Article by Anthony Alaniz (Anthony_Alaniz). Photography by Ryan Randels (RockySDS). Stock images from Ford.
At the 2015 North American International Auto Show, Ford unleashed what it calls the most capable street-legal Mustang it has ever built. Those are big shoes to fill considering the track-ready capability of the original Ford Shelby Mustang GT350 competition car. However, the car that rolled out in Detroit will put it to shame.
The plain-Jane Shelby GT350 broke cover earlier this year, and on this latest model Ford has delightfully tuned it up to 11.
The car from front to back has been engineered to dominate on the track. As Raj Nair, Ford group vice president of Global Product Development said, pieces on the Mustang that didn't make the car go faster were tossed, like the rear-view camera, auto-dimming mirror and, a la the 1965 GT350, the rear seat and air conditioning as well.
For those who want the GT350R performance without the compromise in basic vehicle offerings, there will be an optional electronics package, which brings back air conditioning in addition to an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a seven speaker audio system⎯and more, of course.
Under the hood is still the 5.2-liter flat-plane V-8 engine producing more than 500 horsepower and more than 400 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a Tremec six-speed transmission that sends power to the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 high-performance tires.
With all the power and performance, cooling on the track is key and the GT350R is far from lacking. An air-to-oil cooler for the engine works in tandem with the transmission and rear differential coolers.
One of the big innovations over the GT350 is weight savings, with the GT350R coming in on the scales more than 130 pounds lighter than its plebeian, track-pack equipped GT350 brethren. That is due in part to the reduction of such things as air conditioning and the rear seat, but also the use of carbon fiber wheels wrapped that helps save 50 pounds of unsprung weight.
Aerodynamics plays a huge part in the new GT350R. A massive hood vent extracts heat while reducing lift, and underbody belly pans at the front and rear, an aggressive diffuser, vented wheel wells and turbulence-reducing fender vents, wheel air curtains and unique side skirts all remain on the car, optimized for performance and increasing downforce.
Of course, no specialty Ford Shelby Mustang would be complete without letting the world know you have such a special piece of the proverbial Ford Pony Car. Exterior details include red-painted brake calipers and prominent Shelby GT350R badging.
Some more eye candy.
Ford said this is one of more than 12 new Ford Performance vehicles coming by 2020... What else you got, Ford? We're ready.