by Sebastian Cenizo
If you've ever been entranced by the sound of a high-revving Ferrari V8 but can't see yourself shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars on Italian exotica, the Mustang Shelby GT350 may be for you. Okay, that's not the reason the vehicle was created, but hey, it's still pretty cool to have a Mustang that sounds like a Fezza. The GT350 and GT350R start at $60,440 and $73,435, respectively, and each is intended to provide the owner with an exhilarating driving experience on the daily commute and the track. The saucily-named 5.2-liter Voodoo V8 develops 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque in the GT350, with the R variant gaining one hp and losing a lot of weight. The flat-plane crank in this driver's car is the cause of that high-pitched howl, but the real trick bits are in the suspension and on the body. A six-speed manual and rear-wheel drive are the only options, as they should be, ensuring that posers and the lazy avoid this enthusiasts' machine.
On the surface, the changes are tough to spot unless one of the new paint options - Twister Orange, Grabber Lime, Iconic Silver, or Rapid Red - is selected. FordPass Connect, with its internet browser, Wi-Fi hotspot, and live traffic updates, is now standard, while the GT350R gets revised steering geometry, adding to its precision and helping prevent the car from chasing ruts in the road. The brake discs have also been swapped from drilled rotors to solid discs, thus improving pad life and minimizing fade. We don't usually discuss incremental price increases here, but in this case, the increase for a 2020 GT350R is $5,000 over 2019's list price - we're heading towards the dark side of 80 grand now. A brand new Heritage package has also just been released in honor of Ken Miles, the Le Mans-winning racecar driver who steered Carroll Shelby's team to greatness against Ferrari in '66. He also had a decorated career behind the wheel of Fastbacks and has finally been recognized for his service to the brand.
The GT350 is a car that takes some of the best bits of the current Mustang and adds just enough tweaks to make it clear to those in the know that it's a special car. The LED daytime running lights and three-bar taillights are still there, with a more restrictive air dam in the front aiding downforce and improving turn-in. The subtle fender vents tie in perfectly with the existing body creases that are tight and sharp, contrasting with the smooth sloping roofline, while the short tail is dominated by a spoiler wing that Ford absurdly calls a "swing spoiler". Ten-spoke 19-inch wheels are standard. The GT350R steps things up a notch with carbon-fiber wheels, an aggressive chin spoiler, and a carbon rear wing. The new Heritage package is available for both trims and adds Wimbledon White paint with Guardsman Blue striping as well as unique badges.
The GT350 and GT350R are almost identical in every respect when it comes to dimensions, with the exception of curb weight. The more track-focused GT350R weighs 88 pounds less than the regular model, which tips the scales at 3,791 lbs. Wheelbase and width are both identical between the two models, measuring 107.1 and 75.9 inches respectively. Length on the GT350 is 188.9 inches, with the R a little longer thanks to the extra aero, measuring 189.7 inches. The R is also lower, measuring 53.6 inches in height while the regular GT350 is 54.2 inches tall.
The GT350 is not short on color options, with nine no-cost options and two new colors that cost more. The standard colors are Shadow Black, the reinvented Grabber Lime, Oxford White, Velocity Blue, Iconic Silver, Magnetic, Race Red, Ford Performance Blue, and Kona Blue. Rapid Red costs $395, with Twister Orange a hundred bucks more. Racing stripes can be added in black, white, or dark blue for $495. Each racing stripe option is framed by red pinstripes on the borders, helping tie in with the red brake calipers that are standard on the GT350R. Painting the roof black costs $695. Iconic Silver with black stripes looks the best in our opinion, helping highlight the black mirrors, rear spoiler, and wheels. Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue stripes is only available with the Heritage Edition package at an added cost of $1,965 - a nod to the year that Ken Miles drove a GT350 fastback to its first-ever victory at Green Valley Raceway in Texas.
The 2020 Shelby GT350 is a car for driving enthusiasts, not those who want computers to micro-manage every last parameter. It takes focus and commitment to get the best out of it, but nail it, and you'll be rewarded with a satisfying and exciting experience that is tough to replicate. The 5.2-liter V8's 526 hp and 429 lb-ft (one pony more in the GT350R) is just right for this car, neither underwhelming nor scaring the driver. With the right conditions and good shifts, the GT350 can get from 0-60 mph in around four seconds, with the lighter R version managing the sprint a couple of tenths quicker. The regular GT350 has a drag-limited top speed of 180 mph, with the more hardcore R topping out at 173. This is due to the added downforce and increased ability in the corners. Where the big brother GT500 will be a monster in a straight line and has been shown to be relatively manageable in the corners, the GT350 is focused solely on a rewarding and engaging experience that connects you to the road. Hence, both variants send power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox only. In these days of ever-more-automated everything, changing your own gears is more of a privilege than a chore, and we're delighted to still be able to do it.
