Ford GT finally shows us what it can do to our internal organs when it turns a wheel under its own power
Lap after lap, Scott Maxwell gnaws deeper into the curbing. By drawing a straighter line through a shallow chicane on the road course that lies in the shadow of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Canadian pro driver with class wins at Sebring, Daytona, and Le Mans is searching for — and finding — more speed. What started as a nibble is now a chomp as he rides to the top of the red-and-white candy cane on his fourth lap. The 2017 Ford GT he’s piloting, the car in which I’m riding shotgun, swallows it whole.
The GT skates over the pavement, clearing it by just 2.8 inches in its ground-sucking Track mode, when the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are sunk into the wheel wells and the GT looks as if it has all the suspension travel of a bobsled. Yet this carbon-fiber dart from Dearborn never threatens to lose traction, to pitch left, or to unsettle as it leaps off the curbs. It soaks up the input gracefully, presses rubber into earth, and rockets ahead. “I kept expecting that curb to launch us,” Maxwell says during the cool-down lap. “But the car just takes it.”
The skyscraping wing/air brake rolls out a Gurney flap from its trailing edge when deployed, while a pair of active shutters stalls air over the front splitter to balance the total downforce. Hameedi won’t cite exact numbers for the GT’s performance in that area. He figures that data would allow the competition to make an easy extrapolation to the race car. “We still want to win some more races,” he says.
Both Maxwell and White extol the benefits of the GT’s downforce as they lap, but those virtues aren’t as tangible from the passenger seat. It’s the unconventional suspension and its efficacy that are rewiring my brain. There are no coil-overs. Instead, at each corner, the suspension pushrod transfers the lower control arm’s movements to a rocker arm that connects to the damper and antiroll bar while also twisting a splined torsion-bar spring. The opposite end of the torsion bar, instead of being fixed to the body, attaches to a hydraulic actuator that contains a small coil spring, allowing Ford to vary the spring rates depending on the driving mode. Acting in series with the torsion bar, this coil provides a softer overall spring rate in the car’s Wet, Normal, and Sport modes than the torsion bar alone provides.
The hydraulic actuator comes alive in the Track and V-Max modes, compressing the coil spring and dropping the car two inches. In these settings, the coil is locked out, increasing the
overall spring rate. Push the button to confirm, and the suspension doesn’t deflate as in an air-spring car; rather, it pops into a squat abruptly, a Le Mans racer dropping off its air jacks in the pits.
Multimatic, the Canadian supplier and composites expert that builds the GT in a suburb of Toronto, supplies the spool-valve dampers that deftly blend compliance and control. These devices offer finer tuning precision than the stacked shims that control damping rates in a traditional damper, and for the first time they are electronically adjustable via a rotating sleeve that opens and closes certain tailor-shaped ports in the spool valve.
The twin-turbocharged 3.5liter V-6 is a close relative of the 450-hp version in the F-150 Raptor. Engineers unlocked another 197 horsepower with a lower 9.0:1 compression ratio, larger turbochargers, and new manifolds, while a dry-sump oiling system keeps it all lubricated on the track. Engineers also relocated the alternator and air-conditioning compressor to the back of the engine to locate it closer to the firewall, shifting the center of gravity and reducing the polar moment of inertia.
The EcoBoost engine sucks in clean air from the lower portion of the side pods ahead of the rear wheels. The turbos pressurize the intake charge up to 30.0 psi and pass the air back to the side pods, where it climbs through the intercoolers and is piped through the buttresses toward the roof, then down into the intake plenum. Both port and direct injection deliver the fuel.
The big blowers mean that the peak torque of 550 poundfeet arrives at a very lofty, un-turbo-like 5900 rpm. To keep the turbos on call when the driver lifts off the accelerator, Ford activates an anti-lag system in the Sport, Track, and V-Max modes. By continuing to pump some air through the engine, the turbos turn at about 80,000 rpm off throttle. At full boost, they pinwheel at up to 176,000 rpm. That anti-lag system is just one indicator that Ford prioritized Boost well ahead of Eco with this engine. The other telltale: the GT’s gluttonous EPA combined rating of just 14 mpg, only two ticks better than the naturally aspirated V-12 Aventador S.
While the GT’s V-6 delivers supercar thrust, a car with looks and moves that can snap necks deserves the aural drama of eight, 10, or 12 cylinders. The EcoBoost engine’s soundtrack is loud and deep, but it’s a thrum, not a bark or a scream, with no fire and brimstone raining from the exhaust. The GT’s engine sounds awesome for a V-6 Fusion but restrained for a 647-hp supercar. That’s the downside to making your power with six pots muffled by two turbochargers, but Ford landed on that configuration, it says, specifically for the fuel-economy benefit in the race car. And, no doubt, the marketing traction the EcoBoost association buys.
The road car routes torque to the rear wheels through a Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a Torsen-style limited-slip differential. In manual mode, cogs are swapped via milled-aluminum shift paddles inspired by the Daytona prototypes in which Ford developed the GT racer’s engine before the rest of the car was finished. The stack of slots in the paddles and the vertical ridge on their backsides add tactility and grip. Launch control — activated from the top line in the digital instrument cluster’s menu — cues the engine at roughly 3000 rpm and should send the 3250pound GT to 60 mph in under three seconds. With V-Max mode retracting the wing and opening the two flaps at the back edge of the front splitter to reduce drag, this carbon-fiber wonder ran a claimed 216 mph at Porsche’s Nardò test track in Italy.
Today we’ll top out at 135 mph while driving around what White, the chassis engineer, calls a “little Mickey Mouse point-and-shoot thing.” The road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is utterly flat, a gokart track on a grander scale. Nevertheless, in a Ford GT, the thrills are more Space Mountain than Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
2017 Ford GT Estimated base price: $450,000 Zero to 60 mph: 2.9 sec Top speed: 216 mph EPA combined/city/ hwy: 14/11/18 mpg