Blue Oval vs. Ferrari: The Rematch
Driving the Ford GT is a revelation and worth every bit of its price
Peruse the 2018 Ford vehicles website, and you'll see a range of relatively affordable, fairly conventional wheels: Fusion sedan ("from $22,120"), C-Max Energi SE hybrid ($27,120), Explorer SUV ($31,990), F-250 Super Duty pickup ($32,820)—you know, normal stuff. But under the "Performance Vehicles" link, you'll find a low, lean missile labeled Ford GT. Base price: $453,750.
No, someone on Ford's web team did not accidentally tack on a digit. The Dearborn, Michigan, automaker really does sell a two-seat supercar that's more than 10 times the price of almost everything else the company builds.
Way back in the fall of 2003, I had the opportunity to track test a prototype of what would become the 2005 Ford GT street car—a stunning, road-legal homage to the GT40 racing machines that conquered Le Mans (and the might of Ferrari) four times in a row starting in 1966. Despite its artful aluminum bodywork and 550-horsepower supercharged V-8, that original GT was still something of a bargain, starting at "only" $139,995.
For its all-new version, Ford has taken the mid-engine GT formula and cranked it straight to 11. Actually, to 15—right where Ferrari lives. I wish I could've been in the Ford product-planning meeting that approved this norms-shattering provocateur.
Big-dreams engineer: "We're thinking a lightweight carbon monocoque wearing scissor doors and a carbon-fiber body that looks like it was designed at Area 51, a 647-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-6, chassis engineering straight from the racetrack, and Ferrari-crushing performance with a top speed of around, say, 216 miles per hour."
Trembling bean counter: "Uh, whaddaya think all that'll cost?" "We figure no more than $450,000. Tops."
Bean counter: "Please tell me this is April 1."
Yet against all dream-diluting corporate logic, Ford execs actually said "fine" to most of the wild ideas bandied about for the new GT. Ol' Henry Ford never would've believed it: "Four hundred and fifty thousand dollars?! What's the damn thing made of, Van Gogh paintings?" But the GT does exist, and I finally got to drive it—on a spectacular mountain road and on the track. You know how when you stand in the ocean surf all day you can still feel the waves even hours later? Well, days after my drive in Ford's new g-generator, my insides are still wobbling like a nervous Jell-O mold.
Up close, the GT is an intimidating, knife-edged beast—a Gillette Mach 3 on wheels. The rear buttresses look like they could suck you in and churn you up like a jet engine. The round outboard taillights and round central exhausts resemble four howitzer tubes ready to open fire on any vehicle dimwitted enough to come within range. Under the rear glass lies the stupendous motor, humorously wearing EcoBoost branding. Really? What's so "eco" about an EPA city/highway rating of 11/18 mpg? (Will any GT buyer even care?)
I've driven supercars of every stripe, from Corvette ZR1s and Vipers to Lambos and monster Ferraris. The GT feels like none of them. The cockpit is tight and surprisingly narrow (you'll bump elbows with your passenger). With helmet on, I had to bend my 6-foot self forward to fit under the roof. The character isn't street car, it's race car.
Fire up the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, and race car is all you'll be thinking. On the road, the engine machine-guns your ears under throttle and spits and crackles when you lift off. On the track, with a helmet on, the furor is only slightly lessened; the carbon-fiber body acts like a giant megaphone. But, da-yum, is the GT fast. It's ferocious in a straight line, yes, but more so you notice the fleetness of its chassis. The GT doesn't like powering through turns. It prefers to be set up straight before going back on the juice. But get it right, and the speed is blinding. The steering is light and direct, the seven-speed dual-clutch shifter a brilliant accompanist. Switch from Sport to Track mode, and the chassis instantly drops 2 inches while the shocks go full firm. Like I said: race car.
The new Ford GT is gorgeous, wicked, insanely potent, and unashamedly raw. I still can't believe the maker of Fusions and Tauruses actually built a car this extravagant, this outré. But I guess history does repeat itself. Pass the earplugs. Time to party like it's 1966.