Ford GT first drive review: ready for supercar liftoff

The nose draws to a point. It’s an arrow. The tail tapers like the business end of rifle ammo. It squares up, impossibly mean in its stance.

The 2017 Ford GT sets the newest benchmark  for things that look fast while standing still.

Lots of street cars ape track machines. Ford developed its striking two-seater along with the star-spangled weapons that scored first-, third-, and fourth-class finishes at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s armed to the hilt with race-ready gear, from its carbon-fiber chassis to its trick inboard suspension.

And yes, it can hit 216 mph, thank you very much.

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

Doors up, body down

Before we dive into the gorgeous details, let’s call out the elephant in the room. The GT’s 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V-6 swims upstream against the droolworthy 8-, 10- and 12-cylinder exotica from Ferrari and Lamborghini. 

Does cylinder count limit Ford’s flagship to an almost-there contender, a latter-day Lotus Esprit? Or does it defy the limitations and warrant fully stratospheric supercar status?

We spent a day behind the wheel at Utah Motorsports Campus and surrounding roads to unravel the mystery. Let’s just get this out of the way right now: you’re welcome.

Apart from the undersized cylinder count, the Ford GT packs in oversized dollops of engineering. The minimalist carbon chassis helps limit dry weight to 3,054 pounds. Ford cloaks a steel, FIA-approved roll cage between the carbon bits. The GT’s doors open upward and outward in proper billionaire fashion. The GT boasts its specialness from every cranny: carbon-fiber body panels, optional carbon wheels, even a multi-position rear spoiler that acts as an airbrake and can change its shape to smooth its aerodynamic profile.

Plop your butt into the pilot’s seat carefully, it’s a tad awkward. It’s still easier than in the guillotine-ish 2005 GT. The controls come to you: the seat anchors to the floorboard, but the button-clad steering wheel and spring-loaded pedal box move to meet the driver.

2017 Ford GT

2017 Ford GT

The delightfully sleek interior sports a minimalist carbon-fiber dashboard wrapped in leather. It doubles as a structural member. Just past that panel sits a floating arch that houses stereo and GPS antennae. Air vents rest in neat double-stacks along the door panel, so as not to disrupt the dash. The GT’s designers duked it out with engineers and won several battles along the way.

Our test vehicle had a four-point racing harness that attaches to the GT’s bucket seats without any extra hardware, just like a proper racecar. Once buckled in, it takes a moment to get familiar with the multifunction steering wheel and its spray of buttons and dials. It looks like a melted hexagon that got lost in a button factory, but the wheel grants immediate access to wiper controls, turn signals, drive mode settings, and cruise control.

Press the center stack-mounted starter button and the twin-turbo V-6 ignites, triggering a very V-6-sounding exhaust thrum and some surprising incidental sounds like valve noise and pulley whine. For all its visual drama, the exhaust note lets down the GT’s arresting shape.

Turn the tiny steering wheel dial to Track, and the GT shows off its best party trick. It bypasses hydraulically actuated dampers in the suspension to lower the vehicle nearly 2 inches closer to the ground. It can only do so when the engine is running, but it’s a showstopping effect. It slams  the GT’s ride height so far down, it looks like the wheels may just scrape against the wheel wells. This configuration is all about speed: the front splitters and the wing lifts for max downforce, spring rates and damper settings stiffen, and the stability and traction control systems become more permissive.

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