2016 Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang: Track ready, street legal (+VIDEO)

By Bob Nagy on January 12, 2015 12:25 PM

Barely two months after unveiling the hot 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 in Los Angeles, the automaker revealed a high performance variant at Detroit. Dubbing it "the most track-capable production Mustang ever," the 2016 Shelby GT350R will be hitting the streets later this year. A modern-day successor to the original Shelby GT350 Competition model that burst onto the scene in 1965, this new-gen "R-spec" model goes beyond the GT350 Mustang to deliver more of what matters to serious performance enthusiasts, namely less weight, better aerodynamics and a track-tuned suspension.

Ford engineers trimmed the GT350R's curb weight by over 130 pounds compared to a 2016 Shelby GT350 Track Pack model. Nearly half of that loss came in the form of critical unsprung weight due to the use of 19-inch full carbon fiber wheels that are lighter and stiffer than the GT350's standard aluminum-alloy rims. That swap also brings even-stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 ultra-performance tires in place of the GT350's Super Sport rubber. The remaining weight drop came from jettisoning the air conditioning, audio system, rear seats, trunk floorboard/ carpet, backup camera and emergency tire sealer/inflator kit as well as the resonators from the exhaust system. Ironically, Ford will offer an optional Electronics Package for the GT350R that adds back dual-zone air conditioning, 8-inch touch screen with navigation, seven-speaker audio system, turn signal mirrors and more.

Also: See our complete coverage of the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Racing-inspired look

While retaining all of the GT350's basic aero-enhancing touches -- including its unique vented hood and fenders, air curtains, side skirts and full underbody fairings -- the new Shelby GT350R gets its own bespoke functional tweaks. A revamped front splitter helps keep the nose more firmly planted while a prominent carbon fiber rear wing helps move the center of pressure aft on this hot coupe, further enhancing both downforce and lift balance at speed. As for chassis modifications, the GT350R benefits from unique geometry and a lower ride height along with revised spring/roll-bar rates, custom suspension bushings and recalibrated settings for its adjustable MagneRide dampers. 

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Like the GT350, the GT350R will be powered by Ford's new 5.2-liter twin-cam V8 with its racing-style flat-plane crankshaft. Since the automaker has yet to publish any output stats on this engine it remains to be seen whether the GT350R gets any extra bump beyond the "over 500 horsepower and more than 400 lb-ft of torque" promised for the GT350. We do know that motive force will be passed on through a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission and head to the rear wheels via a Ford-tweaked Torsen limited-slip differential with a 3.73:1 performance ratio. 

No word yet on what this natural rival to the Chevy Camaro Z/28 will cost or on exactly how many Ford plans to turn out. But Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance did note: "The Shelby GT350R Mustang lays the groundwork for a story that will play out for years to come on the track and the street."

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