The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: January 2015


Monday, 26 January 2015

2016 Mustang Shelby GT350R does the Nurburgring in 7:32

I've read one or two interviews before with Ford that discussed Nurburgring lap times and why there aren't any for the various performance models over the years. I think it was Jamal Hameedi and he said that he didn't like posting Nurburgring lap times even though they test cars there. The reason why was because a lot of parameters aren't consistent between manufacturers so they are meaningless when it comes to comparing cars. Someone close to Ford seems to not have got the memo, though.

According to a Horsepower Kings' source, the Shelby GT350R laid down a very impressive lap time of 7:32.19 at the Nurburgring. Not only that, the number also wasn't a hero lap, it was easily repeatable. Even more impressive, the standard GT350 (presumably with the Track Pack) was within a few seconds despite being on much more street friendly tires. That would put the GT350 neck and neck with the Camaro Z/28's 7:37.4 lap time, although it is worth mentioning that the Z/28's time was on a somewhat damp track so it might have a few seconds to give.

This should come as no surprise since the Z/28 was one of the cars that were benchmarked during the development and I'm sure its lap times were somewhat of a target. The incredible lap time also puts it ahead of cars like the Porsche 911 GT3 RS (997), which put down a best lap time of 7:33.0 in 2010 according to Fastest Laps.

The Shelby GT350 is thoroughly overhauled compared to a standard Mustang. You can read plenty of details here (A Legend Returns: The 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350) but in summary, it gets a unique 5.2 litre V8 engine with more than 500 naturally aspirated horsepower, improved aerodynamics through a splitter, side skirts, rear spoiler, underbody panels and a sculpted hood, chassis stiffening parts and an upgraded suspension. The engine features a flat plane crank, a redline of more than 8,200 rpm and more than 500 naturally aspirated hp and will push power through a six-speed manual transmission and then through a Torsen differential. The suspension gets revised front and rear tracks, revised springs and bushings, and magnetic-fluid filled shocks and wider wheels and tires. The GT350R further improves on the GT350 through more aggressive suspension and aerodynamics and a weight saving regime (Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R).

There's no mention of whether or not Ford is changing its strategy about publishing Nurburgring lap times for performance models but one thing is clear; the Shelby GT350 will put a few cars to shame when it starts hitting tracks.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New Lean and Mean Ford F-150 Raptor

Ford. Struck. Again. Another high horsepower, high performance model. This time, it's the return of F-150 Raptor, which will once again set the standard for production high performance off-road vehicles. This time, Ford reengineered more of the truck to differentiate it from the standard F-150 compared to the last generation and make it more formidable.

For starters, the Raptor gets a bespoke, purpose built frame that is unique to the Raptor, making it the toughest in the lineup and stronger than the outgoing Raptor. Using the same (high strength, military grade) aluminum alloy that deputed on the body of this F-150 generation, Ford claims a 500 lbs weight reduction compared to the outgoing Raptor. Lighter and tougher? Can't complain. The exterior is still easily distinguishable from the rest of the lineup and it doesn't disappoint. I think the truck looks absolutely menacing.

Some of the updates, though, are sure to upset a few people. The truck no longer comes with a big V8. Instead, it comes with a high output 3.5 litre, twin turbo, EcoBoost V6. Ford says the engine will make more than the outgoing 6.2 litre V8 output of 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque. Judging by the popularity of the standard 3.5 litre EcoBoost that was in the outgoing truck and is back in this generation, this high output version is bound to make more friends than enemies. I can't help but feel a little discouraged, though, about the possibility of an impending future without any mainstream V8 engines. Nevertheless, at least there is assurance that manufacturer support for high performance and high hp vehicles will live on. The new engine will be backed by an all new 10-speed transmission with manual paddle shifters. The combination of the EcoBoost engine, the 10-speed transmission and weight and aerodynamic improvements in this F-150 lineup should push the fuel economy far past the outgoing model's 11/16/13 city/hwy/combined mpg EPA ratings. 

