The now-infamous story of the 2017 Ford GT’s creation is the stuff of legend: it was conceived and designed unbeknownst to everyone at Ford (including top executives) aside from a handful of designers and engineers and chief technical officer Raj Nair. Not only did the entire project happen in secret, but it was completed, start to finish, in under two years and unveiled to a very surprised public at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.
The sole purpose of the newest Ford GT, like the original GT40 in 1966, was to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And 50 years to the day after Ford’s historic 1–2–3 victory over Ferrari in 1966, the newest generation race car brought home a class win, beating Ferrari yet again. It’s truly Hollywood-script material.
However, there were cries from purists that the 2017 GT didn’t carry on the true spirit of the original GT40 because instead of a big-bore V8 like in the ‘66 GT40 and ‘05 GT, Ford went with a smaller, turbo V6 for the third generation. The argument being that it’s not a real GT if it doesn’t have V8 in the back.
But that’s bullshit. Back in the ‘60s, Ford stuck a 7.0-liter V8 in the GT40 to race at Le Mans because that was the best engine Ford had at the time. If Ford had a small turbo V6 that it knew would win the race back in ‘66, you better believe the company would’ve chucked that big block V8 in the trash.
Everything feels simple, unfiltered. Fantastic.
Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost is lighter than any of its V8s, and additionally, the slimness of the V6 allowed designers to craft the company’s most aerodynamically efficient car ever — a necessity, if a Le Mans racer has any hopes of making it down the Mulsanne straight at a respectable speed, surrounded by equally powerful Porsche 911s and Ferrari 488s. The new GT’s cutting-edge technology and design make it closer kin to the original GT40 than the 2005 GT (which was merely a retro homage, and not specifically designed top tier racing). The new car is a package that proved to be so successful, Porsche had no choice but to re-engineer its 911 RSR Le Mans race car for 2017 — effectively moving the flat-six from its famous rear-mounted position to the middle of the car — in order to increase aerodynamic efficiency and close the gap to the Ford out on the track.
Engine: 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6
Transmission: seven-speed Tiptronic
Weight: 3,054 lbs (dry)
Torque: 550 lb-ft
0–60 mph: 2.9 seconds
Top Speed: 216 mph
On the road, the 2017 GT is the culmination of the best of what Ford has to offer. And even as Ford’s most advanced car ever, it still manages to retain the character of an old-school supercar. Between the engine bay, the active aerodynamics and electronics, a litany of advanced engineering is hidden throughout the car’s carbon fiber architecture. But what you interact with directly, as a driver, feels almost analog. There’s a nylon pull strap to adjust the pedal box, manual levers to adjust the steering wheel position, physical switches and dials on the console — even the paddle shifters work with a direct, mechanical feeling. Everything feels simple. Unfiltered. Fantastic.
The Porsche 911 and the Ferrari 488 both have categorically luxurious interiors swathed in leather and brushed aluminum and come equipped with in-depth infotainment systems, but the GT goes the spartan route. Minimalist. Focused. Nothing is there that shouldn’t be; everything that is there has a purpose. The dashboard is a structural cross-member in the carbon fiber frame. The bucket seats are fixed, bolted directly to the carbon fiber tub — only the steering wheel and pedal box are the adjustable components. This way, the designers could keep a low roofline and a low center of gravity. For the GT, form and function are measured in equal parts.
That feeling, of a direct connection, permeates throughout the entire car, and not just the design and engineering; the way the GT tackles asphalt is a step above its rivals. Ironically enough, I wouldn’t call the GT a grand tourer by any means. The steering intimately translates every single groove that the front tires could find on the empty stretches of Utahan highways. But on tight, winding roads and out on track, the millimeter-perfect steering puts the car exactly where you tell it to go. There’s no soft or disconnected feeling — it’s so direct it’s almost organic — how you imagine race car handles, rather than being heavy and overly weighted, like an actual race car.
Just parked, idling, it’s like nothing else on the road.
The GT’s party piece, though, happens when you switch over to Track mode. Unlike most other cars, switching the GT from Normal to Sport and Track does more than just change the exhaust note and throttle response. Rotating the machined magnesium drive mode dial on the Formula 1–style steering wheel to Sport turns on an anti-lag system, which continues to suck in air and keep the turbos constantly spooled up, providing 100 percent of the turbo V6’s 647 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque. Click the dial over one more time to Track (which you can only do while parked) and the car immediately drops two inches and shoots the rear spoiler a foot into the air. There’s no slow, drawn-out, hydraulic movement; it happens with a quick, spring-loaded, industrial bang like the car just rolled up its sleeves, raring for a bar fight.