What If? 2022 Ford Mustang Cobra R

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Abimelec Arellano

Welcome to What If, a new feature from imaginative illustrator Abimelec Arellano and Hagerty. We’ll be taking you back in time—and possibly forward into the future—to meet alternative-universe automobiles. Even better, our time machine is working well enough to bring “short take” reviews along with the photographs and advertisements. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

(Originally published in Motor Vogue magazine, October 2021)

If you’re a Motor Vogue reader, you know that there’s only one thing that we love more than crashing carbon-fiber-bodied 993s, making stilted videos featuring washed-up has-beens from all parts of the auto biz, talking about food trucks, borrowing cars and even watches we can’t afford so we can pretend to be “ballers,” and living that five-figure-millionaire Insta-life in our parents’ basements thanks to an endless supply of overseas press trips—and that thing is watching a NEW MUSTANG TELL A CAMARO TO STEP OUTSIDE! Well, friends, fans, and people whose parents accidentally got them a subscription to this magazine instead of the Road&Travis subscription you really wanted … it’s ALL HAPPENING!

What_If_Mustang Cobra R magazine
Abimelec Arellano

This totally awesome beast is the 2022 Cobra R and it’s exactly what it looks like! It’s a Cobra! And it has the letter “R” on it! Now, you’re probably thinking that you’ve seen something like this before, and you’d be right! The first Cobra R was an end-of-run Fox Mustang with special brakes and suspension. The next Cobra R was a wicked 5.8-liter, 300-horsepower take on the SN95 Cobra 5.0. Finally, and most memorably, there was that 32-valve 5.4-liter New Edge Cobra R for model year 2000. That “mod motor” was a combination of a cast-iron, truck-derived 5.4 block and the race-spec twin-cam heads that would later help the Ford GT terrorize standing-mile events. It was rumored to produce over 400 horses at the crank, which blew everyone’s minds until the supercharged “Terminator” Cobra appeared a couple of years later.

We’re not exactly short on fast Mustangs right now; although the GT350 and GT350R are driving into the sunset (that’s a fancy autowriter way to say they aren’t going to make them any more, I learned that at Cal State Dominguez Hills from an English professor who never believed in me) there’s still the five-liter Mach 1 and supercharged GT500 out there ruling the roost (another fancy phrase, taken from an Alice In Chains song) in dealerships. Those are track-focused weapons that balance power, braking, and handling at a very high level. This Cobra R is something quite different.

What If 21 Cobra R red engine bay
Abimelec Arellano

It all starts with the 7.3-liter, iron-block truck engine from the new Super Duty pickups. In working trim, it makes 430 horsepower at 5500 rpm and best-in-class torque of 475 pound-feet at 4000 rpm, but you can forget all about those numbers because the wizards at Ford Performance have gone all the way through this motor to pump up the volume! If you’re a Cobra R owner, you’ll be asked to sign a document indicating that you understand the specialized maintenance needs of the “Boss 428” engine. That’s right: This engine has been de-stroked to 7.0 liters and, with the aid of solid lifters, can rev to an absolutely insane 8000 rpm, producing 605 horses at that level. (Torque drops a bit, to 420 pound-feet at 4300 rpm.)

We asked Jamal Hameedi about this new engine, and he said, “I don’t know anything about it. I work for Jaguar Land Rover now. Would you like to hear about the new Velar?” Nice try, Hameedi! We all know you’re secretly working for Ford at night. In our second interview, he basically admitted that and also told us that the Boss 428 could rev even higher, saying, “Oh yeah, it could totally do nine grand, maybe even ten, the sky’s the limit, if you think I still secretly work at Ford you’ll believe anything, won’t you?” You got that right, big dog!

It’s easy to see that the new Cobra R takes its inspiration from the 2000 model, with a high-deck rear wing and aggressively angular bodywork covering running gear that matches the GT350R for size. The wheels are a tribute to the 2000 Cobra R wheels, while the brakes are the carbon-ceramics from the GT500.

Inside, the Cobra R theme continues; pretty much all the interior parts are sourced from the lowest-price Ecoboost Mustang, including the seats. The sound system is the Sync 1.0 from the 2008 Focus; it’s just terrible, and it keeps asking us to plug in an iPod of up to 20GB capacity so it can take three hours to index all the songs for voice retrieval. Luckily, one of our editors still had a 20GB iPod from when he was unemployed during the short period from his college graduation to his start here at MotorVogue just thirteen years later. So now we can listen to “Ace Of Spades” any time we want, although in order not to confuse the SYNC 1.0 we have to say,

“Play track, A** of Spa-deez”

and let us tell you, it still rocks the way it used to when we lived with Mom and Dad, all the way back in 2015.

Happily, the transmission is that mighty Tremec six-speed that we all knew and loved in previous GT500 Shelbys. The clutch requires a bit of pressure to operate, as you’d expect. Adding 206 pounds to the front end—that’s the difference between a 5.0 Coyote and the Boss 428—does make the car feel a little bit nose-heavy during our “hot canyon runs” north of Santa Monica. In order to know the car’s true performance potential, however, we’d have to run our traditional timed lap around Buttonwillow. Unfortunately, before we could have the chance to crash it on the track, it was crashed on the street by our newest editor, whom we will only identify by his initials, “S.F.” We picked S.F. up from Car and Steerer a while back and let us tell you, this guy really knows his food trucks.

We’ve asked Ford for another Cobra to be delivered at the same time they pay us for the placement of this article in the magazine you’re reading right now. Because it takes a while for all the printing and mailing to happen, chances are that when you read this we will be already heading down to a craft beer joint in another brand-new big-block Mustang, with our pockets full of greenbacks! And that’s the best part about this new car, obviously! Supposedly Chevrolet is working on a Camaro to match it, featuring their new 6.6-liter truck engine. When that happens, you can count on Motor Vogue to get those two cars to STEP OUTSIDE!

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