Routing power to the wheels is an all new active transfer case which distributes torque on demand to all four wheels. Ford says the transfer case "combines the best attributes of clutch-driven, on-demand all-wheel drive with durable, mechanical-locking four-wheel drive." The transfer case has multiple operating modes:
  • Normal mode for everyday driving
  • Street mode for higher-performance, on-road driving
  • Weather mode for rain, snow or ice
  • Mud and sand mode for muddy and sandy trails and terrain
  • Baja mode for high-speed desert running
  • Rock mode for low-speed rock crawling
The different modes have different calibrations for the powertrain, driveline, traction control, ABS and AdvanceTrac stability control for optimal performance based on driving conditions. A front Torsen differential will be available as an option for improved front end traction and off road capability. There is no mention of the rear end differential so presumably, it will once again be a locking differential. Putting all the power to the ground are next-generation BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires.

Ford obviously overhauled the suspension as well. The standard shocks will be new FOX Racing Shox with custom internal bypass technology that works to damp and stiffen suspension travel over rough terrain to help prevent the truck from bottoming out. The shock canisters are now 3 inches in diameter, up from 2.5 inches, to improve performance and will allow more suspension travel than the outgoing Raptor’s 11.2 inches at the front and 12 inches at the rear, although Ford didn't say how much more.

Inside, Ford made "interior upgrades" to improve driver and passenger comfort and will offer three colour material levels and auxiliary switches to control aftermarket equipment, such as lights or an air compressor, are mounted out of the driver’s way in the roof of the cab. The Raptor will also feature advanced LED lighting and camera technology to improve visibility on the on and off road – day and night.

Unfortunately, the truck won't go on sale until fall 2016 so it will be a while before they're available but Ford kept referring to the outgoing F-150 Raptor as "current" so maybe Ford will continue to build it until then. If so, the next few months may be the last chance for someone looking to grab a new F-150 Raptor powered by a V8. Hopefully we'll see Chevy and RAM respond with similar offerings! For more information, visit All-New F-150 Raptor - Ford Media.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R - Because a GT350 isn't fast enough!

As if revealing the Ford GT wasn't exciting enough for car enthusiasts, Ford gave the world another treat in the form of the Mustang Shelby GT350R. It seems like more people have been talking about the Ford GT and the new F-150 Raptor and this may have been a little overshadowed. In my opinion, it's not due to it being less significant than either (okay, maybe it isn't quite as significant as a new GT), but because the biggest surprise came when the GT350 was revealed a few weeks ago and a lot of people were expecting a more hard core version to come at some point.

Still, the fact that this is announced now is great. The new Mustang has been on sale for just a few months and typically it takes one model year or two to reveal a higher performance version of a model. Look at the history of Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes and even exotics from across the pond. The run-of-the-mill Mustang has been on sale for relatively little and then Ford announced the King Cobra Roush supercharger packages (Mustang GT Ford Racing Roush Supercharger kit), then they announced the Shelby GT350 and now there's a GT350R. Plus there are talks about the return of a GT500 with gobs of horsepower. Ford is doing something right!

The most obvious changes outside are a more aggressive front splitter to increase down force and a larger carbon fibre rear spoiler that Ford says is a "high-efficiency" wing so I am assuming it has little effect on drag. Ford says the wing not only increases downforce but moves the vehicle's centre of pressure rearward so the downforce should be biased towards the rear compared to the the standard GT350. While the spoiler and wing together should increase grip and stability at high speed, this bias should improve stability in high speed corners compared to the GT350. Other changes that are unique to the GT350 found their way here including the sculpted, lowered hood with the vent for heat extraction and lift reduction, underbody belly pans front and rear, an aggressive diffuser, vented wheel wells and turbulence-reducing fender vents, wheel air curtains and side skirts. The exhaust tips appear to have been blackened out compared to the polished ones found on the standard GT350.

The first question people seem to ask about a higher performance model, though, is whether it has more power but Ford didn't reveal that. Obviously, the same flat-plane crankshaft 5.2 litre V8 that surprised (and delighted) us all in the GT350 is used here and Ford says the engine makes more than 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, the same thing it said about the GT350 so I suspect it will have the same hp rating. It shouldn't need more power, though, because of the improvements that will no doubt make this a much quicker car. It will also be more than 130 lbs. lighter than the GT350 Track Model so it should be faster with the same horsepower.

