The flat-plane crankshaft in the 2017 Ford Shelby GT350 is about as big around as, oh, Dwayne Johnson’s bicep. It’s therefore somewhat terrifying to realize that, as the tach needle swings skyward and the exhaust note is shrieking and the car is trembling and that giant crank is whirling around mere inches in front of you at 6,000 rpm, you’ve still got 2,000 rpm left to go.
You’d be forgiven for feeling the sudden urge to leap out of the driver’s seat and straight into the nearest blockhouse.
There’s nothing subtle about this Shelby rocketship. It fairly shivers with power, the exhaust snorting and ripping and bellowing even when you aren’t exploring the tachometer’s upper stratosphere. The 19-inch black-painted aluminum wheels wearing sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires say “don’t tread on me” with a capital “Tread.” A new-for-2017 color, vintage-themed Grabber Blue (a friend called it “Smurf Blue”), stands out like Kim Kardashian in a library. A white racing stripe ($475) is actually named “Over The Top” on the options list. Clearly, Ford understands what it’s baked-up here.
In creating its 2017 model, Dearborn listened to potential GT350 buyers. And, basically, what they heard was “stop pussy-footing around and just give us the damn Track Pack already.” Thus, what was a $6,500 option in 2016 is standard on all 2017 models. That adds coolers for the engine oil, transmission, and Torsen rear diff; an aluminum shock-tower brace; a higher-downforce rear spoiler; and, most important of all, adaptive magnetorheological (“MagneRide”) shocks. A new Electronics Package ($3,000) adds Sync 3, voice-activated nav, and an uprated nine-speaker audio system. Also available is a new Convenience Package (not on my test car), which includes all of the above options but replaces the manual Recaro seats with power leather chairs (ummm, pass).
All-in, we’re now looking at a $60,000 Mustang. Does it deliver?
Well, there’s no denying the chops of that hulking, 526-horsepower V-8. Topping the magic 100 horses per liter without forced induction means this is one finely tuned piece of power art. The flat-plane crank, with each con-rod journal 180 degrees opposite the next in line (instead of at the usual 90-degree intervals), enables a cylinder firing order that alternates between banks — reducing exhaust pulse overlap and allowing the engine to breathe more freely and rev both quicker and higher. (That’s precisely why Ferrari uses the same crank design in the 488.)
Opened wide on an empty mountain road, the GT350’s so-called “Voodoo” V-8 is nothing short of mind-blowing. Acceleration is brutal. Fearsome. And…is there even a redline?
You could convince yourself there isn’t, because the thing just winds and winds and keeps right on winding — all the while emitting a shattering blast of exhaust that’s probably knocking nearby birds right out of the sky. It’s not your typical muscle-car roar, nor is it the finely polished shriek of an Italian exotic. It’s something in-between, unique, a potent, brassy, very American take on an upscale V-8. It’s like riding inside a tornado, if you want to know the truth. Mind you, full torque is on tap by a relatively modest 4,750 rpm, so the engine is pulling plenty hard way before redline. But, damn, there’s something indescribably delicious about winding this beast all the way to its limiter.
Wreaking such mechanical havoc almost seems sinful. After a few minutes going full-throttle at every opportunity I started to feel guilty without knowing why.
Fortunately, the GT350 can use its power unlike any Mustang before it. Especially given the added Track Pack bits, this baby is glued to the tarmac. No limp “Mustang” cornering habits here, this Shelby feels more like a BMW. There’s a ton of grip on tap, I’m guessing close to or maybe right at one-g worth. Moreover, the chassis is balanced, pushing just a bit near the limit (after all, it’s packing a lot of forward mass) but never really sliding into full understeer.
You can hustle this thing like a true sports car, the short-throw six-speed manual shifter firing off gear changes like a quick-drawn Colt, the MagneRide shocks capable of independently fine-tuning their response every ten milliseconds, the structure tight and strong, the big Michelins taking full advantage of the sophisticated platform. And when another corner comes rushing up, fear not: the brakes are freaking enormous. The front discs are 15.5 inches in diameter and clamped by six-piston Brembo calipers. Your jeans will fade before these binders do.
If the GT350 has a downside, it lies in its relentlessness. Yes, the adjustable mag-ride shocks do an impressive job of creaming the rough edges off of broken pavement, yes the Alcantara-wrapped wheel feels great in your hands, yes the clutch effort is surprisingly light considering the brute with which it’s partnered. But the Shelby is, first an foremost, an extreme car. The engine never lets you go; it’s always there and in your face and assaulting your ears. When you’re out for a romp it couldn’t be better; the snarl and noise and fury are precisely what you want. But if you’re going to commute in this thing, by the time you arrive at your destination you may need a little alone time.
The sporty Recaros are appropriately well-bolstered, but it you’re the slightest bit wide you’ll likely say “they bind.” And then there’s that bod. Let me put it this way: When you’re flaunting 19-inch black alloys, bazooka-sized quad tailpipes, and a big ol’ racing stripe, every other rat racer in town is gonna roll up alongside for a sniff — and probably a “dare ya.” I could see other drivers wondering, “Is that thing really as mean as it looks?” And usually they played cautious, not wanting to tempt humiliation. But they all swooped in close for an eyeball.
The 2017 Shelby GT350 is righteous that way. It’s got the swagger and the cojones to back it up. Along with its even-edgier GT350R sibling, it’s the first Mustang with moves across every degree of the friction circle. That is, it turns and stops every bit as good as it goes.
And, man, does it go. After I week I’m not sure I ever found that redline.
Photography courtesy of Juliette St. Antoine
2017 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang
|ON SALE||July 2017|
|ENGINE||5.2L DOHC 32-valve V-8/526 hp @ 7,500 rpm, 429 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||14/21 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||188.9 x 75.9 x 54.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.1 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||175 mph (est)|