the nostalgic among us still wax poetic about the magical 1960s and the first era of the muscle car, but the latest modern machines run circles around those brute force battlewagons, delivering handling prowess in addition to the crazy acceleration. here's the latest one — the 2019 ford mustang shelby gt350, the new top mustang in the stable, at least until the highly anticipated mustang shelby gt500 finally arrives in 2020. the shelby gt350 soldiered on unchanged for 2018 model year as ford refreshed the more basic mustangs, but it's arrived for '19 with the same face as the old mustang and fancier shoes.
the 2019 shelby gt350 is all about those tires. they're now standard custom michelin pilot sport cup 2 tires, developed specifically for the gt350 in a joint effort between ford and the tire maker. they're grippier than ever, and ford has retuned everything to match the tires, from the springs, dampers, stabilizer bars and electronic steering system to the tweaking of aerodynamics. there's a new restyled wing out back to do exactly that, with an optional gurney flap for even greater downforce generation. restyled 19-inch wheels roll on those new michelin tires, which measure 305/35/19 rear, 295/35/19 up front.
outside, you'd be forgiven for not noticing that this is the 2019 model — aside from the wing, wheels and a couple of new colors (velocity blue and ford performance blue), the gt350 looks exactly the same as the previous model. that's because ford chose not to update the styling of the car to match the restyled 2018 ford mustang, which got new headlights, a grille, bumpers and fenders recently. ford said that its feedback from customers showed they were just fine with the styling as is — but i interpret this to mean that changing the front end to match the 2018 mustang gt would mean expensive changes to cooling testing, bumper tooling and other parts that it simply doesn't want to do.
the powertrain is a carryover — a massive 5.2-liter flat-plane crank "voodoo" v-8 making a free-breathing 526 horsepower and 429 pounds-feet of torque as it spins to a lofty 8,250 rpm redline, mated to a six-speed tremec manual transmission. big brembo six-piston performance front and four-piston rear brakes bring the car to a stop, but they now feature retuned antilock brake tuning for better performance. combined with the standard magneride adaptive damper tuning, suspension improvements, new tires, aero changes and brake updates, ford says that the new gt350 is faster around a track and easier to drive at the limits. the company says that its goal for the gt350 is to flatter amateur drivers and reward the professionals. the old one was a champ at that; it's hard to think that the new one would be a step backward given the improvements.
inside, the gt350 gets some of the updates from the 2018 mustang mid-cycle freshening, including a standard machined aluminum instrument-panel trim piece (carbon fiber is optional), new door panel inserts and a wrapped center console. recaro race seats are standard equipment, or you can opt for power-adjustable sport seats with miko suede inserts. if you get tired of the sound of the used engine , a new 12-speaker b&o play audio system is available, tied to the now-standard 8-inch sync 3 multimedia system. also newly standard is automatic climate control and a universal garage door opener.
but wait, what about the gt350r, the track-ready version of the gt350 that slots in above the gt350? according to ford, it's completely carried over for 2019 without any changes. the new ford shelby gt350 mustang will be on sale in early 2019, and purchasing one gets you an automatic enrollment in a ford track school to teach you how to use it. we're looking forward to a full evaluation of the latest ultimate pony car.
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