Tech It Out: Ford Fine-tunes Shelby GT350 for Better Lap Times


While the mainstay Mustang received a new face this year, the Shelby GT350 will persist with the older model’s mug through 2019. We don’t particularly mind, as its unique bumper already makes it look better than a standard coupe. Besides, the GT350 is supposed to be about driving excitement and setting blistering lap times — which is exactly where Ford spent its R&D money for the 2019 model.

Of course, the biggest upgrade the factory bestowed on the new Shelby is something you could have theoretically done at home. Working with Michelin, the Ford team engineered new set of Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires with a GT350-specific tread pattern and a different rubber compound that promises significantly improved acceleration, lateral grip, and braking performance. While you may not have had access to the brand new Cup 2s, you could have nabbed some Pirelli Trefeo Rs or opted for a set of full-on racing slicks. Just be sure to limit them to track use only.

Ford claims the 295/35 (front) and 305/35 (rear) donuts are optimized to improve stiffness. You’ll find them draped over 19-inch aluminum wheels, which are also new. But they’re not the only upgrades the GT350 sees for the coming year.

Aero improvements include an optional Gurney flap (available after launch), which was implemented after wind tunnel testing suggested why the hell not. There are also standard drag enhancements by way of a new rear spoiler and optimized grille closeouts. Apparently, the Shelby is cool enough to allow for such a change without the risk of overheating.

A trio of 2016 Shelby GT350 owners collectively sued Ford last year, claiming their cars went into “limp mode” on the track. From 2017 onwards, Ford installed a track package that includes transmission and differential coolers as standard equipment, and we don’t suppose the automaker would go ahead and block more air from passing through the engine bay for the sake of aerodynamics if engine overheating concerns existed.

The Shelby’s springs have also been rejiggered, along with the sway bars and MagneRide dampers. While it doesn’t sound like much hardware has been swapped, Ford seems to have tweaked everything to complement the new wheels and aerodynamics.

Sticking with the 5.2-liter V8, the GT350 will continue delivering 526 horsepower and 429 foot-pounds of torque as the unit screams up to its 8,250-rpm redline. It will also keep the Tremec six-speed manual transmission and Brembo brakes.

New colors for the 2019 Shelby GT350 include Velocity Blue and Ford’s signature “Performance Blue.” Stripes remain an option in either black, white, or blue, and some new interior cues have been added to distinguish it from the 2018 model. You also get some new materials for the instrument panel and door inserts. The average person probably won’t notice and the hardcore driving enthusiast likely won’t care, but it’s always nice to have options. Sales begin early next year.

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]