What It Is: The Shelby GT350 iteration of thenew-for-2015 Ford Mustang, caught lapping the Nürburgring during development testing. If you’re wondering what makes this hot-looking Mustang a GT350 instead of, say, the 2016 GT500, just look at the details.Shelby GT500 test mules we’ve spottedlooked as muscled-up and bulky as the outgoing model, the GT350 pictured here—the first test model our spy photographers have trained their lenses upon—is light and lithe-looking, more in keeping with the high-performance Boss 302 successorwe’ve speculated it to be.
Why It Matters: The GT350 picks up the mantle of the amazing Mustang Boss 302, a wonderfully balanced track machine that lived for just two short years during the tail end of the last-gen Mustang’s life cycle. While the upcoming GT500 will get a carryover supercharged 5.8-liter V-8 and once again shoulder the duty of being the beastliest ’Stang around, the Shelby GT350 will anchor the fine-handling, track-ready end of the all-new Mustang’s portfolio—and it’ll do it without forced induction.
Platform: The 2016 Shelby GT350 will utilize the same basic coupe body as the regular Mustang, albeit potentially stiffened to further hone its on-track sharpness. Where the last GT500 we spied wore fat, staggered-width front and rear tires and an aggressively domed and vented hood, the GT350 seen here hews closer to a regular 2015 Mustang GT in terms of looks. There are normal-size wheels and tires, a ventless hood, and no huge rear wing.
That said, there are plenty of body add-ons that support the notion that the GT350 will be a track-attack animal along the same lines as Chevrolet’s Camaro Z/28. Up front, this largely uncovered prototype wears an angry maw with lots of mesh-covered openings. Given that this is a new SVT-developed product, it’s not surprising to see the addition of two kinked barbs in the grille opening; the visual flourish recalls similar treatment on the Focus ST and the Fiesta ST. A large front splitter and tiny canards ahead of each wheel opening show that Ford is taking the aerodynamics of this model seriously, and there is a thin vertical slot behind each front wheel. Out back, an awesome quartet of exhaust outlets juts out from a muscular-looking diffuser element; this is another area where the GT350 differs from the GT500—the latter didn’t have the former’s little winglets beneath the exhaust tips.
Powertrain: This is where the Mustang Shelby GT350 will really set itself apart. The GT500’s engine bay will be stuffed with the same ridiculously powerful supercharged, 5.8-liter “Trinity” V-8 engine, likely making more than the last GT500’s 662 horsepower. The more agile GT350, on the other hand, will get a naturally aspirated V-8 with—look out, Ferrari—a flat-plane crankshaft. This so-called “Voodoo” engine will be a modified iteration of the regular Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter Coyote mill, and it should rev to at least 8000 rpm and pump out 550 Z/28–slaying horsepower. It also should sound absolutely freaking awesome. A manual should and likely will be standard; we suspect that, as with the Boss 302, Ford won’t make an automatic available.
Estimated Arrival and Price: We figure the GT350 will go on sale as a 2016 model sometime next year. Like the Boss 302, it won’t be cheap, but it also won’t be too pricey, either. A starting price of about $50K is a safe bet.View Photo Gallery