2011 Ford Mustang GT350 - Substantial Sibling
Shelby’s latest GT350 backs up a flamboyant image with a potent punch
From the September, 2011 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By Steve Turner
Photography by By The Author
Tuned-up, turnkey Mustangs are a bit like pop stars. They are all dolled up to set themselves apart from the crowd. However, once they gain attention with their looks, it's the substance of their work that gives them staying power. In short, it's easy to draw a crowd, but keeping them around is more of a challenge.
In the case of the Shelby GT350, the bodywork completely revamps the appearance of the latest Mustang. Obviously the goal was to revisit the historic vintage GT350s, while pushing the looks of the modern Mustang forward. From the Cragar wheels to the Le Mans stripes, the modern GT350 definitely reminds you of its forefathers. However, this visage has been polarizing for Mustang enthusiasts. We had a tough time with the photos of the car but it's a bit more attractive in person.
No matter what our thoughts are, the car certainly drew positive reviews from the non-enthusiast public. There's simply no mistaking that this car is something above and beyond the everyday Mustang. It's truly amazing that the Shelby name still carries such clout some 40 years later.
"Our goal was to build the ultimate small-block muscle car," said John Luft, president of Shelby American. "The results show that the Shelby GT350 takes American performance to an entirely new level. In recent tests, the standard supercharged car hit 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds, and ran the quarter in 12 seconds flat at 121.4 mph, all while generating 1.05 g of lateral acceleration and stopping from 60 mph in only 107 feet. We believe the R-tuned GT350 will be even faster."
Of course, the looks are only part of the equation. Surely Mustang owners like to grab some headlines, but for us, the true measure of a 'Stang is where the power meets the pavement. Till this point we have almost avoided driving a Coyote-powered Mustang with a superchargerùbecause we knew we'd want one. On its own, the latest 5.0 is intoxicating. Coupled with boost, this engine offers the best kind of trip. The addition of the Ford Racing/Whipple twin-screw blower simply magnifies the positives of the latest Mustang engine.
Obviously this blower boosts the bottom end a bit, but just like the naturally aspirated version, it's in the midrange that the blown 5.0's power takes off and heads for the sky. It just keeps pulling and pulling. This car really comes off like a middleweight version of the GT500. The power is there, but there simply isn't as much mass over the front end.
Having a roaring waterfall of power does no good if you can't put it to the ground, and fortunately that isn't a problem with the GT350. While we didn't have a chance during our few days with the car to hit a racetrack, we did try it out on our favorite highways and byways, and it acquitted itself well. On a sweeping turn, you keep feeding it power and the grip just keeps digging in, which is a testament to the Eibach dampers and FRPP goodies that encompass the GT350's underpinnings. Likewise, the Shelby/Baer brakes were up to the task of reeling in all that speed.
In everyday driving, our GT350 experiences were hit and miss. Like a pop star that hit the party scene a bit too often, our tester was obviously a bit hung over. Our brief stint in the car came at the tail end of a long run of test drives by the automotive media. These are some of the hardest miles a car can experience, so we're willing to forgive and forget the bald tires, transient vibrations, and stalling. This car was clearly in need of some TLC by the time we grabbed the wheel. After one squeeze of the throttle, however, all was forgiven.
In back, there’s a new rear...
In back, there’s a new rear bumper cap with a cutout for the center-exit exhaust. Black taillight frames, a black trunk filler panel, a GT350 faux gas cap, and a unique rear wing join together to present the GT350’s rear view.
Apart from the power and handling...
Apart from the power and handling of the GT350, the optional Shelby/Kicker audio system. Though it wants for a bit more midrange, this system is a must-have upgrade for music fans that own ’05-and-up Mustangs. It is a true plug-and-play upgrade for the Ford audio system that lets you retain all the functionality of the factory head unit.
Also optional on our loaded...
Also optional on our loaded GT350 was an interior upgrade package that covered the console and armrest in Shelby logos, and offered colorful accoutrement for the shift boot and steering wheel.
Even so, the car was a blast to drive. It ranged from fully capable commuter to all-out track animal in one package. The wine and cheese mags say it will keep pace with a Corvette, and we have no trouble believing them. Moreover, you can roll down the road with the Kicker system cranked and draw the eyes of anyone that cares about cars. As much of a game-changer as this blower is for the engine, the Kicker system is for the stock audio system. It takes a good thing and makes it great.
