A couple of weeks ago, I had one of the best days of my life. The day I’m referring to is the one where I flew to Utah and I got to drive the amazing 2005 Ford GT back-to-back with the crazy new 2017 Ford GT. I also saw a well-preserved Dodge Omni GLHS in a parking lot. That was the cherry on top.
This whole GT vs. GT experience came about thanks to Karl Brauer, who oversees our editorial team here at Autotrader. Karl has an “old” Ford GT — the blue one you see above — and he’s also on the list for the new Ford GT. So he called me up and asked if I wanted to compare them, which is sort of like asking a child if he wanted to play video games instead of do homework. So then Karl drove his old GT from Southern California to Utah, 1,400 miles round-trip, just so we could do this comparison (and so he could make his own comparison for Kelley Blue Book, which is located here).
So I landed in Utah, and I spent some time with Karl and the old Ford GT, and then I spent some time with the new Ford GT, and I now believe that I, Doug DeMuro, am qualified to compare the two vehicles, largely because I am one of the only humans on the planet who has driven both of these things. (NOTE: I am also one of the only humans on the planet who has a stuffed capybara.)
To me, the similarities between the new Ford GT and the old one largely begin and end with their name. That’s it. The differences begin the moment you step up to the two cars, when you quickly realize that the new Ford GT is simply an entire order of magnitude more aggressive than the old one. If these two cars were animals, the new Ford GT would be some angry lion, snarling and prowling the savanna for its next meal, and the old one would be my stuffed capybara.
The thing about the old Ford GT is that it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a gorgeous car, and it’s a wonderful design, and to this day — 12 years after it came out — I’m still shocked they were able to so perfectly replicate the appearance of a 40-year-old race car while still complying with modern regulations and safety restrictions. Every single time I see an old GT — which is of course virtually never, outside of a car event — I grin from ear to ear. What a tremendously handsome vehicle.
The new one is cool, too, but in a different way. Where the old model had cool retro lines in front and in back, the new one is so much more modern and so much more angular and assertive. I always thought the 2005 Ford GT looked pretty mean, but the new one almost makes it look sweet and kind. Pay attention, here, because the appearance of these two cars almost perfectly correlates to their driving experiences.
Inside, there are also massive differences between the new GT and the old one. On a general level, the new one is simply more focused than the outgoing car: The cabin is smaller and narrower, there’s a far more liberal application of carbon fiber, materials are tighter (like the seats, which don’t move) and visibility is diminished. Just the steering wheel alone provides a great allegory for the differences between both cars: The old one’s wheel is simple and retro — cool, but old-school, and inspired by the original GT40. The new model’s steering wheel has 18 buttons and two switches, and it’s the furthest thing from circular I’ve ever seen in any vehicle.
You’ll also find some major differences between the two cars when you get into the details. For instance, the new Ford GT has five different drive modes, each of which fully reconfigures the digital gauge cluster, and some of which completely change the car’s stance (“Sport” and “V-Max” actually lower the GT by two inches). The old Ford GT didn’t have a digital gauge cluster. It didn’t even have a sport mode.
On the other hand, the old Ford GT had one of the coolest features in any modern car: a giant hood that lifts up to reveal the car’s engine, sure, but also its tires, its suspension and a lot of remaining structural bits. The new Ford GT’s hood is a comparative disappointment: It’s just a small sliver in back that opens to reveal its controversial V6, a tremendously small trunk and … nothing else. What a shame.
So the two cars are pretty different when you look at them, but they’re massively different when you drive them. I’m not about to pick a favorite here, but I will tell you this: There will be people who own the old GT who will be disappointed when they drive the new GT — not because it’s bad, but because it’s so dramatically different from what they’re used to that it might simply not be the right car for them.
Here’s what I mean. You drive the old GT and you’re immediately taken by just how smooth and well-constructed the car is. It’s not loud, it’s not jarring, and it doesn’t rumble. This continually surprises me, every time I’m inside an old GT, because I expected the car to drive like a Dodge Viper: loud, rumbly, obnoxious, but also wildly fun to throw around and enjoy. But that isn’t the GT. It’s precise, it’s easy to drive, and it has one of the smoothest shifter-and-clutch combinations in the industry.
In fact, I honestly think the original GT is probably the best all-around car I’ve ever driven, simply because every other exotic car in the world makes you pick between A) awesome, head-turning, oh-my-god-look at that styling, B) incredible performance and C) daily drivable ride comfort, smoothness and engine noise. You can usually have two of those things. In the Lamborghini Diablo or the Ferrari 488, for instance, you get “A” and “B” — but you don’t get “C.” A Porsche 911 or an Acura NSX gives you “B” and “C” — but not “A.” The Ford GT was one of the few cars that gives you all three.
The new one doesn’t quite do that.
I admit that the new Ford GT is reasonably comfortable, especially considering its purpose and its capabilities, but it’s nowhere near as smooth as the old one. In the old one, you could completely forget you were even driving a GT — Karl calls it a “Ford Mustang with bad rear visibility” — as you have conversations with your passengers, and as you sit in traffic. That isn’t going to happen in the new GT.
The new GT is louder, lower and rougher. It snarls, even in normal mode, as you drive down the road; the cabin is tighter, the ride less forgiving and the sounds more penetrating. The new GT just isn’t as drivable as the old one.
The tradeoff here is one I think many drivers will find is worth making. While the new GT may not be as comfortable as the old one, it’s in a different league of precision, with a steering feel that improves upon virtually every rival supercar. Handling is unbelievably tight — and while the noise is much louder than the old car, it also sounds truly great. The ride is rougher, sure, but the benefit is a tossable feel you don’t get in most modern cars; a feeling like the car will go wherever you put it, no matter how fast you’re traveling.
And then there’s the acceleration. The old car is fast, sure, but the new one is brutal: an unending blast of power that sends the car to illegal speeds in absurdly quick times. The dual-clutch makes sure you don’t even have a moment to breathe before you’re confronted with more power, and then more power, and then more power, all the way to 217 miles per hour. Few cars offer acceleration this savagely fast.
Finally, let’s face it: The new GT is simply a far more advanced car than the old one. The old GT was great to drive, and it looked cool, but it didn’t really move the game forward in terms of bringing new ideas to market. That’s the last thing you’d say about the new GT.
The 2017 Ford GT features a fully configurable digital gauge cluster that completely changes depending on what mode you’re in. It has a trick rear wing that changes shape as it extends, adding a Gurney flap for more downforce. It drops down two inches the moment you shift into “track” mode. It has active flaps in front that retract or extend depending on what you’re trying to do. There’s a built-in roll cage. And the giant flying buttresses, which themselves give the car an excellent aerodynamic advantage, contain large pathways that bring air into the engine. There’s seemingly no end to all the trick features in the new car.
GT vs. GT: A Conclusion
So which of these cars is better? The question is almost laughable, because they’re so different. Yes, they both carry the same name, and they both feature that blue oval up front — but that’s where the similarities stop. The new GT will never know the simple pleasures and the calming smoothness of the old model’s beautiful driving experience. Likewise, the amazing performance and technological advancements of the new GT leave the old car feeling like a bit of a dinosaur.
The real trick would be to have both: one for taking a relaxing mountain drive and getting on it when you want to have fun; one for serious, focused, high-speed driving on the race track or an empty back road. Unfortunately, as the new GT will likely cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a half-million dollars — and as the old ones are still selling for around $300,000 — it’s unlikely I’ll ever have that opportunity. Maybe I can borrow them from Karl. Find a Ford GT for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.