This past Wednesday I had the pleasure of exploring the new 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut. According to the ladies and gentlemen at Ford, the Shelby GT350R is the fastest production Ford ever made. The GT350R is based off of the GT350, but with a collection of upgrades and a modicum of weight loss.
It sports a 5.2 liter flat-plane crank V8 that spits 526 horsepower and 429 lb/ft of torque directly to the rear wheels through a standard transmission. Aerodynamic upgrades have been applied from the ‘A’ pillar forward: a lower, sleeker hood with a larger air intake; a larger front splitter to keep the nose down under heavy acceleration; air channels under the engine bay that improve front brake cooling; plus a new rear spoiler that improves downforce. Some weight has been shaved off on the inside by removing the rear seats and some other non-track essential pieces. The under carriage has been remodeled to improve weight distribution and airflow in between the wheels.
Now I have to take a section to talk about the wheels, because they really impressed me. The average wheel weighs 25+ pounds and is often made from steel or aluminum. The GT350R’s wheels are made from pure carbon fiber, a first for any production car outside of the “bonkers” price zones like the Pagani Huayra. The total weight is 18 pounds, and I can easily lift the entire wheel with one hand – this means an incredible amount of stability is added through its use and, once again, weight loss. Are you noticing a pattern?
I happened to be a little unlucky with my track time, as there was a fair amount of rain plaguing Lime Rock all day. We were told that it would be too wet to test the GT350R on the track, and the impression it would give us with the amount of standing water would be sub-par. So we instead took out its little brother, the Shelby GT350 in weather mode. This is not to say I was disappointed – quite the opposite in fact, I was surprised by the major leap in performance and handling, even in the rain, exhibited by this beast of a pony car. I have previously tracked a 2008 Mustang GT500 KR and a 2013 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca, which were both amazingly fun to throw through the corners, but they did not stack up to the 2016 GT350. It gripped hard into every corner and revved to the heavens and beyond. I mostly stayed in third gear, only shifting to fourth on the front straight.
Now I wish I could have tested the GT350R; that may have to wait until it is warm and dry once again. Until then, enjoy some photos from the event.
(Note from Lauren: We will be receiving a GT 350 R to test in October!)