The 2019 Ford Shelby GT350 track apps point to future customization in cars

It’s rare when the extra settings and options available in any car are so numerous it takes an afternoon to test them all. With the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 performance car, I had to find a private road and test out a series of Track Apps, some of which are so fun to use I retested them a few times. It’s a sign of how further customization in cars will work in the future, especially the current age of highly connected cars that go far beyond the basics.

One of the 'non-basic' features that impressed me the most had to do with the gauges. Muscle cars from Dodge and others do a good job of providing data about G-force, oil temp, and the turbo-charge PSI (pounds per square inch). You can use these to monitor the car but more importantly to see how far you can push the performance car on a track.

Testing and tracking

In the Shelby GT350, it’s a bit astounding. I used one gauge for the voltage, cylinder head temp, inlet air temp, air/fuel ratio, and engine oil temp. I’ve never seen so many gauges, all displayed in the instrument cluster above the steering wheel so you can keep your eyes on the road. I tested all of them on the private road, watching the gauge level levels closely.

Next, I tested a feature called 'line lock' that locks the front brakes only. Since the GT350 is a rear-wheel drive car, you can imagine there’s some tire spin. It helps push off the starting block and creates some smoke if you race the engine too long (I avoided that).

A lap timer goes beyond what I’ve seen in other muscle cars. For example, there are three timers available so you can use them one after the other instead of resetting a single timer each test. I won’t say I was pushing the car too hard on a country road, yet it was fun to have this level of detail to monitor and track my success over time.

In the Track Apps, there’s a status screen that shows all of the settings you’ve selected, including whether you have disabled traction control, the option you selected for the suspension, and whether launch control is available. Launch control is a way to set the car for the best possible launch to test a lap, locking the brakes and revving the engine for you.

Honestly, that’s just the beginning. I found a series of timers for a quarter mile and half-mile, brake tests, and just about any other timer you can think of using.

For me, this level of detail matches up nicely with how someone might use the GT350 on a track. In my area, that’s a very real possibility. It’s possible to take performance cars like the Shelby to local tracks and do some spirited driving tests.

Beyond the track

I was more interested in how the gauges point to a future where every driver has more information available. When we don’t have to watch the road as closely and the vehicle is driving for us, we might care about monitoring things like the miles driven on the current set of tires, or the total miles driven on a highway versus city roads. We might want to monitor the fuel economy for a given area or how traffic congestion and street lights impacted our MPG.

More than that, as I’ve been predicting for a while, cars will eventually let us customize all of the gauges as though the dash was a Windows computer. We could mix and match gauges, run analytics on the car, and customize the interface the way we want. I’m looking forward to that 'home brew' stage of autonomous driving and it can’t come fast enough. 

On The Road is TechRadar's regular look at the futuristic tech in today's hottest cars. John Brandon, a journalist who's been writing about cars for 12 years, puts a new car and its cutting-edge tech through the paces every week. One goal: To find out which new technologies will lead us to fully self-driving cars.

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