In 2015 Ford launched the Mustang Shelby GT350, which sported a number of new performance enhancements. While its high-revving, flat-plane-crank Voodoo 5.2-liter engine garnered many of the headlines, its MagneRide suspension option delivered a higher level of performance because it can react to driving conditions in milliseconds to enhance performance.

Optimizing the contact time improves handling performance by creating more grip. — Bret Voelkel, RideTech

Integrated to adjust in concert with the factory drive modes, the stock MagneRide suspension changes shock damping in response to steering angle, pitch, yaw and even ambient temperatures to optimize its performance for the selected drive mode. In practice it improves ride quality in Normal mode and performance when toggled to Drag, Sport, or Track Modes.

The Ridetech MagneTuner is a direct replacement for the factory MagneRide controller. Much like an aftermarket engine control unit this suspension controller features a revised calibration designed to improve performance and ride quality in all the factory suspension modes — Normal, Sport, Weather, Track and Drag.

However, as great as it works, it is still a factory system designed to fit within the confines of the requirements to suit the broadest range of customers. Just like the factory calibration in the powertrain control module, it could be improved for performance. However, the factory MagneRide controller is not easily flashed. Thanks to Ridetech’s MagneTuner (PN 33601100; $1,390), powered by DSC, it is easily replaced.

“The OEMs seem to use the MagneRide to develop a specific calibration then ‘lock it down’ to almost passive damper performance,” Bret Voelkel, President of RideTech, “I don’t know exactly why they seem to ignore the benefits of a broader range of adjustment potential. We open up the adjustment ranges and allow the system to become more active and responsive.”

Car owner Joe Charles begins the process by removing the factory trunk floor cover, rear panel cover, and passenger-side trunkliner. (Photo Credit: Keplinger Designs)

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Suspension Tuning

“I can remember way back when I was amazed that a computer chip would improve my engine’s performance. Then tuners had the ability to flash their tune to the chip, and then we progressed to handheld tuners…” GT350 owner Joe Charles added. “Now we possess the same sort of custom tuning for the suspension on our cars — mind blown. It’s amazing to witness first-hand as our hobby evolves like this. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

The MagneTuner is an integrated suspension controller that directly replaces your OE suspension controller. There is no modification necessary to your Shelby.

Next Joe unplugs the factory controller and unbolts its mounting bracket to free the factory unit from the car. Simply push the gray unlock button to pop open the connector cover and pull it lightly to disconnect the wiring.

“The GT350 is one of many cars that uses the MagneRide system supplied by BWI [formerly Delphi],” Bret said. “After determining the exact physical interface needed, it was a matter of reshaping the operating parameters to allow the car to respond to its input data in the way we wanted it to.”

It also comes pre-programmed with a calibration that not only enhances the handling and stability of your car, but improves ride quality as well. That’s what we call a “win-win” scenario.

“I had seen and read all the hype surrounding the ‘tuner’ and to be quite honest, I was very intrigued,” Joe said. “I wanted to see if it were possible for this simple bolt on to actually make a difference.”

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Comfort & Speed

The key to better ride quality and better grip is keeping the tire in contact with the pavement as much as possible. By having the ability to properly tune the shock action, you allow the tire to follow all the undulations and road irregularities instead of bouncing over them and slapping the pavement.

You don’t have to be ‘pushing’ the car to feel the difference, but it really shines on rough pavement. — Joe Charles, GT350 Owner

“Ride quality and handling performance are both improved by keeping the tire in contact with the pavement for as long as possible,” Bret explained. “Optimizing the contact time improves the ride quality by allowing the tires to follow all the road irregularities instead of leaping over them and slamming back down on the other side. Optimizing the contact time improves handling performance by creating more grip, the longer the contact and the better the grip, the better the handling performance.”

The texture of the pavement seems to melt away, and cornering grip is also increased dramatically by virtue of keeping that tire on the pavement more. The increase in stability not only improves grip, but also allows the driver to feel more comfortable in the car and, thus, drive faster.

