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2019 Shelby GT350 Review By Larry Nutson

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2019 Shelby GT350
A Ford Mustang and then some

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The last time I was behind the wheel of a Shelby GT350 was about four years ago. I was invited along with a cadre of auto writers by the Ford Performance Team to drive the GT350 on the fabled 4.2 mile Road America race track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Not only did we drive the awesome Shelby GT350 but also the more awesome GT350R.

Back then Ford Performance was conducting an exclusive 2015 GT350 North American Track tour at four historic road courses – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Road America, Lime Rock Park, and Sebring Raceway. We drove laps with a pro-driver in the passenger seat and were immersed in a complete technical overview of the GT350 and GT350R.

With the previous generation Mustang, the Shelby GT500 was pretty much a straight-line car, limited by its live rear axle. The new GT350 built on Carroll Shelby’s original idea of transforming a great every-day car into a dominant road racer. Ford has taken advantage of the dramatically improved sixth-generation Mustang to create a truly special driver’s driver.

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The Shelby GT350 is an extremely well balanced, nimble and exhilarating production Mustang. Now, about four years later, I recently had the chance to live with this “street-legal” race car for a week. I got to drive it daily while going about my business near my Chicago home.

Capping off this week of street drives I would again be on a race track. This time it would be Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Twice each year the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) produces new vehicle driving programs for its members. I’m one of those members and just recently participated in the MAMA Fall Rally held at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois. Autobahn is a private performance driving facility with a member’s clubhouse, garages, a race track, a karting track as well as an off-road course. Various private and public events are held at Autobahn throughout the year.

Ford brought a contingent of their newest models to this event and the Shelby GT350 was among those available for auto writers to experience.

The GT350 boasts 526-horsepower coming from its naturally aspirated 5.2-L (315 flat-plane crank V8. Unlike a traditional V8, where the connecting rods are attached to the crankshaft at 90-degree intervals, this engine design evenly spaces all crank pins at 180-degrees intervals. The 180-degree, flat-plane layout permits a cylinder firing order that alternates between cylinder banks, reducing the overlap of exhaust pressure pulses. When combined with cylinder-head and valvetrain advancements, this permits better cylinder breathing, further extending the performance envelope of the V8. 

The engine has a very broad torque curve and is very high revving with an 8,250 rpm redline. The throaty engine whine and exhaust note is something to behold in person. Active Exhaust opens up the pipes and it can be manually activated which makes your presence known on the streets. A six-speed Tremec manual transmission is the only gearbox.

Needless to say, there is way more power than you need for the street. And, after a week’s driving with a lot of stop-and-go traffic my left leg certainly had been well exercised working the clutch. Out on an open track with a long enough straight the GT350 tops out at 180 mph.

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I should mention the tires that come on the GT350 because: rain. Up front are 19-in. x 10.5-in. aluminum alloys fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 295/35ZR19. In the rear are 19-in. x 11.0-in. aluminum alloys fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 305/35ZR19.

Yes, not much tread pattern. Therefore, on-road driving mode choices includes slippery, along with normal and sport. A Track/Drag mode provides Line lock and Track Apps with acceleration timer, accelerometer, brake performance, lap timer, and launch control.

The 2019 Shelby GT350 has a base price of $59,140. The car I drove was optioned with the $2,000 electronics package which added a 12-speaker B&O sound system, blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert, and a nav system. Throw in the gas guzzler tax of $1,300 and the dealer installed handling package (adjustable strut top mounts and a Gurney flap for the rear spoiler) for $850 plus the $1.095 destination charge and you can go racing for $64,860. Please wear a helmet!

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Fuel economy ratings for the GT350 are not all that critical, but I did get 22 mpg on a highway drive which beats the EPA highway rating of 21 mpg. So there.

The GT350’s steering is direct and the car is stable at higher speeds. Out on the track cornering is flat and it rotates nicely through a turn. Exiting a turn you can lay into the power with no loss of grip. We couldn’t go fast enough at Autobahn to push the limit of handling. However as I recall my previous drive at Road America the GT350 is able to handle whatever you can throw at it.

Would I consider buying a GT350? Sure. However, it wouldn’t be my daily driver. I would become an Autobahn Country Club member so I could use it as it is designed for as many days possible during the warm weather months. During winter a storage facility would be in order.

For 2020 the GT350 gets four new color choices: Twister Orange Tri-Coat, Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, Grabber Line, and Iconic Silver.

As I wrap up this story I’ve got some more Ford Mustang Shelby coming my way. In a week I’ll be driving the new GT500 with its supercharged 760-horsepower and Tremec 7-speed dual-clutch trans. Check back for that.

© 2019 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy