By on May 14, 2019

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Orange Fury On Track

Somehow, while I wasn’t looking, the box office has become dominated by movies featuring superheroes. Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and the like have used various superpowers to make tons of cash for stale popcorn purveyors worldwide. Avengers: Endgame is raking it in as I type.

I won’t pretend to drop any movie references here  – I’ve never really been into the genre. Nothing against the various costumed fantasy characters and those who love them, but my heroes typically wear Nomex. Jerry Titus, Dan Gurney, Ronnie Bucknum, and Parnelli Jones are some of the legendary drivers who drove heroic machines to glory.

The machine is important in this movie, too. Loud, brash, and most importantly fast, a noble steed for motorsports triumph is critical. Ford has drawn upon an incredible back catalog to refine the Mustang into this, the spectacular 2019 Shelby GT350. Built for track duties, but with enough refinement to make it livable on the street, the GT350 is the All-American Superhero. Captain Blue Oval, perhaps.

And the only spoiler alert I need here comes with a Gurney flap.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Shadow Black front quarter

Disclosure: Ford invited journalists to Detroit to drive the GT350 at a racetrack. Ford provided a night in a hotel, food, and a Shelby-logo pullover shirt.

Subtle improvements over both the GT350 introduced in 2015 and the standard Mustang GT distinguish this new Shelby GT350. While the impressive 5.2-liter twin-cam V8 and six-speed Tremec manual transmission remain basically untouched, Ford focused on incremental handling improvements via suspension, tire, and aerodynamic tweaks.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 swing

The most noticeable change is the redesigned rear spoiler. Actually, Ford reps cheekily referred to the new decklid spoiler/wing hybrid as a “swing.” Fitted here with an optional Gurney flap adding a touch of extra downforce, the spoiler balances with tweaks to the grille opening to add downforce at track speeds.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Grille

That downforce is nothing without tires, of course, as the big cylinders of magic black goo are the only physical connection to tarmac firma, unless something has gone seriously wrong. Here, Ford Performance worked with technical partner Michelin to develop a Shelby GT350-specific version of the Pilot Sport Cup 2 tire. The tread pattern and rubber compounds have been optimized for the performance window of this ultimate track Mustang, with more stiffness from the sidewalls as well.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Michelin PSC2 FP Sidewall 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Michelin PSC2 FP Tread

Note the “FP” stamp on the sidewall. This notes that this specific tire is meant for Ford Performance vehicles such as the Shelby GT350, rather than the standard Pilot Sport Cup 2 tire or other PSC2 models meant for OEMs like Porsche.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 FP Sidewall Stamp

These tires aren’t cheap. See below screenshot from Tire Rack. A Michelin rep told me that these 180 treadwear, track-ready tires would likely last between 12,000 and 15,000 miles of street use. Wear would naturally accelerate with track use.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Tire Rack Screenshot

These rubber and aero changes require complementary changes to the suspension. Both the springs and the damping from the standard MagneRide shocks/struts have been recalibrated for the higher performance available.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Recaro Seats

If you, like myself, have a number higher than forty stamped on the tag of your Levi’s 501 button-fly jeans, you might be best served by selecting the optional power sport seats, rather than the near race-grade Recaro manual adjustable chairs on the standard GT350. I can’t say that I was uncomfortable in the Recaros while on track – and I certainly welcomed the additional support when hustling around the corners – but the tall, narrow bolsters on the race seats pinch my meaty thighs a bit too much for long-term road comfort. The black Shelby I drove down Woodward Avenue for off-track photos was fitted with the power seats, and they were a relief.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 power seats

Driving the Shelby GT350 briefly on the street revealed a couple of things. The car is as easy to drive as a standard Mustang in most respects, with excellent visibility in all directions. It’s livable in day-to-day use, with no compromises to trunk space or rear seat accessibility. Clutch takeup and shift action is perfect – just heavy enough to remind you that plenty of power is beneath your left foot and right hand. The stiff suspension and track-focused tires, however, do reveal their true nature when encountering less-than-ideal pavement.

