The 2017 Ford GT is, without question, a tremendous marvel of an exotic supercar, pushing the envelope in technology, performance, appearance, engineering, and cool features. It also shares its engine block with the Ford F-150 EcoBoost. This fact alone will cause many people—exotic car purists—to dismiss the GT as not being a real member of the exotic car world, since it doesn’t offer 12 cylinders, or at least eight.
These people are wrong.
(Full disclosure: Ford needed our pal Doug DeMuro to drive the 2017 GT so badly they invited him out to Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park for some wheel time. Doug paid for his own flight and rental car, Ford provided the hotel room. You can read his take on the car at Autotrader Oversteer too.)
In the 1960s, Ford won big at LeMans with the original GT40 after an epic battle with Ferrari. This story has been told so many times that it is, at this point, the automotive equivalent to Goldilocks and the three bears.
In 2005, Ford rolled out the retro-styled “new” GT, which quickly declined in value and then shot up to the point where people are leaving the plastic on the seats from when it was last touched by the butt of the Ford factory workers. And then, in 2015, Ford revealed the latest GT at the Detroit Auto Show, after several years of secret development.
On paper, the new car seems tremendously impressive: it’ll do 216 mph, zero to 60 in around three seconds, and knock out the quarter mile in 10.8 seconds, numbers which mean it shames everything from a Ferrari F12berlinetta to a Nissan GT-R. The Nissan GT-R! The car that out-supercars all the supercars!
This is possible, in large part, due to that purist-vexing 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6. Yes, it comes from Ford’s EcoBoost engine family, and yes, it really does share its engine block with a pickup truck.
But it’s just a little different in the Ford GT, in the sense that it’s twin-turbocharged to put out 647 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque, all fed to the ground through a quick-shifting seven-speed dual clutch automatic. Interestingly, that makes it a little less powerful than the Ferrari 488 GTB (660 HP) and far less powerful than the Lamborghini Aventador (730 HP) or the aforementioned F12berlinetta (731 HP).
But here’s the thing: those cars are pigs compared to the GT. When one of those cars shows up next to a GT, the GT begins mocking them by making little “oink” sounds. The GT weighs around 3,200 pounds, which makes it 200 pounds lighter than the 488, 400 pounds lighter than the F12berlinetta, and an almost unbelievable 800 pounds lighter than the Lamborghini Aventador. In fact, the GT only weighs about 80 pounds more than the Porsche 911 GT3RS, which is one of those cars where the engineers would remove the headlights to save weight if the government would let them. Oh, and one other thing: the GT has more torque than every single car I’ve named so far.
But if you’re into cars, you know where this is going: lightness means less. Less stuff, less luxury, less room, less everything. And when you climb into the new GT, you’re immediately confronted by this reality.
And so, I’ll start this off by making one thing clear: this is not a touring car. This is not a luxury car. This is not one of those supercars that you bring to a club on a Friday night, and all your friends are wowed by the fact that the leather on the door panels is perfectly color-matched to your favorite pair of socks, and also you’ve convinced the factory to finish the climate control air vent slats in fur identical to that of your childhood stuffed animal. This is not one of those cars. This is not one of those cars where you agonize over deviated stitching and a custom aardvark skin parking brake handle.
No- this is a serious, angry, mean performance car, which has stripped away all that drama to focus on the driving experience. It is almost ruthless in that sense. A lot of cars say they do this, but the Ford GT actually does this, and I’m going to give you some examples.
Number one: there is only one stereo volume control in this car. It’s on the steering wheel. Number two: the seats are bolted to the floor. They don’t move. I am not exaggerating. Number three: when you climb inside with a passenger, your shoulders will be nearly touching, and possibly actually touching unless that passenger is a toddler. And number four: you have more storage space on a Spirit Airlines flight—for your carry-on bag and “a small personal item”—than you do in this car. I’m not exaggerating there, either.
But while you trade away all the comfort stuff that tends to wow people when they get inside a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, you get back something else: the single most precise, most explosive vehicle I’ve ever driven in my entire life. That’s another thing I’m not exaggerating.
First, let’s talk acceleration. The entire “not a V12 or a V8” argument is rendered moot the moment you step on the gas pedal when you’re in the GT’s “track” mode, because it moves at such a massive, blast-off, rocket-ship pace that you no longer really care what engine is behind you; you simply wonder if they’re going to have to use dental records to identify your body.
Power is tremendously linear and truly brutal: it just keeps coming, and coming, and coming, with no break, thanks to the dual-clutch automatic transmission. Best of all, it actually sounds good. I know you probably won’t believe me, I know you’ll always be wondering until you hear one for yourself, but I swear this sounds better than most of today’s V8 or V10-powered exotic cars.
But “good sound” and “violent acceleration” are characteristics of every car in this segment- and as much as I’d like to pretend I’m that good, I’ll be honest with you: I cannot tell the difference between 2.8 seconds and 3.0 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. I just know it’s massively fast. What I can tell you is about its handling: the GT is almost unbelievably precise; truly tremendously sharp. The smallest steering input in this car sends it zooming wherever you had planned; not so fast that it’s unpredictable but fast enough that you’d better not be lazily moving the wheel like you’re driving a family sedan. This is not a car where you’re texting and driving. This is a car where you’re focused the entire time you’re behind the wheel.
