The Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang is one of the stars of this year’s Detroit auto show, raring to take on the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 at your nearest road course. We sat down with Ford Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak to learn more about the track-ready coupe.
1. It set a Nürburgring lap time
The Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang lapped dozens of tracks during development testing, primarily in the U.S., but Ford Performance also took the car to Germany’s famed Green Hell. Pericak ran the stopwatch while the GT350R lapped the Nordschleife but hasn’t yet decided if he’ll share that number publicly.
“I have the time. Yeah, we’re very happy with the performance of that car, extremely happy with its lap times,” he says. “Of course we know what it’ll run. We just don’t want to engage in that debate.”
2. The new aero package is actually functional
Rather than simply reducing lift, Pericak says the GT350R’s splitter and rear wing actually help produce “fantastic downforce” that pushes the car toward the ground. “That wing was designed out on the race track,” he says. “It wasn’t just some wing that the [design] studio came up with and we said, ‘Wow, does that look cool.'”
Unfortunately, because the GT350R isn’t quite ready for production, Pericak won’t give a specific downforce number so as not to mislead us before the car hits showrooms: “We’re still fine tuning it.”
3. This is one of the first road cars to use carbon-fiber wheels
Ford buys the 19-inch carbon-fiber wheels (11 inches wide in front, 11.5 inches rear) from a supplier that Pericak won’t name. The wheels are 13 pounds lighter than standard steel or alloy wheels, and Ford says they also are stronger. Cutting that much weight will pay huge dividends in the car’s acceleration, braking, and handling, Pericak promises.
“No other major manufacturer has ever done that [use carbon wheels], and that’s just due to the technical challenges that are due to durability,” he says. But Ford has put the carbon-fiber wheels through its usual durability testing and has no concerns that they’ll be too fragile for road use: “We don’t believe so at all, or we wouldn’t be doing it.”
Instead, Pericak said the most difficult things about developing carbon-fiber wheels involved making sure they won’t fade from sunlight exposure, and ensuring the wheels won’t be damaged by the immense heat produced by the Brembo brakes.
4. The Michelin PilotSportCup 2 tires were specifically tailored by Michelin for the GT350R
The high-performance tires — 305/30ZR19 front, 315/30ZR19 rear — have a special compound and tread pattern just for use on the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang. Pericak says that Ford and Michelin worked on countless variables and changes, mostly concerning things like sidewall stiffness and the exact rubber compound used for the tread. Incidentally, those rear tires are slightly wider than those on a Camaro Z/28; that car packs 305/30ZR19 Pirellis all round.
5. Pricing will be somewhat reasonable
“It will not be out of reach of our competitors,” Pericak says, though he of course can’t yet offer an exact price for either the less-hardcore GT350 or this GT350R. But given that statement, we wouldn’t expect the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang to cost more than the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, which starts at $75,000. More important, the addition of exotic bits like the carbon-fiber wheels won’t make the R’s price astronomical. Pericak said the price differential between the standard GT350 and the GT350R will be less than the gap between a well-equipped 2015 Ford Mustang GT and the regular GT350. Look for an official sticker price sometime this year.
6. It’ll be a little louder and a little more powerful
One of the weight-saving measures was to remove the exhaust resonators that are fitted to the standard GT350. That means the GT350R will be louder and should produce a teensy bit more horsepower, though Pericak says Ford won’t recertify the 5.2-liter flat-plane V-8 engine so it will get the same horsepower and torque rating as the non-R. But enthusiasts will know their GT350R makes just a little bit more power.