My entire opinion of the S550 Mustang changed with the 2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 while my appreciation for the GT350 grew after driving the 1965 Shelby GT350 Competition Model. Since driving the 2019 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 at the M1 Concours of Detroit, Michigan, my thoughts of the platform have only gotten better.
First impressions: Like the 2016 car, the latest iteration is easy to drive – even for someone who doesn’t drive a manual transmission nearly as much as I should. I found the clutch on the GT350 to be light and easy to manage, considering the power it handles.
In the first corner, the Mustang felt tight, and the rear end felt stable and planted. It lacks Mustang’s signature rear end “shimmy-like” feel while the nearly nonexistent redline of the 5.2-liter V8 revs on with a glorious, addictive, deep-throated, erotic exhale on the straightaway.
As another corner approached, the Brembo brakes kept the car flat and stable, daring you to wait just a bit longer before applying them, all while the GT350 prepared to launch into the next apex without any hint of nosedive or squirming.
The 2019 GT350 continues to break the “Mustang mold” as its predecessor did and retains its no-nonsense track monster vibe but then takes it further with even more sophisticated maneuverability aided by its independent rear suspension.
Being a Mustang enthusiast, I’ve managed to get behind the wheel of nearly every generation of Ford’s original pony car, and I have experienced various degrees of performance. To illustrate, Ford had the Original Venice Crew bring out their 1965 Shelby GT350 Competition Model, and they had a 2016 GT350 on display in addition to a few 2020 GT500’s, and other variations currently available in the Mustang lineup.
That said, I found the 2019 GT350 to be a serious contender as one of the best Mustangs to date, as it comes track ready yet retains enough tractability and creature comfort to make it suitable for daily driving.
Ford placed a focus on the 2019 GT350’s handling performance, which has resulted in some very noticeable upgrades over the 2016 model. The most striking is the rear spoiler with optional Gurney flap. The spoiler dramatically improves rear downforce from the previous version, while the larger front grille, similar to the anticipated 2020 Mustang GT500, reduces front-end lift and delivers greater aerodynamic efficiency.
Ford also gave the GT350 some fatty wheels and tires all around. The custom Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, sized 295/35 up front and 305/35 at the rear, feature a Shelby GT350-specific tread pattern and make use of a different compound to deliver more grip for more acceleration.
Brembo brakes provide the stopping power with six-piston front and four-piston rear fixed caliper brakes. The GT350’s standard MagneRide active suspension got some updates to complement the aero and tire enhancements of the 2019 model in addition to recalibrated springs and revised damping.
For even more control and improved driver feedback, the GT350’s electric power-assist steering and three-mode electronic stability control settings also got some enhancements.
Inside, the purpose-built cockpit showcases a machined aluminum instrument panel appliqué or an exposed carbon fiber version. The center console is wrapped, and Recaro race seats are standard.
Powering the GT350 is a 5.2-liter flat-plane-crankshaft V8, rated at 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque, redlining at 8,250-rpm. It comes mated to a track-proven, lightweight Tremec six-speed manual transmission.
As a purist, what I enjoyed most is that the car is still unmistakably a Mustang, though it feels like a Mustang on steroids. The refinements made to its aerodynamics, chassis, and brakes have made the 2019 GT350 a more balanced, higher-performing car on the straightaways but especially in the corners.
The GT350 asks you to drive it harder and faster; it dares you to brake later and take each corner harder. The car is rewarding and inspires driver confidence, but it is also a forgiving car to drive. The GT350 managed to meet and exceed everything I wanted in a track car, and it left nothing to be desired.
The 2019 GT350 takes the Mustang from being a straight-line powerhouse to an agile, versatile car for street or track that achieves world-class performance with unmitigated poise.
The 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 will be available early 2019 and comes with an exclusive, complimentary Track Attack driving program from Ford Performance.