“It’s a great time to be a geek.” What? Geek? Geeks are people who are into the latest technology. The ones who love gadgets. Jim Owens, of Ford Performance explains, “Today’s cars are amping up high performance like their 60’s muscle counterparts – but with the latest in safety and performance gadgets. When you grab one of these (GT350R) cars and misjudge a braking distance, these cars will stop! It’s not like the athlete drivers of the 60’s whose drum/discs may or may not have properly functioned on the racetrack.
The GT350 comes in a few flavors. There is the ‘Technology Package” which, as you may expect, is fully loaded in all things “Geek”. From the state of the art navigation system, advanced steering wheel controls, you can really customize this car on the fly. Changing suspension modes, monitoring fluid temperatures and customizing the heads-up display is just the beginning of the technology in this car. If you are a typical street driving consumer, and plan to enjoy the 526 horses on your daily drive to work, this car is definitely for you.
The Track Pack takes away some of the ‘Technology” by way of the navigation system but gains additional performance upgrades such as a rear differential cooler, trans cooler, and the Recaro Racing seats. Because of the immense amount of engineering done, the seat not only fits like a glove – but also is comfortable for both me and my 5’4” frame, but also Eric, our Token Male, at 6’. The seats are designed to remain comfortable even while wearing full racing gear – in our case a hybrid head and neck device and helmet.
For the hard core racing enthusiast, the R series is for you! The GT350R is immediately distinguishable by the red badge, the taller carbon fiber wing and low front splitter. Initially the R series was set up with the same rear spoiler as the rest of the line, but with the weight reduction of the luxury items. Think no back seat, no AC and nothing in the trunk including carpet, along with the carbon fiber wheels. This car needed the additional down-force.
All of this info is great, but can be found in about any tech or sales sheet. What you won’t find there is how this car made me feel!
When the opportunity to drive the GT350 arose, I was elated. I read up on the car, asked tons of questions and prepared as much as I could. But nothing could honestly prepare me for the exhilarating experience behind the wheel. My first car to drive at the track was the R. It took me a lap to ‘trust’ the car, to gain confidence that I wouldn’t spin out in the corners, or overshoot a turn and end up in the grass. You know the feeling when you are strapped into a Boeing 757 and it takes off? Yeah, acceleration felt like that… but faster! When the professional driver took the wheel I was flat back in my seat instantly.
The flat plane crank, naturally aspirated (meaning no supercharger, etc) 502 felt good. Throaty. Muscular. The manual transmission shift points were close, quickly responsive and running this engine to 8250 RPM was a thrilling experience to say the least. And sticking to corners is a place where this car shines brightly.
Specific to the R series are the proprietary carbon fiber wheels and sticky composition tires. I felt this difference significantly between the Track Pack version that does not have this. There was no shift in the tires on the R – where there was a minimal amount of roll and slide on the Track Pack. The R could have been on rails. I actually underestimated my speed once and grabbed a turn late, near 50-60 MPH on a tight right, and she just took it.
In addition to the wheels and tires, there are a few significant differences to the R. The R is 120 pounds lighter than the Track Pack. Each wheel is 15 pounds lighter, and the composition of the Michelin tires is specific to this car only. The brakes are different. The rotors are larger and all directionally vented. Six pistons close the front caliper versus the 4-piston setup on the other models.
A really cool function of the car is the exhaust. There is actually a valve that diverts the exhaust depending on function. If you want to cruise out of your subdivision quietly, the valve remains in position to utilize all of the muffling systems. When you want to wake up the world, you can open that baby up and roar!
After driving this car, I realize I am totally a geek. And I am proud to admit it. The smile stayed on my face until well after the ferry ride back to Michigan, and returns as I write this. This car made me feel good. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can buy a GT350R, and that seems a close second!