Forza 6 May Save Car Culture

Or, why driving simulators can—and should—consume the lives of every generation.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


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Forza Motorsport 6, affectionately known as “that friggin’ car game” by my father, is the newest driving game from Turn 10 Studios for Microsoft’s Xbox One. It also may be the most sophisticated driving simulator ever developed for basement-dwelling otaku around the world. But Forza 6shouldn’t find its biggest fans in basements, but rather in the above-ground legions of car fans who do not play video games.

I was born in 1991 and raised on Need for Speed and Test Drive, simply because they were the next step in the natural progression of car fandom after the Cozy Coupe, Matchbox cars and the city map rug. Parents invariably do not look fondly on their child’s first video-game phase. To them, gaming is an irredeemable obstacle to youth development that does not land you a job or develop character. They don’t understand a boy’s love for shitty Nineties Eurobeat, the Mazda Eunos Cosmo and Gran Turismo’s Special Stage Route 11.

My brother, 15 years my junior, loves them, too. My father still thinks a game like Forza 6 is for retrograde millennials hell-bent on squandering their youth. But there are sound arguments why he—an inveterate, lifelong car guy—should be Forza 6’s biggest fan.

Reason 1: Forza Bridges Generational Gaps

Dad pined after Corvettes in the Seventies, Porsches in the Eighties and Supras in the Nineties. He doesn’t see how Forza could possibly scratch those itches.

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And yet, if he gamed, he’d get the feedback of a virtual tire edging beyond its capabilities and the subtleties of a lightened rear end growing squirrelly under braking—all of which can be applied to the dream cars of his youth, which are well represented in the Forza 6 garage. Yes, the game controllers would look like a Rosetta Stone at first. But once up to speed, he’d understand that Forza Motorsport 6 is a storytelling medium—a means of sharing across generational boundaries.

Reason 2: It Makes You Want to Drive. Hard.

“Well, the graphics are excellent,” dad concedes from the sofa.

He says nothing else as I weave through the Nürburgring Nordschleife in one of Forza 6’s starter cars, a 2015 Volkswagen Golf R. He was quiet until I pointed out Brünnchen, the corner where he watched me lap the Green Hell for real in July 2012.

“Oh yeah!” he exclaimed. “I remember looking out for you every 15 minutes or so. I’d start to get nervous you had wrecked. How big was that track again?”

We began recounting tales from our vacation in Germany, the cars we saw at the track and the omnipresent risk at the world’s longest, deadliest circuit. We spoke about Niki Lauda’s crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix and my father’s concerns about his eldest son experiencing the same in an econobox with a roll cage. He didn’t care, however, to reminisce about our top-down drive at 127 mph to our hotel in Cologne via the autobahn, with me piloting our rental car.

“That was damn terrifying.”

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Reason 3: It’s a Motorsport Utopia

While my eight-year-old brother and I howl through Daytona International in a pair of Risi Competizione Ferraris, I explain the grueling nature of multi-class endurance racing and the history of the Rolex 24. He asks why a fluorescent orange Lamborghini Aventador—his favorite supercar—doesn’t compete in IMSA events. I tell him that I didn’t know.

“It’s probably because it would always win,” he suggests. I can’t prove him wrong.

Forza Motorsport 6 has over 450 cars—twice as many as its predecessor—that provide an opportunity to recreate races and trade experiences. Formulas 1 and E are represented, as are new and old sleds from the Tudor Championship, IndyCar, V8 Supercars and the World Rally Championship. The car list is all-inclusive, covering everything from the golden age of American muscle to the tech-dripping, wind-sculpted world of hypercars.

Daytona International, Brands Hatch and Monza comprise just half of the new circuits. Forza Motorsport 6 presents a motorsport utopia, where race cars from my father’s youth and my own compete on the same track.

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Reason 4: “Forzavista” Lets You Get Handsy With the Models

The series’ facelifted “Forzavista” feature slows things down to offer a sharpened, more hands-on environment, allowing players to open doors, start engines and interact with automobiles that are out of grasp for most of the planet’s 7 billion human residents.

