2017 Ford GT First Ride

Mid-engine supercars seem to get churned out by the baker’s dozen in Europe, but until Chevrolet gets around to producing a mid-engine Corvette, America has just one: the Ford GT. The first production-spec 2017 Ford GT goes off the factory line within the next four weeks, and as the Blue Oval makes the final tweaks to its reborn supercar, Ford invited us out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway to snag shotgun and go for a ride.

2017 Ford GT

Parked in a sea of black asphalt with B-1 bombers and other military hardware roaring out of Nellis Air Force Base passing overhead, the Frozen White and Black pre-production GT—fittingly nicknamed “Stormtrooper” by Ford engineers—makes quite the visual impression outside the harsh glow of auto show lighting. Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president of global product development and the man many on the team credit as the father of the GT, and Dave Pericak, the head of Ford Performance, weren’t willing to let us get behind the wheel of the GT. But they did offer a guided tour of the 2017 GT’s bodywork, suspension, and cabin before letting us loose with Le Mans-winning racer Joey Hand on the track.

After talking with Nair and Pericak, it becomes clear that the new GT is a product of lessons learned in the wind tunnel and at the racetrack. The obvious aero tricks include the cabin’s teardrop shape and the GT’s flying buttresses, which hide the piping for the 3.5-liter V-6, the intercoolers, and the twin turbochargers mounted in the rear sponsons. The Ford GT’s Formula 1-style keel is less obvious, but it’s apparent when you look at it from a rear three-quarters angle and notice the asphalt visible through the channel behind the front wheels.

Sport mode builds upon Normal mode. It sharpens up throttle response, loosens up traction control restrictions, engages an anti-lag system, and puts the rear spoiler up at 70 mph and down at 45 mph. Track is more intense still; it deploys the rear spoiler, drops the ride height down to 2.7 inches of clearance (startlingly fast at that), and stiffens the GT’s racing-derived suspension, which features inboard-mounted torsion beams and pushrods mated to Multimatic’s trick Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve (DSSV) shock absorbers.

Open the scissor door, duck, and slip into the cabin. It’s a pretty welcoming place, even if the cockpit is rather snug with Hand and I nearly touching shoulders. The seats are fixed into the carbon-fiber tub, so legroom is a bit precious for this 6-foot-1 scribe, but at least the seat backs recline a bit to up the comfort. (The driver’s seat is fixed, too; the pedals and steering wheel adjust to fit the driver.) The cabin has a very McLaren-like vibe to it with high-quality materials, few buttons, and a driver-focused, business-first layout. Shared parts with other Ford products seem to be few and far between. A couple buttons on the steering wheel, the headlight switch, transmission gear selector, and Sync 3 software are the only obvious exceptions.

A twist of the dial into Track mode makes the GT hunker down like an Olympic sprinter, and with stab of the throttle, we’re off. The EcoBoost V-6 emits a guttural growl unlike any V-6 I’ve ever heard. It pins me back in my seat as we rocket out of pit lane. Those moaning about the lack of a V-8 option ought to zip it for the time being. From the passenger seat, its thrust level feels off the charts.

Just as quickly as our lap began, Hand pulls the GT back into the pits to wrap up our session. Although it’s nearly impossible to verify without getting behind the wheel ourselves, the 2017 Ford GT seems like it could be every bit as capable as the McLaren 675LT, as engaging as the Ferrari 488 GTB, and as accessible as the Porsche 911 GT3 (all of which Ford benchmarked the new GT against). Even though the first GT delivery is later this month, Ford’s still tinkering away; Nair says the company will spend the next few weeks tweaking the transmission calibration, making the instrument cluster software snappier, lowering NVH on the rear bulkhead, and improving fit and finish.

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