To save weight, Ford removed the air conditioning, stereo, rear seats, trunk floorboard and carpet, backup camera and emergency tire sealer and inflator. Exhaust resonators also have been removed for weight savings which should, not only reduce weight, but let the 5.2 litre V8 sing more freely. If you don't want a stripped down car, Ford is offering an optional Electronics Package which will bring dual-zone air conditioning, 8-inch touch screen with navigation, seven-speaker audio system, turn signal mirrors and more. I suspect that the Electronics Package will probably cut the 130 lbs weight savings by about half but that should only marginally slow down the car so I think it's worth it. I typically don't like added electronics and, therefore, weight and complexity but for the sake of air conditioning and audio I think I would go for it.

Ford is also using lightweight carbon fibre wheels, which Ford will proudly say it is the first major automaker to introduce this innovative wheel technology as standard equipment. The wheels save 13 lbs per each single wheel, for a total of 52 lbs, yet they are stiffer than equivalent aluminum wheels. The wheels measure 19 x 11 inches up front and 19 x 11.5 inches in the back so they are substantial in size and measure 0.5 inches wider in the front and the back compared to the standard GT350. The wheels will be wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires with a rubber compound and a construction that is unique to Shelby GT350R. Rounding off the suspension are revised spring rates, bushings, jounce bumpers, cross-axis ball joints and anti-roll bars, unique alignment settings and a lowered ride height. The shocks have also been recalibrated but, unlike the Z/28, Ford stuck to the MagneRide dampers instead of going to fixed dampers. This should mean it will ride better compared to the Z/28 but it's hard to say what, if any, detriment this will have on damping performance on the track.

Ford said this will go on sale later this year in Canada and the U.S. so we shouldn't have to wait too long to see how this thing performs. Where did I put that winning lottery ticket?

The Legendary Ford GT is back!

I was in complete and utter disbelief when I saw this. I read a few articles about a possible GT replacement but how many times have we heard the same? How many times have we heard rumours and saw concepts before the last return of the GT? Now that it is here, it's hard to argue that the legendary name has returned.

Beyond the car itself, another shocking detail is the engine. A 3.5 litre, twin turbocharged EcoBoost V6. No longer is it a V8. Whenever a V6 replaces a V8, that's always a sin in my books but this may be the first case where I liked something about it. It ties it to Ford's racing efforts in Tudor with the Daytona Prototypes (DP) cars, which use a racing variation of Ford's famous 3.5 litre EcoBoost engine. I always like ties to racing. I still would have much rather seen a V8 and I'm afraid this is a sign of things to come but it's hard to argue with more than 600 hp, which is what Ford said it will make. Ford fitted the engine with both, direct and port injection, probably to get past fuelling limitations with direct injection turbo engines. Ford says the engine will be paired with a seven speed dual clutch transaxle so, unfortunately, that implies that a manual will not return.

As always, it will be mid-engine and rear wheel drive. Ford is using a carbon fibre passenger cell as most new exotics these days with aluminum front and rear subframes wrapped up in structural carbon fibre body panels. Needless to say, weight probably won't be a problem for the GT. The chassis is suspended by an active racing-style torsion bar and pushrod suspension, with adjustable ride height. Michelin Pilot Super Sport Cup 2 tires featuring a unique compound and structure designed specifically for the Ford GT will be used to make full use of the state of the art suspension and turbocharged power. Carbon-ceramic brake discs are utilized at all four corners.

Needless to say, the body is optimized to reduce drag while increasing downforce and stability. Ford is also using active aerodynamics to improve braking, handling and stability. Ford says the rear spoiler's height and pitch angle are variable but doesn't say what other, if any, components are active.

Ford didn't reveal many more details about the car but I'm sure it will as the launch date gets closer. I think Ford has done a great job at completely modernizing the design while still showing resemblance to the original. I have no doubt it has got a winner on its hands. A very, very awesome winner.

