill greater confidence in even the best driver.”
We tried each of the settings, even Drag, which optimizes the suspension for hard launching. It does this by allowing quick rise of the nose, and at max extension the shocks firm up to hold the nose high for best possible traction. Then, once you’re underway, the nose settles and the suspension provides high-speed stability for the rest of your run. MagneRide amazingly lets the car soak up imperfections on the road, and it gives you a stiffer suspension for the track. In the past, a car so capable on track would feel like a skateboard riding over gravel on the street. MagneRide fixes that.
Hardware features include the all-new aluminum front knuckles, hub, and bearing assemblies that Ford said are stiffer and lighter than standard Mustang parts. Stiffer bushings are fitted to the control arms and subframes for improved steering feedback, and heavy-duty bearings are added for increased lateral stiffness. Front and rear antiroll bars are increased in diameter for improved body control. “One side of the rear suspension features a new counterwound rear spring and matching rear control arm so the left and right sides are mirror images—perfecting wheel motion,” said Hameedi.
The suspension is either connected to Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires on the GT350 or extra-special Sport Cup 2 tires on the R. “Due to the significant speeds the car can develop, the GT350 features the most track-credible brake system ever offered on a Ford vehicle,” said Baldori. This system, developed by Brembo and Ford, provides wonderful stopping power, fade resistance, and brake pedal feel. “The brakes are two-piece cross-drilled iron brake discs mounted to aluminum hats. At the front are massive 394mm rotors clamped by Brembo six-piston fixed calipers with integrated caliper bridges, while 380mm rotors at the rear utilize four-piston calipers,” he added. GT350 rides on 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels—10.5 inches wide in front, 11.0 inches in the rear. The Michelin Pilot Super Sport and Sport Cup 2 tires feature specific sidewall construction, tread face, and compound.
The engineering effort translates into a Mustang that is ridiculously fun and easy to drive at speed. The readiness of the chassis and suspension gives drivers confidence and a variety of driving situations. Stability, feel, and control have been taken to a new level. The body remains flat during all phases of cornering, and when braking you’ll sense virtually no nose dive or nervousness in the rear. Turn-in occurs immediately, almost as if your thoughts, rather than your hands, are connected to the wheel. The steering is the most precise we’ve seen from a production Mustang. Save for a touch of understeer, the balance was spot on.
Brake, and the entire Mustang plants and slows. Turn in, and the Mustang tracks precisely and quickly in the desired direction. Add power, and the rear sets and digs in, and the muscular V-8 pulls you from the corner with speed and symphonic glory. You don’t want to lift, and with this screamer you don’t often have to.
“The final product is essentially an all-new powerplant unique to GT350, and one that takes true advantage of the new chassis dynamics of the Mustang platform,” said Hameedi. “The new 5.2L V-8 engine is the first-ever production V-8 from Ford with a flat-plane crankshaft, an architecture typically found only in racing applications or exotic European sports cars. Unlike a traditional V-8, where the connecting rods are attached to the crankshaft at 90-degree intervals, this design evenly spaces all crank pins at 180-degrees intervals.”
The result is 526 all-motor horsepower, with a torque peaking at 429 lb-ft. The throaty V-8 has good midrange torque, and power comes on nice and smooth. “It makes noises that should be illegal,” jokes Hameedi, but he is right. Ford should sell a GT350 soundtrack.
On track, we loved hearing the revs dip and climb. Rev matching on downshifts creates its own sound, and the pedals are placed so that it is fairly easy to heel-toe. The engine connects to a dual-mass flywheel and silky dual-disc clutch. Ford also developed a completely new Tremec TR-3160 six-speed that is 10 pound lighter than the MT-82 in the GT, and it shifts smooth and seamlessly, even at redline. Out back, you’ll find a Ford-tuned Torsen limited-slip differential.
“We took the best Ford Mustang yet and massaged every aspect of the car that affects the performance driving experience,” said Hameedi. “We tested endlessly on the most challenging roads and tracks in the world, and we believe serious drivers will love the Shelby GT350 Mustang.”
In addition to all the go-fast goodies, engineers set out to remove weight on the R. “We set aggressive targets for weight reduction,” said Baldori. “If a part did not make the car faster around a road course, it was considered for deletion.” Items removed include the air conditioning, stereo system, rear seats, trunk floorboard and carpet, backup camera, and emergency tire sealer and inflator. Exhaust resonators also have been removed for weight savings with the benefit of creating a sharper exhaust tone. Of course, a big portion of the weight savings comes from the R’s carbon fiber wheels, which are only 18 pounds each. That amounts to a savings of 60 pounds of unsprung weight. The diet shaved over 120 pounds.
Ford, however, will offer an optional Electronics Package that replaces dual-zone air conditioning, an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, a seven-speaker audio system, turn signal mirrors, and more on the R model.
The mechanicals are wrapped in a proud Mustang shell that screams, “I’m a Shelby!” And not surprisingly, the body was optimized for performance. “Shelby GT350R’s highly efficient aerodynamics, innovative light-weighting and world-class chassis deliver a truly spectacular driving experience that makes you feel like a professional racing driver,” Baldori said to the crowd of journalist who couldn’t wait to get on track.
