2017 Ford Mustang GT350R

by Lawana Perkins | Posted on Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

When a last-minute logistical challenge kept me from driving my 2005 Ford GT to this year’s Ford GT Forum Owners Rally I had two choices. Fly to Park City and plod around in a rental car, or call Ford to see if they had a suitable alternative. I was hoping they’d have a 2017 Ford GT available, but that supercar isn’t in the West Coast press fleet. Yet. Instead, Ford offered me a 2017 Shelby GT350R.

2017 Ford Mustang

The upgraded suspension makes way for 19-inch, Shelby GT350R-specific carbon fiber wheels, measuring 11 inches wide in front and 11.5 inches in back. These wheels wear supersticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, sized 305/30 and 315/30. The grip of these tires cannot be overstated. Before arriving at the track I tried a few aggressive standing-start launches and the car simply squatted and shot forward. If you’re looking to do easy burnouts stick with a standard Mustang GT.

Bringing roughly 80 2005 and 2006 Ford GTs, along with a half-dozen new 2017 GTs, to a track facility sets up quite a visual feast. In this setting your might expect a Mustang, even in Shelby GT350R form, to get lost among the low-slung, exotic-shaped bodywork. Instead, nearly every Ford GT owner took time to note how impressed they were with the vehicle. Almost all of them were fully versed in the GT350R’s pedigree, and several GT owners claimed they either had one or were anxiously trying to get one.

After multiple track sessions mixing it up with Ford GTs it’s obvious why Ford’s exotic car owners respect this Mustang. Around UMC’s 23 turns the Shelby GT350R performed without compromise. Whether repeatedly hammering the Brembo brakes to slow from 140 to 75 mph for turn 1 or strafing the left-right-left apexes in turns 16-18 the coupe remained stable, composed and confidence inspiring.

It’s that last element that ultimately limits a driver’s speed around a track. Even if one vehicle is theoretically more capable than another, the car that encourages full use of its suspension, brakes and tires will always have the upper hand. This is where the Shelby GT350R beguiles. It’s simply unflappable, even when driven at its limit in “Track” mode. And when those limits are reached it informs you with subtle hints, not the abrupt alarm bells sounded by other track cars.

When you consider the level of advanced engineering going on under the GT350R’s skin the starting price of $64,545 is quite a bargain. Our test car had the $3,000 R Electronics Package that adds dual zone climate control, Ford’s Sync system in a single CD head unit with satellite radio, plus a tire inflator and sealant kit. In this configuration the car is easy to live with off the track, though rear visibility is somewhat compromised by the carbon fiber wing. Of course there’s no rear seat in any GT350R, but the Recaro front buckets manage to offer exceptional lateral support during extreme track driving while still proving comfortable for extended public road jaunts.

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