2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 first drive: The top pony, for now

But that’s fine. When the GT350 came out in 2016 I said it was the best Mustang ever built, hands down. And it still is, at least until the monstrous GT500 debuts in 2020. The 5.2-liter V8 stays, as does the six-speed manual and Torsen limited-slip differential. There is still an R model, but it’s based on the 2018 version. That means the same bigger front splitter, carbon fiber wheels that weigh about half as much as their aluminum counterparts, according to Ford, and a red Cobra badge. It drops about 100 pounds and has wider wheels.At the M1 Concourse racetrack in Pontiac, Michigan the 2020 GT350 predictably reminded me a lot of the last one. The clutch is easy to press and without a lot of feel. That’s fine when shifting at 7,900 rpm — just stomp it as fast as you can. On the street it’s tough to engage smoothly without practice. The steering effort is a little easier than I like, but its quick ratio and general accuracy are welcome.The Cup 2 tires are the big advantage here. On the tight, 1.5-mile track they stick to the asphalt under both acceleration and trail braking. The vehicle is mostly neutral with a bit of oversteer when pushed, but I have to push hard. The one, big right-hand sweeper tells all. There’s almost no lean, some tire whine, and then the rear end moves, but just barely. On the short course there isn’t really space for long, sweeping, smoky drifts, not that I would be confident enough in performing one in front of Ford execs, track managers and God anyway. When there is a little oversteer, be careful, because when those upgraded tires catch grip, it whips back in line quickly. The only bad part is that on the street they tram with the road, necessitating two hands on the wheel at all times.