First Drive: 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang

– Detroit, Michigan

I’ve never felt this kind of bond with a Mustang. Truth be told, I’m not a muscle car guy. I don’t care about big straight-line speed – for me, a sporting car’s worth is measured in smiles through corners, not quarter miles on drag strips. So it’s a good thing that the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang doesn’t follow the muscle car formula. It handles. It grips. It’s a racetrack superstar. It makes me want to drive it harder and harder for hundreds of miles. Of course, this car could probably have any engine under the hood and its handling chops alone would make it a fantastic beast to tame. But there’s one hell of a heart under that long, bulging nose. And it’s the pièce de résistance of what is, in my mind, Ford’s best Mustang yet.

I’m talking, of course, about the naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V8. It’s a brand-new motor, and it bucks the trend of everything in the world getting downsized and turbocharged. Instead, Ford uses a flat-plane crankshaft that not only reduces weight within the engine, but allows this free-breathing mill to spin all the way up to 8,250 rpm in every gear. The numbers are only half of the story – 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque already sound good on paper, but they sound even better at 6,000 rpm in third gear, running fast through a long set of switchbacks on my favorite roads about 50 miles west of Detroit.

2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang: First Drive
2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang: First Drive


You could certainly leave the drive setting in Normal for a quieter experience, but that just seems impoten...