The tires track along with every groove in the road, pulling the suede-lined steering wheel left and right while trying to maintain a steady cruise. As Detroit had seen light rain all day, the pavement was slick, and I encountered a bit of wheelspin before stability and traction controls took over, shutting down power briefly. The ever-present potholes led to further unpleasant noises as the stiff sidewalls struggled to cope with sharp pavement creases.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 interior

The engine. Oh, my that engine. Unless you’ve been living under the weight of your complete collection of Car Craft magazines for the last half decade, you’ve certainly heard about the “magical” flat-plane crankshaft and the other unique features of the Shelby GT350’s Voodoo engine. That lighter-weight flat-plane crank allows this 315 cubic inch V8 to rev higher, with an unusual exhaust note compared to the somewhat unbalanced burble of the traditional Ford V8.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 engine

The flat-plane crank does inherently generate a bit of extra vibration for the engine assembly, which manifests itself as a mild quiver felt through the cabin at idle. The Shelby GT350 gently shivers like a wild animal preparing to pounce. Strangely, the vibration isn’t really noticeable through the shift lever.2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Shadow Black profile

The sound is glorious, especially when wound out at speeds well beyond what seems reasonable. I kept looking for the shift lights on the head-up display, expecting them well before they actually shone, as I hammered down the back straight. The GT350 just keeps on pulling hard to the 8,250 rpm redline. My rough math tells me that the Shelby is good for 111 mph in third gear and 145 mph in fourth.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Shadow Black front 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Shadow Black rear

At Detroit’s M1 Concourse track, meant strictly for track days and lined with garage condos, I only touched fourth gear a couple of times before becoming immediately aware of the combination of light rain, shallow grooves on the dry track-focused tires, and the possible inadequacy of my life insurance policy. As I sit safely at my desk, I have no doubts that the brash Ford could have easily handled more. I just don’t know that I was good enough to do it.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Oxford White On Track

Honestly, I can’t tell you how the GT350 handles at the limit. The conditions inherent in this event – specifically, the limiting nature of this third-and-sometimes-fourth gear track – mean I couldn’t wring the metaphorical neck of this caged pony. Maybe that’s okay, however.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Kona Blue On Track

Maybe letting untrained journalists, best known for wreaking havoc on the English language, loose on a wide-open track in a car that is much, much faster than they are isn’t the best way to showcase a performance car. Best to let the writers feel like they’ve done something incredible as they barely touch triple digits and go back to their MacBooks both unscathed and excited.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 profile Oxford WhiteTo be clear, the Shelby GT350 is almost certainly faster than you are. It’s definitely faster than I am. But that’s what makes it heroic. Knowing that little bit of danger lurks beneath your right foot as you finger the starter makes every drive exhilarating. The staccato bark of the exhaust at idle, familiar yet slightly unusual, reminds you that you wield incredible power – and that you, like a superhero, must use that power wisely.

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 snake badge

Original Venice Crew Shelby GT350 On Track

(As an aside, journalists were treated to track rides in a “continuation” model of the early GT350 as built by Original Venice Crew.)

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn, screenshot courtesy]

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35 Comments on “2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 First Drive – We All Need a Hero...”

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Nice write-up. I’m sure drives like this are a nice break from crossovers.And a nice break from Supra bashing . Here’s a real sports car.

  • avatar

    It’s really a shame they can’t spread the wealth and find a way to put that gem of an engine into something else as well. I suppose a C8 competitor/mini-GT midengine sports car is out of the question….

  • avatar

    “The GT350 just keeps on pulling hard to the 8,250 rpm redline.”

    That’s pretty exciting.

  • avatar

    Love this, but it helps underscore just how good the more “basic” 5.0 Mustang is. Check the performance stats – the 5.0 doesn’t give up much at all to the GT350, aside from about $15-20,000 in savings. As an everyday driver, I’d bet the 5.0 is just as thrilling as the GT350.

    If I were in the market for a pony / muscle car, I’d go straight to the 5.0.

    And Chris, thanks for being real about *not* knowing how to drive this “at the limit.” Cheers.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris Tonn

      If I’ve learned anything from the Brothers Baruth…indeed, it’s knowing where my limits are, and to stay within them.

    • 0 avatar

      If you never go above 5000 RPM, they probably are pretty similar. But what’s the point of either of them then?

      If I was buying a regular muscle car, I’d look no further than the LT1 Camaro, but there isn’t a Camaro (or Challenger) made that competes with the cool factor of winding a V8 past 8 on the tach. Kudos to Ford for offering that experience in an attainable package.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d say the point is having a sexy, fast car, and the 5.0 delivers on both counts. Considering that the GT350’s upgrades probably only become apparent on a racetrack, and cost an extra twenty grand or so, the 5.0 seems like a more compelling choice to me. I can’t imagine needing more performance.

