Ford has managed to produce an absolute monster of a Mustang (yet again) for 2016 by way of the GT350. With each new iteration being better than the previous one, it probably came as little surprise that this version would hold that title, but the sheer madness of this car is really special for a production car.
The new GT350 comes a year after the new Mustang body design was brought to market for the 2015 model year. The new styling received much fanfare (including my own) and has served to bring the Mustang up a few notches in the looks department, yet still maintains the unmistakable look of a pony car.
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Ford had extracted every last ounce of performance from the previous generation’s 5.0-litre V8 and live axle rear suspension framework, so with the new model moving to an independent rear suspension and the GT350 receiving a 5.2-litre “Voodoo” V8 powerplant, Ford engineers had the tools they needed to up the ante and target cars like the BMW M4 and Porsche 911 Carrera GT3.
The hand-built, flat-plane crank 5.2-litre V8 delivers an astounding 100 horsepower per litre with no turbos or supercharging. The all-motor aspect means a higher redline of 8200 rpm, which is a number usually associated with smaller-displacement, higher-revving Hondas, but never musclecars—until now.
Start the motor and the exhaust comes to life with a pure musclecar growl. My favourite feature had to be the dash-mounted switch to control the exhaust noise level. There are two settings: loud or louder. Loud is for when you’re coming home late at night and don’t want to disturb the neighbours three houses down (the immediate neighbours are woken up regardless) and louder is the setting everyone immediately switches to upon leaving their neighbourhood. It’s almost a disservice to drive the car in the quieter mode.
Full acceleration in the GT350 cannot be safely attempted on public roads. I daily drove the car to and from daycare and the occasional highway outing, but I was frustratingly not able to push this car as much as I wanted. Even getting on the highway, punching it up to speed took almost no time and there was always plenty of power left. Unsafe speeds are reached in the blink of an eye, and then you realize you still have a few gears left!
The GT350’s suspension has a wider track and most parts have been upgraded from the GT to deliver a true track-car feel. This may sound great, but daily driving is not the most comfortable thing to do despite the new adjustable magnetic suspension. It’s supposed to adapt to the road conditions, but the car can pull left and right quite viciously as a result of bumps on the road. A firm 10-and-2 grip on the wheel was needed almost all the time. Confidence is boosted by massive Brembo front brakes along with super sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sports rubber, 295/35R19 up front and 305/35R19 in the rear.
I’ve read other journalists complain about the somewhat baron interior, but it’s not something that I feel is warranted. Sure, the Mustang won’t deliver the same quality build as BMW or Porsche would, but I was not expecting it to and if you’re looking for luxury, this may not be the car for you.
The leather-trimmed Recaro race seats keep you firmly in place and it’s a good thing, because with this much power it’s definitely needed. I like the aircraft-style row of buttons under the climate controls (because who doesn’t like cool buttons) and they were a hit with my kids too. I dislike the suede material on the steering wheel and much prefer leather to the touch, but this is just a matter of personal preference. Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system is among my favourites in the industry and is very intuitive with the centrally located touchscreen.
If somehow the GT350 isn’t hardcore enough for you, Ford offers the GT350R. The R version has the same engine; however, items such as air conditioning, a stereo, a trunk floorboard, carpeting, a backup camera, a spare tire and even rear seats have been removed for a total weight savings of 130 pounds. The R also gets a rear wing and a front splitter to improve downforce along with lightweight carbon fibre wheels.
Pricing for the 2016 GT350 started at $62,599, but at the time of writing, the 2017s have arrived with a price tag of $73,678. The increase is due to the fact that Ford decided to make the optional Track Package—which includes MagneRide adaptive dampers, an aluminum strut-tower brace, a rear spoiler as well as transmission and differential coolers—standard on the 2017 model. The GT350R will run you a $10K premium. That’s an insane amount of money for a Mustang, but Ford likely won’t have any problems selling them because this is an instant collector car and now holds the title of best Mustang ever.