Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan / Don Cheng
Published: May 24, 2016
POCONO RACEWAY, Pennsylvania - “Whatever your ears tell you to do, whatever your butt dyno says you should do, don’t you dare shift until you see that 8,250 rpm redline,” they told me. Of course, who could resist such temptation behind the wheel of a brand new 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R at Pocono Raceway. Its soundtrack is satanical, stemming from the instruments played in the seventh circle of hell. The revs never stop building, and the noise never ending. Whenever we thought we were at redline, we peeked down at the tachometer and noticed we still had at least 2,000 rpm to go, something we’re not quite used to in a muscle car.
This malicious orchestra lies at the heart of the magical 5.2-litre flat-plane crank V8 lodged inside the GT350, aptly codenamed the Voodoo engine by Ford Performance. It’s the most powerful naturally aspirated engine developed by the Blue Oval, but the key word here is flat-plane crank (okay two words). Compared to a traditional cross-plane crank setup found on a standard V8 Mustang GT, a flat-plane crank has their pins arranged in a single line, which offers more even firing, better performance, and high-revving characteristics. They are also more balanced, weigh less, and carry less inertia than a cross-plane. Best of all, flat-plane engines sound so damn good. Note: the Ferrari 458 Italia and McLaren P1 also use this arrangement.
In all, the GT350’s V8 develops an eye-watering 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. Without any forced induction that’s quite a feat. The GT350 isn’t even offered with an automatic transmission – your only choice is a TREMEC 6-speed manual.
The GT350 is also the first vehicle to use Ford’s new MagneRide suspension, which contains metallic particles that change the viscosity of the fluid in the dampers thousands of times per second, meaning it will stiffen up or soften up depending on the terrain. You can even select five different drive modes: normal, sport, track weather, and drag (yes, the latter is for drag races).
In essence, the GT350 “muscle car” throws its power-is-everything mantra out the window and adopts the lighter-is-better adage. Hence, there is also a GT350R version, which we were lucky enough to whip around the track. The R strips the car of essentials, such as air conditioning, stereo, rear seats, trunk floorboard, and exhaust resonators to free up some weight. In its place are a larger front splitter, bigger rear spoiler (think WRX STI size), and carbon fibre wheels, the latter of which is fairly impressive and saves 7 kg on each corner of the vehicle. In total, the R weighs a whopping 50 kg less than the standard GT350.
Now the carbon fibre wheels have really got us talking. They are lighter and stronger than the aluminum ones they replace, and that results in a lower unsprung mass – we know how much racing drivers love to hear that. It may sound fancy, but it has actually been used in many exotic cars before, and now General Motors is closely following suit.
Lucky for us, we had a chance to fling the GT350R around “The Tricky Triangle” for a few hot laps. We were accompanied by a Ford Performance driving instructor that helped us scout the track and give us guidance along the way. They even hopped into the driver’s seat after to show us “how it was done,” and trust me, these professionals make it look easy.
We kept our GT350R in Sport mode the entire time and were on high alert. They told us that we could do the entire section of the track in just third and fourth gear, foreshadowing the mighty mid-range shove that we were about to experience.
So off we went, with the virulent V8 firing in front and quad exhaust pipes filling our ears from the back. The first thing we noticed was how fluid and direct the GT350R felt. The steering, especially for an electric power-assisted system, was downright brilliant. It falls on the feathery side of the spectrum but there was so much feedback coming up through the wheel that I felt confident caressing the car around each corner – better than the M4’s electric rack? Hell yeah.
The bucket Recaros kept my body from rolling around town and those massive six-piston Brembos kept me from running over the flag bearer. Turn after turn, the car went exactly where I pointed it. Then we hit the straight, a short stretch of undulating tarmac that let me kick open the throttle and put the pedal to the metal. “Go, go, go!” the instructor told me.
I pushed it hard. The wailing exhaust screeching behind me like a banshee. To me, time froze as I kept a keen eye on that tachometer, telling myself “don’t shift, not yet, not until 8,250 rpm.” Maybe I was too mesmerized by the sound, or maybe it was the sheer G-force squishing my head into the seat; whatever it was, all I heard was “HURRY, SHIFT!” and I slammed that clutch, shoved the short-throw shifter into fourth, and let the car settle before throwing it around the next bend and clipping the apex. Zero understeer, zero oversteer, nothing. Just straight corner-carving.
I’ve never felt a car so balanced. I couldn’t even get it to fishtail in the succeeding laps even when I pushed it harder. Those Pilot Sport Cup 2s on our GT350R were impregnable and had so much grip.
But after I started to learn the ins and the outs of the track, and right before I wanted to truly push the GT350R to its limits, they told me to hit the pits. Time was up! Our experience was short-lived, but it will forever be engraved in my heart. There is so much emotion to the GT350R and so much excitement. Isn’t that what all sports car should strive towards?
Is the GT350R better than a BMW M4 or a Jaguar F-TYPE? It’s hard to say with such limited time behind the wheel. The Shelby certainly sounds better and feels more raw and linear, but what I can say is that the outgoing Shelby GT500 feels like a dinosaur compared to this – yeah, remember that supercharged V8 producing 662 horsepower? Throw it out the window. Evolution, revolution, whatever you want to call it: lightweighting is the new trend, and the new GT350R is not only quicker than its predecessor, but it’s ten times more handsome too. And that’s quite the accomplishment.
My advice? Get them while they last. With a starting price of $63,788 for the GT350 and $80,788 for the GT350R, this new breed of muscle cars are going to fly off the showroom floors quicker than that needle hits 8,250 rpm.
型号 Model: 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $63,788 for GT350; $80,688 for GT350R
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,720
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,783 / 1,928 / 1,361
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,655
引擎 Engine: 5.2L flat plane crank V8
最大馬力 Horsepower: 526 hp @ 7,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 429 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed TREMEC manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 16.9 / 11.0 / 14.2
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2