Ford Mustang Shelby

ford mustang shelby

Ford Mustang Shelby

Ford’s newest pony car on steroids, the Shelby GT350, is more than just a quarter-mile monster. Yes, the 5.2-liter V-8 can hustle it down the straight at a brain-melting pace. It’s not the 526 hp, the 429 lb-ft of torque, or the 4.3-second zero-to-60-mph run that has us drooling; it’s that Ford has finally built a muscle car that can hold its own through corners. True speed freaks can opt for the GT350R, which loses the rear seat, adds carbon fiber, and cuts 0.4 second off the zero-to-60 time.

Mustang lovers got sweaty, but as usual, the rest of the auto world just shrugged and moved on with evolution.

Ford says it’s different this time. It says thenew Shelby G350,  is a light-year leap in sophistication and handling. It says the flat-plane-crank V-8 delivers 8000 revelations per minute, that the magnetic suspension and custom, cross-drilled brake system and Michelin superstick tires prove that the company is serious about achieving world-class handling.

Well, Ford says a lot of things.

With the six-speed slotted into gear and the surprisingly light clutch lifted, the GT350 leapt onto the asphalt of Monterey’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. First corner and first impressions: tight, tied-down, stable, maybe a little bit of push but, hey, the car’s cold and a bit heavy. Wind it out—wait, where’s the redline? Nowhere. It doesn’t exist! The sucker just keeps straining, keeps revving, keeps swelling with a glorious brassy, unmuffled, rhapsodic roar.

The anticipated upshift was forgotten as another corner approached.

The brakes—oof, such brakes!—chomp down, but the nose doesn’t dive. The car isn’t crossed up or squirming, it’s flat and stable and ready to turn right now! Less understeer this time, a perfect arc scribed from the white line to apex to white line. And it’s on the gas again, the sound flooding back—that addictive, dazzling, erotic exhale of lyric fire.

Yes. Yes, indeed. Ford is serious.

Ford F150 2016

Ford F150 2016

Ford F150

Ford positioning its puny 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 atop the F-series lineup caused more than a few observers to choke on their chew. To see how the power structure shakes out, we lined up two nearly identical F-150s: one with the 5.0-liter V-8, one with the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6. Both are four-wheel-drive crew cabs with 5.5-foot beds. They pack the same six-speed automatic and 3.55:1 final-drive ratio. Aside from the turbocharged truck’s option to display a digital boost gauge, the interiors are indistinguishable. Even the paints are similar shades, just in case UV saturation affects weight. The EcoBoost F-150 did, however, come in 213 pounds heavier, in part due to its dual-pane sunroof and the FX4 package’s skidplates.

 The powertrains are closely matched. The 5.0-liter makes 385 horsepower at 5750 rpm; the EcoBoost, 365 at 5000. But the V-6 has a big lead in torque, 420 pound-feet to 387, and it peaks 1350 revs lower than the V-8, at 2500 rpm. We took our pair to the test track and, after the regular procedure was complete, hooked a pair of identically loaded 6400-pound trailers to the hitches for extra acceleration and fuel-economy tests. And with that, deciding a finishing order got a little complicated.

Unladen, the 5.0 trails the EcoBoost to 60 mph by a half-second, taking 6.3 seconds versus 5.8. With trailers in tow, that gap grows to nearly two full seconds. From behind the wheel, the difference is astounding. Not that this should come as a surprise: Ford rates the EcoBoost’s towing capacity higher than the V-8’s, and our four-wheel-drive V-6 is rated to pull 11,500 pounds to the V-8’s 9000. (We chose less than the maximum load to represent what these trucks are more likely to encounter in everyday use.)

Still, such a significant load shines an unforgiving light on power­train weaknesses. Laden, the V-8 needs a lot more pedal travel and a lot more revs than the EcoBoost does. From cruising speed, if you roll into the V-8’s throttle, you just keep on rolling in deeper and deeper until the throttle is wide open, waiting for a few more mph. With more than three tons out back, even moderate acceleration calls for full throttle or nothing. Under partial throttle, the turbocharged six gets things done that the V-8 can’t.