By Drew Johnson
Tuesday, Sep 17th, 2013 @ 2:30 pm
Our spy photographers have just sent us the first images of Ford's Shelby GT500-replacing performance Mustang. Ford's flagship Mustang is expected to launch for the 2016 model year.

We've already seen prototypes of Ford's next-generation Mustang running around the streets of Michigan, but today our spy photographers spotted something a little different - a high-performance variant of Ford's next-generation Mustang.

Easily identified by its beefy wheels and tires, large disc brakes, quad exhaust outlets and extra air inlets, this prototype is likely an early test bed for Ford's next performance pony car - the GT350. Rumors have been circling the internet rumor mill for weeks that Ford will replace its over-the-top GT500 with a back-to-basics GT350 model for the next-generation of the Mustang.

This prototype was also seen pulling into Ford's SVT compound, giving further evidence that it's something more special than a standard Mustang GT.

We don't know for sure what engine will power the GT350, but Ford's 5.0L naturally aspirated V8 appears to be the leading candidate. Although the 5.0L V8 won't be able to match the 662 horsepower provided by the current Shelby GT500's supercharged 5.8L, a significant weight reduction (possibly to the tune of 600 pounds) will ensure the GT350 is no slouch in the performance department.

The standard version of Ford's next-generation Mustang is expected to bow in 2014, with the GT350 performance model likely to follow a year later.