2017 Ford Shelby GT350 review: Overkill at the highest level
I’m an advocate of Ford Performance parts. I liked them on the EcoBoost Mustang I just drove, I like them on the 5.0 Mustang I just drove, and I love them on my personal 2014 GT, Margaret. But this Shelby GT350 does not need more Ford Performance parts. The thing is already a catalog of them.
Starting with the engine: Ford’s 5.2-liter flat-plane crank V8 is wonderful on the stock car, sounds like a race car from the 1960s, screams at 5,000 and shatters glass at 8,000. There’s no need to add more sound. The $2,395 Ford Performance cat-back exhaust system is just overkill here. It might actually sound a little worse. Second, I don’t know if it increases the vibration in the car. It definitely does in your eardrum — I felt like I got out of a concert last night when pulling up to my house — but at super high rpm, the short-throw shifter ($359) and shift knob ($79) were rattling. I’m not sure if that was due the high rpm or shoddy installation, but it was annoying.
But I do love short throws and red, cue-ball-size shift knobs. I’d surely keep these parts, and I’d debate putting them in my own car, had the stock throw been any longer. This setup has only about 4 inches of movement, front to back, meaning fast shifts get even faster. And you’ll want to shift fast in this car to keep the stunning amount of momentum going forward.
The GT350 is laughably quick. Push the throttle all the way, at least from a stop, and it’ll get the tires spinning so quickly you’ll think you got caught in a freak snowstorm. The GT350 is 189 inches long. I’d wager that if you had a square box that measured 200 inches by 200 inches, you could pin it and spin the car without hitting the sides. It’ll twirl like a ballerina.
So, that light throttle pedal matches well with its light steering, light clutch and touchy brakes. Those combined make this car feel 500 pounds lighter than its actual curb weight of 3,760 pounds. That’s mostly good. The GT350’s reaction times are Usain Bolt-fast. At the limit, there’s a little bit of tension, considering a light press of the gas, stab of the brakes or jerk of the wheel (I know, you’re not supposed to be doing any of those things at the limit) could spit you greatly off course or into a stationary object.
That’s not to say there’s no road or steering feel. Quite the contrary: In sport mode, the wheel gets a little more weight and the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires really grip the grooves in the road. I love that. It’s so rare to get any, ANY road feel through the wheel these days. Like I said, it’s just super quick with the inputs.
The brakes are, and I think I’m repeating myself after my first drive of the car, some of the best street-car brakes in the world. Dead serious. After 1 inch of movement, the pedal is firm and you’re already starting to scrub speed. Two inches in: You’re stopped.
This particular model came with lowering springs, which I would also skip. The GT350 is already low enough; the extra inch or so had me scraping the underlip on my driveway, coming into work, and basically anywhere else that had more than a 9 percent incline. As for body control, I only hit a few hard bumps that made me wince; the rest of the time it felt perfectly acceptable on our shoddy Midwestern roads.
I like the Recaro bucket seats, though I like mine from the 2014 model year better. These will keep your butt in place and you won’t need to use any extraneous body parts (knees, elbows) as braces around tight corners. The hip point is just right for me at 5-foot-10, but I’m mostly legs. Our fearless leader is mostly torso and 6-foot-3; he wouldn’t be able to wear a helmet, even at the seat’s lowest setting.
I have a few cabin-related quirks and a few things I love. The Sync 3 system worked OK, but once Apple CarPlay was enabled, I didn’t know how to get back to the home screen for nav and extra climate functions. I also noticed the reflection of the expressway lights on the front-facing edge of the trunk, which kept taking my eyes to the rearview thinking someone was behind me or whizzing by. I didn’t notice it on the first drive, but I didn’t drive it at night, so I can’t be sure. Otherwise, the rear seats are acceptably small; I think I threw a car seat and a kid back there last time I had one, and visibility isn’t great. I do love the goldish/bronzish accents on the volume, tuning and climate controls. I’ve never noticed that before, either — it might be new for 2017.