By Jodi Lai
The Shelby GT350 is one of the most thrilling cars you can buy. Period. Add in the fact that it starts at less than $50,000, and it’s also one of the best sports car bargains around.
This makes the 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 a magical car and a very rare type of beast. Here are 10 things I learned while driving it:
Everyone Wants to Talk To You
This is not a pretentious sports car. The Mustang has always been one of the most accessible sports cars you can buy, and just by looking at it and hearing it, people know this Shelby is different. The result of this is that people freak out and engage you, which they wouldn’t do with, say, a Lamborghini because they assume the driver is a hoity-toity rich person who doesn’t care for the common man.
At nearly every stoplight, people were asking me to rev the engine, dads were pointing the car out to their kids, bros gave thumbs up and mouthed profanities, people walked into poles while craning their necks to look at the car, and other Mustang drivers gave you the nod of approval. One particularly hilarious thing I overheard was, “S–T! It’s a girl driver!”
It Sounds like a Summer Thunderstorm
There’s nothing like the sound of a big, naturally aspirated American V8. And with all this flat plane crank business, the Shelby sounds like a thunderstorm in the hottest, most humid days of summer, where you can feel the deep sound reverberating in your bones. Even when driven gently, the menacing idle serves as a warning to other drivers not to f–k with you.
The Exhaust Switch Will Become Your Favorite Switch in the World
As if the Shelby’s thunderous exhaust didn’t sound good enough in “regular” mode (I use that term very loosely), it comes with a switch to open the exhaust even more. That thunderstorm of sound then transforms into more of a tropical hurricane that thrashes with the violence of an angry deity with months of pent up anger to expel. Even at idle, the note is more hostile, but under full throttle or a rev-matched downshift, it sounds even more glorious.
I am deaf now. Goodbye.
It’s One of the Worst Cars Ever for People in the City
I live in the city, I drove the Shelby everywhere, and it was maddening. The GT350 is essentially built for the track, which means its suspension is very unforgiving in the city where you have potholes, broken pavement and street car tracks to deal with. I often found myself wincing in pain as the wheel hit an unexpected break in the pavement. Driving on ramps or steep driveways also made me particularly nervous because the car sits so low that the risk of scraping the chin splitter is very real. Sitting in stop and go traffic in a Shelby or driving down narrow lanes is a good way to increase your blood pressure – the car feels much wider than it actually is and it can be difficult to gauge exactly where the front corners are.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s difficult to drive. It’s not some unwieldy beast. In regular everyday driving, as long as the roads aren’t a mess, the Shelby is shockingly easy to drive: The manual shifter is intuitive and the gates are perfectly defined, the clutch is springy and not as heavy as you’d think, and the steering isn’t overly heavy.
You Need a Track Membership … or Police Friends
Driving the Shelby, you often find yourself short shifting it because there’s no legal way on public roads you can get it all the way to its 7,500-rpm peak torque sweet spot, or even further to its 8,200-rpm redline. You’ll run out of road or be arrested long before you’re even close. If you don’t get your car impounded for speeding, you’ll probably get charged with disturbing the peace.
This is a World-Class Sports Car
People are going to hate me for saying this, but this engine is so good that it wouldn’t feel wrong in a Ferrari. There are huge amounts of power available at all times, and power delivery is smooth and linear. This 5.2-liter naturally aspirated flat plane crank V8 with 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque is one of my favorite engines ever. The coupe always feels planted and it never feels like it will kill you at a moment’s notice. Yes, it accelerates like a freight train in a straight line, but the Shelby GT350 isn’t afraid of corners either.
Grip. So Much Grip.
We tried to do donuts last fall with the GT350 (shh), but the enormous tires have so much grip that it made it very difficult. But the happy ending to this story is that the Shelby is difficult to upset, which means it inspires confidence when getting up to silly hijinks. Your fear of becoming internet famous for stuffing a Mustang into a lamp post after a car meet probably won’t become a reality with the Shelby because it grips the road so well.
SYNC3 is Pretty Good
The infotainment system works really well: it’s responsive, it’s intuitive, and the menus are easy to navigate. Simple things like allowing to input an address all at once in one line instead of having to move to new fields is a simple thing that makes a big difference in usability. But, to be honest, I had the radio off the whole time and never even connected my phone because I’d rather just drive around with the windows down so I could listen to all that Shelby anger.
The Whole Interior is Spot On
The Recaro seats hug you, the suede steering wheel feels great to hold, the controls all have an intuitive layout, and there are no mysterious buttons. Everything is where you’d expect it to be. My only complaint is that the cupholder part of the center console is too high up and especially when there’s a cup (or cellphone) in there, it blocks access to the shifter.
I Love It. So Much.
I was lucky enough to be driving a Maserati Quattroporte after the Shelby GT350, but I missed the Mustang so much, that all week, my attitude towards the Italian was just “meh.” There’s so much the Shelby gets right: value, performance, sound, style, ease of use, accessibility, exclusivity, and, most importantly, it’s engaging in all the right ways.
The Verdict: 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350
The 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is the sports car bargain of the century. It’s one of the most engaging and exciting cars on sale right now, and the fact that you can have one for under $50,000 is unbelievable. This is a car I’d be more than happy to own.
This story originally appeared on AutoGuide.com