Don’t know an Ariel Atom from Ariel the little mermaid? The game provides each car’s upbringing and legacy. And it’s all offered with pornographic levels of graphic precision.

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Reason 5: Forza Turns Back Your Clock

But perhaps FM6’s most special trait is the sense of wonderment it inspires. The game’s opening film posits competition as an inherent human trait. Viewers, in the throes of an unexpected nostalgia trip, are led immediately into a race with the game’s title car: the new Ford GT. It’s impossible not to smile.

Enhanced online gameplay turns Forza Motorsport 6 into a social sandbox, connecting fans around the world. But what does this mean for non-gaming car fans? For my dad, and for maybe you? It means that online gameplay is the next generation of the weekly enthusiast meetup.

For non-gamers, Forza Motorsport 6 can be seen with this grander purpose in mind. It’s a meeting table for new and old car fans to swap stories and share their infatuation for driving pleasure. Forza offers proof that people’s fascination with automobiles is not waning, just evolving. It’s keeping car culture alive.

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Forza Motorsport 6 is a Digital Dominatrix

The latest Xbox racing sim will punish and demean. And that’s the fun of it.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


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Now that we’ve thrown fodder to the non-gamers, it’s time to plunge into the nitty-gritty of Forza Motorsport 6, this year’s freshly unwrapped, much anticipated driving simulator. Four hundred and sixty cars. Twenty-six tracks. Enhanced graphics. Precision feedback. Turn 10 Studios latest installment seems to have been bred from the notion that Forza Motorsport 5was just too easy. For players nurtured on PSone driving simulators, Forza 6 is pupil-swelling, heart walloping visual amphetamine. It’s an absolute masterpiece. But it will kick your ass.

Loyal Forza disciples who immediately switching off driver aids, bump up opponent racers and make for a wet track in a 1,000-horsepower rear-drive car may be startled. Approach this game with fists of iron and like this reviewer, you may find your mindset in a flushed toilet of emotions:

Man, I’m rusty. Must be a learning curve. I mean, does Kimi Räikkönen just hop in and start winning? Oh, wait. Yeah, he might. Whatever. The controller is probably dying. One more restart and I’ll be on pole. No, it’s the game. No, it’s me. What happened to me? Is anything I know real? It’s a conspiracy. Chemtrails.

And, finally: Why can’t I win?

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With no driver aids, playing Forza 6 is like completing a Rubik’s cube on a roller coaster after smoking angel dust. The Lotus E23 Formula 1 car at Le Mans in the wet: Undrivable. The McLaren P1 at Spa-Francorchamps: Impossible. The Caterham R500, anywhere: LOL. The game’s meticulous car tuning isn’t likely to save you either. Like many of the overconfident, I felt neutered by Forza 6 and slunk away to break in the game’s other fine points.

Good news: You begin this journey with 10 million credits and an assortment of starter sports cars. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore the latest edition of Forzavista, which is even more sophisticated the last. Owing to an exquisite graphics upgrade and enhanced smoothness, each car is obsessively detailed and completely explorable. Players can open doors, rev the engine and hear a thorough account of each vehicle’s backstory. Combine this with a glut of visual and performance upgrades, and your fantasy car stable is at your fingers.

Celebrity voiceovers from Richard Hammond, James May, Tanner Foust and others narrate specific menus within the game. There’s even a one-on-one “beat the Stig” feature that’s tailor-made for Top Gear devotees. To the surprise of few but lament of many, Jeremy Clarkson is absent in this edition.

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But the best aspect of Forza is the gameplay. Many tracks are available in wet, dry, and night conditions, letting players take part in virtual recreations of actual races. Endurance racing is back, allowing for truly poetic homages to historic motorsport: The Mazda 787B howling through the blackness of Le Mans, the Audi 90 IMSA GTO cornering flat at Daytona, the Brabham Formula 1 car bouncing through Watkins Glen. It’ll make your neck hairs dance.

