Detroit Motor Show: Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R

The most ferocious version of Ford’s sixth-generation Mustang to date, the Shelby GT350R, has been revealed at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

The buzz is that the ‘R’ variant promises to deliver “the most track-capable production Mustang ever built” as a spiritual successor to Mustang greats such as the Shelby GT350 Competition of the mid-’60s.

Lighter, more powerful and featuring a host of circuit-friendly handling enhancements, the GT350R is much more than an enhanced V8 GT.

Instead, it builds enhancement off the already bespoke new-gen Shelby GT350 unveiled last October.  

This ‘regular’ GT350 substitutes the mainline Five-Oh V8 for a special 5.2-litre unit featuring a flat-plane crankshaft, favoured for high-revving engines that provides the engine with a unique character.

The “most powerful naturally aspirated production engine ever” boasts a vague “over 500 horsepower” says Ford, though consensus puts estimates at 375kW and 540Nm.

Drive is delivered via a conventional six-speed manual gearbox and a Torsen limited-slip differential, as featured on the current Mustang GT Performance Pack. 

With its wider front track, the GT350 breed features a unique nosecone and panels forward of the A pillars, such as a special air-vented bonnet and front guards made from aluminium.

Both GT350 and GT350R feature adjustable MagnaRide suspension damping, though the R’s handling package is said to use bespoke spring and anti-roll bar rates and a specifically low ride height.

The R also substitute’s the GT350’s already formidable alloy 19 x 10.5 and 19 x 11.5-inch wheel package with similarly sized rolling stock made of carbonfibre – a saving of six kilos per corner.

The wheels are produced by Geelong-based company Carbon Revolution.

A set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres has been specially developed for the GT350R’s handling characteristics and wheel stagger.

All up, it’s claimed the GT350R is some 60 kilograms lighter than the base GT despite enhancements that increase structural body rigidity by around 28 percent.

Much of the weight reduction program is evident inside the stripped-out cabin, which features lightweight Recaro seats, no second-row seating and removes track-day excesses such as air-con, audio equipment and parking camera hardware (though many deleted items be optioned as spec).

Engineers also worked on massaging the GT350R’s aero package, which includes a carbonfibre rear boot wing, a so-called rear ‘diffuser’ treatment, new front splitter design and underbody paneling.           

The official line at Detroit is that when GT350R hits showrooms (and pitlanes) later this year, it will only do so in North America and Canada.

However, given the six-gen Mustang’s much touted global-friendly rollout, it seems possible the new Mustang King might cross ponds to Europe and Australia, perhaps dependent on feasibility of 5.2-litre engine production. 

Fingers crossed, V8 fans.

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