The GT350 is truly a unique offering in the Mustang lineup, being offered exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission. It's also the only model to be fitted with the ominously named 5.2-liter Voodoo V8 that produces 526 hp in the GT350 and 527 hp in the GT350R, with torque remaining the same between the two at 429 lb-ft. Its most obvious and special character trait is its flat-plane crank, which removes the traditional American off-beat throb and instead makes for sharper throttle response, smoother idle, and of course, an 8,250 rpm crescendo of incredible Ferrari-like noise. This engine note is especially useful when leaving car shows, as pedestrians and car-spotters will assume that it's just another Italian supercar making its exit onto the road, and therefore won't see the GT350 bearing down on them.
Getting the GT350R adds a chin spoiler that can scoop people up over the hood, making it more practical. Talk about misdirection and strategic stalking of your prey. In all seriousness though, the GT350 is built for people who actually know how to drive and enjoy stringing beautiful corner sequences together with finesse and precision, and the Voodoo V8 allows for just that, with razor-sharp throttle response, smooth torque delivery, and just the right amount of power to make things exciting. Whichever version you take, the engine is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The standard six-speed is similarly good, slotting home with precision and a bolt-like feel, never punishing you for changing gear as quickly as you dare.
Stringing corners together and setting lap times is what the GT350 is all about. Take it to a track and you'll find that the GT350 is docile and grippy enough to be exploited by less experienced drivers and responsive and capable enough to entertain the pros. The level of grip through the corners is just mesmerizing, and having a manual gearbox just makes it all the more rewarding.
Typically for a car that's capable of attacking circuits, you'd expect road manners to be an absolutely justifiable area of expertise for the engineers to overlook. After all, this car is meant to be enjoyed by the enthusiasts who care more about how a car feels and reacts than its quarter-mile times and horsepower figures. Nevertheless, this is one rare beast that won't crack your vertebrae over bumps, its adaptive dampers working to absorb bumps and maintain stability. Mid-corner bumps do little to unsettle the car, and its massive brakes have been vastly improved over those of previous generations, proving much easier to modulate and manage in town, while still offering phenomenal stopping power. The GT350R, in particular, has been upgraded in this department, with cross-drilled discs no longer featuring. Instead, solid discs are fitted for less fade and better wear. You can, therefore, rack up more miles without cringing every time you brake, no longer have to worry about how much replacement pads and discs are going to cost.
Despite a considerable weight difference, the EPA has scored both the GT350 and GT350R with the same EPA figures of 14/21/16 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The upcoming Dodge Challenger SRT Widebody is better in this regard, with figures of 16/13/21 mpg with its six-speed manual. However, that car will have a lot less downforce than the GT350. The Shelby is fitted with a 16-gallon gas tank, making for an approximate range of 256 miles with mixed driving.
Where the GT350's stylish exterior and satisfyingly brilliant performance capabilities never cease to impress, the interior of the GT350 is far more underwhelming and is almost indistinguishable from that of a regular Mustang GT. That wouldn't be such a cardinal sin if it weren't for the fact that this is a car that can reach 80 (EIGHTY) thousand dollars if you tick a few too many options. For that kind of money, we'd expect a less spartan interior. Nevertheless, you still get a pair of grippy Recaro seats with cloth upholstery and manual adjustments. Heated and ventilated power-adjustable leather seats are available, however, as are voice-activated navigation and heated mirrors. Nevertheless, the interior looks and feels a little cheap, and the Sync 3 infotainment system is not as impressive as it once was. On the plus side, the cabin is roomy, fairly comfortable, and acceptably solid.
The long doors of the Shelby GT350 make for easy clambering in and out. Once seated, you'll find yourself in a commanding driving position with a clear view out the front, and a fairly reasonable line of sight in the direction of your blind spots. The front seats are comfy and manually-adjustable in stock form with six-way power adjustment, heating, and ventilation available. While things are good up front, with great headroom and legroom even for the LeBron James body double, the back seats are pretty much pointless unless you intend to have the upchuck of a small child hurled at you while you try to outdo your best score on the in-dash G-force meter. Ford has conceded this in a roundabout way, by offering the GT350R without rear seats at all. Instead, you get recesses that can hold a pair of grocery bags each. This more hardcore variant can't be had with the comfier leather seats.