But the game isn’t without drawbacks. Porsche, rumored to make a reappearance in the series by way of a 2016 DLC, is absent. Ruf and Citroën are also missing. The lyric-less soundtrack, presumably ripped from a film about overthrowing the English monarchy, can get old and is a bit too epic for racing. Here, buttoned-up Forza 6 could learn a thing or two from the backwards cap-wearing Horizon franchise.

As always, Forza’s opening footage is mad with nostalgia and a “Hell yeah!” conviction. But the minimalistic styling, dreamscape music, and stodgy narration script keep the game’s warmth at arms length. Again, a dash of Horizon mien would pump life into the sterile menu experience.

But my biggest gripe with Forza 6 has nothing to do with the game itself, but the aforementioned learning curve. Adjust difficulty, and it suddenly feels like the game is letting you win; take it head-on, and it’ll slap you around. You may be able to wrangle a featherweight racer without assistance through the 23 other computer cars in most single player races, but it won’t be a fast lap time. To really master the gilded hypercars, you’ll need a scalpel-precise Playseat. But at that point, why not join the SCCA and race for real?

Finding the sweet spot between your own abilities and the game’s level of realism isn’t easy. Mostly, Forza 6 ends up feeling like less of a game and more of a digital racing dominatrix. If you’re a sucker for abuse, the fun here is in the difficulty. Just remember that, like in real modern hypercars, the driver assists exist to make you faster. Say the safe word. Leave some of them on.

In New Hampshire, Meter Feeders Are Getting Harshed

The “Park Free or Die” movement has few fans in uniform.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


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Few of life’s everyday curveballs deliver as much frustration as a parking ticket slapped to a windshield. Local authorities versus street parkers: Isn’t it obvious who always loses?

But in New Hampshire, this joust is actually favoring drivers who forget to feed their meters. Robin Hood of Keene, an activist group based in Keene, N.H., has been combatting meter maids since 2009. The methods are simple enough: Trot a few paces ahead of parking enforcement, add time to expiring meters and leave a business card alerting the vehicle’s owner that the group’s efforts have spared them a citation.

However, parking enforcement officers are not amused, and the city has brought harassment charges against the group, claiming the crusaders have been less than cordial, even aggressive. Some officers even claim to have sought counseling for their encounters.

The Robin Hooders maintain their innocence, claiming that their intentions are merely to save people a hassle.

“It’s ridiculous,” Ian Freeman, a Robin Hooder who told us that his group’s amiable rapport with the meter maids only turned sour when the city filed a suit in 2013. “The demeanor of the parking enforcers has changed dramatically since. Essentially, they’re doing it because they’ve been told to.”

According to the Keene Sentinel, city officials are fighting the Robin Hooders in court, requesting a 10-foot “buffer zone” from the activists—a move that, as the group points out, would effectively kill the practice.

“But I suspect there will be at least one person who’s willing to violate the order and just continue on as normal,” Freeman said. “This is Keene. We’ve got a bunch of activists here and a number have been arrested for civil disobedience in the past.”

Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. of Cheshire County Superior Court previously rejected the city’s injunction request and civil suit against the group, noting that the First Amendment protected the Robin Hooders’ actions. The city’s appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court was also denied on similar grounds.

Not to show our hand too much, but we’d welcome the Robin Hooders in New York, specifically along the perimeter streets of The Drive’s bunker. Plenty of work for them here.

Historic Jeeps Roll Into Las Vegas for SEMA

Watch out, citizens. Fire-retardant 4x4s rolling through.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


Jeep is a brotherhood: a top-down, doors-off, rolling biopic of masculinity. Owners wave to one another and employ phrases like “capable” and “Trail Rated” liberally. Come winter, during weekend shopping trips, they deliberately climb parking-lot snowbanks.

For Jeep fans, the temptation for vehicle modification is enormous, and ubiquitous. In spring, an overlanding haj to Moab makes a convenient excuse to show off your latest mods.

