The 2017 Shelby GT350 is powerful, fast, and loud

Shelby
The Shelby GT350 on an autumn afternoon. –Photo by Austin Rexinger

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There are dozens of words that come to mind when attempting to describe the 2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, but subtle is not one of them. Technically, it is a Mustang, but in reality it is a wider, lower, track-focused animal. Exterior improvements from its Mustang siblings include larger wheels and brakes, along with a more aggressive-looking front fascia and rear diffuser. Interior differences include Recaro racing seats and a six-speed manual as standard equipment.

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Our ‘Grabber Blue’ test car was optioned with white racing stripes, and it turned heads everywhere we drove. Its 5.2-liter flat-plane crankshaft V8 paired with an adjustable sport exhaust equals loud noises all of the time. This car is not for everyone, but it’s really difficult not to love it.

Given our limited time with the car, it was difficult to decide where it performed better. If you put any value on keeping your license, however, you will quickly see the value in saving the Shelby’s 526-horsepower for the track. 

If you do decide to pick one up, be sure to mark off a handful of weekends on your calendar as ‘go-fast’ track days. The limits of this car are so extreme that it takes a closed environment to begin to break the surface. But when you do, wow. Just be sure to ease your way into the power.

What the experts are saying:

“Not only does Shelby GT350 take the recently overhauled Mustang platform to a new level, it also upends many stereotypes of the pony car segment. For instance, its exotic-sounding flat-plane crank V8 trades low-end grunt for high-rpm potency, and for such a large car, its handling is pinprick-precise. Yet the GT350’s track-biased disposition doesn’t unduly degrade its street-worthiness, making it genuinely rewarding to drive in either environment.” —Jason Kavanagh, senior road test engineer, Edmunds

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Boston.com Dealer Specials:

“The Shelby GT350 elevates Ford’s Mustang from appealing road car to incredible track car. The balanced, comprehensive nature of this model’s performance upgrades make it an excellent value.” —Karl Brauer, executive publisher, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book

The interior of the GT350 is simple, yet effective. It does not distract from the driving experience. —Austin Rexinger

The Good:

1. In a competition for the best-sounding V8 engine in a vehicle that costs less than $100,000, the Shelby would take first prize. The flat-plane crankshaft allows the V8 to scream all the way to 8,200-rpm. It’s loud all of the time, which is awesome.

2. Its manners on the road and track are superb. It manages bumps and creases in the pavement on a two-lane back road with ease, but will also tackle lap after lap with almost no body roll.

3. The brakes are strong. They are, however, progressive enough to use comfortably on the street. MotorTrend reports 60-0 braking in just 102 feet, which translates beautifully on the track. After dozens of laps, there was zero fade from the massive 394-millimeter front and 380-millimeter rear brakes.

The Bad:

1. The six-speed manual transmission feels precise, but the gears are very long. This makes hitting the 8200-rpm redline impossible in any gear after second if you want to stay within legal speed limits. Take it to the track and explore triple-digit speeds, which are not difficult to hit.

2. For skinny drivers, the aggressively bolstered Recaro seats are a dream—which means may some people may find them a tight squeeze.

3. Ford offers the Shelby with only one transmission: a six-speed manual. It’s an excellent transmission, but realistically speaking, not everyone knows how to drive one, nor do they want to around Boston’s busy streets.

Under the Hood:

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Engine: 5.2-liter V8

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Drivetrain: Rear-wheel-drive

Power: 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque

Fuel economy: 14/21 miles per gallon city/highway

0-60 acceleration: 4.3 seconds

Also Consider:

BMW M2: On paper, the M2 may not impress with only 326 horsepower — compared with over 500 from the Shelby — but it beats the Mustang to 60 by three-tenths of a second. BMW’s smallest M-car provides drivers with quick steering, race car handling, and a more superior interior than the sporty American alternatives.

Camaro ZL1: The classic Mustang versus Camaro debate is back, and the ZL1 is GM’s supercharged heavyweight. The ZL1 is pricier than both the Shelby and a base M2, but it packs a punch with 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. The Camaro is available with a brand-new 10-speed automatic transmission for anyone who’s looking to stray from the Shelby’s manual-only configuration.