All new 2016 Cadillac CTS-V

Okay, this is over three weeks old new. But, as I've done in the past a few times, I simply cannot exclude some cars when they debut from my blog. This is a perfect example, the new CTS-V. For one, look at the thing. I think it looks awesome. It's aggressive but not vulgar and, besides the grille and hood vents, looks almost discrete in a dark colour like the gunmetal grey below (okay, the quad exhausts are a giveaway as well).

We haven't even got to the best part yet, the supercharged beating heart making 640 hp. 640 hp. That is a lot more than the last generation's 556 hp and it actually needs less to be as quick. I was expecting Cadillac to give it a number around 600 hp and would have been very happy with that. It would have been a nice jump of about 50 hp from the last generation while having a better and lighter chassis. You can't complain about that. But no, they gave it 640 hp. For those who are bored by numbers, skip to the next paragraph. This car is around 200 lb. LIGHTER than the last generation. Looking back a test of a 2008 CTS with the 3.6 V6 (Car and Driver weighed it at 4,032 lbs) vs a 2014 CTS test with (basically) the same 3.6 V6 (Motor Trend weighed it at 3,840 lbs), that's very nearly 200 lbs. The last generation CTS-V weighed nearly 4,300 lbs so this one should come in around 4,100 lbs. In other words, it would have needed 530 hp to be as quick but they threw another 110 supercharged hp at it and wrapped it all in a much more capable chassis.

Speaking of the chassis, there are plenty of improvements there too. Cadillac used various braces to stiffen up the chassis by 25% compared to non V models. These include:
  • Strut tower-to-tower brace
  • Strut tower-to-plenum brace
  • V-braces for the engine compartment
  • Strengthened rocker bulkhead
  • Stronger rear cradle-to-rocker braces
  • A unique aluminum shear panel at the front of the chassis
  • Upper tie bar-to-bumper braces.
Other improvements were made in the form of stiffer wheels, bushings, springs and stabilizer (anti-roll) bars. Cadillac also revised the front suspension for better control and, as expected, the latest and greatest magneto-rheological shocks - i.e. Magnetic Ride Control in GM speak. This is the third generation which can respond 40% faster than the last generation which, according to Cadillac, can change the damping force every inch of the road at 60 mph (96 km/h). Rounding off the suspension are bigger Brembo brakes with six piston callipers up front clamping on 15.3 inch (390 mm) rotors and four pistons callipers in the back clamping on 14.3 inch (365 mm) rotors. 

Outside, the body was optimizer for aerodynamics to reduce lift, improve cooling or both. A carbon fibre hood is used to save weight with air-extracting vents that help directs air flow out of the engine bay and over the car instead of under which improves cooling as well as reduce lift. The front and rear fascias have also been improved and a front splitter, rocker mouldings, and a rear spoiler are used to reduce lift. A carbon fibre package is available to kick it up a notch with more aggressive front splitter, hood vent, rear diffuser and spoiler. 

I know this is bound to be phenomenal. 640 supercharged hp, lightweight (for the class), an already proven excellent chassis and Cadillac is also using an electronic limited-slip differential and Chevy did wonders with it in the Corvette Stingray. I also remember reading an early review of the C7 Corvette with the magnetic shocks and the person testing the car said that he has never driven a car on a track that was as forgiving on the rumble strips as the Corvette so we know the ride will still be great. It will have a top speed of 200 mph and will get to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, according to Cadillac. For those who are interested in lap times, think about this. The current BMW M5 posted a lap time of 3:05.2 at VIR during Car and Driver's Lightning Lap. The E63 AMG S-Model put down 3:00.1. Meanwhile, the Camaro ZL1 was 2:57.5. This has about 70 hp more, will weigh the same or less with a much newer and better chassis and drivetrain. I would be very surprised if it weren't quicker than the ZL1. In other words, it will probably blow the competition out of the water.

I hope I can drive one when it comes out and can't wait to see a full test of it! For more information and details, visit: 2016 Cadillac CTS-V - Cadillac Media.