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2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 first drive assessment

When the GT350 debuted for the 2016 mannequin 12 months, the centerpiece of the brand new Shelby was undoubtedly Ford’s new 5.2-liter Voodoo V8. Excessive revving and filled with character, the 526 horsepower naturally aspirated mill was an incredible match for a Mustang designed with observe prowess in thoughts.

However whereas the restricted manufacturing GT350R confirmed simply how succesful the sixth technology Mustang’s platform may very well be when dialed in for severe highway course efficiency, the hole between it and the usual GT350 proved to be extra sizable than the spec sheet initially prompt, because the latter’s extra conservative tire and suspension bundle, particularly, made the usual Shelby really feel extra like a garden-variety GT with an engine swap quite than a reputable observe weapon. That discrepancy turned much more obvious final 12 months with the introduction of Efficiency Pack 2, an choices bundle that bestowed the GT with extra aggressive dealing with than the 2018 Shelby GT350 was geared up with.

Eager to carry the Mustang efficiency hierarchy again in line, Ford has turned their consideration to the GT350 as soon as once more and bestowed it with some updates for 2019. This replace has injected new life into the Shelby, delivering the extremely surefooted – but street-friendly – machine that we’ve at all times hoped it could be.

However, with a brand new beginning value of $59,140, the GT350 additionally sees a value hike of greater than $3000 for 2019. Is the brand new Shelby well worth the value of admission? We headed to the M1 Concourse, a personal observe facility in Pontiac, Michigan, to search out out.

In and out

In years previous, the Shelbys differentiated themselves from commonplace Mustangs largely by their aggressive bodywork and hunkered down stance. However whereas the remainder of the lineup has adopted the aesthetic adjustments that have been a part of the Mustang’s 2018 facelift, the Shelby GT350, GT350R, and upcoming GT500 haven’t. Whether or not that’s good or dangerous is basically subjective, however this creator considers it a win.

Though a lot of the visible upgrades which can be a part of the Shelby GT350 bundle carry over from 2018, the up to date pony automotive does include a number of notable tweaks. Included is a brand new rear spoiler with an non-obligatory Gurney Flap that improves rear downforce (and thus high-speed stability) whereas giving the GT350 a extra distinctive look. A brand new set of 19-inch aluminum wheels and the provision of Velocity Blue and Ford Efficiency Blue paint hues additionally assist the revised Shelby stand out from its predecessors. Whereas it’s not a complete rethink of the GT350’s look, the tweaks do carry the usual Shelby into nearer parity with the R-spec mannequin in terms of curb enchantment.

The adjustments are refined inside as properly. Newly designed door panels, a normal machined aluminum instrument panel appliqué, and a wrapped heart console are the obvious adjustments, however the Shelby’s good-looking, purposeful inside didn’t want a lot fixing to start with. Recaro sport seats are outfitted as commonplace, however new power-adjustable chairs are additionally obtainable for drivers searching for one thing with a bit extra on a regular basis consolation.

Hardware upgrades

The 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 now boasts custom-tuned 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo on the choices sheet, and Ford’s Eight-inch Sync three touchscreen infotainment system is now commonplace, as is dual-zone local weather management. However in terms of automobiles with Carroll Shelby’s title connected to them, essentially the most attention-grabbing engineering is usually beneath the pores and skin, and the 2019 GT350 is not any exception.

The efficiency enhancements begin the place the rubber meets the highway.

The efficiency enhancements begin the place the rubber meets the highway. Actually. Ford Efficiency labored with Michelin to develop a brand new “FP” spec Pilot Sport Cup 2 tire for the GT350 to switch the extra street-focused Pilot Tremendous Sport that the Shelby was previously outfitted with. To not be confused with the Pilot Sport Cup 2 used on the Shelby GT350R, this new tire has a singular compound and tread sample that’s designed to be extra usable in moist climate whereas retaining the unbelievable ranges of grip that the Cup 2 is understood for.

To enrich the brand new tire and aero bits, Ford additionally revised the Shelby’s suspension. This contains retuning the adjustable MagneRide dampers, swapping in stiffer entrance springs, and putting in a much bigger sway bar within the rear. Whereas the Brembo brake is unchanged, engineers up to date the antilock braking software program to permit drivers to take full benefit of the extra grip on faucet.

Driving impressions

M1’ Concours’s tight, 1.5-mile observe doesn’t supply sufficient room to stretch the Shelby’s legs to a level that permits you to exploit the extra downforce supplied by the brand new rear spoiler, nevertheless it does supply loads of alternatives to expertise the GT350’s newfound dealing with prowess.