The GT350 is hunkered down and poised to attack. The entire nose has been reshaped. The nose has a greater slope and meets with the aluminum hood, which is tightly wrapped around the engine and sports a functional heat extractor.
You’ll also find a new lower front splitter that works in unison with the ducted belly pan to enhance downforce, plus wider aluminum fenders that feature larger wheel openings to accommodate the GT350-specific front suspension with wider track and larger tires. “At the rear, much of the engineering was focused on creating an aggressive functional diffuser doing double duty to increase downforce and provide cooling air to the optional differential cooler, and a subtle lip spoiler across the trailing edge of the decklid increases downforce without adding excess drag,” said Baldori. The GT350 has benefited from wind-tunnel testing, and Ford said it produces twice the downforce of a Porsche GT3.
Engineers also optimized the overall vehicle weight to offer the best balance for street and track driving. With that, the standard GT350 comes in at 3,760 pounds, while the GT350 Track Package weighs 3,791 pounds. There are two basic models, the base GT350 and the R. Among the few packages is the Track Package ($6,500), which features the MagneRide damping system; engine, transmission, and rear coolers; heavy-duty front springs; a raised decklid spoiler; an aluminum strut tower brace; and Recaro seats. The Technology Package ($7,500) features the MagneRide damping system; heavy-duty front springs; Integrated Drive Control; a seven-speaker entertainment system with Sync, voice-activated nav, and SiriusXM satellite radio (six months prepaid); Power climate-controlled front seats; and much more.
Ultimately, the GT350 provides a Mustang with an unrivaled combination of luxury, balance, refinement, and performance. This Mustang excites your every sense and gives you the tools for the ultimate driving experience no matter where you go. Ford has captured the essence of the original Shelby GT350 and created a fun machine that will excite the Mustang community and keep them wanting more.
|2016 Shelby GT350 & GT350R|
|Construction||Unitized welded steel body; aluminum hood, front fenders, and front bumper beam; carbon fiber grille opening reinforcement|
|Final assembly location||Flat Rock, Mich.|
|Engine: 5.2L flat-plane crank V-8|
|Configuration||Aluminum block and heads, 90-degree V-8|
|Intake manifold||Composite shell with scroll design and motion control valves|
|Exhaust manifold||Tubular stainless steel|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, twin independent variable camshaft timing|
|Valve diam./lift||Intake, 38.3 and 14 mm; exhaust, 32.5 and 14 mm|
|Connecting rods||Forged micro-alloyed steel|
|Ignition||Distributorless with coil-on-plug|
|Bore x stroke||94.0 x 93.0 mm|
|Engine control system||PCM|
|Horsepower||526 @ 7,500 rpm|
|Torque||429 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm|
|Fuel recommended||Premium unleaded|
|Fuel capacity||16 gal.|
|Fuel delivery||Port fuel injection with twin high-flow pumps|
|Oil capacity||10 qts. 5W-50 with filter (7,500-mile service interval; 5,000-mile for heavy use)|
|EPA estimated fuel economy ratings||14 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, 16 mpg combined. Actual mileage will vary|
|Layout||Rear-wheel drive with Torsen limited-slip differential|
|Transmission: Tremec TR 3160|
|Front||Double-ball-joint MacPherson strut and tubular stabilizer bar (optional MagneRide damping system)|
|Rear||Integral-link independent with coil springs, tubular stabilizer bar and monotube dampers (optional MagneRide damping system)|
|Type||Electric power-assisted with rack-and-pinion gear|
|Turning circle, curb-to-curb||40.4 ft|
|Type||4-wheel power discs with 4-sensor, 4-channel antilock braking system and AdvanceTrac electronic stability control|
|Front||394mm x 36mm aluminum hat, floating-type vented and cross-drilled discs, Brembo 6-piston fixed aluminum calipers|
|Rear||320mm x 26-mm vented discs and cross-drilled discs, 4-piston fixed aluminum calipers, drum-in hat parking brake|
|GT350||GT350 Track Pack||GT350R|
|19x10.5 aluminum alloy, 295/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport front; 19x11.0 aluminum alloy, 305/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport rear||19x10.5 aluminum alloy, 295/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport front; 19x11.0 aluminum alloy, 305/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport rear||19x11.0 carbon fiber, 305/30ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 front; 19x11.5 carbon fiber, 315/30ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rear|
|Dimensions (inches unless otherwise noted)|
|Track; front, rear||63.3, 63.7||63.3, 63.7|
|Seating capacity||4 people||2 people|
|Front legroom, max.||44.5||44.5|
|Front shoulder room||56.3||56.3|
|Front hip room||54.9||54.9|
|Rear shoulder room||52.2||n/a|
|Rear hip room||47.4||n/a|
|Base Curb Weight|
|GT350||GT350 Track Package||GT350R||GT350R Electronics Package|
|Curb weight (lb)||3,760||3,791||3,655||3,703|
|Base Curb Weight|
|Passenger volume||84.5 cu. ft.||52.3 cu. ft.|
|Cargo volume||13.5 cu. ft.||13.5 cu. ft.|