Review: Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R

Review: Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R
Review: Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R

Is slimmed-down, muscled-up, most extreme Mustang to date the track machine Ford intended?

In standard form, the Ford Mustang GT isn’t exactly a lightweight. Weighing 1,800kg and measuring 30cm longer and 10cm wider than the Porsche 911, it’s probably not the first car you’d select to develop into a stripped-out, no-compromise track monster.

Still, such physical constraints have hardly proven a barrier to Ford Performance’s bid to make the Shelby GT350R a serious circuit contender. It’s jettisoned the rear seats, stereo, sat-nav and air-con (although the latter continue to be options), while carbon fibre wheels save 24kg out of a total 60kg weight loss over the new model’s standard 5.0 GT stablemate. Uprated components feature in the more track-focussed chassis set-up, and a comprehensive aerodynamic package gives much-boosted downforce.

Under the Shelby GT350R’s bonnet (sorry, hood), a high-revving, 5.2-litre V8 with a flat-plane crank replaces the more lazy, torque-rich bruiser of a cross-plane eight-cylinder. This higher-revving, more European take on a V8 is something of a departure for an American muscle car. It pulls strongly to 8,000rpm, whereas the other unit runs out of puff much beyond 6,500rpm. The 526bhp at 7,500rpm and 429lb ft at 4,750rpm figures are atypical Mustang – as is the highly strung, snarling and barking soundtrack.

Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R

Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R

Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R

Price: US $65,000 (est.)
Engine: 5.2-litre, V8, petrol
Power: 526bhp
Torque: 429lb ft
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Kerbweight: 1660kg
Top speed: 177mph
0-60mph: 3.9sec
Fuel economy: 16mpg
CO2 rating: n/a

Inside the GT350R’s cabin, low-set, heavily bolstered Recaros replace the standard plush leather chairs. With the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and column at full extension, the driving position is just about perfect.

Ford asserts that, in the pursuit of track performance, it didn’t even concern itself with trying to make the GT350R work on the road. We won’t find out how it drives on the public highway on this occasion. Instead, we assessed this most extreme Mustang to date at Thruxton, the UK’s fastest race track, which mixes ballsy high-speed sequences with tight and technical sections.

The stripped-out model feels right at home, with the standard car’s wallow and floatiness replaced by supreme agility, control and precision thanks to the much more aggressive suspension set-up. It easily swallows up every complicated demand Thruxton can throw at it, such as the start of the lap, which combines a fast left-hand bend with a sharp crest and a heavy braking zone. The steering is super-sharp and direct, the huge Brembo brakes are superb and the fat Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres generate massive grip and traction.

Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R

That aero package helps give incredible stability through high-speed sections, while the lack of body roll or dive under braking belies the fact that this is still a big and relatively heavy car. And as for the V8 that lies at the heart of the driving experience, while an 8,000rpm red line is novel in a Mustang, the zingy powerplant flings the Ford along at a mighty rate as well as delivers superb responsiveness.

The GT350R is a deeply talented and entertaining track machine, especially given its decidedly road-biased origins. Whether it also works out on the ruts and crests of a typical back road remains to be seen – and only then can we say whether Ford’s come up with an answer to its Porsche equivalent.

Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R

 

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