- We finally got to drive Ford’s epic, Le Mans-winning supercar in 2017.
- The stylish, powerful, innovative GT didn’t disappoint.
- It now joins the pantheon of incredible Ford vehicles – and rises to the top.
Last week, Business Insider named its 2017 Car of the Year: the Porsche Panamera.
A few cars we truly loved in 2017 weren’t eligible for the award because they weren’t driven by at least two of our reviewers. One of these was the Ford GT, a $US400,000-plus supercar that Ford debuted at the Detroit auto show in 2015 and that went immediately into simultaneous development as a race car and a road car. Why? So it could contend for the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans crown – taking a shot at winning the legendary endurance race 50 years after Ford has finished 1-2-3 with the original GT.
I wrote a book about the car and followed the 2016 racing season, with Ford defying the odds and capturing the Le Mans win. I also got a chance to drive the road car when Ford first rolled it out for the media. I was the only member of our Transportation team to get behind the wheel, and with only 250 cars to be made over the next four years, there aren’t likely to be many loaners going out the press.
In my review of the new GT, I said it was the best car Ford has ever built, and I didn’t hold back the props: “Beautiful. Fast. A joy to drive. Technologically advanced. Staggeringly expensive. Exclusive. And the winner of the toughest race in the world.”
I added: “Ford didn’t simply outdo itself with the GT. It set a standard of excellence that it might never beat.”
The Ford GT lingers in my imagination, so even though it couldn’t be Car of the Year, I haven’t forgotten it. Quite the opposite. Here’s why.
At Utah Motorsports, Ford showcased the new GT, the Le Mans race car, and the original GT40 from 1966. The old legend had been brought in from a collection in Colorado — it doesn’t get out much.
We had already checked out the GT on several occasions. Here it is in all its shimmering blue glory at Classic Car Club in Manhattan. That was where we first pushed the start button and fired up the 647-horsepower, 3.5-litre twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine.
Four GT race cars took to the Le Mans circuit in 2016, seeking to repeat history. In 1966, Ford finished 1-2-3 and ended Ferrari’s reign at Le Mans. In 2016, the result was 1-3-4, with Ferrari taking second in the racing class.
I wrote a book about the new GT, Ford’s comeback from the financial crisis, and the Le Mans campaign, so I already has a connection to the machine.
But it was still exhilarating to get behind the wheel. I’m in the red car with the white racing stripes.
What makes the GT the greatest car Ford has ever built?
The GT is unforgettable. It’s an epic supercar, monumentally stylish, with a 0-100km/h time of about 3 seconds and the kind of cornering talents that remind you if what makes a great race car.
The steering is so good that you barely need to use it. Smooth, gentle inputs get the job done. After a few laps, I was hitting my curves exactly as I mapped them in my mind. The GT felt as if it had some mysterious heft at languid velocities, at speed it was feathery.
The combination of grip, suspension play, and aerodynamic voodoo that the GT provides is just what you need if you’re going full throttle and want the car to stick. The thought that the car might slip never even occurred to me. This freed up bandwidth to focus on steering, going fast, and braking.
The brakes are heroic. This is a car that can threaten 240km/h for breakfast and tops out at 345km/h. With that kind of pop, you need considerable stop. In fact, they might be too good. If you like to ease into your braking and then ease off before swinging into a curve, the GT’s grab can take some getting used to.
And don’t forget that the rear wing can help slow the car, turning into an air brake if you hit the brakes particularly hard.
Confronting the GT’s speed up close wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. I’d expected terror. But I got calm. The GT has its wild side, but in the final reckoning, it combines the best of the scary old-school supercars with the precision of contemporary examples. It feels as if it has a body and a mind.
Ford is known for three vehicles, which define its history: the original Model T, the Mustang, and the F-150 pickup.
In that context, the GT40s of the 1960s were a mad dream that became reality. But they had no place on the road. The new GT supercar is now officially the fourth member of Ford’s hall of fame.
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