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2017 Ford GT: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Karl Brauer May 2017

Just over 12 years ago, Ford created a midengine supercar to honor its legendary Le Mans-winning race car from the 1960s. That last Ford GT offered a capable performance package wrapped in the same classic styling seen on the original.

For 2017, Ford is reviving the legendary GT name again. But unlike the last version, the 2017 Ford GT was engineered for one purpose: to win races. Specifically, the new Ford GT was built to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it did last summer, 50 years to the day after the original GT40 swept Le Mans, placing 1-2-3.

Thus the new Ford GT has already proven itself on the track. But a great race car doesn't necessarily translate to a great street car. And if Ford wants to keep its Le Mans trophy, the company has to sell at least a few Ford GTs to retail customers. That process started late last year and will continue over the next 4 years. A total of approximately 1,000 new Ford GTs will be sold at a starting price of $450,000. The first 3 years of production have already been spoken for through an application/allocation process. New Ford GT hopefuls can still try for the final year's allocation during a second-round application process next year.

Pricing a car at a half million dollars and touting it as a Le Mans winner sets expectations pretty high for the new Ford GT. Happily, the GT delivers through its combination of cutting-edge design, advanced technology and exceptional performance. The GT's striking shape includes a low roofline and flying buttresses, all rendered in carbon-fiber panels wrapped around a carbon-fiber passenger tub. Dramatic LED headlights and taillights, standard carbon ceramic brakes and optional 20-inch carbon-fiber wheels establish the Ford GT's performance intentions long before its 647-horsepower engine fires to life.

That engine, a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6, sits behind the narrow passenger compartment, sending power to the rear wheels through a 7-speed Getrag dual-clutch transmission. Many supercar enthusiasts have already griped about the Ford GT's lack of a V8 engine, but after driving one for several hours, I can confirm the 3.5-liter EcoBoost's stellar performance. Not only does it provide plenty of peak power, as one might expect from a twin-turbo engine, but low-RPM, low-speed thrust is equally neck-straining.

Ford uses the EcoBoost's engine controller to keep the turbos spooled in "Sport," "Track" or "V-Max" mode, which means they're producing boost even before you dip into the throttle. The result is a big-block V8-type throttle response that will please even the most ardent muscle-car fans. Unofficial 0-to-60 times are rumored at less than 3 seconds flat, with the quarter mile taking around 10.5 seconds. Did we mention the V6 sounds great, too? None of this will matter to the V6 haters, but enthusiasts with an open mind will find the GT's performance more than adequate by supercar standards.

Controlling that power starts with the GT's precise steering system and continues through its advanced pushrod suspension. The GT's suspension might be its single most advanced technology feature, allowing the car to instantaneously change ride height from 4.70 to 2.75 inches, depending on drive mode (it drops down in "Track" and "V-Max" mode). The lowered setting should really only be used on a closed course, as ride quality gets ultra stiff and the GT's lack of ground clearance could have its underside scraping on typical public roads. Yet it's the perfect height for chasing lap times or trying out the car's certified top speed of 216 mph.

Better still is the GT's ride quality in "Wet," "Normal" or "Sport" mode, which is on par with modern grand touring cars and would be comfortable for long-distance travel. An additional benefit of the pushrod suspension is a front-end lift feature that increases the GT's ground clearance when approaching driveways or other steep inclines. Put it all together and you have a highly functional real-world exotic car.

Okay, maybe not highly functional. The Ford GT's storage capacity amounts to a 0.4 cu ft. pocket just behind the engine, and the snug interior offers about as much space between the two seats as sitting in coach on a commuter flight. This design helps keep the passenger cell narrow while reminding occupants of the Ford GT's role as an aerodynamic race car first, street car second. Another nod to performance is the fixed driver's seat, which assures consistent sight lines, control access and weight distribution. A tilt-telescopic steering wheel and movable pedals ensure drivers of varying size can comfortably access all primary controls.

Accessing those controls, and exercising the GT's capabilities at a track or on public roads, quickly reveals the car's true nature. There's a noticeable lack of sound deadening, letting the EcoBoost's engine note dominate the cabin when in "Sport," "Track" or "V-Max" mode. The rapid-fire transmission's shifts, in either auto or manual mode, keep power flowing to the rear wheels without interruption. There are the instant ride-height changes and rear-wing movements. The quick 14.8:1 steering ratio, the immediate throttle response and the subtle feedback coming through the steering wheel -- it all paints a crystal-clear picture.

This is a race car. Don't let the license plate or audio system fool you.

Yes, the 2017 Ford GT has an audio system, along with all the communication and information features included in the latest version of Ford's SYNC 3. There's even an advanced Ford Performance App that stores the GT's telemetry and diver's perspective video. It integrates with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, letting drivers easily see, and share, their behind-the-wheel heroics on a mobile device.

But don't get caught up in the Ford GT's advanced instrument display screen and computer graphics. Forget about the concierge ordering process, where buyers will pick leather or exposed carbon fiber as their primary interior material. Ignore the custom exterior colors and cool mobile app. Those items enhance the Ford GT experience, but they don't change the GT's fundamental nature.

This is a race car. It's already won a lot of races, and it will win a bunch more.

If you want to be coddled like most well-moneyed car enthusiasts, you should look elsewhere. But if you like the idea of driving a race car on the street, you'll love the new Ford GT.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Ford GT: First Drive Review - Autotrader