        I’d consider a Challenger (love the styling), but it’s too big and blocky for me, and the Camaro’s visibility issues would be a “no sale” issue for me.

  • avatar

    No exclusion meant to any ladies in this audience, but that Mustang is totally testicular.

  • avatar

    A big THANKS for actually mentioning how this drives (if ever briefly) on the actual street, which Tim failed to do whatsoever in his ToyoBMWta Supra review, as if these things do not matter.

    A couple of points:

    1) Almost all high performance sports coupes are essentially unworkable and un-useable as daily drivers for 90%+ of people (need cargo room/trunk/useable backseat, tires that last for more than 15,000 miles, fuel economy greater than 15 city/18 highway, etc.) in 90%+ of these United States (awful road surfaces/infrastructure, traffic mess, etc.), which is why this segment is a shadow of its former version in desire and sales #’s, and

    2) A clarion challengers to go out to autojourosaurists everywhere to PLEASE discuss how a vehicle drives on real roads, in terms of NVH characteristics, SUSPENSION-RIDE COMFORT, ROAD NOISE, highway tracking, wind noise, cargo space, passenger space, level of interior materials’ quality, build quality, ergonomics, fuel economy real world, paint quality, headroom/legroom/hip room, etc., transmission characteristics, gauge cluster design/legibility and other dash and instrument panel
    aesthetics, etc., etc., etc.


    • 0 avatar

      2 above should start “2) A clarion call goes out to…”

      WordPress/THAT’s editing system is terrible.

      p.s. – My daily drivers, a new one which I am searching for now, will have a supremely supple ride, serenely quiet cabin, outstanding NVH characteristics, high quality interior materials, fantastic ergonomics, legible gauges and simplicity in operation of audio/climate/cruise/nannies/other functions, reliability and above average build quality/solidity as top criteria.

      • 0 avatar
        Tim Healey

        I did make brief mention of the Supra’s on road behavior. Brief, because the on-road time was limited. Drive to the track almost directly, with only one “fun” road on the way, and get a 15-minute loop if you wanted to break away from the track. We returned to the hotel in an 86.

        I perhaps could’ve been clearer, but the event was biased towards track time, and my road drive didn’t tell me much other than the Supra was a decent commuter (which I did mention). This is why I will ask for a press loaner when the car goes on sale in a couple months.

        • 0 avatar

          Fair enough. It’s difficult to give “regular road” impressions if the manufacturer restricts things.

          • 0 avatar
            Tim Healey

            To be fair to Toyota, it wasn’t a matter of restriction, as much that there’s only so many hours in a day, and only so many cars available. I think they had the 86s along in part to remind us that car exists, but I also heard (and couldn’t confirm) that there were only so many Supras available to drive.

            I could’ve done more road loops, but I also had video and photos to shoot and I wanted as much track time as I could get. Also, the road loop was frankly not that informative — too many homes nearby, and too slow going to simulate freeway driving. Once I did one loop, I felt I’d learn more based on the track driving.

      • 0 avatar

        So you’re buying a 2006 LS430?
        I guess the Ram 1500 Limited comes close too. Not sure on the long-term reliability of the new truck though.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s getting to that point (despite the outdated tech in the LS430).

          If I can find a like-new, mint,one owner OCD LS430 with low miles, maybe I should just buy that.

          If anyone has any suggestions on what the closest successor in all manners to the LS430 is, please tell, because neither the LS460 and LS500 sure as HE!! are not it, nor are any other Lexi.

          • 0 avatar

            I mean, if it was my money and that was the shopping list I’d probably do a 2YO G80 or a new loaded-up 300C. Then I’d just replace it once it started tired (probably 5-9 years depending on how much and where you drive).

            But, if you’re looking for all that stuff *and* heirloom-tier longevity then the LS430 might be your best bet. Or maybe the Land Cruiser.

      • 0 avatar

        Deadweight buys a Cadillac XTS.
        I spit coffee all over my keyboard and fall out of my chair.

        Get the one with the extra Chinesium!

      • 0 avatar

        If those are your criteria, I assume that you’re not looking at an American pony car.