So, if you are a student of Mustang history but you want some modern muscle, the GT350 might just be the ride. You'll just need an '11-'12 Mustang and $33,995. If you can't swing the whole package, the blower, suspension, and audio upgrades are the moves that give the GT350 its staying power. 5.0
Horse Sense: Shortly before we got our hands on this '11 GT350 tester, Shelby American announced that for the '12 model year it would offer convertible versions of the GT350. Only 350 '12 GT350s will be constructed, and they'll be available in Performance White with blue Le Mans stripes, Race Red with white Le Mans stripes, or Kona Blue with white Le Mans stripes.
We were short on time before dropping the GT350 off with the next member of the auto press, so we were fortunate that Allen Moore at Moore Tuned (www.mooretuned.com) in Lakeland, Florida, made time on this Mustang chassis dyno. Having experienced the car by the seat of the pants, we were anxious to see how the car stacked up at the feet. Fortunately, we had previously dyno'd a '10 Shelby GT500 on the Moore Tuned dyno, so it provided us to compare the GT350 to its big brother.
Now keep in mind that Mustang dynos are designed to calculate for vehicle weight and aerodynamics, so their loaded numbers are typically lower than those from an inertia dyno such as a Dynojet. In fact, we compared this Mustang dyno to a Dynojet with the same car and its numbers were about 12 percent lower. So don't get all worked up about the numbers. All dynos are a bit different.
What really matters is how the GT350 compared to the GT500 run on this same dyno. It's not pure science, as the cars were run many months apart in different conditions. However, it's clear that the combination of the Whipple supercharger and Coyote engine are a formidable combination. Our previous story comparing supercharged 5.0s and 5.4s was a bit controversial, but as the numbers keep coming in, it's clear that at least stock GT500s have something to fear from a supercharged 5.0. As you can see, the GT350 gives up a little umph down low, but from 3,700 on up, the GT350 beats up on the GT500 pretty badly.
One sign your GT350 is legit...
One sign your GT350 is legit is one of these dash plaques, signed by the man himself and engraved with the car’s CSM number.
Hands-down the most handsome...
Hands-down the most handsome facet of the ’11 GT350 is the unique set of Cragar five-spoke wheels. These classy 19-inch forgings offer stylish clearance for the massive six-piston front brakes.
Our tester featured the optional...
Our tester featured the optional polished supercharger FRPP/Whipple twin-screw supercharger system. This version, in particular, featured the 624-horse, 93-octane calibration, which Shelby describes as the R tune. Not optional are the aluminum coolant overflow and intercooler reservoir tanks and the signature 45th anniversary Shelby GT350 engine cap set. Our tester also featured an upgraded cooling system, replete with a twin-fan heat exchanger and thicker engine radiator.
|2010 GT500||2011 GT350||Difference|
Engine And Drivetrain
Block Low-pressure-cast 319 aluminum, pressed-in thin-wall iron liners
Crankshaft Forged steel, fully counterweighted, induction-hardened
Rods Powered metal forging, I-beam, no balance pad
Pistons Hypereutectic, short-skirt, flat-top w/four equal valve reliefs; moly friction-reducing coating; oil-jet cooled
Camshafts DOHC, four camshafts, independently adjustable timing
Cylinder Heads Aluminum, four-valves per cylinder
Intake Manifold FRPP/Whipple w/air-to-water intercooler
Power Adder FRPP/Whipple twin-screw supercharger, 624hp/93-octane tune, Twin-Fan heat exchanger
Fuel System Port fuel injection, returnless
Exhaust Short-tube, S44100 stainless-steel Tri-Y tubular headers; 10mm mounting studs w/prevailing torque nuts
Transmission Getrag MT-82 six-speed manual
Rearend 8.8-in w/3.73 gears
Engine Management Copperhead w/Ford Racing tune
Ignition Coil-on plug
Gauges Stock w/Auto Meter Carbon Fiber boost, fuel, oil pressure gauges in A-pillar pod
Suspension And Chassis
Control Arms Stock
Struts Eibach coilover
Springs Eibach coilover
Brakes Shelby/Baer Extreme six-piston calipers with 14-in, cross-drilled and slotted, two-piece, zinc-plated rotors; and Sport Touring brake pads
Wheels Cragar 19-inch five-spoke
Shocks Eibach coilover
Springs Eibach coilover
Brakes Shelby/Baer Extreme
Wheels Cragar 19-inch five-spoke
The engine caps and coil covers...
The engine caps and coil covers are some of the numerous items unique to the GT350. If you don’t want to see yourself coming the other way in a Mustang, owning one of these is a pretty safe bet.
Another symbol of legitimacy...
Another symbol of legitimacy is this plaque on the shock tower, which also wears the car’s exclusive CSM number.