Many people wonder about the difference between the Shelby GT350 and GT350R so we made this article to discuss everything that separates the two. While many factors are similar between the two naturally aspirated, high RPM screamers, there are key differences that really set them apart from each other. Additionally, check the link for the article below that discusses both the GT350 and R models as well as every S550 model year that was created.
While the price of these two Ford Mustang Shelby GT350’s might seem like a huge amount, what you get for the price is well worth it! Starting in 2015, the GT350 comes in starting at around $50k, and the GT350R starting around $63k.
Currently, in 2019, the prices have gone up pretty dramatically with the MSRP of the GT350 now starting around $59,140 and the 350R being around $70k. Keep in mind these are what they start out at and can be sold for a much more expensive price.
As much as someone wants there to be a different engine between the two models, there isn’t. Both contain the 5.2-liter V-8 with a flat-plane crank that has an output of 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, but it is still a very insane engine. The 5.2L Voodoo engine loves to pull air into its large throttle body and rev, and rev… and rev! Dyno numbers indicate the horsepower and torque curves to almost mirror each other!
What really separates the GT350R from the base model is its success on the track. Some key additions to the “R” are heavy-duty springs to create a stiffer feeling suspension as well as coolers for the engine oil, differential, and trans fluid. When putting these two Shelby Mustangs head to head, the “R” variant beats the standard GT350 on 0-60 times and quarter-mile times (3.9 vs 4.1 and 12.1 @ 119.6 mph vs. 12.4 @ 117.8). These times are not Shelby GT500 territory but for a track-minded, high revving v8, they are very respectable!
With both Ford Shelby GT350’s having the same horsepower numbers, these differences in performance may be nailed down to the stickiness of the GT350R’s Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and the lighter Carbon Fiber wheels. It is claimed that almost 60 pounds are saved vs. the standard GT350’s wheels. That is a large amount of rotating mass that surely can be felt when driving these cars back to back.
This is not the run of the mill Mustang GT’s of old that was better suited for straight-line performance at the drag strip with their solid axles. Ford Motor Company built this performance vehicle with lap times in mind! Unlike the 2020 GT500 with the 7 speed, dual-clutch transmission, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R, and the standard GT350 are only equipped with the Tremec TR-3160 manual transmission. Ford kept the old-school racer mindset of Carrol Shelby when Ford teamed up with Shelby American to build the first GT350’s back in the mid-1960s.
Hermann Salenbauch, global director for Ford Performance vehicle programs said, “The new Shelby GT350 is our ultimate track Mustang. We’ve stuck to Carroll Shelby’s original formula for winning championships and made our Shelby GT350 even better with the latest in race-proven aerodynamics, tire, and chassis technology.”
According to MotorTrend, the exhaust note was noticeably different between the GT350 and GT350R so they rolled these two track beasts to a dyno to see if the “R” variant was pushing out more horsepower. The result?
This difference is most likely because of the rotating mass difference with the wheels that we touched on. As we stated earlier, these engines are the same with an output of 526 horsepower and 429 lb/ft. of torque. After the dyno results between the two, 4 horsepower is not a difference-maker. The weight indeed is showing to be, however, more on the track than on paper.
One of the key differences between the two, is that there were two different GT350 wheels, one for the GT350 and one for the GT350R. The “R” model wheels come equipped with carbon fiber wheels instead of the standard aluminum wheels on the GT350. As previously mentioned, the switch to carbon fiber saves about 60 additional lbs on this already lightened Ford Performance car. Also, less weight means less energy to move the wheels. This equates to improved response time which can mean the difference in a race.
Additionally, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires came equipped on the 16’-18’ “R”s and didn’t become available on both models until 2019. These were so essential because they are specifically designed for road racing and tight cornered rides. Plus, the 20% deeper tread keeps you moving efficiently even in rain.
Another huge upgrade is the carbon fiber grille opening. Even though both versions come with this grille opening, in 2019 both versions were introduced with a smaller opening that helps cool air as it enters the car.
Lastly, a big improvement is the carbon-fiber wing and larger splitter. This wing is completely unique to the “R” and is completely functional. Both the splitter and wing were created to not only reduce lift but create downforce as well. Check out our GT350 track pack spoiler install if you need help installing one of these yourself!
Additionally, the carbon fiber helps trim even more weight off to create the performance look that everyone strives for. The final touch is that the “R” comes equipped with red exterior emblems to set it that much more apart from competitors.
If there was anything disappointing about the package, the interior is at the top of the list. Both of these vehicles were released with performance in mind so there is very little difference between the two interiors other than the “R” has a red stitch interior. Most noticeable is the GT350R doesn’t come with A/C or back seats. The “R” can be upgraded as an optional package when first purchasing this vehicle but other than that, both models are identical.
At the end of the day, it depends on personal preference. If you love the track and want the best performance possible, we couldn’t recommend a more suitable vehicle with the Shelby name at the best price. As always, Ford continues to make performance Mustangs ahead of the pack because of its cheaper price point compared to its competitors.
We here at LMR have owned both of the vehicles and can say while both are great, the GT350R is well worth the money. This is just another reason we at LMR.com pride ourselves on being the “real” Mustang enthusiasts!