  • avatar

    I actually got the chance to drive a 2016 GT350. My neighbors father was visiting his son. We were all out in the front yard talking. I joked that I wanted to “test drive” his car. He pulled the keys out of his pocket and tossed them to me. I looked at him and explained that I intended use every bit of RPM available and asked him to confirm that I could take it for a drive. He nodded and I wasted no time in clambering in.

    As a driver of an older pickup, I am used to the power beginning to drop off at 4500rpm. But this car pulled hard from 3500 and then the power REALLY came on at 5000rpm and lasted until the rev limiter kicked in. The sound of the engine pulling from 6000-8000 is amazing!

  • avatar

    Somehow the Camaro/Mustang street cars are more desirable than their NASCAR variants. Pretty incredible…

  • avatar

    $18,000 for 100,000 miles of tires if you don’t track it or do any burnout starts or drifting, and double or more if you do. I wonder how many buyers of such cars check out the price of replacement tires when shopping?

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know a single human being who just blindly buys OE spec tires….

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed, and R compund tires may make for magazine etsts but relaisticaly are not the best choice for track work and are barely ok for street. Far better to have appropriate street tires, and a set of spare wheels with slicks for the track. Can you fit slicks and a jack in the rerar seat and trunk of a Gt350, you cant in a vette,

      • 0 avatar

        Discount tire has stuff that will fit for about $1200/set. unfortunately, no LingLong, Admiral, or LandWinds available :(

  • avatar

    As someone who does go to the track regularily I applaud ford for building this car, but also wonder how it actualy can work on track.

    For that matter I question whether any near 4000lbs wet car works on track.
    For sure magazine x or y posts some irrelevant lightening lap, but that means near zero to anyone who actualy goes to the track. What counts is average laptime over say 10-15 laps.

    From my experience most so called fast “track capable ” cars will start to seriously wilt after 4 or so full pace. If not their motors dialing back power, tires just melting and brakes fading due to the weight and velocity.
    A car enginered to post a fast laptime is not he same thing as a car enginered to run conisstent quick or fast laps.

    One only needs look at the epic failures of the current z06 vette tor realize that too much Hp and tits concurrent too much weight may make a one fast lap car, but it is not the same thing as a car that laps fast. The Gs was in fact a far better track car, not least becasue it was so much lighter, and had better power handling weight balance.

    So instead of palying in the rain, or running a few laps. How about an article where a Gt350 is taken to the track and run hard all day, say 5x per day for 30 mins each time. can the tires last a day, brake pads? What else fades and what sort of laptimes does the car lay down under these more realistic conditions.

    For that matter could I put my slicks and jack in the rear seat and trunk, drive to the track swap it all out and do same for the return home, thats relevant. It also may lead to the development of trackable cars that are more than marketing products.

    In other words run the Gt350, vette, ferrari etc as you did the lotus evora at a track day. lets hear what it really takes to run these cars on track, and what they really can do under real and relevant conditions.

    My guess is we will see a different pecking order than is normaly the case.

    As to street use, I don’t see why if mustang Gts are used on street a Gt350 should be much different. True these are not the ebst daily drivers, but it depends where you drive and how far. For an enthusiast a used honda/kia etc as a daily plus a Gt350 etc is a way better allocation of resources and way more fun/balance than a single audi lexus etc.

    or one could just have a single Civic type R to try do it all. Choices Choices.

    • 0 avatar

      Boxerman, I run a ’17 Camaro SS 1LE at track days (PCA HPDE) each summer. Generally we get 4 to 5 runs per day of 20-30 minutes each. I also share the car with my wife (so 8-10 runs per day). I run A class and she is usually in D. So, the car spends 40-60 minutes at a time on track as when one of us comes in the other goes out instantly based on the group run order.

      Granted her runs are at a slower pace, but I’m generally one of the faster cars on track (not bad when the others are 911’s and GT4s with a few GT3’s for good measure but they are stupid fast sometimes). Anyway, I swapped the undrivable in the wet Goodyears for some Pilot Sport 4S and have used them for 5 track days so far as well as driving it off track. They have 10K miles so far and have held up well.

      I have had no brake issues although the pads need to be replaced before my next event. So, yes it is big and heavy (especially compared to our 911S that I used to run) but it holds up all day long with no issues. Of course I need to fill the gas tank after 3-4 runs….The gas costs almost as much as the event registration!

    • 0 avatar

      GT350 does fine at the track, after the intial break-in ( 1k ) I drove mine to the nearest road course and ran two sessions nearly back to back then put the helmet back in the bag and drove home. That was over ab hour in August which tends to be one of the hotter months in Va.

