Review: Ford GT

11th May 2017
Andrew English

Supercar luxury? That's for wimps. I've just torn my nail off tugging on the nylon strap to adjust the pedals, the carbon-fibre cabin hasn't a piece of padding in sight, my Biro's disappeared under the fixed racing seat and my helmet is dragging on the roof lining.


 Inches from my ear drums, the engine sounds like a tree shredder eating barbed wire and the rev counter bar graph is frantically dancing up and down the tiny binnacle in front of the wheel. In surreally bright sunlight, Utah's Motorsport Campus beckons and I'm about to drive what Ford hopes is one of its greatest-ever supercars out on to the circuit...

In the next few years, the world is going to see a new form of supercar, dubbed hypercar, using advanced aerodynamics the like of which has only previously been seen on the race track in World Endurance and Formula One. This car, Ford's new GT, is one such. It certainly looks like nothing else and while its carbon fibre coachwork is visibly linked to the 1966 Le Mans-winning GT40, it also contains ducts, channels and troughs where you least expect them.

Take those almost defiantly weird rear-wheel arches for example. At the front, they have radiators to cool the compressed inlet charge from the turbos and pass it back to the engine via the upper carbon-fibre spars. At the rear, they contain coolers for the transmission taking air from inside the pressurised wheel arch and pushing it out through the middle of the rear lamps. The front of the GT uses a 'keel' inboard fixing points for the wide lower wishbones from F1 practice, which allows room enough for a downforce creating aerodynamics so effective they have to be defeated when the rear wing is down or the car would be too tail-happy. 

In fact, the whole car is a service duct, not just for the charge coolers and on-coming air, but even for the cabin air conditioning which is piped to the passengers from inside the structure of the carbon-fibre tub. That extraordinary front suspension with its investment-cast inboard pushrod system is a bewildering array of bell cranks, rockers, torsion bars and coil springs, and Multimatic's DSSV spool-valve dampers. This isn't just a fabulously exotic and accurate way of suspending the body, but it also clears the area between the wide-based upper-and-lower wishbones so that it can be used as another aerodynamic channel.

Hang on; this is Ford we're talking about here, makers of non-premium cars to the masses.

"We're known for the democratisation of technology," says Jamal Hameedi, chief engineer of Ford Performance. That might be true, Jamal, but it's difficult to see how democratic a 1,000-off £450,000 supercar can be, even if it does have a blue oval on the front.


Perhaps that's to miss the point, though. Ever since Kiwis Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon took the flag in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans (the first American car to win there), and the subsequent three victories for the GT40, that evocative shape with its wrap-around windscreen has been a Ford talisman. Fiesta might be Britain's most popular car, but GT40 is the heartland where engineers get to show what they can do, as they did in 2005 with the last limited production GT supercar. Though it's an interesting thought that those first 1963 GT40s cost £5,200, which would be about £100,000 at today's values, which makes this new GT four times more expensive. 

Unlike the 2005 GT, however, the new GT has earned its racing spurs, finishing first in the GTE-Pro class at last year's Le Mans. This is the road version, a race car for the road, designed by Ford Performance and Multimatic, and built by the latter in Canada. It's based on a 15-piece bonded carbon-fibre racing tub with aluminium subframes. The engine is a 3.5-litre, 60-degree, dry-sump, quad-cam, short-stroke V6, with port and direct injection, reversed ancillary drives and two Honeywell twin-scroll turbos. It's based on a production engine, but highly modified with cast aluminium pistons and forged connecting rods. A Getrag twin-clutch, seven-speed transmission directs power to the 20-inch rear wheels shod with Michelin Sport Pilot 2 tyres.

Power is 647bhp at 6,250rpm and 550lb ft of torque at 5,900rpm, enough to galvanise this 1,385kg (dry) mid-engined two seaters, but Ford is being coy with performance figures as European homologation is yet to be done. Top speed is a claimed 216mph in low downforce mode, 0-60mph in under 3sec and on a road test route we managed 17.2mpg. Prices start at £450,000 rising to half a million if you delve into the options list which includes carbon-fibre wheels, titanium exhaust, coloured brake callipers, exposed carbon fibre panels and bodywork stripes – well you would wouldn't you? There were 6,500 applications for the first 750 examples and the final 250 go on sale early next year.

The cabin is cramped, but the seats are comfortable even if getting in there is a bit of a struggle. There's a sat nav and radio, but these are vestigial sops to luxury and there's only an 11-litre box under the bonnet, so don't pack light, just don't pack.

Press the big anodised button and the engine clatters then booms into life drowning out all except raised voices. The air conditioning barely copes with the heat build up. With no steering column stalks the steering wheel has virtually all car's functions on it including the indicators and mode selector, which sets up the engine and transmission responses, the dampers and the ride height in Normal, Sport, Wet and Track mode. Pull the gorgeous machined paddles behind the wheel and gingerly press the throttle.

"I'm most proud of the suspension and the aero," says Hameedi. "They are the magic sauce of this car."

Magic sauce, they might be, but the road ride isn't bad either, though potholes resound through the frame when the 20-inch rims hit them. The steering lifts off the dead ahead with a lovely talkative assistance, you know just where the car is and what those front wheels are up to. It gets a bit twitchy at high speeds but you need to relax at the wheel, keep your eyes far down the road and not over react.  


It's the engine that dominates the experience, shrieking, booming and bellowing.

"I wanted the driver to feel he is on the starting grid at Le Mans," says Hameedi.

I've not idea about how that feels, but I've now got an idea what it sounds like as each gear change bringing a renewed lunge for the horizon. The twin-scroll blowers provide a pretty flat torque curve as long as you don't stray too far down the rev counter. Dialling up each suspension mode in succession shows little change in the quality of ride, but the engine changes in Sport and Track as Ford's anti-lag system chimes in, never allowing the throttle to fully close and making the exhaust pop and bang with excess fuel. Fortunately, the carbo-ceramic brakes are remarkably strong and consistent, and that rear spoiler, which turns into an air brake for high-speed deceleration means for the most part you wildly underestimate just how quickly this car will stop. 

Then on to the track, where this extraordinary car shows itself to be fast but more forgiving than its ferocious bark might indicate. It's still a mid-engined car, so it likes a gentle touch at the controls and a bit of finesse on the power and brakes, but you can take liberties with the GT that would have most rivals spinning like a top. What's more (and this is a major triumph for the team), it handles like a Ford, the front end dominates, ease the throttle and the nose tucks in, you can play with the car's angles on the throttle just as you can with a hot Fiesta or a Focus RS. 

It's all great fun even if there is a slightly horrifying thought of just how fast you are going at times. The GT is a remarkable and highly covetable machine, but for most of us, that's how it will remain. Ford is refusing to even countenance making more.

 "Building 1,000 will take us four years," says Hameedi, "by that time we'll be on to something new."

 That might well be true, but in the here and now, GT is the toast of the supercars and they could sell all they could make. It much more than a great drive, more like an occasion.

Photography by Wes Duenkel

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