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2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350: The Real Deal

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On: Mon, Jan 18, 2016 at 12:21PM | By: Lou Ruggieri


2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350:  The Real Deal

Having grown up in a GM family, I found that telling my dad that the first car I wanted is a 1965 Ford Mustang convertible can be a difficult sell. It wasn't easy at all, but essentially my reasoning was that the Mustang was a car that everyone could get behind, that is was an esthetically appealing, universally loved, tried-and-true Pony Car—the original, in fact. Like I said, it wasn't easy, but once I got the keys (and my license), that was all I needed.

Immediately, I started researching Mustangs and how to make them faster, any mod, any trick, any tune, whatever I could find. Fumbling through every car magazine I could find—yes magazines, because the internet was just in its infancy then and I didn't have the patience to wait for the three-stage AOL startup symphony, nor did I feel like racking up extra minutes (remember that?) and getting the riot act read to me—I stumbled upon a car that looked like mine, but much, much meaner. That car was the Shelby GT350. It was a a white and blue-striped monster that I couldn't believe Ford made. Instantly, I was compelled to start stockpiling a list of parts I needed to get in order to make my '65 convertible into the track-ready beast the Shelby was. I had everything: The front fascia, the side pipes, the bigger carburetor, the strut-tower brace, the roll-cage, all of it. Okay, the truth is I had a list for all of it, but money was a little tight at 16 considering I was a part-time waiter at Friendly's, so I narrowed down my options to a strut-tower brace, some upgraded spark plug wires, and a shoe box with "Car Money" written on it as a faux-savings account for the more expensive performance parts. But being stymied by a low income didn't soften my interest in the hardcore Mustang; if anything, it became a source of fascination, partly due to its nigh-unattainable status.

Fast forward almost two decades: My Mustang has been sold, I've moved back over the the GM side of the world—to an F-body of all things—and Ford has brought back the object of my affection for 2016. The GT350 is back, and, boy, is it better than anything I remember. This car is, simply put, a monster. From any angle, from any tangible measurement of speed, acceleration, lateral agility, or braking, it dominates just like its great-great-great-great-grandfather did back in 1965. There are two versions of the new GT350 to choose from, either the standard GT350 or the GT350R. Let's start with the "standard" model, shall we?

This Shelby is something Carroll would have been proud to put his name on. It all starts with the engine, doesn't it? Starting with the very impressive "Coyote" 5.0-liter V8 in the current Mustang GT, Ford has revamped that motor and created a 5.2-liter 32-valve DOHC V8 known simply as "Voodoo". This "flat-crank" V8 (a common nickname given to engines that feature a 180-degree crankshaft featuring single-plane crankpins) is unique thanks to being tuned not to have two consecutive engine firings on the same side of the engine. This tuning helps engine flow and keeps the motor balanced at sustained high-RPM runs. Scoffing at the modern turbocharged cars, the GT350 gets it done the old-fashioned way, with pure naturally aspirated power to the tune of 526 horsepower at 7500 RPM and 429 lb-ft of torque at 4750 RPM. Sick. This motor is a no-nonsense track-star. Short-skirt pistons, gun-drilled crankshaft, low-tension piston rings, composite windage tray in the 10-quart oil pan all scream, "Let's GO!" Ask anyone who has owned a Mustang of any year what their redline is and I promise you it won't be as high as the GT 350's of 8200 RPM. Not the Mustang GT (7000 RPM), nor the last GT500 (6250 RPM), not even the legendary race-ready Cobra R (6500 RPM). 8200 RPM is more Ferrari than Ford, and, once you're behind the wheel, you might just think the same way about the performance.

Backing up that monstrous power is a Tremec TR3160 six-speed transmission (please don't ask about an automatic) that features a dual-mass flywheel and lightweight clutch; both choices were made with the idea that they need to keep up with the crazy-high RPM of the engine. The rear is a 3.73:1 final-drive ratio that also serves to keep the revs right where you might want them on any given track, at any given speed. Everything about the Shelby is purpose-built. The front track is wider, the front fenders have been flared to accommodate bigger tires and vented to help get rid of unwanted air from floating around the wheel wells, same for the rocker panel vents to help get rid of air under the car, and one of three spoilers—depending on which package you choose—to aid with downforce. Huge 15.5-inch six-piston Brembo brakes adorn the front wheels while 15.0-inch four-piston Brembos are mounted at the rear. Even the electronics are all race-oriented. There is Ford's recent gift to performance enthusiasts—the Mustang fun-button—which is essentially a factory-optioned line-lock to keep the front brakes locked up while the rear tires spin to help heat the rubber. And then there is the built-in shift light on the heads-up display to make sure you don't miss that 8200 RPM redline.

Ford didn't target the Prancing Horse when it came to performance, but when they made the GT350R, they used one of Ferrari's arch rivals—the Porsche GT3—as their benchmark for all things race. The R is the same car as the standard GT350, but with the volume turned up a few notches past loud, it's the baddest of the bad, yet it's so good. The R package from Ford is as simple as checking off the 920A Equipment Group option, and, for an additional $13,500 over the base GT350, you can get things like standard adjustable magnetorheological dampers, an aluminum tower brace, oil and differential coolers, track-ready front springs, 19" carbon fiber wheels, super-sticky, track-ready Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, a carbon fiber rear wing, and a Shelby-specific chin splitter. But, while you're saying yes to performance, the R package also makes you say no to a few things. Gone are things like a rear seat, rear view camera, air conditioning, auxiliary gauges, floor mats, tire repair kit, and, oh yeah, a stereo; even the USB ports are tossed, all in the name of weight savings and hardcore track dedication.

So the big question. "What'll she do?" She is a fire-breathing monster that will knock your socks off eight ways from Sunday, to put it mildly. In terms of sheer acceleration, the GT350 runs 0–60 mph in 3.6 seconds and through the quarter mile in 11.96 seconds @ 116.07 mph with a top speed that is aerodynamically limited to 185 mph. That's blistering speed! But the Shelby wasn't meant to go just in a straight line, oh no. Around the skidpad the Super Stang pulls an amazing 1.16 g; that's a ZO6 and high-end Porsche-challenging number. Reining that speed in, the brakes lock down the Mustang from 60–0 mph in only 102 feet.

This Shelby is so wicked, there is a better than decent chance it would smoke even the legendary car that put Shelby on the map. You heard us right; this GT350 might just leave the iconic 427 Cobra in its dust in every contest imaginable. That's right, we said it. Sacrilege? Perhaps. Truth? Quite likely. It's amazing that a car like this is actually being produced in our modern times, and it brings out the kid in all of us, yours truly included. Sure, my first Mustang might be gone, but that shoe box savings program has grown a bit over the years and my current GM car is in the twilight of its career as my daily driver, and my fun car. That means that I will be looking for a new ride in the near future, and that 16-year-old inside has a good mind to go back to Ford for a new GT350R. Of course, I'd still have to convince my dad it's a good idea, but something tells me it will be a lot easier this time around.


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