      The only thing I noticed was the diff ran a little hot but never got more than 270-280 degrees.

      The only real complaint I’ve heard in stock form is that the stock Pilot Super Sports get little greasy when they are worked hard.

      No overheating problems with the drivetrain and no problems with the mag-ride failing due to heat build-up or aeration.

      If you out run the stock brakes, its time for dedicated pads anyway that are entirely unsuited for the street.

      Ford did a great job with the GT350, for anybody doing an HPDE the car is going to be unflappable, you just strap in and go and more serious endeavors wont require reinventing the wheel.

      The GT350R is the same basic package with more aggressive aero, tires and suspension but the drivetrain and brakes remain unchanged ( both cars use the same brake pads ) with the only other big difference being radio and AC delete if opted for and the carbon fiber wheels completing the weight savings

      If your looking for something turnkey more serious from Ford it’s going to have spent time at Watson Racing or Mutlimatic and wont be street legal.

  • avatar

    My man card would be maxed on this easily over an M2 or 718/Cayman. Only a 997 coming from a loving home would be the only real contender.

  • avatar

    After reading the reviews on this new version the past two days, I am wondering if anybody here knows whether or not this engine is very different from the GT Premium or GT?
    I am very close (needing a home to sell) before getting a very fun but to small Miata and putting a supercharger in, or a GT convertible.
    But this engine’s sound, these reviews…they are fantastic…IF can be experienced in the convertible.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a “Flat Plane” V8 similar to Ferrari V8s and such, meaning it has a “smooth” firing order, as opposed to the “chunking” firing order on American style (Cross Plane) V8s, or the current Mustang GT, if only to oversimplify.

      Flat Plane V8s rev faster and spin to a much higher redline with peak torque high on the rev band. You do have to rev the p!ss out of them, and HP feels overrated.

      They’re interesting but I prefer my torque “early”, right off idle if possible. Except this causes HP figures that seem underrated, like Windsor V8s in early Fox Mustangs with just 225 HP, but 300 lbs/ft of torque.

      • 0 avatar

        thanks, very much.
        I guess I am still liking the regular 2019 GT then as I prefer low end torque vs total HP.
        And exactly why if I got the Miata, I would add the new Edelbrock supercharger

        • 0 avatar

          Late reply but I’ve owned both (2018 GT and 2019 GT350).

          The GT is a great car, ain’t no shame in the 5.0 Coyote.

          But honestly, the Voodoo engine is just special. Black magic for sure.

          Can’t go wrong either way, but is the 5.2L worth the extra coin? Oh yes. Very much so.

          Not sure I understand the logic considering one of these versus a Miata though. Sounds like you don’t know what kind of car you actually want. I loved my NA miata (’89 with no power steering, please and thank you, sold in 2015), that car was pure joy. But its a very different sort of experience from a gt350, and a supercharger ain’t gonna change that one bit.

  • avatar

    2.3L High Performance package Mustang is my hero from Ford. Power for the people.

  • avatar

    A small observation on the most insignificant part. The Cup 2 tires, in what alternate world does Michelin get 12,000 miles on Cup 2 tires? A question, who, in the spring rains we are having, would want to drive such treadless Cup 2 tires in a typical deluge, if they value their car?

    in my world, the cup 2 tires, when set up for max handling on a road course, show cords at 6,000 miles on the inner edges of the tires JUST WHEN street driving. Use in a HPDE weekend at the track speeds and you will need new Cup2’s on Monday morning. Don’t forget the new brake rotors, pads, changing the brake fluid to track and changing the oil to track specs.

    and if you live in Va. dare you drive to the track, run, drive home on an gorgeous October leaf peeping weekend when the ambient temperatures are 40 degrees or lower, or do you say bye bye to the car kept in a heated garage to keep the Cup 2’s from cracking from freezing weather?

    Well, if you didn’t destroy the cup 2’s on the road picking up nails, screws, glass shards or other metal bits in the gumby soft tread, you can enjoy watching the winter snows as you pick thousands of gravel bits sucked into the gumby soft tread.

    You know, the Dodge demon came with drag radial fronts in a nice wood box. pseudo track cars should come with a set of four cup 2’s on wheels in a box for the track, and be fitted with Michelin A/S 3+’s for the real mean streets they drive on.

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