The As­phalt Jun­gle

Automobile - - Contents - By Arthur St. An­toine

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, knifeedged 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. AM

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