Road racing’s popularity in the United States is a long way removed from its all-time high decades ago, and that’s a real shame in our collective opinion. It’s also a bit bizarre when you consider how many sports cars and supercars this country’s affluent purchasers snap up annually—cars that produce their astounding performance thanks to technologies and engineering lessons learned on racetracks around the globe. Regardless of whether you’re a race fan, the good news for enthusiasts is that manufacturers continue to push the motorsports envelope, leading to ever more impressive offerings for the street.
Make no mistake, Ford’s latest GT is a modern homologation special created first and foremost to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a feat it accomplished in 2016. Its competition-bred roots are apparent immediately in the road-going version—but not everyone appreciates them right away. Some of our staff even initially declared the car a bit of a disappointment, relatively speaking, on the street, as the dual-clutch gearbox isn’t as slick and smooth as some others on the market. And although the twin-turbo EcoBoost’s 647 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque are nothing to mock, neither do they make the GT as brain-bendingly quick as something like the McLaren 720S. Of course, that really says more about the amazing state of the performance car world when a machine capable of running from 0 to 60 mph in a tick less than three seconds is no longer automatically considered mind-blowing in the acceleration department.
The car’s carbon-fiber monocoque construction is a piece of race-proven hardware, but simultaneously the no-frills cockpit’s motorsports-influenced design and trim give you a bit of that old kit-car feeling. But we knew from our experience driving the GT last year that initial impressions don’t tell anywhere close to the full story. As contributor Marc Noordeloos noted while making it clear the GT didn’t blow him away on the street, “It feels like it’s dying to go to the track.”
Some of us smiled knowingly, as once the GT hit the Speedvegas road course, any lingering doubts about it disintegrated within the first lap or two. Suddenly the engine that sounded a bit agricultural at low rpms on the street began to spit and hiss all manner of turbo and induction sounds, snorting, popping, and screaming its way through corners faster than anything else on site as its monster midrange torque proved massively impressive. Previous grumbles from taller drivers about a lack of headroom disappeared as they suddenly and happily found a way to shoehorn their helmet-clad skulls into the left seat, grinning the entire time. The GT’s steering, braking, and suspension setup are all phenomenal, allowing you to attack apex curbs with an aggressive I-will-own-you style that seemingly rewards drivers more the harder they push.
On top of all the mechanical goodness, the more experienced and skilled drivers among us repeatedly mentioned the GT’s aerodynamic performance. “Without doubt it has the most downforce and generates the most lateral g’s on the track, especially when using the suspension in the ultra-low Track mode,” pro racer Andy Pilgrim said. “It’s definitely the best-handling car in the field.” Indeed, where other cars required a throttle lift to make it through certain sections of the circuit, the GT dug in and rocketed itself off of corners with no issues. The chassis balance and grip it provided in Speedvegas’s quicker turns—none of which qualify as truly high-speed—and the corresponding confidence it inspired had several of us dreaming about running the car somewhere more wide open, like Road America or Road Atlanta or Spa-Francorchamps.
So then, the 2017 Ford GT, proved itself as one of the best, most track-capable production cars of all time, which led to our stable of drivers rethinking its character on the road as well. It won’t feel familiar to drivers of Porsches and Ferraris and Lamborghinis, as its overall design philosophy is far more results-based than comfort- and luxury-oriented. In other words, exactly what Ford Performance intended from the outset. As a group, we were wholly unprepared for this 2018 Automobile All-Star‘s capabilities. It’s a zero-compromises speed master, and if you drive it, you don’t have to give two cents of a care about road racing—but you’ll understand instantly why it still matters. This is easily one of the most intriguing cars of the past decade and then some. After all, almost no one builds them like this anymore.
2017 Ford GT Specifications
|ENGINE||3.5L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/647 hp @ 6,250 rpm, 550 lb-ft @ 5,900 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||11/18 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||187.5 x 78.9 x 43.7 in (41.7 in low mode)|
|0-60 MPH||2.9 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||216 mph|