More-lethal Mustang Shelby GT350 debuts for '19
Pontiac – The Snake is back, and it's more poisonous than ever.
For the first time since it was unveiled for the 2015, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 gets upgraded performance for the 2019 model year. The patriarch of the Mustang family, the ferocious GT350 gets improved tires, suspension tuning and aerodynamics to improve its on-track performance and keep up with the Joneses. Make that the Chevys.
In its muscle-car war with cross-town rival Camaro, Mustang has come up shy in performance compared with Chevy's holy trinity of 1LE, ZL1 and winged ZL1 1LE performance grades. The Camaros have consistently bested the Shelby in on-track comparison tests.
Introduced at the M1 Concourse's Champion Motor Speedway on Monday, the 2019 GT350 aims to close that gap.
"This car brings more grip with better tires," said Mustang Chief Engineer Carl Widmann, citing new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires developed specifically for the car. "We can integrate the (magnetic) shock tuning with the tire with the ABS brake system to really get something that's a step forward."
Performance comparisons haven't slowed sales. Since its introduction, the sixth-generation Mustang has re-established itself as the best-selling pony car in the 50 states with overall sales besting 100,000 units in its first two sales years, and topping the Camaro by 81,866 to 67,940 last year.
Though the GT350 makes up less than 10 percent of Mustang sales, its wicked looks and Ferrari-like, high-revving, flat-plane crank V-8 has set it apart as one of the sexiest ponies ever made.
Ford has sold them as fast as they can be made.
"There's more than pure numbers to selling a muscle car. There's also pure emotion," said Mustang Product Manager Mark Schaller as the Snake's V-8 raged by on M1's back straight.
The GT350's drivetrain remains unchanged for 2019: a 526-horsepower (the most from a normally aspirated Mustang ever) 5.2-liter V-8 mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. At full cry, the unique eight-holer hits an ear-rattling 8,250-rpm redline.
Schaller says the focus of the 2019 changes was on tweaking tires, springs, roll bars, magnetic shocks and a more aero-friendly rear spoiler to increase handling.
"The new Shelby flatters the novice and rewards the professional," he quipped.
The GT350 R – a lighter, even more track-focused version of the Shelby – remains unchanged for 2019. Engineers say the tweaks to the standard GT350 bring it closer to the R-spec car.
Named after the legendary Carroll Shelby's mod shop, the current Shelby car was the first GT350 to be manufactured in-house by Ford since 1968. How to tell the 2019 from the 2018? The rear spoiler and gray pinstripe separating the signature, dual Shelby stripes.
The price for the new car increases by about $3,000 to $61,340 ($69,325 for the R) as it gains standard options like SYNC 3 infotainment, 4G WiFi and a wrapped center console.
The updated Snake goes on sale in the first quarter of 2019.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.