Evan J. Smith
Freelancer
May 6, 2015

When the first batch of Shelby GT350s roll into showrooms later this year, you can bet only few cars will match its handling and on-track capabilities. The Shelby GT350 uses a mix of good ol’ fashioned track testing and modern engineering and technology to reach insane levels of grip. It’s fit for the street, but don’t be fooled—underneath is a race-inspired suspension, which was the intent of Carroll Shelby’s original 1965 GT350.

“When we started working on this car, we wanted to build the best possible Mustang for the places we most love to drive—challenging back roads with a variety of corners and elevation changes, and at the track on weekends,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “Every change we made to this car was driven by the functional requirements of a powerful, responsive powerplant—nimble, precise handling and massive stopping power.”

While the Performance Pack Mustang GT is a capable handler, the GT350 elevates Mustang performance to race car standards. According to Ford, “the suspension is heavily revised to maximize cornering performance.” Unique to the Shelby GT350 are new aluminum front knuckles, lighter and more rigid hub and bearing assemblies, along with stiffer subframe and contol arm bushings to enhance feedback. Ford also included heavy-duty bearings for increased lateral stiffness. In order to increase roll stiffness, the engineers went with larger diameter antiroll bars and of course there are special spring rates. “In an example of obsession to detail, one side of the rear suspension features a new counter-wound rear spring and matching rear control arm so the left and right sides are mirror images—perfecting wheel motion.”

The hot ticket for achieving maximum grip is the MagneRide suspension dampers. This is Ford’s first-ever application of continuously variable and highly effective MagneRide dampers. The MagneRide shocks and struts are filled with a special type of hydraulic fluid impregnated with iron particles. When an electric current is passed through the fluid, near-instantaneous adjustment of the suspension performance can be made. The Shelby GT350 uses wheel position sensors that record motion thousands of times per second, and combined with other vehicle data, changes to the dampers can be made to each corner every 7 milliseconds for optimum handling performance. And best of all, the dampers can be used a variety of modes, essentially programmed for different driving dynamics. This could include track, street or they could be optimized for acceleration and braking.

The MagneRide system provides an endless level of shock valving, and this translates into a never-before-seen (or felt) ride quality and performance for Mustang owners. “Tireless calibration and tuning has resulted in an integrated driver control software, which monitors wheel position, steering angle, damper temperature, signal quality, vehicle position and much more. This advanced software rides on top of the car’s drive modes and provides a degree of suspension performance never before seen in a production Mustang. This system is not just designed to make the car handle better, but to instill greater confidence in even the best driver.”

Okay, so you’ll have plenty of power and cornering grip, but eventually you’ll have to stop and the Shelby GT350 is fitted with what Ford claims are “the most powerful brakes ever fitted to a Production Mustang.” The braking system incorporates two-piece cross-drilled iron rotors with aluminum hats—the largest rotors ever installed on a production Mustang. They measure 15.5-inches up front, 14.9-inches out back, and features a floating-type with a pin-driven to the aluminum hats to reduce heat transfer to the bearings. Halting the huge rotors are six-piston fixed Brembo calipers (front) with integrated caliper bridges, and four-piston calipers out back. Plus, there’s integrated front and rear ducting to cool the brakes. “These cars can be driven by any driver on any track in the world—with virtually no fade,” remarks Brent Clark, vehicle dynamics supervisor.

Wheels and tires fit for the track

Rolling stock for the Shelby GT350 consists of extra-stiff 19.0-inch cast aluminum-alloy wheels (10.5 inches wide in front, 11.0 inches in the rear) wrapped in super-sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires with GT350-specific sidewall construction, tread face, and compound.

But there’s a special surprise on the Shelby GT350R—carbon fiber wheels. Those stylish hoops weigh close to 15 pounds less (per wheel) than an average sized aluminum wheel. Ford is the first major automaker to install a carbon wheel on a production vehicle. The hand-laid wheels are 19.0 inches in diameter—11.0 inches wide at the front and 11.5 inches at the rear, and are wrapped with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Combined, the wheels eliminate approximately 50 pounds of unsprung weight compared to the aluminum-alloy wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires on Shelby GT350.

Reducing flex

In order to push to the extreme limit of performance, Ford made the S550 chassis the strongest in the history of the Mustang. Torsional stiffness was increased 28 percent over the S197 Mustang. “That stiff structure ensures the suspension geometry remains consistent, even under the loading caused by hard driving.” Shelby GT350 goes beyond with additional chassis bracing in critical areas. This includes a lightweight aluminum strut tower brace mounted between shock towers and firewall.

Ford also lightened the chassis in critical areas. Once such includes the carbon fiber composite structure in front of the radiator that’s 24-percent lighter than the same unit in the base Mustang. “It is finished so well a beauty cover is not needed, eliminating another 1.9 pounds,” added our source.

All that’s left is for us to get our hands on the GT350 and put it to the test. We’re looking forward to this chance, as well as a dragstrip thrash. So stay tuned for more exciting news on the Shelby GT350 and other hot Fords.