In the Spotlight - Shelby Mustang GT350 {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

22 Sep 2017

There should be a clause in every handover document with a Shelby GT350 Mustang which states that you must take it on track at least 12 times per year. This 5.2-liter V8 Mustang may be related to the affordable coupe that bears the same nameplate but, by the time Ford Performance is through, this is a coupe that is capable of striking fear into Porsche GT3’s, Lotus Exiges and M3 GTS’s. That BMW is actually a very good example of a real rival for the GT350 – it’s based on a normal 4-seat production performance model but with everything turned up to 11 to turn it into a track weapon.

It certainly looks the part. The Shelby team takes the Mustang’s Coke-bottle body and gives it an aggressive makeover, with new front wings, functional wing vents, a vent in the bulging aluminium bonnet, a rear spoiler, and a rear valance with integrated diffuser, among other changes. Indeed, it all works so well, it’s at the heart of the inspiration for the 2018 Mustang’s design refresh. Nonetheless, there’s no mistaking the differences between the regular car and the GT350.

Inside, the key parts get the most polish. The steering wheel is wrapped in tactile, grippy Alcantara, while the gearshift knob is a palm-filling aluminium ball. Standard-fit Recaro racing seats – complete with GT350 headrest stitching – are as supportive as you’d hope, and finished in slip-resistant cloth and suede rather than leather. Otherwise it’s the same Mustang dashboard we know and, grudgingly, accept. That means plenty of retro dials and toggle switches; at least SYNC 3 is now fitted as standard, unlike the frankly embarrassing audio system that came on the base 2016 car with its postage-stamp sized displays. Cabin plastics are solid but not particularly inspiring.

Your money predominantly goes to the powertrain, you see, and what a powertrain that is. A 5.2litre V8, delivering 526bhp and 429 lb-ft. of torque, which is within spitting distance of Ford’s newest GT supercar in fact. It’s the manufacturer’s most powerful naturally-aspirated engine, and though I’m a fan of Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharging in general, there’s nothing quite like a free-flowing V8 to bring a smile to your face. Especially one with a flat-plane crank – if you’ve heard that phrase before it was probably in relation to a Ferrari as it’s the Italians who use them in their V8s and allow higher revving engines and more power. Fancy. It’ll spin all the way up to 8,250 rpm before it hits the redline, at which point you’re responsible for your own gear-changes using the short-throw six-speed manual.

MagneRide Active Damping is standard, as is independent rear suspension. Six-piston Brembo brakes at the back show the snake is serious about stopping, too. Ford offers a number of drive modes, but you can also switch the exhaust system’s modes separately. I’d recommend it: the GT350’s Ferrari-meets-NASCAR soundtrack is one of its very best features. Noises tend to be tricky to describe in simple words, so think “Thor gargling with boulders while kicking a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the groin” and you’re halfway there.

Of course all this race-bred technology comes at a price and the first payoff is the ride. The GT350 is firmer than a bowl of Weetabix left out in the morning sun – okay when you’re on track there’s zero roll and yaw but on road you can feel a gnat’s wing that has dropped on the road like someone shoving a sword in your spine. But this is a relatively cheap car for the performance so there have to be trade-offs somewhere, including the fact that the GT350 is LHD only which may seem absurd as you can now get a RHD Mustang in the UK.

But the GT350 really is an outstanding bit of muscle car with a European flavour, with performance to get you into trouble very easily and a soundtrack that car deafen an old lady 3 miles away. It’s a bargain in the US anyway, but it’s even more of a bargain in this week’s IN the Headlights promotion where you can get tickets for just £4.00, right here.