So here, at last, is the Ford GT, the unquestionably fabulous, latest incarnation of a supercar.
Coming to market as the most expensive Ford car ever, It’s the consumer version of the car that the automaker created — in nearly Manhattan Project secrecy — for a return to the Le Mans 24-hour race, 50 years after the GT40 scored the first of four consecutive overall victories.
The Ford GT’s return to Le Mans came last summer. The racing version of the GT dominated its class at Le Mans, finishing first, third, and fourth. The stellar performance came more than a year after the Ford GT made its cheeky surprise appearance as a prototype at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, completely upstaging the unveiling of the Acura NSX.
So, the car. Eyeball flattening power? Undiluted race car? Yes, and yes.
As far as I know, no one from the media or the public has driven the racing version of the Ford GT, and very few have been behind the wheel of the street car. Until now. I’ve been in sports car racing for over 35 years, and this is the most formidable race car I’ve ever driven.
Staged in Utah, Ford’s program for the media included a run on public roads, including some sinuous mountain stretches with decreasing radius turns that ranged from slow to OMG fast.
Power? Sure, there’s no shortage of that. An adaptation of Ford’s EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6, the twin-turbo street-legal engine is rated for 647 horsepower.
In a low-riding mid-engine sports car, this adds up to 0-to-60 miles per hour in three seconds flat. With an almost half million dollar price tag, the 2017 Ford GT has been released, Even if you had the money, you can’t buy one.
In full automatic mode, the seven-speed Getrag dual-clutch automatic transmission keeps the engine in the sweet part of its powerband. As you might expect, fuel economy — 11 miles per gallon in the city, 18 mpg on the highway — is not a bragging point. Nor is it likely to be an owner concern. In manual mode, the automatic snaps its shifts up and down far quicker than any driver could manage with a manual transmission.
Power is only one element in the Le Mans equation. Aerodyamic efficiency is just as critical. Ditto handling. Brakes. Steering.
Starting more or less with the profile of the GT40, the GT’s development entailed wind tunnel time that probably rivals the F117 Stealth fighter. The finished product is a showcase of aerodynamic innovation. Every surface has been refined to minimize drag and optimize downforce, increasing cornering grip.
For example, a big rear wing pops up at the rear when the speed hits 70 mph for increased downforce at the rear of the car. The wing adjusts itself, depending on speed, and at high cornering velocities it deploys a Gurney lip — a thin strip along the rear edge — that increases downforce.
Every vent on the car has some aerodynamic function, giving the GT a level of aero sophistication far beyond that of the old GT40.
While aerodynamic efficiency was the top priority, GT design director Craig Metros also managed to make the car gorgeous. His goal: “Performance efficiency and modern seduction.”
The car is a carbon festival — carbon fiber body panels, carbon fiber central tub, carbon ceramic brake rotors. These are brakes that do everything but stand the car on its nose.
Getting behind the wheel entails contorting oneself in under the scissor-style door and then behind the grippy wheel, which is flat on top and bottom.
The seats — thinly padded carbon fiber — are race car purposeful, well bolstered, very supportive, probably not very comfortable for trips of any length. Contemporary amenities are limited — climate control, audio, and Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, including navigation, on a smallish center dash screen.
Power comes on strong, as you’d expect, and the steering is surgically precise and cat quick — just 1.7 turns from full left to full right — with grip that simply won’t let go.
In terms of pure performance, the consumer version of the GT operates at a very high level, providing a taste of what the guys experienced last summer at Le Mans. But as a touring car, the GT probably leaves something to be desired. It’s snug inside — not much elbow room, not much head room, especially when wearing a helmet. And stowage is conspicuous by its absence.
The track portion of the program was held at the Utah Motorsports Campus, a road circuit some 35 miles south of Salt Lake City. I emerged impressed and humbled. The Ford GT is quicker than I am, and I clearly need more track time. Soon.
Now for the bad news. The base price for the “standard” GT is $450,000, plus $2,500 destination — far more than any Ford car ever.
There are two other trim levels — the ’66 Heritage Edition, and the Competition Series. The latter is devoid of non-essentials such as audio, HVAC, and infotainment, and further lightened by titanium exhaust and carbon fiber wheels.
Even if you’re thinking about selling your estate in the south of France to acquire a GT, you’re out of luck. According to Henry Ford III, who manages Ford Motorsports marketing, there were some 6,500 applicants worldwide for the first 750 cars that will be sold worldwide — 10 countries besides the U.S.
Among other criteria, the applicants were vetted on a basis of loyalty to Ford, plus a promise to drive the car rather than stow it away as a collectible, plus a further promise to refrain from selling the car for at least two years.
Those are pretty tough requirements for what is, after all, a very expensive track toy. On the other hand, the GT is a stunning showcase for Ford technology. And what kind of price do you set on extraordinary?
What Stands Out
Power. The twin-turbocharged V-6 produces 647 horsepower
Price. $450,00 plus $2,500 in destination charges — the pricest Ford ever
Availability. 6,500 applicants worldwide for the first 750 cars
2017 Ford GT
What? The latest version of Ford’s supercar
Where? Made in Markham, Ont., Canada
When? Deliveries about to begin
What makes it go? A modified twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine
How thirsty? 11 miles per gallon in the city, 18 mpg on the highway
How much? $450,000, plus $2,500 destination
Overall? An awesome beast at home on the track