Oakville Drives: 2016 Mustang Shelby GT350

2016 Mustang Shelby GT350
Oakville Drives: 2016 Mustang Shelby GT350

About the Author

R. G. Beltzner

R. G. Beltzner

A long time automobile enthusiast, and competitive race driver, Rainer Beltzner provides performance driving and racing instruction for Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari owners and clubs. He's been doing this for over 25 years. Often, Rainer is found driving/teaching on one of the Canadian Tire Motorsport, Shannonville or Watkins Glen tracks. During the “off-season”, Rainer spends his spare time driving and evaluating a broad range of vehicles. Follow Rainer on Twitter @redy2rol.

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This is one heck of a “muscle car” that is just about perfect! Superb handling, awesome sound, great looks and all that at a reasonable price compared to the competition! What’s not to like?

Driving and handling characteristics
This beast of a car comes equipped with a normally aspirated 5.2 litre 526 hp V8 with a flat-plane crank that according to the techies, is really born from and based on an impressively tweaked and modified 5.0 litre engine of the plain GT. What is immediately noticeable is the 8,200 rpm redline that seems to give you unlimited range before having to shift – with an outrageously wonderful and LOUD exhaust melody. You cannot go unnoticed, especially when coated in “race red” with the double white racing stripes to help announce your arrival.

The GT350 handles exceptionally well! The six-speed manual short throw shifter is perfectly designed and well placed allowing for seamless and very fast shifts. This is also helped by a very light clutch – unusual for a car of this type as most of us “racers” would normally prefer a heavier clutch feel. Nevertheless, once you get used to it, it definitely helps reduce leg cramping while in stop and go traffic. The 8200 rpm redline normally associated with the European exotics lets you really stretch the limits of each gear. The suspension and brakes are truly marvelous. There is no problem in “laying rubber” in every one of the first four gears and the car demonstrates solid road presence with minimal rear sway – unlike the plain GT version that has lots of challenges staying settled down on quick starts. Once above the 4,000 rpm level, putting your foot down produces even more awesome acceleration and sounds for what seems to be delightfully forever, until you finally reach the 8,000 rpm level and smoothly shift up to receive yet another boost of joy.

Ford Motor Company

Model: 2016 Mustang Shelby GT350
Engine: 5.2 litre V8 with a flat-plane crank
Base Price: $62,599
Price as Tested: $74,349

Unfortunately I was not able to drive this particular beast on the track in order to truly test its’ handling. However, I have experienced the 2016 GT350R version on the track (basically the same car with some “track” enhancements). That GT350 was as balanced, responsive, aggressive, smooth and fun to drive as any high-end track car that I have ever been in. If you plan to track your car a few times each year, the GT350 or GT350R are both a bargain. Driving the GT350 on public roads brings with it a number of frustrations. You can’t really enjoy the power without risking the dreaded “ticket” – hence the need for a few track days every year to truly enjoy the car. On shorter trips (say under two hours), the car is quite comfortable for both driver and passenger. The car comes with several selectable driving modes including “normal, “sport” and “track” that adjust suspension and steering. However, even in “normal” mode, the suspension is such that rough roads (like many in our cities) and/or long trips can quickly remind your lower back of the need for a pain pill, or a good massage. I’m certainly willing to make that sacrifice!

2016 Mustang Shelby GT350

2016 Mustang Shelby GT350; Photo Credit: R.G. Beltzner

The car comes equipped with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires suitable for the street (front – 295/35 ZR 19; rear – 305/35 ZR 19). Brakes consist of six (front) and four (rear) piston Brembo brake calipers and 15.5″ (front) and 15” (rear) two-piece cross drilled iron discs mounted to aluminum hats.

Comfort and Styling
From the exterior, the GT350 is classy, modern and downright mean looking especially when equipped with the optional racing stripes. My test car came with the $9,400 Technology package that adds most items from the Track package (such as stronger suspension components and drive mode selector) as well as heating and cooling to the seats, dual zone air conditioning, a touch screen infotainment and navigation system. The interior of the Shelby GT350 is nice enough, definitely not luxurious, but highly functional. Toggle switches and a good selection of LCD display options between tach and speedo gauges round out the interior. Rear seats exist and are likely comfortable enough for children. Trunk space is reasonable.

Safety
The GT 350 includes many of the safety features one would expect in today’s cars, as standard equipment. These include: interior trunk release; leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls; tilt/telescoping steering column; rear view camera; 3-point safety belt restraint system for all seating positions; driver and front passenger knee airbag; front-seat side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; and, a host of stability control, alarm and anti-theft systems.

Things to consider
The Shelby GT350 is a great choice for the performance car and track enthusiast. An upgrade to the GT350R might be a consideration if you plan to do more time as a “trackie”. From an operating cost point of view, the high horsepower of the car combined with some aggressive driving will chew through your fuel and tires quite quickly. It may also not be the best car as a daily driver given the stiff suspension and noisy exhaust. However, this car is quite simply a lot of fun to drive so a few inconveniences may well be worth it. I strongly recommend that new owners of this car treat themselves to a high performance driving school in order to learn and practice proper handling of the power this car can generate. Actual fuel consumption after a week of country and city driving a total of 550 kilometers was 13.6 L/100km – not bad at all for this engine.

For more automotive reviews and insights, follow me on Twitter @redy2rol.

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