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First drive: Ford GT. Image by Ford.

First drive: Ford GT
You can thank Le Mans and 50 years of history for the existence of the high-tech new Ford GT

   



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Ford GT

5 5 5 5 5

In GT racing, it's usually the case that the racer is developed from an existing road car. Few are the sole reason for the existence of the showroom vehicle these days, but when Ford set out to win its class in Le Mans last year, 50 years after it won the race with the GT40 in 1966, it realised that a bespoke creation was required. That is the new GT, an astoundingly complex supercar that is bristling with high-tech features and engineering solutions that brings out the inner nerd in us all.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Ford GT
Price: 450,000
Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-seat coupe
Combined economy: 16.8mpg
Top speed: 216mph
0-62mph: 3.0 seconds
Power: 656hp at 6,250rpm
Torque: 746Nm at 5,900rpm

What's this?

A Le Mans racer. I'm not being facetious. Ford openly told us that the new GT came about because of its desire to win its class at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2016, marking 50 years since it did the same thing with the GT40. Indeed, it initially looked at doing that with a racing version of the Mustang, but realised it would be very difficult against the lithe and low Ferrari 458 racer. The main focus of all this was aerodynamics. And Ford's engineers have obsessively designed the GT to maximise its aerodynamic performance, shrinking the car to reduce drag and devising some fiendishly clever new measures to balance the aerodynamic load, leading to what is believed to be a very high level of downforce when required. Ford won't tell us how much...

That focus has led to a very small cockpit with fixed seats close to each other, and effectively zero luggage space. But I reckon I'm not alone in saying that buyers will happily compromise on that for the astounding looking rear buttresses and wheel 'pontoons' that are all part of the aerodynamic package. That and the insanely aggressive stance of the GT when you switch it into Track mode and it immediately drops by 50mm. Choose that and the rear wing rises as well, and the front splitter ducts close, too.

You'd hardly believe there's an engine squeezed in there behind the cockpit. It's a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6, putting out 656hp and 746Nm of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and limited slip differential. It's all held off the road by an active racing-style torsion bar and pushrod suspension system, with adjustable ride height. That not only gives the 50mm drop, but it can raise the nose at speeds of less than 25mph to help clear speedbumps and car park entrances.

How does it drive?

You need to read this drive in the knowledge that our time in the Ford GT was all too brief, limited to three laps of a handling circuit within the grounds of a Michelin research, development and test facility. It was enough to gain an appreciation for the GT's astounding composure at speed, its voracious acceleration and, rather surprisingly, its friendliness. Straight in at the deep end, we only tested the car in its most extreme setting - 'Track' mode - yet it was tractable when rumbling between the pits and the track itself and not at all intimidating to use all of its performance on a dry circuit. Body roll is all but non-existent, there's grip and traction to spare at already elevated speeds and super sharp steering.

Nonetheless, it's not as hyperactive to input as, the Ferrari 488 GTB, thanks in part to long throttle pedal travel and well-damped reactions. The brakes were untroubled by our efforts, easily scrubbing off high speed, while the seven-speed transmission is suitably rapid in it shifts, with zero loss of drive to the rear wheels. The turbocharged V6 is perhaps not as melodic as some might like, but it still sounds full of intent, and there's no doubting its output. The calibration of its torque curve is excellent, giving a seemingly unending surge of smooth power. Saying that, you tend to change up relatively early, as the acceleration tails off at the top end. In short, you'd never mistake it for a naturally aspirated engine. It sounds strange, but the engine is the least memorable aspect of the GT, even if the performance it produces is not.

Verdict

Ford has taken the 'race on Sunday, sell on Monday' maxim a little too literally here, essentially only creating the GT road car so it could go out and celebrate its historic Le Mans victory with another. However, we're very happy it has. The GT is an astounding creation, as much a work of art in terms of its engineering as it is a pure driver's machine. No doubt with more familiarisation it'll reveal its full ability. We can only envy those in the position to do so, as this has the making of one of the supercar icons of our time.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Passenger Space

1 1 1 1 1 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Shane O'Donoghue - 21 Sep 2017



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2017 Ford GT driven. Image by Ford.2017 Ford GT driven. Image by Ford.2017 Ford GT driven. Image by Ford.2017 Ford GT driven. Image by Ford.2017 Ford GT driven. Image by Ford.








 

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