Ebony cloth with red accents is the color scheme for the factory upholstery on the GT350R, with no other choice available. The regular GT350 is only available in full black, regardless of whether you spec leather sports seats or stick with the fabric Recaros. A number of aluminum accents and the occasional red highlight are dotted about, but the overall ambiance is demure and monochromatic. Carbon fiber is optionally available for parts of the trim pieces to help spice things up a little, but it feels like a lazy attempt at polishing up the dull relic that is the Mustang's cabin. In base models, it really looks great, but for a Shelby model with a base price north of 60 grand, we're not impressed.
The Shelby GT350, like lesser Mustangs, is impressively capacious in the trunk region, with 13.5 cubic feet of volume, which isn't a huge number, but it's pretty good for a sports car of this size. That said, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody not only takes up a lot of space in this section's word count thanks to its ridiculously long name, but its trunk also swallows 16.2 cubic feet of volume. Thanks to its boxy proportions, the Dodge has a top-opening trunk that makes loading a little more difficult, but the Mustang doesn't do itself any favors either if you spec the Bang & Olufsen sound system, as that adds a subwoofer to the trunk, reducing space. On the plus side, if you have the regular GT350 with its rear seats, you can fold them down in a 50/50 split, increasing storage.
In the cabin, the 'Stang gets a pair of cupholders and a center armrest bin. You'll also find a tray in the console for your phone, reasonable door pockets, an overhead sunglasses storage cubby, and an average-sized glovebox.
The GT350's features are almost entirely centered on performance, with standard equipment including an active exhaust system, magnetic dampers, line-lock, and launch control as well as additional apps like a G-force meter and a timer for acceleration and lap times. Other features include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, push-to-start, a rearview camera, auto headlights and wipers, and blind-spot mirrors. Optionally available is blind-spot monitoring with a rear cross-traffic alert system, as well as heated mirrors and power-adjustable seats with heating and ventilation.
The eight-inch touchscreen of Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system makes a return once more, and although we've lauded this system in the past, particularly on more basic Mustangs, it seems out of place and a fraction too slow in a car that can exceed $80,000 in cost. Nevertheless, it's easy to use and features the usual amenities like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, and a pair of USB ports. When the shriek of the flat-plane crank V8 out front isn't suitable, you can instead turn up the standard nine-speaker sound system. To truly drown it out, however, you can spec the Technology Package with its 12 Bang & Olufsen speakers including a subwoofer in the trunk. The package also adds voice-activated navigation, which is helpful for taking your latest track opponent to the nearest Gapplebee's.
Thus far, the 2020 GT350 is free of issues, but it is worth mentioning that 2019's GT350R was subject to a single recall in February of 2019 for an instrument cluster that may go blank on start-up. Since then, no issues have been unearthed. A fairly comprehensive warranty package covers the GT350 and its R sibling, with Ford offering a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, five years/60,000 miles of powertrain coverage, and non-perforation/corrosion warranty for five years. Also included are five years or 60,000 miles of roadside assistance.
The NHTSA scored the GT350 the best possible overall rating of five stars in their testing. However, the IIHS was a little more harsh, giving the car a score of Good for most of the regular Mustang's tests, but only awarding a rating of Acceptable for the driver's side small front overlap tests.
With most of the R&D budget on the Shelby-badged Mustang going towards performance, because that's what the buyers want of a Shelby model, the GT350 is scant with driver aids. You do get mirrors with integrated blind-spots and the legally-required rearview camera, as well as auto wipers and automatic high-beams - but that's it. The options list doesn't offer much more, with only a blind-spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert available. That said, you do still get dual front, side-impact, curtain, and knee airbags, as well as massive six-pot Brembo brakes in front with four-pots at the rear. The stability control systems include advanced programming for improved safety in slippery conditions, like when it's raining, to maintain control. Brake, throttle, and traction control modulation are all continually adjusted to provide as much grip as possible.
If you want bragging rights and the most powerful pony car on offer, the GT350 is not for you. The GT500, the Dodge Challenger Redeye, and the Camaro ZL1 all offer more. However, none of them come with that magnificent Voodoo power plant with its flat-plane crank and 8,250 rpm redline. The GT350 is more than just a uniquely special-sounding pony car. It's a genuine enthusiasts' machine with astonishing approachability thanks to its brilliant suspension and seemingly insurmountable levels of grip. When you want to behave like a hooligan and slide the tail out, it'll let you. When you want to slice through corners with scalpel-like precision, it'll help you. When you want to cruise home in comfort, it'll accommodate you. There are more powerful and better-looking cars out there, but when a true driving aficionado sees you pull up in a GT350, you'll get a knowing nod and that individual's respect.
