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Shotgun laps in the Ford Mustang GT350R make us want more

By: Autoweek on 07/29/2015

Photo by Ford - 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R

The new dual-overhead cam 5.2-liter flat-plane crank V8 in the Ford Mustang GT350 and GT350 R offers a higher rev range, more power and a better throttle response. But really, it’s all about that bass. Well, the exhaust, but you get where I’m going.

Ford invited journalists out to hilly Grattan Raceway in Belding, Mich., to get a taste of the new Shelby-inspired ponycar from the passenger seat. The company wasn’t quite ready for us to drive it.

Right off the bat, you notice the GT350R sounds nothing like any other Mustang. I know because I own one. The R revs loudly on startup, winds up quick and crackles like a race car, which it almost is. The sound in the cabin is somewhere between a Mercedes AMG V8 and a NASCAR engine. If you haven’t heard it in person yet, check out the video below, preferably on a surround sound system.

The GT350 and R have a higher redline than the current Mustang GT -- 8,250 rpm, to be exact -- and quicker throttle response too, which I felt (from the passenger seat) after landing the “yump” between turns four and six and getting back on the gas. That was also a good place for Ford to demonstrate the new MagneRide adjustable suspension, which knows when the car is airborne, and tightens up the dampers for a firm and planted touchdown. We weren’t even going full bore. At speed, Ford says, you can get a good 6 inches of air under all four tires. The MagneRide also impressed us over the corner curbing, which looked aggressive, but didn’t seem to upset the car at all.

At the bottom of that jump is a serious right hander, which necessitated a hard stomp on the brakes. The Shelby twins get two-piece rotors with aluminum hats and iron rings that measure 15.5 inches. Six-piston Brembo calipers reside in front while the rears get four pots.

Photo by Ford - The GT350's interior is slightly altered from the standard GT.

The bottom of the jump and the end of the front straight require nearly a full panic stop to get the best lap times. Ford put us in hybrid HANS devices to keep whiplash at bay, and we needed it. Stopping power is otherworldly. Some of the hardest braking events for me as a passenger have come in a Ferrari 458 and a Volvo race car. This felt a lot like those. I could feel my jaw pulling forward and saliva moving to the front of my mouth.

Deep in the corners, it was the same g-force feeling, but laterally. I knew we were cornering fast when I could sense my inner ear fluid sliding toward the outside of the turn. It’s a little disorienting, but not unpleasant -- one of those things that you notice less when you’re actually behind the wheel.

The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires held strong over the course of the day. If anything, we felt the fronts give up a little bit before the rears. Overall, Ford’s drivers seemed to have no trouble keeping the car on track, though one of them admitted to probably having 10,000 laps of experience there.

Pilots kept the car in track mode most of the day, but at bumpy Grattan, the suspension goes one step softer, in sport. That allowed it to absorb some of the undulations on the front straight and soften those corner curbs.

The GT350 will start at $48,695 and the R will add $13,500 for a grand total of $62,195, including destination.

We’ll be champing at the bit for a month until we finally get to drive this thing at Laguna Seca. Stay tuned.

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