Five months ago, we drove the 2021 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 and declared it the most fun Mustang on sale. Now, though, Ford’s brought similar updates to the track-focused GT350R. It’s got the same howling engine as the GT350, even better driving dynamics, a more aggressive suspension setup and 130 fewer pounds to lug around. It’s lighter, more nimble and feels more alive. The Mustang Shelby GT350R isn’t just the most fun Mustang, it’s the most exciting car under $100,000 we’ve ever driven.
When the GT350R first thundered onto the scene in 2016, the biggest point of praise was the 5.2-liter V8 engine that powers the Shelby. That is, thankfully, unchanged for 2021. Instead, engineers have focused on suspension and aerodynamic improvements. First up is the front suspension geometry, which is updated with parts from the upcoming Ford Shelby GT500. That car, with its supercharged V-8 and dual-clutch transmission, is meant to slay supercars and provide Hellcat-level horsepower numbers. The similarly priced GT350R, meanwhile, caters to a driver that cares more about an exciting driving experience than numbers on a spec sheet.
New Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 2021
When the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 2021 first thundered onto the scene in 2016, the biggest point of praise was the 5.2-liter V8 engine that powers the Shelby. That is, thankfully, unchanged for 2021. Instead, engineers have focused on suspension and aerodynamic improvements. First up is the front suspension geometry, which is updated with parts from the upcoming Ford Shelby GT500. That car, with its supercharged V-8 and dual-clutch transmission, is meant to slay supercars and provide Hellcat-level horsepower numbers. The similarly priced GT350R, meanwhile, caters to a driver that cares more about an exciting driving experience than numbers on a spec sheet.
The car also has retuned magnetic dampers. These can vary their stiffness on the fly, allowing a soft ride on the road but stiffening up on the track to provide maximum grip. Teamed with a revised steering rack and retuned power steering, it’s supposed to provide more precision on the track. Ford also removed exhaust resonators to reduce weight and give it a sharper exhaust note over the standard GT350R. Finally, the GT350R gets a new technology package with a new premium audio system, blind-spot monitoring and voice-activated navigation and a few new optional colors like “grabber lime.”
The new 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is a car for driving enthusiasts, not those who want computers to micro-manage every last parameter. It takes focus and commitment to get the best out of it, but nail it, and you’ll be rewarded with a satisfying and exciting experience that is tough to replicate. The 5.2-liter V8’s 526 hp and 429 lb-ft (one pony more in the GT350R) is just right for this car, neither underwhelming nor scaring the driver. With the right conditions and good shifts, the GT350 can get from 0-60 mph in around four seconds, with the lighter R version managing the sprint a couple of tenths quicker. The regular GT350 has a drag-limited top speed of 180 mph, with the more hardcore R topping out at 173. This is due to the added downforce and increased ability in the corners.
At first glance, the Shelby GT350 interior appears identical to that of the regular Ford Mustang. The mix of modern and retro styling is sweet, and front-seat legroom is abundant. Although faux-suede trim and Shelby badging are specific to the GT350 and add some differentiation, the plentiful hard plastics look and feel low-grade for a car at this price point. A pair of standard Recaro front sport seats are supportive yet still quite comfortable but only offer basic seat adjustments. We like the thin cross section of the flat-bottom steering wheel, which avoids the thick-rim trend. The GT350 is a hoot at the track and also an agreeable travel companion. In our testing, it held the second-most carry-ons and the most interior storage space among its space-challenged competitors. The back seat stows with a pull-strap release and folds up by hand. Only the Dodge Challenger we tested held more luggage than the Shelby.
Where the GT350’s stylish exterior and satisfyingly brilliant performance capabilities never cease to impress, the interior of the GT350 is far more underwhelming and is almost indistinguishable from that of a regular Mustang GT. That wouldn’t be such a cardinal sin if it weren’t for the fact that this is a car that can reach 80 (EIGHTY) thousand dollars if you tick a few too many options. For that kind of money, we’d expect a less spartan interior. Nevertheless, you still get a pair of grippy Recaro seats with cloth upholstery and manual adjustments. Heated and ventilated power-adjustable leather seats are available, however, as are voice-activated navigation and heated mirrors. Nevertheless, the interior looks and feels a little cheap, and the Sync 3 infotainment system is not as impressive as it once was. On the plus side, the cabin is roomy, fairly comfortable, and acceptably solid.
The long doors of the Shelby GT350 make for easy clambering in and out. Once seated, you’ll find yourself in a commanding driving position with a clear view out the front, and a fairly reasonable line of sight in the direction of your blind spots. The front seats are comfy and manually-adjustable in stock form with six-way power adjustment, heating, and ventilation available. While things are good up front, with great headroom and legroom even for the LeBron James body double, the back seats are pretty much pointless unless you intend to have the upchuck of a small child hurled at you while you try to outdo your best score on the in-dash G-force meter. Ford has conceded this in a roundabout way, by offering the GT350R without rear seats at all. Instead, you get recesses that can hold a pair of grocery bags each. This more hardcore variant can’t be had with the comfier leather seats.