So where does this zeal come from? Jeeps have been around since World War II, but their civilian uses began with a fistful of rare-formed rigs. And they’re coming together next week in Las Vegas, in conjunction with the Specialty Equipment Market Association show (SEMA). Owned by Omix-Ada, an aftermarket parts manufacturer, these working Jeeps are as iconic as the seven-slot grille itself. Here are some of the collection’s highlights.

1946 Willys CJ-2A Farm Jeep

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Jeeps can already be likened to the automotive equivalent of a multi-tool, but how many tools are too many tools? This CJ-2A makes a solid pitch: a GE welder in lieu of a passenger’s seat, a buzz saw, work bench, wrecker boom, a power winch, mower bar and an air compressor are all aboard. Fear not about lugging this equipment to the job site, for this Willys is eight wheels of overkill, and it’s lovely.

1947 Willys CJ-2A Fire Truck

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Converted to a fire engine by an Indiana manufacturer named Boyer, these fire trucks were used to battle fires that were too remote for larger engines to access. However, it probably took crews a while to arrive. This Willys’ “Go Devil” engine generated all of 63 horsepower, being harnessed through a three-speed manual gearbox. Snail pace aside, these axe- and ladder-clad Jeeps quickly gained an international reputation. Willys-Overland sold 20 of them to the Brazilian military.

1955 Willys Pickup

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The 1955 Willys pickup was a no-nonsense truck with simple suspension and a rigid stature. Each of its four engine names was aggressively termed in that Fifties good-‘ol-boy way: Hurricane, Super Hurricane, Go Devil, Tornado. Over 200,000 were produced in all. This satin-sheened Tin Man was originally owned—and worked hard—by a company near Yosemite National Park, but has been preserved to near mint condition.

1959 Jeep FC-150

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This sub-nosed engine-that-could is the American equivalent of the Volkswagen Type 2 Pickup. In the Fifties and Sixties, the “Forward Control” Jeeps featured a hydraulic bed and a puppy-dog fascia that won over municipalities, civilians and even the military. When Willys wrapped up production in 1964, roughly 30,000 had been made. Jeep fans have been lusting for an encore since the brand teased a concept version in 2012.

1978 Jeep J-10 Pickup

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There are few things more American than a showroom-condition Jeep pickup with a Levi’s denim interior. With only 2,440 miles on the odometer, this sexy J-10 came replete with a brush guard, light bar and factory air conditioning to cure passengers of envy-induced hot flashes. Of course, all this kit is enhanced by a 5.9-liter V-8. Just our kind of Canadian tuxedo.

1982 Jeep CJ-7 Fire Truck

semajeeps_1982firetruck_artThe CJ-7 offered drivers a road-friendlier alternative to its war-era predecessor. The changes were well received, and more than 375,000 were produced in 11 years. Everything on the CJ-7 was customizable, and buyers were given a buffet of options: nine transmissions, three transfer cases, two axle options and five different engines. This particular CJ-7 was converted to fight wildfires with a brigade in Texas. Like the Willys CJ-2A, it was typically deployed to attack inaccessible infernos.

Fast & Furious, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down

An automotive affair gets complicated.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.


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The relationship between car fans and the Fast & Furious franchise is odd. Very odd. The promises forged in a modded Toyota Supra’s tire smoke have turned acrid, and the flame of our 14-year fling has begun to flicker. But if a Facebook post by actor/producer Vin Diesel is anything to go by, we’ve barely entered the franchise’s twilight.

Diesel posted recently that an additional trilogy would end the film series. Could we renew our vows? We’re not feeling very giving at the moment.

Our love started simple enough in 2001, with a soundtrack populated by the likes of Limp Bizkit and Ja Rule. A bottle-blond Paul Walker trotted into Vin Diesel’s grocery store and sat in the adjacent diner. A young Jordana Brewster looked up before asking, “Tuna on white, no crust?” The repartee that followed represented the coy flirting stage that would lead audiences into a deeper love affair containing various criminal investigations, contrived romances and explosions. Lots of explosions.

