PONTIAC, Michigan — Ford has changes in store for the Mustang Shelby GT350 designed to upgrade its uber-pony/sports car with handling improvements for the 2019 model year. The mid-cycle upgrade features new suspension calibrations, a new wheel design, new tires, and improved aerodynamics, according to Mustang engineering chief Carl Widmann.
The new tires are Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 measuring 295/35 front and 305/35 rear. These complementing new springs, anti-roll bars, and MagneRide suspension tuning, Widmann says, “for faster lap times.” The rear wing comes with an optional Gurney flap and the “blanking” in the grille—the blocked-out openings—has been optimized for better aero with sufficient cooling.
The “base” 2019 GT350 comes with the Mustang Track Package suspension setup, while the R package will continue to be optional when the ’19 model goes on sale early next year. The front suspension of the 2019 GT350 is firmer and the rear is softer—each by about 10 percent—Widmann says.
The GT350’s 526-hp flat-plane-crank 5.2-liter V-8 and six-speed Tremec manual gearbox will be unchanged for 2019. Base price of the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is $61,340, including destination and gas-guzzler tax, while the GT350R will cost $69,335.
If that seems steep for Mustang money, you can apply the Performance Pack 2 to the garden-variety GT. Ford gave auto journalists another crack at some track time in a 2018 Ford Mustang GT with Pack 2, which is designed for road racing circuits, and to take on the Chevrolet Camaro 1LE. Automobile Magazine editor-in-chief Mike Floyd first had a chance to sample the V-8 Mustang with the road-racing package at the Monticello Motor Club last month, though rain blunted his track-day fun.
Sunshine kept the M1 Concours club circuit in Pontiac bone-dry on Monday morning, and though we had just four laps, including in-lap and cool-down in the Mustang GT with PP2, it was enough to determine that the package makes the pony car feel smaller than it is. This reporter’s perspective comes from having driven three other cars on the tight and technical 1.5-mile circuit—a Mazda MX-5 Miata Cup, an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrofoglio, and a 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite Mark I “Bugeye.”
Once you get past the Ford Mustang GT’s hood, which seems as long as the entire Bugeye Sprite, the PP2 car feels willing to rotate, though catchable. Your Humble Servant didn’t get it anywhere near being sideways, but this was all communicated through seat-of-the-pants. That a big V-8 powered coupe communicates anything so detailed is a breakthrough of the modern era of Mustang.
Steering is light, quick and communicative, and required no serious mid-turn corrections, even during the in-lap. The car is probably less confidence inspiring closer to the limit than those other cars mentioned above (especially the Sprite, given its very low limits) as speed builds, but it’s impressive, nonetheless. And the brakes are flat-out fabulous, especially coming off the circuit’s longest straight after an upshift to fourth.
If there’s any nit to pick it’s that while the PP2 Mustang GT allows for easy and professional-sounding heel-and-toe downshifts, the 2-3 upshift isn’t as intuitive, and this reporter grabbed for fifth gear on at least one such upshift. A notchier gearbox might work better, in this case. Something for Ford Mustang engineers to work on for the next round of product updates.