We’re at the 2015 North American International Auto Show for all the hot products coming out of Ford this year. We’ll be interviewing Ford officials, and bringing you the latest on the hot new vehicles here at the show. Ford is focused on performance this year, and is showing off and incredible slate of new performance vehicles at the show.
It has been 15 years since a R model Mustang graced the Ford stable. The last Cobra R only left us wanting more. With awesome models that have since surpassed that car’s performance, its been difficult to justify bringing such a model to market.
Ford answered the cries of Mustang fans of the past decade and a half today, with the announcement of the car we’ve been suspecting. The 2016 GT350R. This is the stripped down, high performance Mustang, that we’ve been waiting for.
“Everything that didn’t make the car faster, has been removed,” said Ford’s Raj Najir at the media launch event. The GT350R is lighter, still powered by the Voodoo 5.2 liter flat plane crank engine from the GT350, this car is now 135 pounds lighter than a GT350 performance pack according to Najir.
We also spent a few minutes talking to Ford’s Jamal Hameedi, the man guiding the Ford performance ship into the future. “The GT350R is about taking the GT350 and making it an extremely focused track machine. This car will take the GT350 to levels that Mustang has never played in, in terms of track capability and performance.” That statement, sounds to us like Hameedi is going right for the throat of GM and the Z/28, or perhaps even the Z06.
The R features the same Magneride system as the GT350, however, Hameedi says it has been aggressively returned for. Other handling tweaks include Michelin Pilot Sport Cup II tires, which Hameedi says are the best in the world.
Further reducing the weight of the GT350R, are an industry first carbon fiber wheel. “These carbon fiber wheels, have not been done in mass production, from a mainstream manufacturer.” says Hameedi. Bill Ford Jr had announced during the opening of the press conference that Ford is working jointly with Dow Chemical to bring more carbon fiber into the car market.
The car will still use steel based Brembo brakes, the same as the GT350, however we wouldn’t be surprised to see more carbon fiber in the body.
Outside, improvements to the car include a new rear wing, and new front splitter. We’d also speculate the side mirrors may be reshaped and made from carbon fiber.
The car has undergone an extreme diet to achieve the weight savings needed. This includes removing the AC, the premium audio system, the rear seats, trunk panels, most of the NVH components. It should make for a raw, and visceral experience with the GT350R.
No word on exactly how much faster the GT350R will be over the standard GT350 performance pack yet, we asked but Hameedi’s reply was, “We know how much faster, but we’re not releasing it yet, it’s significantly faster.”
Hameedi said the GT350R will be released late in the year, no word on pricing yet.
New GT New Era
Ford pulled the covers off, what we have been anticipating for months, an all new GT super car. This predecessor to the smash hit of nearly a decade ago is packed full of high tech, and represents a significant investment of Ford.
“What does it mean, why does Ford invest in a new super car? Our business case for performance is to serve a larger goal, to drive innovation throughout our company. Performance drives innovation,” says Ford’s Raj Najir.
Najir went on to say, “This GT is the flagship for innovation that’s why we’re building an all new super car.”
The GT is based on an all new carbon fiber tub, that will provide incredible stiffness. The tub is attached to aluminum structures that provide the support for the suspension and the engine. Najir says the technology of mating carbon fiber with aluminum is something that Ford will begin to carry over into the future.
Inside the car, the lightweight seats are bolted directly to the carbon fiber tub. The car features a stalkless steering column, with all controls mounted on the steering wheel. Najir says the wheel is an experiment in reducing driver distractions. The car will also feature Sync3, and we’re sure plenty of other premium amenities inside.
Outside the car, the teardrop shape is a study in design an aerodynamics “The GT features the most efficient and functional airflow profiles of any production vehicles.”. Purpose built to cheat the wind, and reduce drag. The body panels are all carbon fiber, and the doors swing out and upward to ease ingress and egress to the cabin. Under the car a full underbody tray and rear diffuser are used for further air management. Ford also says the body features active aero management elements.
Guiding the GT through the corners and down the road is a torsion bar suspension, with active inboard mounted dampers. No official word yet, but we can be nearly 100-percent certain, that those active dampers will use the same MagneRide technology found on the GT350. Ford worked with Michelin directly to develop a tire package exclusive to the car.
Motivation comes from an all new 3.5 EcoBoost engine. Ford is silent on the exact horsepower figures of the engine except to say that it will make over 600 hp using twin turbos. Impressive numbers from a six cylinder Ford, and something that’s sure to turn heads. No word on weight, but Najir says the car has an “Incredibly high power to weight ratio.”
Further sending Ford into new territory, the an all new dual-clutch, seven-speed transmission is on board, actuated by steering wheel mounted paddles. We’ll be curious to find out how fast the car shifts once Ford releases more data.
At the conclusion of the Ford press conference Bill Ford simply said to Mark Fields, “Let’s build it next year.” So we expect to see the GT coming to showrooms by summer or early fall 2016. No word on the pricing yet. The last GT was priced right at $150k, we’d love to see Ford come in near that number to once again blow the doors off the super car market with their all new halo car.
The Next Off Road Raptor
Since its introduction just a few years ago, the Raptor has been a popular option for Ford truck and off road enthusiasts. With the introduction of an all new 2015 F-150, there was no mention of the Raptor in Ford’s initial reports about the all new truck. Ford officials wouldn’t even discuss the possibility of a next-gen Raptor.
At NAIAS, the first vehicle Ford rolled out from behind the curtain was an all new Raptor. While it looks like a F-150, looks are where the similarities end. Built on a unique 133-inch wheel base (not offered on the F-150 models) the Raptor rides on its own unique high-strength steel frame according to Ford’s Jamal Hameedi. The 2015 F-150 drops up to 700 pounds over the previous generation truck. The raptor drops almost as much, “Because of the aluminum intensive body, it’s over 500 pounds lighter than the outgoing model,” says Hameedi. That should make a difference in nearly every key performance factor that Raptor fans are looking for.
The 6.2 liter engine left the F-150 lineup after 2014. No longer an option, rumors abounded about how Ford would power their revamped off roader. While some enthusiasts scoffed at the idea of a V6 under the hood of a hardcore, do it all truck, the EcoBoost engine lineup has been accepted with open arms by many. Breathing life into the 2015 Raptor, is an all new version of the 3.5 EcoBoost. “This engine is launching in the Raptor,” says Hameedi, meaning it’s either going to be exclusive to the Raptor for now, or the 3.5 is getting a revamp across the board for the coming year.
We asked for horsepower and torque numbers, all Hameedi would tell us is, “We’re not releasing numbers at this time, except to say it’s more horsepower and torque than the outgoing 6.2 V8”. It seems that the 3.5 is going to fill the rather large shoes of the 6.2 with no problem.
Sitting behind the EcoBoost engine is an all new 10-speed transmission, likely the same transmission Ford has been working on for several years in a joint project with GM. Backing that up is a dual mode transfer case, with a clutch for all wheel drive on demand, and mechanical locking for handling tough terrain and obstacles. A new Terrain system makes all the settings for the truck easier to use.
The suspension system has also been upgraded, once again Fox is supplying Raptor specific shocks at all four corners. Gone are the 2 1/2-inch shocks from the previous generation, replaced with larger, 3-inch units.
“This truck is faster, lighter, it has more suspension travel, and more damping. We’ve improved every aspect of the truck,” says Hameedi. With the changes made to the Raptor for 2015, Ford has pretty much guaranteed the truck’s survival into the future, removing doubt that they can build an efficient and capable off roader in an era of ever growing concern for performance and efficiency.