Overall: It might be new, but the Mustang is not resting; Ford goes hot-rodding with is reborn Shelby GT350 and track-focused GT350R models.
Drivetrain: Base V6 and optional turbocharged-four and V8 engines are joined by a high-revving growling, snorting 5.2-liter V8 with well over 500 horsepower; six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.
Just as the world was trying to come to grips with turbocharged four-cylinders in Ford’s latest Ponycar (a term coined specifically for cars in the Mustang’s class), the company comes out with go-faster Shelby versions. Although they use the same Euro-styling vibe that the Mustang exudes, the new Shelby GT350 and GT350R are much meaner looking. Both cars get different hoods, front and rear fascia, lights and more, with the R version getting wilder fixed wings and aggressive aero bits. In a bid to save weight, the R also features the first production use of exotic (expensive) carbon-fiber wheels. The GT350 name recalls the original Shelby Mustangs road-course powerhouses. So, with that philosophy intact, the 2016 Shelbys use a special 5.2-liter V8 with plenty of hot-rodding techniques. At the heart of it is a special lightweight crankshaft with a “flat-plane” design (like in a Ferrari engine) that actually increases breathing efficiency. It sounds sinister, too, especially since you can zing it past 8,000 revs per minute to get the peak 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is the only choice, and both versions get different levels of on-track performance goodies. In base Mustangs, the 3.7-liter V6 that makes a very respectable 300 horsepower and the 5.0-liter V8 in the GT with an output of 435 horsepower also remains unchanged. Slotted between the two is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that’s rated at 310 horsepower. Every engine, bar the Shelby’s 5.2 V8, is available in the Mustang coupe and convertible with a cloth top. When the car launched for 2015, Ford ditched the Mustang’s stone-age solid-rear-axle setup and replaced it with a more modern independent rear system (along with a new front suspension) that promised a better ride, improved handling in the corners and added interior and stowage space. The distance between the front and rear axles was also increased and the car sits a bit lower to the ground. The interior was also completely retooled with large round gauges and an equally sizable touch-screen that dominates the control panel. Of all the available options to be had on the Mustang, one of the more intriguing is a Track Apps package. It includes a “line-lock” feature that holds the front brakes so the driver can, in Ford’s words, “warm up the tires” (i.e. wear down the tread in a cloud of smoke).