The new GT350 is Ford’s way of saying to Europe: Alright, we’ll play your game. And, by the looks of the thing, it seems Ford is planning to play that game better, and for less.
Let me explain. For years, people lumped American and European sports cars into two distinct, and facile, categories—an automotive adaptation of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” In that binary worldview, Americans had power and sloppy suspensions while Europeans had handling and no guts. Reductive, sure, but cars are products of their environments: The ’06 Mustang GT500’s supercharged V8 was made for blasts through the Nevada desert while the ’06 Ferrari 360’s high-revving V8 and concrete suspension was made for Tuscany’s wandering highways.
In the past few years, though, American companies have grown unhappy letting BMW and Ferrari make the only cars equally adept on the road and the track. Chevrolet released the Camaro Z/28, with a high-revving naturally aspirated V8 and adjustable suspension, and the Corvette is winning comparison tests against the Porsche 911 left and right.
Ford had a contender, too, with the last generation Mustang Boss 302. But, as ever with American-European and Ford-Chevy grudge matches, a new top dog has emerged every few months, leaving the older Ford outclassed.
That’s over now. For months, Ford’s special vehicles team has been building a new track-ready Mustang from the ground up. Though the Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter Coyote V8 has been universally praised for its responsiveness and power (435 hp), the engineers wanted ultimate sharpness. So, they built a new V8: a 5.2-liter, 500-horsepower, high-revving motor with a flat-plane crankshaft. The flat-plane layout is exotic, allowing for higher revs and better breathing (it’s the layout Ferrari uses for its V8s), and in Ford’s application, sounds evil: a mix of American burble and Italian treble. It’s also the most powerful naturally aspirated engine Ford has ever produced.
And, despite touting the stiffness of the new Mustang’s platform (30% more than the last model), the SVT team fitted the GT350 with carbon-fiber pieces and a tower-to-tower brace (spanning the mighty V8). The front track is wider, and huge brakes have been fitted all around. For broad spectrum of ability, from track-days to cruising, Ford is using a version of the adaptive magnetic ride-control suspension originally developed by GM (a suspension so good, Ford swallowed their pride). It’s also used by Audi and Ferrari.
The result is a lower, wider, and much faster version of the Mustang, fitted with world-class components. With an engine like that, and Magneride underpinnings, the GT350 will be unbelievable to drive pretty much anywhere. And, with a price rumored to be under $60k, this ultimate ‘Stang, this M3-chewing, Ferrari-baiting ponycar, has retained a distinctly American attitude.
Photos by Ford Motor Company