Cars

Ford Unleashes Better Performance From The 2019 Shelby GT350

Rock Star For The Street or Track

In the world of performance, GT350 Mustangs heave on our proverbial heartstrings. In 1965 Carroll Shelby sought to increase performance of the little 289 ’Stang for SCCA production-car road racing, and he improved horsepower, created tighter handling, and lastly he added those iconic Le Mans stripes.

Today, original GT350s are wildly desirable and out of reach for mere mortals. A better options to feed your speed craving is the 2019 Shelby GT350. In fact, Ford says the new GT350 is faster, more capable, and able to leap past virtually any pony before it. Is it the Superman of Mustangs? We were about to find out.

Shelby GT350 returns for 2019 with improved aerodynamics, better handling and more fun.

Since 2007, when the nameplate returned on the GT500, Ford’s modern Shelby Mustangs have proudly carried the “Shelby” tradition embodying style, handling, braking, horsepower, and of course, fun factor. In the case of the 2019 GT350, the tradition lives on with mean styling, incredible balance, amazing braking, and that free-revving, symphonic V8. It relies on Mother Nature for breathing and begs you to use all its 526 hp and 8,250 rpm.

“Somewhere, Carroll is smiling,” said Hermann Salenbauch, global director for Ford Performance vehicle programs. “The new Shelby GT350 is our ultimate track Mustang. We’ve stuck to Carroll Shelby’s original formula for winning championships and made our Shelby GT350 even better with the latest in race-proven aerodynamics, tire, and chassis technology.”

To prove it, Ford let us slip behind the wheel for an all-out track assault at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan. We pranced around the track with that beautiful flat-plane crankshaft V8 and enjoyed the predictability and abundance of grip.

Part of the improved handling comes from the newly designed Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

In order to improve the already-great GT350, engineers infused the 2019 Shelby with updated aero, stickier tires, and they recalibrated the suspension and ABS. Ford claims drivers will experience precision, balance, faster lap times, and better all-around performance.

“We’re all about elevating the performance of our vehicles,” said Carl Widmann, Mustang chief engineer. “We’re after that heart-pounding emotional experience. When the 350 launched in 2015, it was a track-focused vehicle with ultimate balance and a flat-plane crank V8. It gives you a visceral sense and that’s really what the 350 is about. Not only is the chassis capable on the track, it has the most powerful naturally aspirated engine Ford Motor Company has ever made,” he added.

“So, we look at what our customers really wanted on the 350, and it’s one that is more capable and easier to drive, more intuitive, and with more performance. We took a lot of what we’re doing with [GT] 500. You can imagine us at the track, we bring our 350s, early 500 prototypes, and we rolled the technology we were developing for the 500 into the 350. The first thing you’ll see is the new [rear] spoiler. We call it the swing spoiler. It came out of development as we we’re trying to get more downforce in the corners, but not with a huge hit to drag going down the road. That spoiler comes with the ability to order a Gurney Flap, and we all know that’s pure downforce. It get’s more capability out of that vehicle for more grip,” he explained.

Here are some of the beefed-up parts on the Shelby GT350.

“We also knew the key thing was to add new tires, to put new shoes on it, and get better braking out of the Brembo brakes that we already have. The grip from the tires really unlocks the potential of the vehicle,” he said. “So, using simulations with the work we’ve done with the Ford Performance team on aerodynamics, that combines together and we get into the springs, bars, and we get all that retuned for that new capability in the vehicle. Then, on top of that, we worked with Billy Johnson, who’s our driver on GT, and on the Mustang GT4. He’s able to tell us how get the car more intuitive and that’s how we developed our software strategy for both MagneRide and the ABS tuning. That gives you the ability to get into and out of the corner quicker. Those are the big things that are in the ’19, so it’s a total system, from aerodynamics, to hardcore chassis and tire, and the tuning around it.”

Ford then worked exclusively with Michelin to engineer new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires with a Shelby GT350-specific tread pattern and different compound to deliver more grip for significantly improved acceleration and lateral acceleration, as well as braking. The GT350 now wears 295/35 front and 305/35 rear tires that feature improved stiffness and are fitted to newly styled 19-inch aluminum wheels.

It took a feat of engineering to enable the use of a flat-plane crankshaft in the 5.2L V8.

If you compare a 2015-18 GT350 with the ’19, you’ll see a wind-tunnel tested grille closeout that’s designed and tuned with experience gained from development of the Ford Performance Mustang road course racing cars and upcoming Shelby GT500 model. Out back is a new rear spoiler with the previously-mentioned Gurney flap. Combined, they deliver significant rear aerodynamic efficiency. Ford also upgraded Shelby GT350’s standard MagneRide active suspension to complement the aero and tire enhancements with recalibrated springs and revised damping.

“Stopping power is provided by six-piston front and four-piston rear caliper Brembo™ brakes. For added control and improved driver feedback, Shelby GT350’s electric power-assist steering and three-mode electronic stability control settings feature enhancements taken from Ford Performance’s hundreds of hours of competitive track testing,” added Widmann.