Gaggles of car obsessives gathered in theaters to watch their street-racer fantasies play out on the big screen. But as more Fast & Furious films were produced, the relationship began to turn. The order of events changed. Characters passed away and returned from the dead. Our relationship was growing complicated. We thought it was over, owing in no small part to the seventh installment’s tagline: “One last ride.” Paul Walker passed away tragically in 2013—halfway through the filming of Furious 7—and a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Walker’s daughter on Sept. 29 has turned attention to the franchise that its producers would probably like to deflect.

Since James Wan backed out after directing Furious 7, the series is left without a director, despite a reported April 2017 release date.

We groan as an audience with the announcement of three more movies. “Why does our partner keep doing this to us? They swore they would change!” It’s like Universal keeps manipulating this relationship. They know we’ll always come running back to see them, hoping to recapture the glimmer of our torrid romance in the early 2000s.

And they’re right. We will.

So what if the announcement cements the Fast & Furious franchise as the dad joke of car cinema? Who cares if the series is hell-bent on surpassing the sevenPolice Academy movies? That must be how these relationships mature. At a certain point, we must trade in our hot pants for sweatpants. It’s complex. It’s a roller coaster. It’s emotionally draining and expensive.

How expensive? More than you can afford, pal.

Eight ways video games make driving more fun

A symbiosis has formed among road, track and game console—and it’s making us all happier behind the wheel.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive.


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1. Touristenfahrten at the Nürburgring Nordschleife— Why content yourself with ripping through the Nordschleife on Gran Turismo when you can do it for real? Touristenfahrten is the very real opportunity for the public to try their hand at the circuit known as the Green Hell. While the Nürburgring has always been a mythical destination for race fans, its popularity boomed after the track’s debut in driving simulators (not that heightened interest has staved off bankruptcy. Sigh.). Touristenfahrten days are some of the track’s most popular attractions. Devotees can even rent specific track-prepped machines for their 20.8-kilometer adventure.

098575100_12251931212. Extreme Track Cars — Ask an eight-year-old gamer to style a track toy, and you’d get a hyper-minimalist, sinister machine with digital everything. Remove any semblance of creature comforts, push wheels hard to the corners and you’ve created this generation’s Caterham or Lotus 7. Cars like the KTM X-Bow even incorporate gaming-style lap timers. The only thing separating these cars from virtual reality is an Oculus Rift.

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3. The Lap of Manhattan— In 2013, a driver initially known only as “Afroduck” shared a visual cocktail of blurry boulevards, reckless endangerment and a BMW Z4 on YouTube. In just over 24 minutes, Adam Tang whirred around Manhattan’s perimeter at an average speed of 66 mph, shattering a very much unofficial, and equally illegal, record time of 26:03. The video circled through the automotive community and Tang gained a reputation as a real-life Midnight Club racer. Although he was convicted of reckless driving, fined and sentenced to a year in jail, the Canada native fled northward, where he remains.

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4. The Survival of Boutique Automakers— Sustaining a tiny, performance-oriented brand was once a near impossibility. Who would take a risk on an unproven artisan when names like Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren existed? The video game generation, however, proved a tremendous asset for niche manufacturers. British carmaker TVR saw success when they made the original Gran Turismo roster—if not enough to avoid falling into receivership. But today, names like Pagani, Koenigsegg, Wiesmann, GTA (pictured) and others survive and thrive, due in part to gamers and developers keeping these niche pleasure craft on wealthy enthusiasts’ short lists.

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5. Driving as Escapism— Anyone who has fiddled with the Forza Horizon series understands that the exotic vistas, weirdly appealing music festivals and rare cars scratch a voyeuristic itch. Throw in barn finds, social online gameplay and a sandbox environment, and Turn 10 Studios has a heady brew in hand. It’s no coincidence that ads for cars like the Scion FR-S and Mazda MX-5 Miata have pitched driving as a meaningful endeavor. These machines, known somewhat paradoxically as driver’s cars, appeal directly to gamers who seek low-priced, non-virtual chariots.

