FIRST DRIVE: Shelby GT350

Typically, cars like the Shelby GT350 don’t usually cross paths with BMW buyers. Shelby and BMW tend to occupy two different parts of the automotive world, rarely stepping on each other’s toes or competing in any way. This was typically due to the fact that Fords and Shelbys weren’t always up to par, in terms of quality or overall performance, with what BMW had to offer. But the gap between the two companies has been getting shorter with each passing year, as Ford and Shelby continue to impress with their speed, performance and quality. It used to be that a Shelby Mustang would always have the straight line speed to take on anything in the business, but fell apart when corners approached or when long-term daily driving was required. However, the brand-new Shelby GT350 has set out to erase preconceived notions that a Mustang can’t hang with the best of Europe.

I recently had the chance to drive a Shelby GT350 in Las Vegas, and even got some track time as a passenger in one to see what it was really capable of with a proper driver behind the wheel and not the ham-fisted idiot writing this. After getting that passenger track time and having driven the GT350 on some gorgeous Nevada roads, I can honestly say that I’m more than impressed.
On The Track
Turn after turn, lap after lap, I continued to be impressed with the GT350’s performance, poise and control.
My first seat time in the car came by way of being a passenger with a Shelby driver behind the wheel at the stunning Spring Mountain Motor Resort & Country Club. In fairness, Shelby’s driver could probably drive a Pinto around a track at speeds that would turn an average person’s knuckles white, but it was still a great show of what the GT350 was capable of. Sitting at the starting line, he asks if I’m ready and, after an anxious nod, pins the throttle, which in turn pins my helmet to the headrest.
The 5.2 liter flat-plane-crank delivers a wailing shriek as it approaches its 8,000 rpm redline and has enough power to flat-out embarrass nearly anything that comes its way. Approaching the first corner, he dives on the brakes late and I can feel my face start to distance itself from the bone. The brakes are incredibly impressive for a road car, with stopping power that can cause genuine discomfort in the best possible way.

Turn-in is rapid and sharp, as the front-end bites hard. Out of the corner and back on the power and the rear-end rotates, squirms a bit and then settles as the GT350 fires toward the next turn, hunting apexes with its nose. This is a proper driver’s car, there’s no doubt. Turn after turn, lap after lap, I continued to be impressed with the GT350’s performance, poise and control. All while we had the air-conditioned seats on cooling us down from the 100-plus degree desert heat. It felt like a sophisticated European sports car. Close your eyes from the passenger’s seat and its capabilities would make you think you were in a BMW M or Mercedes-AMG.
After we pulled off the track, I asked Shelby if any modifications were done to the car to help it handle heavy track use, like track-ready brake rotors, pads or tires. Nope, completely bone-stock. Shelby’s team has put more than 4,000 miles on that particular GT350, with a lot of those miles being track miles, and it was still wearing its original brake pads. Impressive.

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