Back in the 1960s and 1970s and even leading up into the mid-1990s, an automobile packing more than with 400 horsepower under its hood was something that demanded respect when driven.
Muscle cars of these eras were twitchy, power came on like a lightswitch, and you needed to have some sense and ability while driving them. However, modern cars don’t drive like that and most are producing numbers we never thought we’d see as ‘normal’ from an OEM without it being a racing package of some sort.
The 2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is a perfect example of this.
Let’s look at these numbers: 526 horsepower, 429lb-ft torque, 175mph (282km/h) top speed, .98g on the skidpad numbers, and a 4.3-second 0-60mph time. These numbers should equate to a car that doesn’t have the ability to drive normally in a daily sense for most people. They’re also numbers that you’d expect from a car made almost exclusively for the track that’s barely civil enough to be used on the road.
Except it isn’t.
You can drive this car like it’s a Honda Accord. You have cruise control, a decent stereo system, and air conditioning. The clutch is mellow, light, and engages so smoothly that you’d never think the car possesses the amount of power it does. It’s hard to stall out, even. The sound from the exhaust, while not entirely boring, isn’t so loud that it will wake the neighbors. At least the ones who aren’t light sleepers, but normal neighbors. Well, that is until you flip the switch on the center console to open up the exhaust to a straighter flow and less sound dampening. Then you really get a soundtrack worthy of the Shelby GT350’s racing heritage.
However, strip all this badging off, the stripes, everything visual to make this a GT350 with the exhaust in its quieter mode, and most people would think you’re in a normal Mustang GT driving by, save for the slightly unusual tone produced by the flat-plane crank. However, they will likely brush that off as you having a custom exhaust or something.
Let Her Rip
Then you put your foot into it. As you accelerate you soon realize that you’re passing 6,000rpm and don’t need to shift yet – you’re still 2,000rpm shy of the 8,000rpm rev limiter. That’s when you start to understand this really isn’t a normal Mustang.
Then you take the next corner and expect some front push as most Mustangs have had; but the modern car doesn’t do this anymore. The GT350 is even better thanks to its MagneRide suspension, a system similar to those found in many exotic and high performance cars for instant dampening changes as you drive.
Roll and pitch are all very good in this car, even when you stab the brake pedal so that the Brembo 6-piston calipers clamp down on 15.5-inch diameter drilled rotors in the front and the 4-piston, 14.9-inch rotors in the rear. The rotors’ aluminum hats are quite interesting looking, but serve to reduce the weight over a one-piece, full iron equivalent that you’d see on a GT despite the fact these are both far bigger.
With all of these high performance parts, it’s the technology that helps make this Mustang so easy to drive, even at the limit. Most modern high performance cars are this way: totally drivable despite making so much power. A person with little interest in cars could drive the GT350 and enjoy it with some pace on.
However, with that power coming to the masses, are cars like the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 beginning to lose the appeal they once had? The challenge of driving a powerful car and having the skill do so? One could argue yes, modern power cars are become far more docile. They are tamed for the home market but with the power of a free-roaming and wild animal.
Then again, you can turn all of those things off at the flip of a switch.
Words by Justin Banner
Photos by Larry Chen
Cutting Room Floor