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6. Aftermarket Insanity— When the Need for Speed franchise took on street racing culture in the wake of the original Fast and the Furious film, the popularity of modding exploded. Bright neon underglow, vertical doors and spinning wheels were basic facets of Need for Speed: Underground. After the game’s debut and sequel, car culture went even more rabid for bodykits and spoilers. Functionality be damned, you could buy kits and aero parts for anything from the Mitsubishi Eclipse to the Dodge Caravan. Depending on whom you ask, this is the automotive yearbook page you skip. It’s just too embarrassing.

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7. A Preponderance of Paddles— In the mid-Nineties, around the same time Ferrari was introducing them on the F355 sports car, the original Gran Turismo on Sony PlayStation was absolutely nailing paddle shifters. Before they were available on most mainstream cars, advanced gamers could enjoy the perfect blend of manual and sequential gearboxes from the comfort of their couch. As paddle shifters trickled down from sports cars to hot hatches, some games introduced handheld clutches to greatly enhance the gaming experience.

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8. Ed Bolian’s Cross-Country Record— It’s a question ripped from the thoughts of any open-road gamer: How fast could I drive across the U.S.? In October 2013, the team of Ed Bolian, Dave Black and Dan Huang set this record on public roads, crossing the United States in 28 hours, 50 minutes and 26 seconds. Although the average speed of the trek was 98 mph, the trio’s Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG topped 130 mph for over 90 minutes total, and 158 mph on several occasions. It’s a record that probably won’t—and shouldn’t—be broken any time soon.

Have we reached peak Shelby?

The legendary company’s new tuned Mustang EcoBoost costs $50,000 and adds 25 horsepower. Has Shelby American finally jumped the shark?

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive.


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Modifying cars isn’t a hobby, it’s an exercise in fiscal irresponsibility. It’s easy for the speed-obsessed to open up their wallets before taking a step back and asking, “Should I?” No one understood the dichotomy, and the resulting business case, better than Carroll Shelby, the venerated Texas chicken farmer turned racing entrepreneur.

Mr. Shelby, who died in 2012, is the celebrated architect behind the original Mustang GT350, Daytona Coupe and AC Cobra. He spent a half-century ensuring that his company, Shelby American, was synonymous with big horsepower and brash add-on styling. Speed was paramount. The cars dripped character.

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Now, Shelby American has introduced its Shelby GT EcoBoost, based on the new four-cylinder Mustang, testing just how heart-driven brand loyalists are. For the pleasure, buyers must fork over $23,995 (not including the original $26,295 cost of the standard Ford Mustang EcoBoost). So how much Shelby does one get for Audi S4 money?

Not much. Carbon-fiber paneling, 20-inch wheels and a whole lot of badging. Also, a short-shift kit, a few suspension bits and an exhaust, all lifted directly from the Ford Performance catalog. Meaning you could buy all those parts at the dealership. For less than $4,000. Total horsepower gain is a paltry 25 hp, bringing the standard Mustang’s 2.3-liter four-cylinder up to 335 ponies.

There are optional extras, too, and they don’t exactly bolster the value case: Upgraded Wilwood brakes, some additional carbon fiber and, uh, even more Shelby badging. Rounding out this reality check is a roll cage, racing seats and five-point racing harnesses.

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Even for the most ardent fans, the $50,290 Shelby GT EcoBoost is a confused personality. It’s dressed to excite, but has four cylinders fewer than most Shelbyians probably want from their Mustang. It’s better on gas, but the health of Siberian permafrost has never been top of mind for Shelby customers. Perhaps most damning, though, is that it looks quick, but isn’t all that much quicker than its root material.

So, has Shelby jumped the shark? Customers will ultimately make that determination. But being 100 hp down on—almost $17,000 pricier than—the archetypical Mustang GT V-8 (saying nothing of Ford’s own $50,000 GT350, approved by The Drive’s own A.J. Baime at Laguna Seca) this Shelby leaves us cold. And who wants a Shelby without the Carroll’s trademarked combination of speed and personality? Now that’s irrational.