The KR features not only revised...
The KR features not only revised styling, but also a slick aero package. SVT engineers spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel perfecting it, and it's said to provide 31 percent more downforce and actually yields a slight improvement of 0.4 second from 0 to 150 mph. Aside from the obvious hood, the KR sports a thin, aggressive carbon-fiber front splitter and utilizes the rear wing from the V-6 Mustang to round out the stable, slippery package. "You have to experience the new KR at speed in a curve to feel the difference," says SVT Product Design Specialist John Pfeiffer. "It has an absolutely minimal aero movement of just 54 lb-ft at 120 mph, a 92-percent improvement versus the GT500. That's central to its confident handling ability because it's just as happy at 120 mph as it is at 60."
It was a familiar scene for me as we rolled into Miller Motorsports Park for the road course portion of the KR program, but in a change from many other events in the past, Ford truly brought out its Steed For Every Need lineup for the press to experience. As such, I was able to drive a Mustang GT, a Shelby GT, a Bullitt, a Miller School Car, a GT500, and a GT500KR all in one day. It was an orgiastic feast of performance for a Mustang lover, and besides an enjoyable experience, it provided a much needed refresher on the personalities of all these different Mustangs. Not surprisingly, the KR was the most fun, but I really liked the Bullitt on the road course, too.
Gathering up all the willpower I have, I resisted the urge to jump in the KR and blast as many laps as I could. I really wanted to climb the ladder in order, so before driving the top dog, I made a point of driving the base GT500 first. Given that I have personal GT500 experience, it was still enlightening to drive these cars back to back. Just as I remembered, the plush factory GT500 suspension does an admirable job balancing comfort with an acceptable level of balance. Sure, it plows at the limit, but for a musclecar it does a fair job of carving corners.
You'd think moving to essentially the same car with a few improvements wouldn't be a big deal, right? The KR performed well on the street twisties and wasn't harsh-could the track improvement be that big? In short, yes. The improvement was huge, and the reason is two-fold: a new suspension and a developed-for-the-KR Goodyear tire compound. However, the results provided a near night-and-day difference in the car's handling. Where the GT500 wallows, the KR remains resolute; where the GT500 pushes, the KR turns in. Impressive stuff!
In the end, it was tough for me to give up my seat in the KR and trudge out trackside to do my photographic duty. What's tougher is knowing that only a few of these cars will ever be driven as hard as they deserve to be driven. The improvements in the appearance, exhaust, and handling made the marginal horsepower improvements a nonissue. The KR is an all-around better car. Of course, you can do a lot with a base GT500 and $40,000. For now, however, the GT500KR holds the factory Mustang crown, and it's worthy to do so.
Apparently, running the KRs down the assembly line at Auto Alliance posed a number of difficulties that led to them being converted at Shelby Automobiles. Ford and SVT made sure to bring the Shelby team up to speed on all their quality initiatives, as Ford has an impressive quality rating to uphold on the GT500. As such, the cars are shipped from AAI as unsaleable, preconversion cars that are then converted to KR specs before being shipped off to lucky new owners in an enclosed trailer.
I was lucky enough to tour the Shelby facility while some of the same cars we drove in Utah were being assembled, and I walked away quite impressed with the operation. Suffice it to say, a lot of work goes into crowning a King of the Road.
From a distance, the KR and...
From a distance, the KR and GT500 look a lot alike, but get closer and there are several differences. The red KR in this shot is one of the development mules, which features a full 'cage and datalogging equipment for track testing.
While base GT500 owners can...
While base GT500 owners can order a dash plaque from Shelby Performance Parts, KR owners get one right off the showroom floor. The plaque features the VIN and the signature of Carroll Shelby himself.