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2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 First Drive Review

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Carrol Shelby’s legacy is not only alive and well but it’s evolving. The new 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is pure Shelby but now fully adapted for 21st Century expectations.

It’s almost hard to believe that the almighty track-focused Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 had to be tweaked in order to meet customer desires. Yes, my friends, even a Shelby Mustang needs to be refined enough to handle daily commutes, potholes and traffic.

Past encounter with the GT350

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

I will admit to all but completely disliking the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 I drove for a week three summers ago. At the time, I felt the car was obnoxious, over-the-top, pointlessly decorated if mostly because it was unpleasant to drive. My week-long test was limited to street-driving as I was warned not to take the car to a track. Compounded with a starter button that failed to do its job 4 out of 5 times; I would have been happier with a 1987 Ford Escort for a week.

My thoughts on the GT350 were not helped by the regular Ford Mustang GT, which is excellent in its own right. And finally, last fall, I fell in love all over again with the Mustang thanks the dreamy new Bullitt. With such perfectly useable and track-able Mustangs, the GT350 seemed pointless.

Gotta mention the Bullitt!

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt | Photo: Olivier Delorme

I was recently asked why I loved the Ford Mustang Bullitt so much and other than stating the irrational and emotional attachment I have to the actor, the movie and the aura that surrounds both, I noted the car’s incredible level of performance that is accessible no matter the circumstances. Here’s a car with all the power, handling, styling, noises – what more could I want?

The question was asked while I was driving the new Mustang GT350 on the road as part of the launch event and I’d found the answer. The new 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is no longer a barely civilized boisterously in-your-face Mustang. It can now do it all too!

I still prefer the Bullitt but the new GT350 has handily become my 3rd favorite modern-day Mustang, behind the ’19 Bullitt and an ’02-03 Boss 302. How’s it achieved this?

MagnaRide is brilliant

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The first and principal reason is the retuned MagnaRide active suspension. Fitted as standard on all GT350s, the MagneRide active dampers were revised and matched to recalibrated springs.

At the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, MI, they fabulously keep the new and custom Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires is perfect contact with the tarmac. On the track, the combined mechanical grip fools the senses into thinking that driving mistakes happen only to others. This is as good a time to bring up the fact that the flat-plane crank 5.2-litre normally-aspirated V8 is as mind-bendingly-loud and responsive as ever.

With the 526-horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque and eagerness to rev to a raucous 8,250-rpm redline, this V8 is a peach. Through the exclusive, excellent and enduring Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, its power rushes in with the same sustained force of a tsunami. It never lets up until you do – it’s incredible.

Reliable and predictive grip

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

As I got on the throttle hard, the nose would rise, the rear would consequently follow with a squat but never affecting available grip. Even under heavy breaking, which got heavier and heavier as the tires and I warmed up, the front end never seemed overwhelmed, responding beautifully to steering inputs.

The massive fade-free brakes, Michelin tires, immediate and well-suited steering (in Sport mode) and incredible job performed by the MagnaRide active suspension makes what should be handful of a high-powered pony car a relatively easy car to manage. I’m finding it hard to believe the words I’m about to write but, with the electronic nannies on and in good driving conditions, the GT350 is no more difficult to push hard than a Honda Civic Type R.

Civilized track-day killer

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

And then, we go out on the road – the once dreaded road. The revised damping not only performs better on the track, but on-road comfort levels are impressively elevated. As I cruised on Woodward avenue, I could not help but be pleasantly surprised by the level of body control which once more reminded me of the Type R.

So, what Ford Performance has done is take the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 to obedience school and as part of that training, did some core work. The resulting changes have brought the GT350 closer in character to the Bullitt without setting aside what makes the Shelby such a remarkable track-focused Mustang.

I topped out at just over 120 mph (192 km/h) on the straight at M1 and so I cannot comment on the newly optimized aero and the optional Gurney flap on the rear spoiler (it’s the little protruding lip in the pics and vid) but the important takeaway is that the Mustang Shelby GT350 still looks like the well-heeled man-boy’s (doesn’t quite translate for females: girl-woman?) track toy.

One for the money?

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

By well-heeled, I am referring to the $75,600 starting price. With a few options such as Orange Fury with Kona blue stripes (configure it), the Handling package ($1,000), pricing rises to just under $78,000. Never mind if you add the Technology package…

Questions on pricing arise when compared to other manual gearbox-possible cars like the 2019 Chevy Camaro ZL! With 1LE Track pack. For $79,000, you get 650 supercharged horsepower and no excuses. For just shy of $81,000, a very different but similar 707-horsepower 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is up for grabs. And, I won’t mention Porsche 781 Cayman S or even a Z51 packaged Chevy Corvette Stingray.

I love the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 but in the ‘Stang family, nothing can tear me away from my $59,425 Dark Highland Green Bullitt with optional Recaro seats. I wouldn’t a Camaro ZL1 or a Challenger Hellcat either. For this money, 718 or Vette for me.

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