The 2017 Shelby GT350 is so different from the other Mustangs in the stable that it doesn’t even have a Mustang badge. What it does have is massive brakes, sticky tires, a screaming engine and a smiling driver.
Before we get started, no, it didn’t plow sideways into a crowd of people at Cars and Coffee, nobody mistook it for their Honda Accord Coupe, and we most certainly didn’t do donuts in that parking lot, officer.
Sporting aggressively flared wheel arches to accommodate unique Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires and functional vents all around, the first Shelby variant of this new generation of Mustang makes very clear that it wants to be taken seriously.
(Full Disclosure: My buddy and I rented this car on Turo for a few days. If you happen to be in the Indianapolis area, I highly recommend giving it a go.)
For 2017, the GT350 comes standard with the previously-optional Track Package which includes MagneRide adaptive dampers, a bigger rear spoiler and advanced cooling.
Of course, Ford also makes a stripped-out, more track-focused GT350R which Raph and Ballaban have been driving. The R includes carbon fiber wheels, front tires the same width as the GT350's rears, optional air conditioning and a front splitter with a vendetta for speed-bumps.
Sadly, limited production and dealer markups leave the GT350R out of reach for a majority of buyers. The good news is the GT350 is cheaper, more streetable and uses the same flat-plane crank V8.
Ford’s 5.2 liter “Voodoo” V8 to be exact. It’s based on the Coyote motor and cranks out 526 red white and blue horsepower, which peaks well above redline in a Mustang GT.
The harder you beat on it, the faster you go.
While its 0-60 sprint of around four seconds is only slightly faster than a GT, the Shelby lives well beyond 60 mph. All the power is at the top end, really picking up around 5,000rpm and hurling you towards the horizon until its 8,250rpm redline.
You don’t pass people in a Shelby, you roar past them at a million miles an hour and let off to a 21-gun salute courtesy of the loudest factory exhaust I’ve heard.
At the top of fourth, you’re deep into triple digits and fifth gear makes the newspaper if you get caught.
Even more impressive than the acceleration is the way this thing sheds speed. Up front are 15.5-inch Brembo brakes that squeak around town and are downright unpleasant if you stomp on the middle pedal.
Everything about the car feels very purposeful. The clutch is more heavily sprung than more pedestrian Mustang variants, the 6-speed Tremec transmission is notchy and direct and the rev-happy engine makes blipping the throttle on downshifts an absolute honor.
The interior gets a host of upgrades over the GT. While there are still slabs of not very nice plastic scattered here and there, everything you use for the purpose of driving is top notch.
The limits of this car are far beyond the confines of Indiana back roads, but rest assured I backed out well before the GT350 even thought about stepping out of line.
Body roll is virtually nonexistent thanks to MagneRide suspension and I’ve piloted shopping carts with less direct steering. The car just grips and goes exactly where you want it to.
On smooth, dry roads, you’d almost have to be trying to crash this thing.
On poorer roads however, the Shelby can be quite a handful. The front end tramlines, following every crack and patch in the pavement and the back end tends to move around a bit in the wet.
While I’m at it, the Shaker sound system is much less than stellar, and at high revs—always—there’s an annoying rattle that resonates somewhere in the transmission tunnel. Of course, the GT350 has one feature that remedies both of these issues: loud mode.
The proper start-up procedure for the Shelby GT350 is as follows: seat-belt on, check mirrors, foot on clutch, engine start button, engage loud mode.
The combination of the snarling engine note and backfiring off-power is intoxicating and highly addictive. Soon enough, you find yourself revving the engine for gawking bystanders and blasting past every Mustang V6 convertible with dealer plates to show them what a real Mustang looks like.
The Shelby draws more attention than a Mustang has any right to, but when finished in glorious Lightning Blue like this one, can you blame people for looking? Everywhere we went people were craning their necks and waving us by to hear the batshit engine note.
One fellow in particular pulled off the highway to talk about the car while I was filling up at a gas station. I would have told him the car was mine, but he happened to pull up at the same time I was snapping this picture.
If you’re looking to spend around $60,000 on a sports car, it’s hard to go wrong with the Shelby GT350. It’s more practical and more powerfulthan a Corvette Stingray, more animated than a 718 Cayman and much fasterthan whatever sewing machine Jag will throw in an F-Type for that price.
It’s a comfortable and quiet highway cruiser, a streetlight drag-racer, a nimble sports car and a tire-burning muscle car. In short, it’s completely won me over. If you can afford one, buy it. So that someday in the future, after depreciation does its thing, I might be able to afford one too.