New colors for the 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 include Velocity Blue and, for the first time, Ford Performance Blue. Optional factory-painted over-the-top racing stripes are available in high-gloss Shadow Black, Oxford White or Kona Blue. Mirror-mounted Shelby Cobra Projection Lamps come standard in the available Technology Package.

Ford revised the rear spoiler and included an optional Gurney Flap to increase downforce.

The 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 will be available starting in early 2019 and will be built at Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. Enrollment in an exclusive, complimentary Track Attack driving program from Ford Performance is included with each vehicle.

The cockpit of the 2019 Shelby GT350 is fun place. Slipping inside, you’ll fall into the deeply bolstered Recaro seats that greet you with comfort, support, and security. These buckets are dressed with Miko suede inserts and have firm side bolsters. The one-piece seatback also features pass-through holes so you can install a racing harness should you plan to track your 350 often. The seats are manually adjustable (front, back, up, and down), and have the range to accommodate differently sized humans. If you prefer leather, Ford offers less-aggressive power-adjustable seats with Miko suede inserts.

Other changes to the interior include a machined aluminum instrument panel appliqué with an available exposed carbon fiber version, plus newly-designed door panel inserts in dark slate Miko suede with accent stitching. A wrapped center console offers rich world-class craftsmanship. A new high-performance, custom-tuned 12-speaker B&O PLAY audio system by HARMAN is now available for the 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350, controlled via the now-standard 8-inch SYNC® 3 touch screen that features SiriusXM and FordPass™ Connect. Dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control is also standard, along with a universal garage door opener. Like all current Mustangs, the GT350 Mustang has a mechanical tilt/telescopic column with a nice amount of adjustment. Pedal and shifter placement works, too.

Lead engineer Carl Widmann (left) chats with journalists who got behind the wheel at a recent media event in Michigan.

After a quick briefing, we strapped in and attacked the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan just north of Detroit. We ran the 1.5-mile loop, which incorporated a mix of straights, sweepers, tight turns, a tricky high-speed rising kink and a hairpin. Though short and tight, the track allowed us to experience the dynamics of the Shelby GT350.

Not surprisingly, this pony loves to gallop. The engine is alive and sings to you. It produces a sweet sound and makes a clear audible change in tone as it screams through the powerband. The Shelby also speaks to you in the curves. The aforementioned Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires have added strength in the shoulder and feature a bold tread pattern that’s suited for street or track. This, along with the revised suspension, provided amazing responsiveness and grip through the corner.

Widmann mentioned that Ford leaned on FIA World Endurance Ford GT and IMSA Mustang GT4 driver Billy Johnson. Johnson is not only a pro driver, he is a Mustang owner who does HPDE events with his personal street-legal mount. Johnson also has expertise in vehicle development with Ford and he’s an enthusiast, so he understands what makes a Mustang great. “Along with improved grip, brake, and chassis refinements, Shelby GT350 brings a whole new level of performance driving,” Johnson said. “It’s a rewarding car to drive on track for amateurs and pros and makes the driver feel like a superhero. It’s confidence-inspiring in corners and begs to be pushed harder and to take corners faster.” he added, “the result of the Mustang Shelby GT350 is improved aerodynamic tuning, revised brake calibration, and much greater downforce. It’s a better-balanced, higher-performing car on the straightaways and in the corners, too.”

Ford nailed the interior in the 2019 Shelby GT350. You feel like a race car driver sitting in those amazing Recaro seats.

Johnson was right. The GT350 has fantastic overall balance, which made it very easy to drive at speed. It felt stable under braking, it turned in accurately and gave us nice feedback along the way. You can feel if the rear is going to step out, and a flick of the wheel keeps you pointed straight. There was no drama near the limit, and the built-in Track Apps gauge showed we achieved 1.5 lateral g’s and 1.5 g’s under braking. Furthermore, it was flat in the corners, and communicative under all situations.

We tried both “Sport” and “Track” mode and noticed differences, especially when we push beyond the limit of the tires. Sport mode really controls yaw and keep you under control, Track mode is more liberal and lets you do a bit more with the throttle and steering inputs. And speaking of “track,” every GT350 purchase comes with a complimentary day at the Ford Performance Driving School. This unique experience (which Ford offers for the Raptor, GT350, GT350R, and ST models), allows for one day of training for you and a guest at the Ford Performance Driving School, held at the Utah Motorsports Campus. On GT350, this includes a day of track instruction in the school’s cars, plus accommodations and a reception dinner. We’ve been to the school and it’s something you won’t want to miss.

The GT350 is capable on track or street.

After a day behind the wheel, we concluded this is a fantastic car for any Mustang or Shelby enthusiasts. It’s a capable machine that can thrill experienced drivers, novice drivers, and just about anyone in between. It’s a car Carroll Shelby would have loved on a mountain pass, at his favorite track, or during a trip to Cars & Coffee.

Ford installed a revised grill insert to improve front-end downforce and to balance the new rear spoiler.
The media launch included a close up look at the cars and parts, along with a ton of wheel time.
The VooDoo V8 comes equipped with factory tube headers.
The composite intake features tall intake runners for maximum flow.
America!
Here are the GT350 and GT350R Recaro seats.
Your humble scribe chats with GT350 owner Aaron Shelby, grandson of Carroll Shelby.
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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !

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