The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger represent the “Big Three” American automaker’s contemporary muscle coupes. This trio also has great heritage spanning back to the prime of muscle car performance between the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Of the three models, however, only the Mustang has been in continuous production since its inception. And the Shelby GT350, well, that’s something a little extra special.
Life at the Top
At the top of the current road-going, two-door Ford model range is the Mustang Shelby GT350. Meanwhile, the GT350R is considered more of a track monster. The Shelby was a sportier, track-ready option back in 1965, when Ford collaborated with racer and automotive entrepreneur Carroll Shelby. The Shelby has since turned into a modern performance car icon.
For 2017, the Shelby GT350’s 5.2L V8—the most powerful naturally aspirated production engine Ford has ever produced—makes a healthy 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque that gets sent to the ground via a Tremec-built six-speed manual transmission. This number is huge in comparison to the original 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350’s 271 horsepower made from a 4.7L (289 cubic inch) V8. But big power is only part of this modern street and track pony car’s arsenal.
While outright power was greater than other performance areas in muscle cars of yore, modern muscle machines also have brakes and chassis on par with their impressive engines. The new GT350 has SHW brake rotors—15.5 inches in front and 14.9 inches in back—that are clamped by six-piston Brembo calipers. For perspective, 2017 GT350’s front rotors are greater in diameter than a 1960’s Mustang’s wheels! The GT350 also sports a MagneRide adaptive suspension that uses magnetically-controlled shocks to manage ride quality. And it sports trick 19” carbon-fiber wheels that weigh a significant 60 pounds less than aluminum ones. Inside, the GT350 flaunts Recaro cloth-covered seats with suede inserts.
But How Does the Shelby GT350 Rate Against the Comp?
A force to be reckoned with indeed, this Mustang does fall short of—on paper at least—the Camaro ZL1 and Challenger Hellcat, both of which have supercharged 6.2L V8s that put out 650 horsepower/650 lb-ft and 707 horsepower/650 lb-ft of torque, respectively. In theory, you’d think the super Mustang’s lower power rating makes it inferior to the competition. The other part of this equation, though, is weight. The 3,655-lb GT350 comes in at 228 lbs. less than the ZL1 and a full 838 lbs. less than the Hellcat. On the road, this translates into a more nimble and well-rounded driving experience. The Shelby of the 1960’s and today are night and day. Such advancements in performance were mere dreams of Ford and Shelby engineers.