Opening a new chapter in the Mustang’s book, Ford has unveiled its growling and snarling new beast, the 2016 Shelby GT350 Mustang. A car that will surely eclipse the BOSS 302 and perhaps the contemporary Chevrolet Z/28 at the track, we get our first sampling of it in motion.
Hard specifications weren’t issued during today’s reveal but Ford says this new flat-plane crankshaft engine will offer over 500 horsepower and 400 lb-ft. of torque. It is Ford says, the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 they have ever produced. And they’re right.
Wrapping this new car’s image and lineage around Carroll Shelby’s original GT350 of 1965, Ford set out to create something more pure and exotic, perhaps even simpler than the big-block GT-500 with its heavy supercharger.
Some may remember that even back in the 1960′s when asked, Carroll Shelby would recommend a friend buy a GT350 over his own GT500 saying, “It’ll handle better, last longer, and you will enjoy it more”.
The reality is that the new 2016 Shelby GT350 Mustang is nothing close to simple. In fact it is likely one of the most sophisticated Mustangs to ever roll out of Detroit. And while there may be again a GT500, this one has its own mission, getting back to square one.
Its new high-revving 5.2 liter V8 is a first for Ford, who has never dabbled in the eccentricities of the flat-plane crankshaft. What’s the big deal here? By design the crankshaft places each rod journal 180 degrees from the other, instead of 90.
This moves the firing order back and forth evenly between the cylinder banks, creating and even exhaust pulse. This not only changes the sound, but typically by design reduces crankshaft mass by eliminating much of the counterweights.
The result is a much more exotic sound, as most race cars and high-end exotic sports cars feature this format. It also offers a free-breathing engine with four-valves per cylinder and variable valve timing the chance to really dole out some real power without forced induction.
It will come only with a six-speed manual transmission as it should be. A standard Torsen limited-slip differential comes in at the rear to keep the tires planted. But because this isn’t an overwrought torque monster, we should see a nice launch and corner exit behavior regardless.
Chassis engineers made a few important changes to increase stiffness starting with a unique injection-molded carbon fiber composite radiator surround which is sure to get a lot of hype and attention. Front track has been widened slightly too.
Suspension gets a makeover with revised springs and bushings and a slightly lower ride height. A set of driver adjustable MagneRide dampers allows for stiffness settings to tune from street to track. You can also set it in auto and let its brain make the call as needed.
An upgrade in brakes up front includes huge 15.5” two-piece cross-drilled rotors and near 15” rotors at the rear. Brembo provides six-piston calipers up front. One wonders if they are the only brake company any more. Four piston calipers are found at the rear.
Wrapped around those huge brakes are literally the smallest wheels which would fit around them. You have 19”x10.5” up front and 19”x11” at the rear. Tires are a custom designed Michelin Pilot Super Sport just for the GT350.
In terms of styling Ford kept it relatively simple. A new hood is lowered and sloped differently to reduce drag. A unique front fascia gets a more aggressive splitter which along with a ducted belly pan has more downforce at speed.
Air extractors can be found on both the hood and the bulging fenders. All of which not only makes this car look mean and nasty for the guy with checkbook in the show room, but Ford says is functional to reduce turbulence and lift.
Backing this up a bit is a much more subtle than expected deck-lid spoiler and a general lack of overly style elements beyond the new front fenders and front fascia. So far, this car is walking the talk, staying close in the foot prints of the original GT-350.
Inside things dial up a bit more starting with special to the GT350 Recaro seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel and a specific gauge cluster. Interior finishes are subdued, meaning the garish chrome bezels have been dulled out so we don’t get sun in our eyes on track days.
What the original Shelby GT350 didn’t have is the driver control system which has five drive-modes that tune the ABS, stability control, traction control, steering wright, throttle, MagneRide dampers and exhaust sound.
How fun would that have been in 1965? If you have ever driven a 1965 Shelby GT350 you would have been happy enough to have a comfortable seat and power brakes, let alone the ability to tune every aspect of the car’s behavior.
This isn’t 1965 though and the 2016 Shelby GT350 Mustang is gonna cost a lot more than it did back then. Count on it. Ford will be telling us more very soon, so stay tuned. For now, just listen to that wicked sound and watch it roll round that track.