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2016 Ford Shelby GT350/GT350R Mustang: First Drive

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  • Sep 16, 2015
What Is It? 2016 Ford Shelby GT350/GT350R Mustang; front engine, rear-wheel-drive, two door muscular coupe Price: $47,795+ (GT350) - $63,495+ (GT350R) Competitors: Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Porsche 911 GT3 Alternatives: Dodge Challenger Hellcat Pros: Truly unique-feeling flat-plane crank V-8; stunningly competent on a racetrack; R model roughly $10,000 cheaper than comparable Camaro. Cons: Odd clutch release takes some getting used to; difficult to use all 8,250 rpms without finding one’s self in hand cuffs; and, er, needs more cowbell? Would I Buy It With My Own Money? Without a second thought. 2016 Ford Shelby GT350/GT350R Mustang: First Drive How do you test a track-focused car — one bearing the name of the great Shelby — when offered just four laps of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (including in and out laps)? Ford markets the GT350R as being faster than the monstrously capable Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, and yet our first drive felt as intimate as a handshake. Ford shouldn’t have kept its light under a bushel basket: the GT350R is truly phenomenal. It’s every bit the car Ford promised it would be, and potentially more. It’s not hard to grasp the significance of the GT350R versus the Z/28 in the decades-long battle for Detroit muscle car dominance. When Chevy invited us for its first drive event at Barber Motorsports Park last year, we were gifted the keys to the 505 horsepower track-ready muscle car and told we had an entire day to do as we please: “Just let us know if you need more tires,” Chevy said. It also said we could bring along some competition, so we armed ourselves with a Nissan GT-R to compare it against. Why did Chevy do that? Because it had faith in its creation, and the engineers wanted us to experience it under our own terms. Ford’s few laps, conjoined with some 40 other outlets, left us wondering whether its faith was not as great. But here’s what we did learn: image First, we drove a base GT350 along northern California’s Pacific Highway, a road where the scenery appears plucked from Tolkien’s imagination and giant whales bask just meters off shore. The actual curvature of the road is probably lovely, too, but unfortunately you spend most of your time staring at the Honda Pilot’s tail lamps in front while tourists exercise the art of rubbernecking.
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