It’s not an overstatement to describe the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R as the most fun I’ve ever had at a race track. The Ford Performance engineers were targeting a car with not only power and poise but also uncompromised at-the-limit communication and confidence. And they nailed it.
Much ado has been made about the GT350R’s flat-plane V8, and deservedly so. The engine revs past 8,000 rpm, creating a glorious exhaust note while offering one of the broadest torque bands you’ll find in a modern, or vintage, automobile. The engine makes 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a slick-shifting Tremec 6-speed that sends power to a mechanical limited-slip differential.
The Shelby GT350R’s drivetrain is undeniably impressive, but it’s this Mustang’s handling capabilities that made me fall in love during the Ford GT Owners Rally in Utah. Hammering this car around Utah Motorsports Campus quickly illustrated both its ultimate grip and its confidence-inspiring behavior at the limit of traction.
Credit the synchronization of its electronically-assisted power steering, MagneRide adaptive suspension, carbon fiber 19-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and Brembo disc brakes. Driven aggressively on the track the GT350R can produce over 1.1 G of lateral grip, which could be dicey depending on the car’s behavior when grip levels are surpassed.
Yet in the Shelby GT350R ultimate grip is followed by gentle, controllable breakaway. Once you understand this your willingness to explore its limits soars, as mine did around the 23 turns of Utah Motorsports Campus. This is the defining characteristic of the GT350R, and what makes it such a joy on the track. Few drivers have the skill to explore a vehicles ultimate capabilities, but when a car is as well behaved as the Shelby GT350R is even average drivers can bask in its performance.
These cars have consistently transacted at above their $65,000 MSRP, which can make finding and buying one frustrating. But I believe these cars will go down in history as a special moment in the Msutang’s long story. If you can find one at a price that seems fair, and you intend to truly exploit its engineering prowess on a track, you won’t be disappointed.