You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

2019 Ford Shelby GT350 First Drive Review | That voodoo you do so well

Autoblog logo Autoblog 5/14/2019 Reese Counts

a close up of a toy car on the road: post.metadata.leadImageDesc


PONTIAC, Mich. – The Shelby GT350 is an Autoblog favorite, a sharp and powerful sports car with a truly special engine under the hood, helping it feel genuinely different from lesser Mustang variants. The car gets an update for 2019 (one year after the regular Mustang received a refresh of its own), but, unless you know what you're looking for, you may not notice any differences. After spending a full day lapping M1 Concourse just a few miles northwest of our home office, we can say that sometimes subtle changes are the best ones.

The basic formula remains unchanged. The coupe-only GT350 sits atop the Mustang lineup – at least until the twin-turbo 700-plus horsepower GT500 hits showrooms – thanks to a myriad of performance upgrades over the Mustang GT including better aero, sharper suspension and steering, and the aforementioned powertrain, a naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter flat-plane crank V8 making 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. Redline is an eye-watering 8,250 rpm, a peak nearly unheard of among American V8s. Power is sent to the rear wheels solely through a Tremec-supplied six-speed manual transmission. Those that desire something even more hardcore should check out the GT350R, though that model carries over unchanged.

Visually, the 2019 GT350 is pretty much the same as the 2016 model, with carryover exterior styling save a few pieces: a larger new rear wing with an optional Gurney flap, a new set of 19-inch wheels, and several new colors. The wing improves overall aero while the Gurney flap helps improve rear downforce and grip without hurting drag. The interior, too, is mostly unchanged. There's new machined-aluminum looking trim on the dash and some extra padding on the door cards.

a car driving on a road: 2019 Shelby GT350© Provided by Oath Inc. 2019 Shelby GT350

It's the performance changes that really make a difference. The standard MagneRide active suspension gets recalibrated, and there's more spring rate up front and stiffer stabilizers in the rear, to take advantage of the improved aero. The electronic power-steering and stability control have been reworked, too. Arguably the biggest change are the new Ford Performance-spec Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, some of the stickiest road-legal rubber around. Those replace the Pilot Super Sports on the '18 model, though the 295/35ZR19 front and 305/35ZR19 rear rubber remains the same size. Seriously, we can't emphasize this change enough. The Pilot Super Sports are already fantastic tires, but Cup 2s are truly transformative. The engine, transmission and Brembo brakes – six-piston fixed calipers in the front and four-piston fixed in the rear – are the same as before.

Steering feel is vastly improved over the '18, partly due to the tires, but also the revised power-steering rack. It's still not as sharp as what Chevy offers in the Camaro, but it's better than the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2. The dead spot on-center is nearly gone, and the wheel translates much more of what the tires are doing through a corner. We spent most of our time in Track mode, which increases the firmness of the suspension and steering while backing off the stability and traction control.

M1 is a short, narrow track better suited for smaller cars like the Mazda Miata or Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86. Still, if you've spent any time in the pre-refresh GT350, you'll immediately notice the changes. Thanks to the tires, there's more grip everywhere. Even on a brisk Michigan morning, the Cup 2s warmed up quickly. Stab the firm, linear brake pedal and the car scrubs speed with ease; Even with some pretty late dives, there's no noticeable shudder from the ABS. Get on the gas and the GT350 bites and turns. With the extra lateral grip, the car explodes out of corners with grace and fervor. The car corners flat and neutral, though you can induce some oversteer if you get on the gas hard and early.

The engine — codenamed Voodoo by Ford Performance — is still a marvel, a screaming testament to all things good about internal combustion. It revs quickly and eagerly, though at low to mid rpm it doesn't feel much more powerful than the Mustang GT's 5.0-liter V8. Above 6,000 rpm it really comes alive. It does sound different, blasting out a unique howl that's some strange mix of American and European V8 exhaust notes without imitating either. Both the free-revving nature and banshee-like exhaust note are due to the Voodoo's flat-plane crankshaft.

a yellow and black engine: 2019 Shelby GT350© Provided by Oath Inc. 2019 Shelby GT350

Other changes for 2019 are more focused on comfort and features. Dual-zone automatic climate control is now standard, and an upgraded B&O audio system is included in the Technology Package along with blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, heated mirrors and an upgraded infotainment system. Leather seats can be optioned in place of the Recaros, though we prefer the snug fit of the latter, especially on track or curvy roads. Strangely, the digital instrument cluster that's available in other Mustangs isn't on offer here.

The changes for the 2019 GT350 push the performance closer to the stripped down, lightweight GT350R's without losing the creature comforts that make the standard car so compelling. But it's not so different that current GT350 owners should regret their purchases – ordering a set of Ford-spec Pilot Sport Cup 2s from their local dealer will get you most of the way there. Still, the small changes do result in an improved overall product, pushing one of the best performance cars on the market to even greater heights.

2019 Ford Shelby GT350 First Drive Review | That voodoo you do so well originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 14 May 2019 06:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


More from Autoblog


image beaconimage beaconimage beacon