I recently had the chance to drive the single best exotic sports car I’ve ever driven. It’s the new 2017 Ford GT, and it very well had better be the best exotic car I’ve ever driven, because it’s reportedly going to cost around $500,000 when it’s fully equipped.
Before I get started here, let’s discuss why I had the chance to drive the new Ford GT in the first place. This all came about when Karl Brauer — who oversees our content team here at Autotrader — was invited to the press launch event for the new Ford GT in Utah. Karl owns a 2005 Ford GT — and when he sent me a note and asked me if I wanted to tag along on the press launch, he also asked: Oh by the way, do you want me to drive my old Ford GT all the way from Southern California so we can make a back-to-back comparison?
Yes, Karl. Yes I do.
Therefore, on Monday, I’m going to have a very thorough comparison test between the "old" Ford GT and the brand-new one. Today, however, is all about the new GT.
And so I’m going to start this with the reason you’re all here: To find out how it drives. Good news for those of you who managed to secure a spot on the ultra-exclusive list of customers, which will reportedly number just 1,000 total (for 1,000 vehicles) over the next few years: It. Drives. Spectacularly.
Let’s start with acceleration. It will trouble some supercar purists to learn than the new Ford GT has a 3.5-liter V6 engine, and it shares its engine block with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 in the Ford F-150. It will trouble absolutely nobody who’s interested in automotive thrills to learn this car does zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds, and it’ll hit 216 miles per hour. You put your foot down in this thing and you’re clearly in the upper echelon of the fastest supercars ever manufactured, with absolutely brutal power that comes in a continuous, massive, unbroken wave thanks to the ultra-quick dual-clutch automatic transmission.
But I’ve driven cars that are about as fast as this one: the Lamborghini Huracan, for example, and the Ferrari 488 Spider. What I’ve never driven before, in my entire life, is a car that handles with such amazing precision. I mean this: The Ford GT’s steering and handling is so unbelievably quick and so amazingly precise that it feels like you can point this car in any direction, at any moment, at any speed, and it will follow along without drama or incident. The meaning of the term "handles like it’s on rails" is rewritten with the new Ford GT; piloting this thing around a racetrack, you honestly feel like you’re driving a go-kart with doors and a windshield.
But it doesn’t sound like a go-kart. One of the biggest fears everyone has had about the new Ford GT is its engine note: This thing uses "only" a V6 in a sea of supercars with V8s and V12s. So how could they possibly make it sound good enough to compete with the major supercar players?
The answer: I have no idea how they did it, but they did it, and it sounds glorious. No, the new GT doesn’t have the rumble of a big V8 — but instead it almost sounds like a race car, with a real race exhaust, when you hear it at full throttle. Put the GT into "Track" mode, and the sound is enhanced even further, perfectly matching up with the car’s brutal acceleration to let you know to let you know that you’re driving a street car, yes, but one that was co-developed with a full-on race car that won its class at LeMans. With the exception of the time I drove a Ferrari 430 Challenge — an actual race car — on the road, I can’t remember a vehicle I’ve ever driven that felt more race car-like than the GT in track mode.
And that carries over to its interior. I want to be clear about something: All the stuff I’ve said about brutal acceleration, and insane handling, and the tremendous sound in track mode — it all comes at the expense of luxury and indulgence. When you buy a new Porsche, you can opt for climate control vent slats in leather, and perfect, beautiful stitching on whatever surface you desire, and on the Porsche forums, people are always arguing over which parking brake handle trim looks the best, and whether they should deviate the color on their gear-lever stitching.
Not in this car.
This car is not a luxury car. This car is a serious performance car, with a rather basic interior for saving weight — and it’s designed to be driven by serious performance drivers who laugh at the kind of people who agonize over whether or not to get their air vent slats in leather.
Here are some examples of just how basic the Ford GT is. For one, the seats don’t move. I’m not exaggerating. The backrests adjust forward or backwards, so you can get comfortable, but the seats themselves are bolted to the floor. Two, there’s only one stereo volume adjustment knob in the entire interior — and it’s mounted on the steering wheel. Three, the climate control vents are on each door. There isn’t a climate vent in the center. That’s because the carbon-fiber dashboard of this car is a structural component, and they didn’t want to poke additional holes in it to add pesky, annoying climate vents. Finally, storage space is minimal. Not "minimal" like you have room for a couple of bags. "Minimal" like if you’re going to drive your Ford GT somewhere for a few days, you’d better ship your stuff ahead of time.
But all this stuff has a purpose, because everything in the Ford GT has a purpose, because it’s very clear this car was designed with high-speed functionality as the primary — and, in some cases, the only — goal.
For instance, when you put a normal exotic car into track mode, it tightens the suspension and improves throttle response. When you put a Ford GT into track mode, it does all that. But it also completely reconfigures the fully digital gauge cluster to deliver only the information you’ll need the most. Next, it raises the rear spoiler, which actually changes shape as it extends, adding a little flap in back for improved downforce. Then there’s my favorite party trick: When you shift the Ford into track mode, it lowers itself by two full inches — instantly — for better aerodynamics and enhanced speed. When the GT is in track mode, it’s only two and a half inches off the ground. Or, put another way, when the Ford GT is in track mode, a Dodge Viper has twice as much ground clearance.
Simply put, this car is amazing: It’s a marvel of technology, it’s a masterpiece of weight savings in the interests of performance, it’s brutally fast, and it’s tremendously adept at going around corners on a race track. I also find its appearance to be exciting and aggressive — though, certainly, some of you will disagree; styling, after all, is subjective. Put it all together, and you have one simple truth: This is best exotic car I’ve ever driven.
But, like I said above, it had better be — because it’s going to cost $500,000.
Now, admittedly, I don’t have that number from Ford, because Ford hasn’t yet released pricing for the GT — even though it’s scheduled to go on sale very soon. It could end up costing less than that, but let’s be clear, here: It could also be more. Cars with similar performance (the Porsche 918 Spyder, for instance) have started around $800,000, which makes the GT look like a bargain — or, perhaps, it gives Ford a little room to bump up the price more than we’re expecting. So I’m not entirely sure what the GT will cost, but let’s say it’s $500,000, and let’s say you’re on the list for it, and — because virtually no one who’s been "selected" to own a 2017 Ford GT has actually driven one yet — let’s say you’re wondering if it’s worth it.
The answer is … maybe.
This car is probably not worth $500,000 if you’re expecting a touring car with a luxury ride and a lot of cool gadgets to wow your friends. The Ferrari 488 is more forgiving; the Lamborghini Huracan has a much nicer cockpit; the Lamborghini Aventador is more practical (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d write); the Ferrari F12 is more usable. If you’re buying the GT thinking that you’re going to bring it to night clubs and valet it at fancy restaurants, you’re making a mistake. You’ll hate it. It’s not that kind of car.
The GT is absolutely worth $500,000 if you want to buy what is quite possibly the most thrilling driving experience in years: The most precise, the most explosive, the most exciting high performance car I’ve ever driven. If you want to storm your local twisty roads or run the table at your local track events, there won’t be a better choice in the world. If that’s your thing, you’ll love it. You’ll be tremendously satisfied with it. It’s absolutely that kind of car. Find a 2017 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.