2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 First Review
- Updated version of the track-ready Mustang
- Recaro, Brembo, Michelin and Tremec contribute to the package
- 5.2-liter V8 with flat-plane crank produces 526 hp/429 lb-ft of torque
- Prices start at $59,140 (GT350)/$67,135 (GT350R)
Automotive designer, racing driver and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby died in 2012, but his legacy lives on in the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350. His company developed the first Shelby GT350 for 1965, and it was sold by Ford through the 1969 model year. In 2016, the GT350 rejoined the official Ford lineup in two variants: GT350 and GT350R.
Ford brought out the latest version of the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 to M1 Concourse’s 1.5-mile road course, Champion Motor Speedway in Pontiac, Michigan, for a day of track driving and street drives to show off the upgrades and changes that have been implemented by the manufacturer and its supplier partners for the new model year.
What’s new for 2019?
The GT350 was already pretty well-sorted, so many of the upgrades and changes to the 2019 model qualify as tweaks.
The standard MagneRide active suspension has been updated with recalibrated springs and revised damping. Newly developed Z-rated Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are wrapped around staggered 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels (10.5 inches wide front/11.0 inches wide rear). A new spoiler with an available Gurney flap improves aerodynamics.
Interior styling has been updated with a standard machined aluminum instrument panel and available exposed carbon fiber version. The standard Recaro race seats are now available with power adjustment and Miko suede inserts. A new Bang & Olufsen 12-speaker sound system is available, and dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control and a universal garage door opener are standard.
Finally, the paint color palette has been expanded to include Velocity Blue and Ford Performance Blue.
Ford reached outside of their traditional parts bin to assemble the GT350, relying on partners to help develop and build several key components. In addition to the new Michelin tires mentioned above, the GT350 also uses Brembo brake calipers both front and rear. Fixed calipers are used at both ends (6-piston front/4-piston rear), an upgrade from the floating calipers used on other Mustang variants.
A Tremec TR-3160 6-speed manual transmission moves power from the engine to the rear wheels. It’s beefier than the Getrag units used in other Mustang models, with a 1.00:1 ratio in fifth gear and 0.629:1 in sixth, where the Getrag goes to overdrive 0.814:1 in fifth and 0.622:1 in sixth. There’s no option for an automatic transmission for GT350. A 3.73:1 TORSEN final drive is standard.
Recaro race seats are standard in GT350, with side bolstering and open pass-throughs for safety harnesses.
Engine at the heart
The heart of the GT350 is a naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V8 gasoline engine with port injection. It is rated to produce 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, which makes it the most powerful naturally aspirated Ford production engine ever.
The engine uses a flat-plane crankshaft, which contributes to a unique sound signature, especially when pushed toward its 8,250 rpm redline. Drivers can enhance or dampen the exhaust note with a selection in the electronic interface which opens and closes baffles.
The engine is built in Ford’s Romeo Engine Plant. Top speed for GT350 is 180 mph (drag limited). The EPA estimates that GT350 can achieve 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway/16 mpg combined.
Sound is a big part of the experience with GT350. Driving a manual transmission car on a race track, you have to rely on your ears to find the right shifting points. With a V8 engine that pulls hard all the way to 7,500 rpm, you have to recalibrate your audio sensors to avoid short-shifting and missing out on the powertrain’s full potential.
The new Michelin tires deliver tremendous grip and selecting Track mode lets the tail slip out predictably before traction control intervenes to keep things safe. One of the pro drivers on hand for the M1 event described the GT350 as “a hammer,” meaning that it has the capability to pound around the track in beast mode. The feeling is exhilarating, and the grip and control are confidence-inspiring.
While not a wise choice for daily driving, GT350 can be as mild as a kitten on the street, chugging along in traffic and minding its manners (provided its driver has the necessary restraint).
Prices for the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 start at $59,140, while the more hard-core version, the GT350R, starts at $67,135. Buyers will eligible to participate a complimentary Ford Performance Track Attack driving program with each vehicle purchase.