Ebony cloth with red accents is the color scheme for the factory upholstery on the GT350R, with no other choice available. The regular GT350 is only available in full black, regardless of whether you spec leather sports seats or stick with the fabric Recaros. A number of aluminum accents and the occasional red highlight are dotted about, but the overall ambiance is demure and monochromatic. Carbon fiber is optionally available for parts of the trim pieces to help spice things up a little, but it feels like a lazy attempt at polishing up the dull relic that is the Mustang’s cabin. In base models, it really looks great, but for a Shelby model with a base price north of 60 grand, we’re not impressed.
Handling is similarly lively. One of the big benefits of the GT350R over the standard GT350 is its carbon fiber wheels. Lightweight wheels make the car ride better, handle better and turn better. On the track, the front end dives into corners with aggression reminiscent of mid-engined supercars. With sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, the GT350R stays planted throughout a corner and hooks up quickly to thunder downs straightaways.
This is a car that cares more about driver engagement than lap times, as evidenced by the sole transmission option: a six-speed manual. Running all the way to the shift lights warn you of the approaching 8,250-rpm redline and banging off another gear is addicting in a way that no dual-clutch transmission can ever replicate. The steering is also incredibly communicative and the limits are high. In track mode, the GT350R will give you a lot of room to let the rear end step out or slide but always reels you back.
Off the race track and on the road, the GT350R is shockingly comfortable. Maybe it’s the lightweight wheels, but it feels better on cracked pavement than even the standard GT350. It’s totally livable, with the high-strung engine docile at low speed.
Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue stripes is only available with the Heritage Edition package at an added cost of $1,965 – a nod to the year that Ken Miles drove a GT350 fastback to its first-ever victory at Green Valley Raceway in Texas.
- Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
- Twister Orange Tri-Coat
- Wimbledon White
- Velocity Blue Metallic
- Grabber Lime
- Ford Performance Blue Metallic
- Magnetic Metallic
- Iconic Silver Metallic
- Kona Blue Metallic
- Race Red
- Oxford White
- Shadow Black
The GT350 is not short on color options, with nine no-cost options and two new colors that cost more. The standard colors are Shadow Black, the reinvented Grabber Lime, Oxford White, Velocity Blue, Iconic Silver, Magnetic, Race Red, Ford Performance Blue, and Kona Blue. Rapid Red costs $395, with Twister Orange a hundred bucks more. Racing stripes can be added in black, white, or dark blue for $495. Each racing stripe option is framed by red pinstripes on the borders, helping tie in with the red brake calipers that are standard on the GT350R. Painting the roof black costs $695. Iconic Silver with black stripes looks the best in our opinion, helping highlight the black mirrors, rear spoiler, and wheels.
The Shelby GT350 is a conversation starter, especially at gas stations, where fill-ups are frequent. Its EPA-rated fuel economy is on par with its arch rivals from Chevy and Dodge, and its real-world rating is similar, too. The Shelby GT350 we tested earned 19 mpg on the highway in our real-world test, falling 2 mpg shy of its EPA rating.
The engine continues to be one of the best powerplants on sale. Rather than fitting the GT350R with a traditional, low-revving V8 like in the standard Mustang, Ford gave it a 5.2-liter flat-plane-crank “voodoo” motor. A flat-plane-crank architecture is what Ferrari uses for its V8s, as its more balanced design allows for a screaming high redline and a wailing exhaust note.
That makes the GT350R an absolute delight on the track. The 526-horsepower motor wants to be wrung out, delivering amazing power and an incredible noise near the top of its 8,250 rpm redline. It feels alive and exciting in a world of muted, turbocharged engines.
The 2021 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 is a powerful, high-strung muscle car designed to rock race tracks while still being at home on the street. Its special 5.2-liter V-8—code-named Voodoo, with good reason—makes 526 horsepower and revs to a dizzying 8250 rpm with an unforgettable shriek that sounds more Ferrari than Ford. The GT350’s suspension is tuned tautly enough to handle cornering at race-track speeds without being bone-jarring on the street, and it has brakes to match. If you’re a dedicated track rat, want even more on-track performance, and don’t care if your GT350 is uncomfortable to drive on the road, there’s the all-out GT350R. It’s fitted with stiffer race-ready suspension, lightweight carbon-fiber wheels, and more aggressive aerodynamic components.
The 2021 Ford Shelby GT350R is an imposing mass of wings and splitters and flared wheel arches. It’s not just visually loud, it’s audibly so, too, with a shrill, angry note emanating from its quad-tipped exhausts. And, of course, it’s agile and fast. In short, everything about the GT350R is meant to intimidate and make a statement. There should be songs written about this 5.2-liter V8. The flat-plane-crank design is unique in American performance vehicles (at least until the next Chevrolet Corvette Z06 arrives) and feels so distinctly charming and characterful that it’s a wonder why more automakers haven’t embraced this engine design. Flat-plane crank all the things, I say.
