2016 Ford Shelby: Shelby tracks power driven GT350

Pit crew staff stage Shelby GT350s at Road America for track tests.

Consistent summer-like weather in our region is extending the performance car driving season.

Recently, Ford Motor Co. took advantage of the warm conditions to turn up the heat for a test of their 2016 Shelby GT350 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

Road America is one of four racetracks nationwide used for the Ford Performance GT350 Track Tour where auto journalists, Shelby dealers and other car enthusiasts track-test the 2016 Shelby GT350 and 2016 Shelby GT350R.

A professional race instructor accompanies each driver for a total seven laps around the famed road course where triple-digit speed is routine.

Though both 2016 Shelby GT350 variants carry a familiar Ford Mustang body style, the GT350 has a persona all its own with wider proportions, lower stance and unique aero-optimizing bodywork.

Aluminum replaces steel body panels up front anchored by an aggressive lower fascia stamped with functional air inlets and taut grille. Vented body sides distinguish its profile.

A specially-tooled 5.2-liter V8 engine generates 526 horsepower, boasting 100-hp per liter to become the most powerful naturally aspirated factory-built engine in the model line’s history.

Equally impressive is the engine’s red-line that peaks at a lofty 8250 revolutions per minute managed by a 6-speed manual only transmission.

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The GT350 is nimble and exceptionally balanced on track with precise steering control that connects the dots at every corner apex.

Ford’s 2016 Shelby GT350 is a performance car that makes the daily commute an exhilarating experience. Optional Track Package and available Technology Package add to the thrill.

But if the Shelby GT350 is the track star, the GT350R race version is the Gold Medal winner bringing the same power but less content to the performance pedestal.

To reduce weight, the car is shipped with no rear seat, air conditioning or audio system. Floor mats, tire inflator sealant kit, SYNC/USB ports, auxiliary gauges and audio jacks are also deleted.

This equipment and more is a buyer’s choice with an available Electronics Package.

Special tires, a carbon-fiber rear wing and unique chassis tuning are part of the enhancements that raise the bar on the GT350R’s performance.

The 2016 Shelby GT350 and GT350R arrive at Shelby dealers this fall for $49,995 and $63,495 respectively. Price includes destination and gas-guzzler tax.