Los Angeles, CA – Ford, coming off celebrating 50 years of Mustang, will be having another 50th birthday next year. In 1965, right here in Los Angeles, Shelby built the first Shelby GT350 Mustang.
“We had the 50th anniversary of Mustang this year, in 2014 from ’64 ½, and in the 2015 calendar year we have the 50th anniversary of the GT350, originally with Carroll Shelby. We really wanted to bring out that heritage and that history so we’re really excited to be bringing that name and number back,” explained Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president and president of the Americas at the event.
So, it’s only fitting that Ford debuts the new 2016 Mustang GT350 at the future home of the Shelby Museum with media and current Shelby vehicle owners in attendance. Two days ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show, the new 5.2L V8 engine and its flat-plane crankshaft turned for the first time for the public.
Before we go any further, this is not a replacement for the outgoing GT500. Instead, it’s a true track car with the ability to drive you home at the end of the day. Instead of a tower of power you can only use in a straight line, the new GT350 gives you the ability to put that power down as you exit the hairpin of your local racetrack.
Based on the newest sixth-generation Mustang, the GT350 makes function-based changes to powertrain, suspension, and aerodynamics to inspire confidence in, as Ford says, even the best drivers.
Starting up front, the GT350 gets an all-new powerplant, which just so happens to be the most powerful naturally aspirated engine to ever be developed by Ford.
The new 5.2L V8 engine features a flat-plane crankshaft – offsetting the connecting rods at 180-degree intervals – that is typically found only in racing cars and European exotics. This allows the V8 to breath a little easier by eliminating exhaust pressure pulse overlap between the cylinder banks. It also gives the engine a distinctive sound.
At over 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque (Ford did not disclose final performance numbers), the GT350 will surely be a potent track performer, and not just because of its engine.
A stiffer chassis, found in the base Mustang, is the start of a better performance vehicle. This, along with MagneRide suspension that uses hydraulic fluid, iron particles, and electric current to control the rate of damping, will give the new GT350 world-class handling. An optional lightweight tower-to-tower brace will also be available for the discerning track day aficionado.
Staggered lightweight 19-inch wheels reduce unsprung mass while some seriously large brakes – 394 mm front and 380 mm rear – bring everything to a stop in a hurry. Those brakes are big but don’t get into exotic carbon ceramic territory. Instead, Ford relied on good old American iron. Six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo calipers pinch those discs with force.
The whole package is done in the name of track performance.
“This vehicle, with its independent suspension and all the different changes in the vehicle, gives it different driving dynamics. Even with less horsepower, it’s a much more modern vehicle with better aero,” stated Hinrichs. “You see the front end is lower than what you see on a GT500. We think the overall performance on the track is very, very good.”
The lower front end isn’t the only change to the GT350. Comparing it to the new sixth-generation Mustang will show it shares no front body panels with the 5.0L GT. Thanks to a wider track and more sloped nose, all body panels ahead of the A-pillar are unique to the GT350.
The rear is unique as well, wearing a fully functional rear diffuser sitting between two banks of dual exhaust outlets. The diffuser, while mainly acting as a downforce device, also helps with cooling the rear differential. A lip spoiler is also added to give a little more aero-aided grip.
Inside, the GT350 features brand new Recaro seats that have been designed specifically for the car. While racing seats are meant to keep you well planted, Ford says they’re also comfortable for day-to-day driving.
The dash has also been changed thanks to the removal of many of the chrome and bright-finished pieces. This was done in order to reduce glare from the sun that may get in the eyes of drivers.
However, it isn’t all functional, go-fast changes, as the GT350 can still be had with power, leather-trimmed seats, Shaker Audio, and dual-zone climate control as part of the Tech Pack.
As for whether the new GT350 is aimed at the Camaro Z/28, Hinrichs said, “We like to think Mustang products stand on their own but clearly they’ll get a lot of comparisons to the Z/28 and other products. But, we’re really proud of how this new generation Mustang GT350 feels and performs and people will make up their own minds.”
Hopefully, we will get a chance to take the new GT350 for a spin when it goes on sale in North America and the Middle East this coming summer.