The 527-horsepower engine feels like the perfect choice for a track car, revving eagerly and offering relentless high-rpm performance. Tip into the throttle smoothly while exiting the hairpin, like the one leading onto M1’s longest straight, and the engine speed climbs quickly. Even if you stab the right pedal aggressively or recklessly, the GT350R feels like it will maintain its composure – even with the stability control in a more relaxed setting. With 429 pound-feet of torque coming in at 4,600 rpm, this simply isn’t the kind of engine that develops its power in big, turbo-like dollops. Instead it opts for linear, predictable performance. The only dips in acceleration come when it’s time to grab the next gear.
The GT350R and its more pedestrian GT350 sibling are giant slayers. They sound better, drive better, look better and feel better than 95% of cars. In terms of raw driver engagement and excitement, nothing beats the Mustang Shelby GT350R for less than $100,000. It is howl-inducing on the racetrack and totally capable of daily driving. Its biggest problem is the GT350, a car almost as good at everything but $12,995 cheaper.
For people who are going to frequently track their cars, the GT350R is better suited to track abuse with heavy-duty cooling and updated brakes. And if you want the most fun Mustang or the most excitement for the price, the GTR350R is unbeatable. But we suspect most people will be happy with the second-best driver’s car for $12,995 less.
- Shelby GT350: $61,535
- Shelby GT350R: $74,530
If you’re entranced with the GT350, we think there’s only one way to go: with the standard model, which is thousands less than the edgy GT350R. Forgo the short list of options; the GT350 comes thoroughly equipped for serious track driving, with standard Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 track-focused tires, and coolers for oil, transmission, and differential. But know that similarly priced competitors such as the 650-hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and 717-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat are far more powerful and faster in a straight line—the Camaro is also a great race-track car—which makes them viable competitors and worthy of consideration. And then there’s this: Ford is bringing a new 2021 Shelby GT 500 to market with a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 (not the Voodoo engine) with 760 hp.
The GT350 starts at $60,440 before Blue Oval’s $1,095 destination charge and other fees and taxes. This buys you the Voodoo V8, a manual gearbox, and Recaro seats. Opting for the GT350R gets you some upgraded aero kit on the body with smatterings of carbon fiber, a substantial reduction in weight, more track-focused suspension, composite wheels, and an extra horse under the hood. This model starts at $73,435 before taxes and charges. Fully-loaded with options and the Heritage Edition package, you’ll pay around $80,000 for this top spec.
Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t noise pollution. Neither is the ungodly roar from Ford’s raucous, high-revving 526-hp V-8, code-named Voodoo. Like learning how to be a snake charmer, taming the wild engine takes time and tenacity. Its natural aspiration and peaky nature make it docile at low revs. Crest 4000 rpm, however, and a thrust-filled crescendo builds until the 8250-rpm redline. Likewise, the six-speed shifter slots precisely into each gear and rewards ratcheting through the ratios. The buoyant clutch is effortless, with fluid feedback that doesn’t punish your left leg in stop-and-go traffic. In our testing, the GT350 shot from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds; the R version was a tad quicker at 3.9. Both trail behind the high-powered Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger but contend with other high-dollar rivals.
It has a hair-raising soundtrack and ethereal track ability, yet the Shelby GT350 is still surprisingly livable in daily driving. Add tenacious grip, brilliant brakes, and satisfying steering, and you are treated to a symphony not just of sound but of pure, unbridled driving pleasure. Regardless of model, the Shelby’s chassis is excellent; its limits are easily explored and exploited. The electrically assisted steering performs best on smooth surfaces at any speed, but it can be unpredictable on choppy streets where darting reverberations are disconcerting. The touchy brake pedal on our GT350 test car took some getting used to. Its initial bite was met with a tremendous response that felt too eager around town. That same feeling provided fortuitous reprieve at high speed, however.
The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R gets a significant price hike for 2021, starting at $73,435. That money can get you in a Porsche Cayman, BMW M4, Chevy Corvette or Dodge Challenger Hellcat. We think the GT350R is significantly more exciting to drive than any of those, but it is still a variant of Ford’s pedestrian pony car.
And it’s not even the fastest Mustang for the price. The Mustang Shelby GT500 will start at $72,900. The GT500 will get to 60 quicker, has a higher top speed, will get around most tracks quicker and comes with a dual-clutch automatic transmission. If you want the fastest, top-trim Mustang, the GT350R is no longer the top of the pack.
Finally, the GT350R comes with a $12,995 premium over the $60,440 standard-issue GT350. Make no mistake, the GT350R is the better car. It has better driving dynamics, rides just as well if not better, sounds better and will get more respect from in-the-know Mustang fans. But only a really discerning driver will notice the differences and fewer still will be able to justify $13,000 to make that jump.
The new Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 2021 received a number of useful updates, so the changes for 2021 are minor. All GT350s are now equipped with FordPass Connect, which enables the car to connect to the internet, serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and receive live traffic updates. There’s also a palette of available new colors with retro names, including Grabber Lime, Iconic Silver, Rapid Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat, and Twister Orange Metallic.
Where the big brother GT500 will be a monster in a straight line and has been shown to be relatively manageable in the corners, the GT350 is focused solely on a rewarding and engaging experience that connects you to the road. Hence, both variants send power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox only. In these days of ever-more-automated everything, changing your own gears is more of a privilege than a chore, and we’re delighted to still be able to do it.