Through its 50-plus year history, the Ford Mustang is not a nameplate that has been renowned for showcasing cutting edge technology. Now a year into the sixth-generation model that debuted last fall, that view of the car is starting to change with debut of the new Shelby GT350R. When deliveries start later this summer, the GT350R will be the first mass-produced car in the world with standard carbon fiber wheels and Australian wheel-maker Carbon Revolution will be supplying the rolling stock.
A few weeks ago we got an in-depth look the platform changes that the SVT/Ford Performance engineering crew made in the process of transforming the 2015 Mustang GT into the new Shelby GT350. However, a great chassis can only you get you so far. Every great sports car also needs a great powerplant and here the engineers appear to have come through again. Unlike the last couple of generations of SVT Mustangs, this time around the team have come up with something completely different, the 5.2-liter Voodoo V8.
When the new track-focuse Ford Shelby GT350R drifted its way onto the stage in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena on Monday morning, the most obvious visual difference compared to the base model was the massive rear wing.
When the white baseline Shelby was initially revealed at the LA Auto Show in November, only a subtle black Gurney strip was added to the trailing edge of the trunklid, the same setup that appeared on the prototypes that were spotted circulating the Nurburgring last July. Here in Detroit, that same baseline Shelby had a significantly larger, more aggressive rear spoiler similar to those found on non-Shelby Mustangs for 2015.
It turns out the testing at the ‘Ring and other tracks was behind the change. I spoke with Chris Svensson, Ford design director, the Americas while checking out the new GT and the GT350R on the show floor in Detroit.
“After analyzing the data from testing in Germany and validating it in the wind-tunnel and other tracks, we realized need to adjust the total downforce and balance front to rear,” said Svensson. “The front splitter and the rear spoilers have all had some additional development to optimize the high-speed handling.”
The result is an even more aggressive look to the already mean looking Mustang although Ford has yet to reveal specific details about precisely how much downforce or power the new pony will generate. Let the battle between the GT350R and Z/28 begin.
While Chevrolet went all in on plug-ins today at the North American International Show, Ford went to the opposite extreme, rolling out a take no prisoners lineup under its Ford Performance banner. Ford CEO Mark Fields reminded the audience that Ford innovation began with racing, referring Henry Ford’s famous 999 race car of 1901. The winnings earned by that car were used to fund the launch of Ford Motor Company.
Ford CTO Raj Nair announced the new Ford Performance division at an event in Dearborn last month where he also announced that former Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak would become the global director of the group. Under Pericak Ford Performance will bring together the engineering and design groups from North America’s SVT, Europe’s Team RS and Ford Racing. Nair had also announced that a new Focus RS was coming and it would be available in America, but that car was not shown in Detroit.
The most extreme factory Mustang yet
After unveiling the all-new Shelby GT350 Mustang just before the LA Auto Show in December, the crew from Ford Performance/SVT has come back with an even faster version here on home turf. Like the Laguna Seca edition of the 2012-13 Boss 302, the GT350R turns up the performance wick to 11 by shaving weight and adding more go fast parts for the true track-day addict. By dispensing with non-performance enhancing trivialities like a back seat, air conditioning and audio system, Ford has reduced the workload on the new 5.2-liter flat-plane crank V8.
The Voodoo V8 engine remains unchanged in the GT350R with somewhere north of 500 normally aspirated horsepower and a six-speed manual gearbox. Further weight reductions come courtesy of available carbon ceramic brakes and the first ever use of carbon fiber wheels as standard equipment on a road-going vehicle. The 19-inch composite wheels are wrapped in 10-millimeter wider 305/30 front and 315/30 rear tires. All together, the GT350R has a more than 130-pound weight advantage over the baseline GT350.
The next-generation factory off-road race truck
Ford hit a surprising home run with the first generation SVT Raptor several years ago by creating a truly credible off-road racer style truck. The performance team has now applied the lessons from that effort to the new lighter aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 for a second-generation Raptor. While the original launched with the 5.0-liter V8 and later upgraded to the larger 6.2-liter V8, like its more mainstream siblings, the new Raptor comes out of the gate with turbocharged EcoBoost power.
The 3.5-liter twin-turbo, direct-injected V6 that has powered 40 percent of F-150s in the last several years has been given some upgrades for its new role. Although Ford didn’t give specifics yet, they did say it would produce more than the 411-hp and 434 lb.-ft. of the outgoing V8. The Raptor engine will also be backed up by one of the first applications of Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission.
50 Years after its first victory at Le Mens, the GT is back
We’ve all heard the story about how the GT40 came to be. Henry Ford II wanted to beat Enzo Ferrari after failing to buy the Italian sports car brand. After two years of trying, the Ford GT40s earned the first of four consecutive victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. As the 50th anniversary of that first victory approaches, Ford has revealed a concept for the all-new GT that will go into production in 2016.
The last GT used an all-aluminum chassis but this time it will be equipped with the latest and greatest material technology with a carbon fiber tub and body panels. Rather than a thundering V8 engine, the GT will emulate the new Raptor with turbocharged V6 power. A next-generation twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 based on the unite that was so successful in the 2014 Tudor United Sports Car Championship is the starting point. The production engine will send more than 600 horsepower through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to the rear wheels.
The new GT eschews the retro look of the last edition in favor of a more modern design that retains a few cues for familiarity, most notably the two large triangular vents in the front cover. I can’t wait to try this one out!