The forecast warned of thunderstorms the morning of our on-track seat time, however by some small miracle the rain hadn’t but soaked the observe once we arrived within the morning. Clearly, we wasted little time getting behind the wheel and out on the course. Inside just some laps the dealing with enhancements have been apparent – the retuned suspension provides the automotive a considerably extra buttoned-down really feel at velocity than it’s had in years previous, whereas the brand new Cup 2 tire provides a near-endless properly of grip. The Shelby stays a row-your-own affair, however you’ll get no complaints from us on that entrance both, because the slick Tremec six-speed gearbox continues to supply quick, constructive throws and an intuitive, comparatively low-effort clutch.

Bradley Iger/Digital Developments

Ford touts the up to date Shelby GT350 as a machine that’s rewarding for observe veterans however approachable for novices as properly. The brand new Michelin tire corroborates that declare, providing clear communication concerning the threshold of grip regardless of being a near-race-spec compound, and staying admirably immune to overheating regardless of our sometimes overzealous tempo. Together with the oil, differential, and transmission coolers that have been made commonplace in 2017, the brand new tire compound, revised suspension, and extra substantial aero give the GT350 what it must encourage confidence behind the wheel and persuade would-be drivers to push a little bit tougher with every subsequent lap. With the brakes exhibiting no signal of fade after a number of periods, that’s precisely what we did.

To enrich the brand new tire and aero bits, Ford additionally revised the Shelby’s suspension.

Whereas the brand new GT350 is rewarding on a highway course, there was some concern that the extra aggressive chassis tuning would possibly translate to an abusive trip on public streets. By mid-day the rain had additionally lastly rolled in, presenting the Shelby with even much less excellent highway situations for on a regular basis driving.

But regardless of the crucible that’s post-winter Michigan tarmac, the GT350 was admirably composed in Consolation driving mode, with the MagneRide dampers offering sufficient compliance to make even essentially the most pockmarked streets tolerable. Some drivers would possibly discover the Recaro seats to be a bit a lot in on a regular basis use, however the aggressive shoulder and thigh bolsters pay dividends throughout high-speed maneuvering, so the choice of whether or not to go for these or the cushier energy seats largely comes all the way down to a specific driver’s priorities.

Rivals

The Mustang’s decades-long rivalry with the Camaro reveals no indicators of slowing down. Whereas Chevrolet doesn’t supply a direct competitor to the GT350, the 455 horsepower Camaro SS 1LE ($49,995) and 650 hp supercharged Camaro ZL1 ($62,000) are each fashions with comparable intentions to the Shelby.

Though the Camaro’s chassis is among the finest within the enterprise, its excessive beltline gives much less outward visibility than the Mustang, and the Ford’s inside is noticeably extra refined. The Camaro would possibly nonetheless be the king of the race observe, however the Shelby would doubtless be simpler to stay with on a day after day foundation than both Camaro mannequin.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 review Bradley Iger/Digital Developments

And whereas it loses a step to each the Ford and Chevy by way of outright dealing with functionality, Dodge’s Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody is not any slouch both. Though its bigger dimension makes this muscle automotive much less nimble than its rivals, the Dodge provides considerably extra passenger room, cargo house, and total consolation than both of its rivals.

Peace of thoughts

Ford provides a three-year, 36,000-mile fundamental guarantee and a 5 12 months, 60,000-mile powertrain guarantee on the Mustang Shelby GT350. Customary security options embrace entrance, facet, overhead, and knee airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability management, and belt pre-tensioners.

How DT would configure this automotive

To make the Shelby as track-capable as attainable whereas additionally bolstering its on a regular basis drivability, we’d go for the Recaro seats and non-obligatory Gurney Flap spoiler, however we’d additionally spring for the Bang & Olufsen audio.

And although the Shelby appears to be like nice in Ford Efficiency Blue, we have been notably smitten with our tester’s Orange Fury hue and the distinction it creates with the Shelby’s black accents, so we’d doubtless go that route if we have been constructing a GT350 for ourselves.

Conclusion

Ford’s efforts to reinforce the mannequin’s on-track functionality have elevated the enjoyable issue whereas additionally avoiding any important detriments to its on a regular basis drivability. For those who’ve been pining for a GT350 however wished it had a bit extra of an earnest method to trace functionality with out the inherent compromises (and price ticket) of the GT350R, we’re joyful to report that your new Shelby has lastly arrived.

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