2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang

Saving the best for last

New 2016 Shelby GT350 worth the wait

Yes, boys and girls, the 2016 model year is just about over, as the 2017 models are starting to appear. However, the eagerly awaited 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 has arrived. This scribe has finally tested this iconic pony car on and off the track.

We all know the look of the Mustang, but the Shelby GT350 features a new, lower aluminum hood, recontoured front fenders, front and rear aero elements and re-sculpted fascia with a lower front splitter. An aggressive, functional rear diffuser and a subtle lip spoiler along with some aggressive paint colors finish the look.

Under the hood is Ford’s first production V-8 featuring connecting rods at 180-degree intervals, just like exotic sports cars (versus a traditional V-8 with 90-degree rods). This configuration allows the 5.2-liter engine — the highest-output naturally aspirated engine ever built by Ford — to breathe and rev better. The 429 pound-feet of torque is as brutal as the exhaust note is sweet.

Backing the exotic-car-spec engine is a six-speed manual Tremec TR-3160. I expected a stubborn clutch (hello, Hellcats), but instead it felt light and balanced with a great shifter a la the Mazda Miata.

The 2016 Shelby GT350 Mustang is a true street/track car, and the higher-performance GT350R has more track prowess if you want it. Cranking this pony up with the exhaust baffles open and ripping down a country road startled the local wildlife. As I raced through the gears and felt the power come on, I noticed I was at 3500 rpm and there were still 4,500 rpm left — I never ran out of revs!

This works great when you’re on a racetrack. During a track session at Road America, I got a 3,750-pound GT350 to hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and did the quarter mile at just over 12.5 seconds and 118 mph — a professional driver could cut some tenths. However, Ford/Shelby has turned the dial from dragstrip to a racecourse car. Slicing through the corners at Road America, the big Brembro brakes inspired confidence, but the electric power-assisted steering with selectable effort could be better.

My GT350 test cars made contact with the road via meaty Michelin Pilot Super Sports 295/35ZR 19s up front and 305/35ZR 19s in the rear. On track, the standard GT350 was fantastic (except for the steering), but on the road, the Track package (aluminum tower brace; rear spoiler; oil, transmission and differential coolers; MagneRide damping system) really makes this car livable in everyday driving. There is also a Technology package for your non-driving needs.

During the track portion of my drive, Ford stressed the value equation of the GT350, and while the car is not perfect, it’s a great value for a factory street/track car. I you missed out on one of the roughly 4,000 copies for 2016, fear not — there will be a 2017 Ford Shelby GT350, and the Track package will be standard.

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