The GT350 starts at $60,440 before Blue Oval's $1,095 destination charge and other fees and taxes. This buys you the Voodoo V8, a manual gearbox, and Recaro seats. Opting for the GT350R gets you some upgraded aero kit on the body with smatterings of carbon fiber, a substantial reduction in weight, more track-focused suspension, composite wheels, and an extra horse under the hood. This model starts at $73,435 before taxes and charges. Fully-loaded with options and the Heritage Edition package, you'll pay around $80,000 for this top spec.
The GT350 is available in two trims: GT350 and the more race-focused GT350R. Now that the complicated naming process is out of the way, we can break down what each one buys you.
In the regular GT350, you get Recaro cloth sports seats, an active exhaust system, magnetic dampers, 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, and of course a 5.2-liter V8 with 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the only option to manage power delivery to the rear wheels. Other features include a line-lock function, launch control, a G-force meter, a lap timer, and a Torsen 3.73 rear diff. Ford's Sync 3 with nine speakers is standard, offering smartphone connectivity, satellite radio, and Bluetooth. Options include six-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated seats with leather upholstery, navigation, and a sound system upgrade.
The GT350R is more hardcore, canceling the claustrophobic rear seats and adding carbon-fiber wheels, a carbon rear wing, a front splitter, and retuned suspension. It also weighs less, partly due to the lighter wheels and cancellation of the rear seats, thus making it even more agile. This model can't be had with the weighty leather seats and their power-adjustment, but oddly, you can still spec the 12-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
If a bit more convenience and modernity are what you require from your GT350, the Technology package comes highly recommended. This adds voice-activated navigation, a B&O sound system with two more speakers and an additional subwoofer, heated wing mirrors, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. This package adds $2,000 to your bill. The base GT350 also has access to an $850 handling package with adjustable strut top mounts and a gurney flap on the spoiler for more rear-end grip. Leather-trimmed seats with six-way power adjustment and heating and cooling functions are also available for $495 on the GT350, but can't be added to the more focused R version. Something you can add to either model is a carbon-fiber instrument panel for $500.
If you intend to use your Shelby almost exclusively for track use, we'd recommend the GT350R for its lighter weight as well as its aerodynamic improvements and more focused suspension. If you're going to use the car every day but still do some track stuff, we'd go for the regular GT350. We'd add the leather seats for their heating and ventilation, as well as their improved comfort for larger body types, and spend two grand on the upgraded sound system, navigation, and blind-spot monitoring system. Thus, you have a car that's a weapon on the track, is more comfortable and usable in day-to-day traffic, and costs under 65 grand - almost $10k less than a GT350R's starting price.
Neither Shelby variant is cheap. Neither Shelby variant is slow. So which one do you choose? Well, on paper, you'd have to say that the GT350 Voodoo's howling engine note, manual gearbox, and lighter weight make it a much better track car and driver's car. However, driving impressions of the GT500 have shown it to be a surprisingly manageable and capable car in the bends, with the power plant not offering too much grunt to handle, despite 760 hp and 625 lb-ft of torque being sent to just the rear wheels. The dual-clutch transmission is also a joy to use and the Predator pushrod V8's supercharged output is impressively linear. Of course, it does weld your back to the seat, but it's never sudden or overly scary and won't force you to change gears before the limiter. Overall, on facts alone, you'd expect the GT350 to be the better driver's car, but the GT500 is worth every penny of its $73,995 asking price.
Pricing for the two monstrous V8's is just as dissimilar as in the above comparison, with the Mopar car starting at $78,295. The Hellcat's 6.2-liter supercharged engine has been updated to produce a ridiculous 797 hp and 707 lb-ft of torque in Redeye guise, and the differences extend to the drivetrain, with the Dodge making use of an eight-speed auto compared to the six-speed self-shifter of the Shelby. We know that the trunk is bigger by a few cubic feet, and that it'll decimate the GT350 on the drag strip, but with a more engaging experience in the Mustang and a completely different approach, the choice between these cars is not so much about how good they are on the road or the track, but rather about what kind of road or track you frequent. If you want to obliterate the quarter-mile, the Hellcat is the one to go for. If you want to become a better driver in the corners, the Mustang is without a doubt the better option.