The All-new Shelby GT350 Mustang

With the Ford Mustang now in all-new sixth-generation S550 guise, it was only a matter of time before the obligatory Shelby-badged high-performance versions began coming out of the woodwork. This is the first one – the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.

The successor to the track-focused Boss 302, the new GT350 is the first car in the nameplate’s history to be developed and built in-house by Ford through its Special Vehicle Team (SVT) division – like its more powerful GT500 sibling – rather than the separate Shelby American.

The exterior of the car has been aerodynamically-optimised to improve performance. All the bodywork ahead of the windscreen is unique to the GT350, with a front end two inches lower than a standard Mustang, a deep downforce-inducing front splitter and a bonnet vent that reduces heat and under-bonnet lift.

The All-new Shelby GT350 Mustang

Reprofiled front fenders accommodate the wider front track, with vents to relieve wheel well turbulence. Moving to the rear, there’s an aggressive rear diffuser and a small lip spoiler designed to draw yet more downforce with minimal drag. The interior has been fortified with heavily-bolstered Recaro seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, a revised instrument cluster and fewer chrome trim bits to reduce distracting glare.

The no-nonsense styling sets the scene for the new GT350’s ultra-focused mechanicals. Under the bonnet is Ford’s most powerful naturally-aspirated engine – a 5.2 litre V8 developing upwards of 500 hp and 400 lb ft (542 Nm) of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission and a Torsen limited-slip differential.

The motor is unique among the company’s V8s in that it has a racing-style flat-plane crankshaft popularised by Ferrari, rather than the traditional cross-plane design. Such a configuration is less smooth than a cross-plane V8, but the crank is nearly perfectly balanced, negating the need for heavy counterweights. A flat-plane crankshaft is therefore lighter, allowing the engine to rev higher (reported to be over 8,000 rpm in the GT350).

The All-new Shelby GT350 Mustang

Flat-plane V8s generally have a flatter engine note akin to an inline-four, but – as apparent in the video below – not the GT350. We suspect Ford has designed the exhaust system to retain the signature burble associated with a traditional American muscle car V8.

The suspension is also unique among Mustangs – in addition to the S550’s new all-around independent suspension, the GT350 tacks on quicker-reacting MagneRide adaptive magnetorheological dampers for the first time on a Ford, controllable via a five-mode integrated driver control system. The spring rates and bushings have also been revised and the ride height lowered compared to the regular ‘Stang.

The All-new Shelby GT350 Mustang

Tasked to bring the car down from high speeds is a Brembo braking system – the most powerful ever fitted to a Ford – with six-pot callipers gripping 395 mm discs at the front, and four-pots clamping down on 380 mm rotors at the rear. Wheels are 19-inch alloys wrapped in bespoke Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber.

With such serious machinery at work, the new GT350 is starting to look less like a pumped-up pony car and more like a cut-price Prancing Horse. Bargain of the century? If not, take heart – the regular Ford Mustang will be coming to Malaysia at the end of next year in both 2.3 Ecoboost and 5.0 V8 forms.