Admittedly, there are some flaws, which I’ll cover below. But before I get to them (and the rest of the GT’s details), I’ll say this: I was tremendously surprised when I drove the original Ford GT, and it turned out to be a world-class sports car, despite coming out of the depression-festival that was Ford in the mid-2000s.
And yet, I’m even more surprised to drive this GT because while Ford has clearly proven it can make cars that compete with the best mainstream rivals, I never thought they’d be able to make a supercar that outshines the best exotic car brands. And yet, they have.
And it doesn’t just lower like a regular ol’ car with an air suspension, lazily drawing itself down towards the ground. When you shift into “track” mode, the GT lowers so quickly that you had better move your foot out of the way, lest you find your toes crushed by Ford GT.
And yes, it really does lower enough to crush your toes: when the GT is in track mode, it drops by a full two inches, giving it just 2.7 inches of ground clearance—roughly half the ground clearance of a Dodge Viper.
The GT’s coolest party trick is undoubtedly its fully digital gauge cluster, which is so advanced that it seems like it would bully other gauge clusters and steal their lunch money. Not only is it totally configurable, like in many cars, but it changes its display based on what mode you’re in. In “normal” mode, you see your gas mileage, and your speed is front and center.
Get into “track” mode and the gas mileage goes away, the speed is banished to a corner, and the tachometer and gear readout become much larger.
The most unusual easter egg is its tiny little “lock and unlock” icon, perched behind both the driver and passenger doors. It’s located in the spot where you’ll find the exterior position indicator on the Ford GT race car—but the road car ditches those lights for a little illuminated image of a lock, which displays whether your doors are locked or unlocked for a few seconds after you press the key fob.
This is unnecessary, but it’s great.
You won’t be able to spot the GT’s roll cage from the outside, but it has one. It’s hidden within the car’s pillars and roof, and it’s fully certified to go racing — meaning you can pop out those 10-second quarter mile times at amateur drag events to your heart’s content, without having to add a roll cage inside the car. That’s a good trick, because the interior’s so tight that you’d never be able to get inside with a roll cage installed. Another neat anecdote: the built-in roll cage is even designed to FIA specifications, meaning it’s identical to the one in the LeMans race car — save for the bars that go across the race car’s fixed doors.
Although exotic car steering wheels are starting to get more advanced, the GT’s wheel takes things to an entirely new level. Modeled closely after the steering wheel in the Ford GT race car (right down to the shape, which is the furthest thing from circular I’ve ever seen from an automotive steering wheel), the wheel contains 18 separate buttons and two dials, controlling everything from the turn signals to the high beams to the drive mode.
And, yes, the steering wheel’s stereo volume control is the only one in the entire car. Sorry, passengers, but the driver will choose the decibel level.
The GT’s two biggest hits are obvious: its performance and its engineering. Performance, as I’ve already covered, is raucous, amazing, precise; virtually everything you’d expect to find in a $500,000 supercar. But maybe even more impressive is the engineering. Before I drove the new GT, I sat through a three-hour presentation from Ford engineers explaining every single detail—and while I’ve listened to dozens of these presentations at automotive launch events while very nearly falling asleep, this time, I was riveted.
I’ve already covered the integrated roll cage and the instantaneous lowering in track mode. But here’s some more cool stuff: when the spoiler extends in track mode, it physically changes shape as it goes up, adding a Gurney flap for more downforce. The front of the car opens or closes flaps for more aerodynamics or more downforce, depending on what mode you’re in.
The car’s famous flying buttresses are actually functional—they improve aerodynamics, but they also contain channels that bring air into the engine. And the carbon fiber dashboard is a structural component, with the cutouts for climate control vents integrated into the molds.
Some people will suggest there are three problems with the new GT, and they each go hand in hand. The first one is obvious: pricing. Ford hasn’t announced official pricing for this car, but virtually everyone agrees it’ll likely start somewhere in the $450,000 range, with fully-optioned versions cresting $500,000 or more.
That’s massive money for a car, absurd money for a Ford, and truly insane money for a V6-powered Ford. To some people, no amount of “amazing” will ever make up for this car’s price tag.
And that brings us to the other two potential “misses,” which, depending on your perspective, are the car’s noise level and its interior comfort. For $500,000, many people will be expecting a car that can “do it all,” offering amazing performance and high-end trimmings that will make your Lamborghini-driving friends jealous. This isn’t that.
This car is loud, even at highway speeds; the ride is rough, even in “normal” mode, and the interior is basic, simple, and tight. When you buy this car, you’re buying a $500,000 track car. If you’re buying it to cruise around and show off, you’ll probably be disappointed.
I’ve been fortunate enough to drive a lot of exotic cars, and I believe the 2017 Ford GT is the best one yet. It’s precise in a way that few other vehicles are; it’s advanced in a way that many rival exotics will spend years trying to equal. It’s explosive, it’s fast, it’s daring—and, yes, I think it’s attractive.
But it isn’t a car you cruise in; it’s not a car you use to show off; it’s not a luxury car. This is a serious, brutal performance car for true drivers who don’t mind making compromises for an amazing driving experience on the track.
Some people would rather have their aardvark skin parking brake handles. This car is made for drivers who laugh at those people.
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.