Close to wrapping up the installation, Joe installs the MagneTuner on its mounting bracket.

The factory calibration philosophy uses the MagneRide system to tune the suspension for a wide variety of drivers and driving conditions, which can sometimes mean it is locked down to the level of a passive damper system. Meanwhile, the MagnaTuner recalibrates the system so it makes full use of sensor and adjustment ranges, resulting in a truly active suspension system.

This adaptive difference can be seen in driving the car on normal roads, then going straight onto the track without any changes. The sensors pick up the increased levels in braking force, cornering loads, acceleration, and more to automatically increase the effort and duration the dampers require for increased control.

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Plug-In Improvements

“Customers can expect improved lap times from a couple of areas. First, improved grip simply allows more cornering speed. Second, better damper control creates a more secure and stable-feeling vehicle. This leads to more driver comfort and confidence, and that leads to better lap times,” Bret says.

Those same adaptive abilities are readily apparent when two drivers pilot the same car – one might be smoother in and out of corners, while the other might brake harder, or turn more sharply. Either way, the MagneTuner adjusts the damper profiles delivering each driver the control and feel they need for the quickest possible lap times.

Then he lubricates the MagneTuner and factory wiring harness connector with spray lubricant before mounting the unit in the trunk with the factory bracket hardware and plugging it in. Be sure to use light pressure on the closing lever to make the final wiring harness connection. Now you are ready to hit the road. “The install was seriously one of the easiest installs I’ve ever done,” Joe said. “It is 100-percent plug-and-play. The hardest part was not losing the ‘Christmas tree’ plugs when removing interior trim panels.”

Joe has owned two GT350s – A 2016 GT350 for a couple months, and a 2017 GT350R as soon as they were available. In addition, he has also done numerous HPDE and track days with other cars and is a national drag racing champion. Joe knows fast cars and understands how a simple change in tune can improve a car’s behavior. He was itching to get the MagneTuner installed.

After installing the MagneTuner, Joe took us for a ride over a piece of road that he drives on the regular. It features nice curves, and a real nasty stretch of broken pavement and railroad tracks. Joe set the drive mode to Sport. At first, we didn’t notice much change, as the car still had the tight handling and quick responses that he loved about the factory system. “The OE MagneRide system does so much more than conventional shocks,” he explained. “I really didn’t think there’d be much that could be improved on.”

More Tuning Options?

MagneTuner enables you to make changes to the tuning maps to fit your specific needs. The RideTech MagneTuner allows you to make tuning adjustments to your MagneRide system through software and a PC laptop. Set your own parameters in acceleration, braking, calibration, G-force, speed, steering, and velocity. Then upload to the MagneTuner through a USB link, similar to what you can do with various engine management software systems.

However, you don’t want to start calibrating suspensions without some level of experience in the field. For those so inclined, you can tweak acceleration, brake pressure, G-force, Performance Traction Management, shock calibration, speed, steering angle, and velocity parameters.

“I have not attempted to make any custom changes to the files yet,” Joe Charles said. “Currently, it’s doing everything I want or need it to do.”

Then, at about 70 mph, we drove over the first piece of rough pavement. “Geez! Wasn’t expecting that!” Joe enthused. “It glided right over that stretch. Yep, I still felt the roughness, but it didn’t jar my teeth like it usually does. Simply amazing!”

We drove over his route several more times, each time Joe just grinned, and put more power down. So, was it worth the price?

“Yes, definitely! The difference is amazing. I can’t wait to get this to the track to really give it a run,” Joe said. “I haven’t had the chance to put a ton of miles on the car since making the change, but you don’t have to be ‘pushing’ the car to feel the difference, but it really shines on rough pavement. It’s hard to explain. The MagneRide is a huge improvement over a conventional hydraulic strut. This tuner just amps that up another notch. Where this thing will really shine is when you take advantage of having the ability to ‘tune’ the suspension for specific tracks. In a timed event, this should equate to a huge advantage.”

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