T
he 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.

2017 Ford GT

Engine: 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6
Transmission: seven-speed Tiptronic
Weight: 3,054 lbs (dry)
Horsepower: 647
Torque: 550 lb-ft
0–60 mph: 2.9 seconds
Top Speed: 216 mph
MSRP: $450,000

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.

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It certainly is a momentous occasion to drive the GT. Just parked, idling, it’s like nothing else on the road. Pound for pound, the competition — the Ferrari 488 GTB, Porsche Turbo S, Lamborghini Huracan — doesn’t compare. In the $200,000-car bracket, the Ford GT has no rival. But that’s the problem. The 2017 Ford GT isn’t a $200,000 car — it carries a price tag of $450,000. It’s an MSRP that puts Ford’s GT, with its 3.5-liter turbo V6, in the same company as the 740 horsepower 6.5-liter V12 Lamborghini Aventador SV, to which the GT doesn’t compare, performance-wise.

As America’s one true supercar, the Ford GT carries the torch brilliantly where performance is concerned. But America’s calling card is affordable performance. The GT betrays that. Or rather, Ford betrayed that when they stuck a $200,000 50-year anniversary heritage-premium on their best car. The Corvette, the Camaro Z/28, the Mustang GT350 — they’re all at the lower end of the price range compared to their European counterparts. The 2005 Ford GT had an original MSRP of around $140,000, which was appropriate. Seeing as how 2017 is twice the car, the appropriate and fair price tag for the ‘17 GT would be $250,000–$300,000. The only explanation for the extra $200,000 is Ford seriously milking its heritage — the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40’s LeMans win, not to mention the incredible timing of Ford’s 2016 Le Mans victory.

But, that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Ford designed, engineered and built an incredible car that only 1000 hand-selected customers will own. It’s exclusive, it’s dramatic in design, it has cutting edge technology and a race-winning pedigree. And it’s earned a spot in the Pantheon of legendary supercars — that’s as close to the original GT40 as you’re going to get.

A Track Day, Courtesy of Ford

If you buy a new Focus RS, F-150 Raptor, GT350 — or if you’re one of the 500 people to snag a new GT — Ford built a track day into the price. Owners of new Ford Performance vehicles are invited out to Ford’s Utah Motorsport Campus in Tooele, Utah, to learn how to properly drive their new cars around a track. Ford lends you a car for the day, so you don’t have to worry about destroying your own tires. Read the Story