When Ford showed off the track version of its 2015 Mustang GT350 last year, it seemed like a clear rebuttal to the new Chevy Camaro Z/28. The classic competitors both ran out 500 horsepower versions of their muscle icons to great fanfare. With the arrival of the Shelby GT350R Mustang at the Detroit Auto Show, Ford showed that the GT350 was only a wicked warmup in the performance department. Shelby is back.
GT350R breaks new ground
Ford declares the GT350R the “most track-ready, road-going production Mustang ever built” for couple of reasons. First, it packs the first production V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft (after the stock GT350), which provides over 500 horsepower and is the most wallop ever delivered by Ford in a naturally aspirated engine. (A supercharged V8 delivered 662 horsepower to the Mustang Shelby GT500 in model year 2014.) Torque comes in at “over” 400 pounds-feet from the 5.2-liter engine.
Second in the book of firsts would be what Ford did with the wheels of its new performance monster. Lightweight carbon-fiber wheels come as standard issue on the GT350R, which is a first for production cars by a major automaker. Stripping out the radio, air conditioner, trunk carpet, and other nonessentials allowed Ford to reduce the R model some 130 pounds compared to the GT350 equipped with track options.
Carbon fiber and aluminum accents also kept the weight down on the GT350R, which Ford says will make its debut (likely as a 2016 model) later this year. Preliminary ordering options have already surfaced on Mustang6G.com, though the page has both performance ‘Stangs listed as 2015 models.
So you can drive it on the street, but most people are curious about how it would look on the track matched against the Camaro Z/28.
Mustang vs. Camaro, again
“How long has this been going on?” That phrase was the title of a Gershwin song dating back to 1928, and it might seem like the Mustang-Camaro rivalry has been running that long. (Well, almost.) In fact, one could clearly see the Shelby GT350R as a direct response to the blistering 2015 Camaro Z/28 that packs 505 horsepower and 481 pounds-feet of torque.
That torque seemingly puts the Camaro ahead of the GT350R in the twist department, but Ford’s deployment of carbon-fiber wheels and other weight-saving initiatives tip the scales back toward Mustang territory. In other words, there will be plenty of scores to settle on tracks in the near future. As of now, there is no clear favorite.
While the GT350R might not produce the frightening thunder the Shelby GT500 unleashes on anyone within earshot, Ford’s goal went beyond sheer muscle in this refined bully.
“This isn’t just about horsepower,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s VP of global product development. “The Shelby GT350R is an all-around balanced athlete – one that is extraordinarily precise and agile.”