The 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 is an all-new model.
“They don’t make them the way they used to.” You usually hear this adage with a negative connotation, perhaps regarding plastic Hot Wheels toy cars or vapid Hollywood sequels. But when it comes to the new 2016 Ford Shelby GT350, not making it like they used to is a good thing.
The 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 is an all-new model.
Ford has long produced top-dog Mustangs, but usually it has gone with supercharging for extra power and kept the car’s focus heavily street-based. For the new GT350, though, Ford has installed a unique V8, fitted racetrack-oriented suspension and brakes and tossed just about everything in the Mustang that doesn’t help the car go faster, into the discard pile. You’d have to use your hot tub time machine to get back to the year 2000 and the Mustang Cobra R to find a ‘Stang with this much appeal for racing suit- and helmet-wearing clientele.
The GT 350’s 5.2-liter V8 is based on the engine in the regular GT, but with a lot of arcane wizardry done on the mechanical bits. It has a flat-plane crankshaft — something normally only used in exotics like Ferrari V8s — that helps it produce more power at a higher rpm, plus new designs for the block, cylinder heads and intake and exhaust manifolds. Even without supercharging or some of the latest engine tech features (direct injection or a dry-sump oil system, for instance), the GT350 cranks out 526 hp and has an outrageous 8,200 rpm redline. The previous Mustang Cobra GT500 boasted 662 hp, true, but the GT350 is meant to be a higher-revving, more track-based machine.
Building off the new Mustang generation’s stiffer body structure and independent rear suspension, the GT350 receives a lowered ride height, a retuned suspension, available magnetorheological dampers, stronger brakes, available extra cooling capability and stickier tires. On the upgraded GT350R version, Ford has even installed lightweight carbon-fiber wheels (yes, really), additional aerodynamic body pieces (most notably, a rear wing a Cessna could admire) and deleted the air-conditioning, rear seat, sound system and even the tire inflator kit. Total weight loss is claimed to be more than 130 pounds. We’re not sure if that includes your AAA card for when you get a flat.
At this point, you might be thinking: “Sounds great! How does it drive?” Well, simply put: It’s awesome. The new V8 is glorious, but the GT350 is such a thoroughly complete machine that praising the engine alone does a disservice to the whole package. It’s a track-ready Mustang that’s still capable of being a daily driver. It’s also in a class by itself. Chevrolet’s coming out with a fully redesigned Camaro this year, so the track-based ZL1 is likely discontinued. Dodge’s Challenger SRT Hellcat is gonzo (in a good way), but it’s more about straight-line performance and doing super cool donuts/burnouts. Chevy Corvette? OK, sure, that’d be an intriguing alternative for similar money. Or maybe check out the Alfa Romeo 4C for an affordable Italian exotic. Ultimately, though, we’re quite pleased to see that Ford isn’t making Mustangs like it used to.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 is a high-performance version of the Mustang coupe. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, a Torsen rear differential (with 3.73 gearing), xenon headlights, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition and entry, manual Recaro front seats with simulated suede inserts, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 4.2-inch center display, a rearview camera, phone and audio voice commands (Sync), smartphone app integration and a six-speaker sound system with a USB port.
Opting for the Technology package further equips the GT350 with adaptive suspension dampers, heavy-duty front springs, adjustable drive settings, leather upholstery, six-way power sport front seats (with driver power lumbar; these seats replace the standard Recaros), heating and ventilation for the front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen with the new Sync 3 interface, Siri Eyes Free, a navigation system and a seven-speaker sound system with satellite radio and two USB ports.
Also optional (but not in conjunction with the Technology package) is the Track package, which adds the adaptive suspension dampers and heavy-duty springs, the adjustable drive settings, a larger rear spoiler, a front suspension tower brace and additional powertrain coolers (oil, differential and transmission).
The GT350R is considered a package. Going “R” gets you the contents of the Track package plus 19-inch carbon-fiber wheels (with special Michelin tires), revised suspension tuning and aerodynamic body enhancements (front chin splitter and rear wing, most notably). The air-conditioning, sound system, rear seat, rearview camera, Sync system and tire inflation kit are deleted. However, if you can’t live without these items, Ford offers the Electronics package, which puts almost all of it back in the car along with the dual-zone climate control, seven-speaker sound system, touchscreen and Sync 3 interface from the Technology package.
Powertrains and Performance
Rumbling under the GT350’s hood is a 5.2-liter V8 that produces 526 hp and 429 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission driving the rear wheels is the only transmission offered. We’ve yet to fully test the GT350 but will update this section with acceleration numbers once we do. The EPA estimates the GT350 will achieve 16 mpg in combined driving (14 city/21 highway).
Standard safety equipment for the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 includes traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is emergency assistance, a post-crash alert system (SOS), a rearview camera and MyKey, which can set certain driving parameters for teen drivers. That’s assuming you’re letting your teen within 100 feet of your GT350 to begin with, of course.
While the Shelby GT350 has not been specifically crash tested, the government tested a regular Mustang coupe. It earned a five-star rating (out of a possible five) for overall crash protection, with five stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Mustang coupe its top rating of “Good” in the moderate-overlap front-impact crash test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2016 Shelby GT350’s interior is a lot like the regular Mustang’s, which means respectable-quality materials and many of the latest conveniences. The Sync voice command system continues to hold appeal for its simple operation of audio and phone functions, but the notable addition for all 2016 Mustangs is the available Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system. It shows promise relative to its controversial MyFord Touch predecessor, providing an easier-to-use icon and menu interface plus smartphone-style pinching and swiping gestures.
Standard for the GT350 are Recaro front seats
On the regular Mustang, we’ve found they provide excellent lateral support for aggressive driving, but lack comfort for everyday driving. On a GT350, we’ll admit they make sense. But for somebody using his or her GT350 as a daily driver, the “upgrade” sport seats, with their power adjustments and heating/cooling, will likely be a better choice.
The Mustang’s rear seat is cramped, though it’s big enough to ferry small children around well enough. Alternately, just ditch it all together and go for the two-seat-only GT350R. The trunk provides 13.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is fairly generous for a sport coupe, and the rear seats can be folded down.
The 2016 Ford Shelby GT350’s V8 makes power everywhere, but it’s particularly energetic starting at 4,000 rpm and continuing well past 8,000 rpm. It also sounds like NASCAR-meets-F1 when you uncork that V8 and let it rev up to full song. On a racetrack, the GT350 — particularly the R version — is happily in its element. The steering is quick and responsive and the suspension keeps the car flat and composed. Braking is hugely confident as well. On the street, the GT350 is more livable than you might think considering how track-focused it is. The optional adaptive suspension dampers, which we recommend getting, do a great job of minimizing harsh impacts.