Shelby GT350 could be the best Mustang yet

A joy ride with Henry Ford III
A joy ride with Henry Ford III

The Ford Mustang and I are roughly the same age. This gives me hope because I recently spent some time with what very well may be the best Mustang ever made.

Of course, I can't guarantee that this is the best Mustang ever made because I haven't driven every Mustang ever made. Who has? But the Shelby GT350 has to be up there.

Way up there.

The main ingredient is the engine. And, wow! What an engine. It's a 5.2-liter V8 that spins to a coarsely shrieking 8,250 revolutions per minute. That's roughly 1,500 to 2,000 RPM above what a typical V8 can manage. It makes an amazing noise that sends a chill fingering its way up from the base of your spine as the engine winds itself up, way beyond what you thought possible, in a high-pitched barrage of rapid-fire explosions.

ford shelby gt350

This isn't just about speed and power. The Shelby GT350 is neither the fastest nor the most powerful Mustang ever made. With a top output of 526 horsepower, it's no match for the supercharged Shelby GT500 of a few years ago which produced 662 horsepower. The new GT350 can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds, according to Car & Driver magazine. In a world where a Tesla SUV can quietly blast to highway speeds in about three seconds it might be easy to forget that 4.3 seconds is still really fast. In the Shelby GT350, it definitely feels it.

ford shelby gt350

Those Ford (F) engineers weren't spending all their time under the hood, either. This Mustang handles a curve better than any I can remember. Considering its overall practicality, which includes usable back seats and a fairly capacious trunk, even an ordinary Mustang offers a really good driving experience. It's balanced, gives you decent sensory feedback and is good fun to drive around on curvy roads.

Driving Shelby's new Daytona coupe

The GT350 just takes this up a notch or two. In Sport mode, with the suspension stiffened up, this car lives for tightly twisted roads. Even with all the engineering that's gone into making the GT350 light and well balanced it still feels fairly hefty, so I'm not going to say it's the best sports car I've ever driven, but this is the first Mustang I can recall that had me looking for a "sharp curves" warning signs. With its unique combination of agility and brute aggression, it is definitely among my favorites.

ford shelby gt350

Also impressive was the fact that, in regular traffic, it felt little different from a your ordinary Mustang. Well, except for the fact that the GT350 is available only with a manual transmission. (That shifter, by the say, is a joy to use.)

While it's a compelling value compared to cars offering similar performance, the $55,000 starting price could put this pony car out of reach for a lot of ordinary folks. Fortunately, the Mustang comes in more variations than just about anything besides Coca-Cola. Even at this price, the GT350 is unquestionably my favorite flavor.

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