Ford doesn't technically call it that, but we know different.
For the first time in 50 years, Ford is offering the Shelby GT350 and GT500 at the same time. The GT350 offers a more purist approach to track performance with a manual transmission while the GT500 aims for the fastest lap times possible with a Tremec-built dual-clutch transmission. For the 2020 model year, Ford has updated the GT350 and GT350R with various improvements from the new GT500 but unlike the GT350, the GT500 will not be offered with a more hardcore R version.
However, the Carbon Fiber Track Package for the GT500 offers nearly identical upgrades as the GT350R, so for all intents and purposes, a car equipped with this option can be considered a GT500R. In fact, some of the Ford folk, as we learned at the first drive event, refer to the range-topping Shelby as the GT500R. It was the marketing department that decided not to split the car into two different models. Whatever you want to call it, here's what you get with the package and how it differs from the base car.
With a base price of $72,900, the GT500 is already among the most expensive muscle cars on the market. But if you want the most track-capable GT500 (aka the GT500R), you have to opt for the Carbon Fiber Track Package. It costs $18,500, which pushes the price of the GT500 up to $91,400. This is a huge sum to pay just for an upgrade package but Ford doesn't skimp on what you get for your money.
Two of the most important upgrades in this package are the carbon fiber wheels and stickier tires. Having more grip makes a huge difference when you are setting lap times and the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires offer greater traction compared to the base Pilot Sport 4S tires. Those sticky tires are also wrapped around a set of carbon fiber wheels from Australian company Carbon Revolution.
These are the same wheels found on the GT350R and the GT supercar and feature a beautiful exposed carbon fiber weave. Having lighter wheels reduces unsprung weight on the car and drastically improves the car's performance around a track. The package also includes a wheel locking kit, so those expensive carbon fiber wheels won't be stolen.
The GT500 is available with base seats featuring power adjustment as well as heating and ventilation. If you plan to drive the car around every day, these may be the better option, but the Recaro racing seats are far better suited for track usage. These seats are available separately for $1,595 but are included with Carbon Fiber Track Package along with a rear seat delete for added weight reduction. Since the Mustang's rear seats are pretty cramped, we say there's not a huge sacrifice with the delete.
To further increase grip on the track, the GT500 is equipped with some serious aero. The Carbon Fiber Track Package includes a massive rear wing finished in exposed carbon fiber and what Ford calls wickers attached to the front splitter. Having these aero upgrades results in 550 pounds of downforce at the car's top speed of 180 mph.
The final pieces of the Carbon Fiber Track Package are the carbon fiber instrument panel, which is mainly aesthetic, and adjustable strut top mounts. Ford lists the strut top mounts as a "factory-invoiced accessory shipped separately from vehicle. Dealer installation required." With all of the upgrades in this package, you can essentially think of the GT500 as a GT500R.
If the $18,500 Carbon Fiber Track Package is just too expensive to justify, Ford offers the Handling Pack for just $1,500. This package includes the splitter wickers found on the carbon package as well as a Gurney flap on the smaller rear spoiler. It may not be quite as quick on a track but comes at a far more reasonable price. You also get to keep the rear seats and the tires will be much more usable in the rain.