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2019 ford Shelby GT350

Outrageous. Over-the-top. Completely ludicrous. These were the words used to describe the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang's predecessor. The supercharged, 662-horsepower GT500—a car which, in various incarnations, was outfitted with an aftermarket Shelby package dubbed "King of the Road" with good reason.

The GT350 tosses the old power-above-all formula of the range-topping GT500 and opts instead for a bigger picture approach to overall performance, boasting weight reduction and a magnetic-ride suspension, topped off with a high-revving V8 featuring a flat-plane crankshaft.

A track-ready GT350R model takes the formula one step further. The leanest, meanest new Mustang money can buy can scrap with cars far above its price range.

Overview

Fundamentally, the Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang is a Mustang GT dialed up to 11. The conventional five-liter V8 is ditched in favor of a 5.2L unit producing 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque.

The most significant chassis revision present in the GT350 is a suspension based on MagneRide dampers (available on the GT350, standard on the R). This is the same suspension technology used by General Motors and other manufacturers.

This technology employs iron-infused hydraulic fluid stimulated by electrical signals that are transmitted by a control unit. This control unit is tied to sensors that monitor vehicle motion thousands of times per second to account for just about every aspect of the GT350's dynamic performance and alter suspension response to account for it.

The GT350 also boasts a wider front track, upgraded brakes, a lower ride height and standard lightweight 19-inch wheels—the smallest that will clear the six-piston Brembo front calipers.

Unlike some its competitors, the GT350 isn't offered with an automatic gearbox. Shifting duties are handled exclusively by a tradition six-speed manual transmission. Power goes to the ground via a Torsen limited slip differential with a standard 3.73:1 axle ratio.

The R takes the GT350 formula to the next level. A thoroughly revised suspension setup and upgraded brakes on all four corners help the driver make the most of the R's grunt both on and off the track. Ford has added lightness by removing the air conditioning system, the stereo, the rear bench, the trunk floorboard, the exhaust resonators, the rear-view camera and the tire repair kit, making the GT350R 130 pounds lighter than the standard GT350 equipped with the Track Pack.

Inside and out

Outside, the GT350 has a few distinct visual differentiations from the run-of-the-mill Mustang GT. Out front, a unique splitter and lower bumper, along with a grille-mounted Cobra badge. The hood is also unique, featuring a large, distinct aero and cooling duct front-and-center.

The profile is distinctly Mustang, but the GT350 has large cooling vents aft of the wider front fenders (accommodating the wider track) and punched-out rear haunches to match. Black side mirrors complete the look.

In the rear, a low-profile lip spoiler and quad exhaust outlets flanking a unique rear splitter set the GT350 apart.

If these cues aren't enough to make spotting a GT350 easy in the wild, just look for the stripes, which are likely to be a common look for road-going Cobras.

Inside, you'll find uniquely-trimmed suede Recaro front sport seats along with an illuminated red shift knob. The center of the steering wheel is adorned with a large Cobra and a dash plaque on the passenger side notes the car's pedigree. You'll find other small touches here and there, such as Alcantara on the steering wheel rim and in the door inserts.

Visually, the GT350R is instantly recognizable thanks to a larger front splitter, a sizable rear spoiler, red brake calipers and a sprinkling of red Cobra badges. Notably, the R comes standard with 19-inch wheels made out of carbon fiber instead of aluminum, a move that shaves 52 pounds of unsprung weight. The rims are wrapped by Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

The track-focused treatment continues inside with a pair of Recaro bucket seats and a D-shaped steering wheel. A metal plaque located on the right side of the dashboard reminds the passengers that they're not riding in a run-of-the-mill pony car. As mentioned previously, the GT350R package also deletes the rear seats.

Standard and optional features

The standard GT350 is equipped similarly to a loaded Mustang GT. The infotainment system is built on Sync and features AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/Bluetooth audio with six speakers. Outside, HID headlamps are standard.

Buyers seeking greater performance can add the Track package, which adds the MagneRide damping system, upgraded driver control system, a raised decklid spoiler, an aluminum front strut tower brace, upgraded cooling systems for the driveline and heavy-duty front springs.

Those who want a more comfort-oriented experience can opt for the Technology package instead. This also adds MagneRide, but adds niceties rather than go-fast bits. This package includes SYNC 3 touchscreen infotainment, powered and climate-controlled leather sport seats (non-Recaro), an upgraded audio system, voice-activated navigation and dual-zone climate control.

The GT350R straddles the line between being a separate model and being a package. Technically, if you read the build sheets, it's a trim level. It includes all standard features of the GT350 except for the rear seat, air conditioning, radio and a handful of interior trim pieces. There's also no tire repair kit. Instead, you get standard MagneRide Dampers, 19" carbon fiber wheels, upgraded tires (mentioned above) and unique front and rear aero touches. It also includes all of the Track package features from the base GT350 (enhanced cooling system, etc.).

An optional Electronics package (exclusive to the GT350R) brings back equipment like dual-zone A/C, an eight-inch touch screen with navigation and a seven-speaker stereo system.

Occupant safety

Safety features include dual front, front knee and side airbags, along with full-length canopy airbags. The rear seat is equipped with LATCH anchors. Like other connected Fords, it is equipped with SOS post-crash alert.

Key competitors

While its most direct rival is the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, the Shelby GT350 also has the firepower to compete with performance icons like the Chevrolet Corvette and the BMW M3.