There are few moments in life so memorable that they burn deep
 into every single fiber of your body. For me, one such moment
 came the first time my index finger pushed up against the 2017
 Ford GT’s ignition start button. Two years after the GT’s shock unveil at the 2015 North
 American International Auto Show, the build-up of anticipation
 until I was behind the wheel and seated inches in front of the
 mid-mounted 647 horsepower, 550 lb-ft of torque twin-turbo
 EcoBoost V6 engine could’ve gone one of two ways. As the
 hardly-tamed beast roared to life, would the GT live up to its
 supercar promise?

To understand the new GT properly, you first have to go back.
 Far further into the history books than this car’s unexpected
 Detroit reveal, and all the way to the 1960s and the original
 Ford GT40. A Le Mans winning middle-finger from the American
 automaker to its European rivals, it earned a place in the
 history books, and how. Ford resurrected the name in 2004 with
 the first-generation GT, making just over 4,000 of a car that
 clung so closely to the original’s appearance that it bordered
 on the pastiche.

Nobody could accuse this, the second-generation GT of being
 retro. Sharing nothing with the first-gen car but its name and
 a few aesthetic cues, its inspiration isn’t so much in design
 or engineering as it is ethos. Just as the original GT40 was
 intended to coax the best of American ingenuity into a
 racetrack-storming Ferrari-squasher, the 2017 GT pits the
 pinnacle of 21st technology up against a classic nameplate for
 a thoroughly modern, no-compromise supercar.

Jab that milled metal starter button, and all your senses are
 assaulted at once. This moment for me was existential. I took a
 deep breath to allow everything to soak in, knowing that I’ve
 spent my entire career — and especially the past week –
 preparing for it.

Existentiality doesn’t get you far on the track, though, so the
 practical rushes in to replace it. Normally, I’d start with
 adjusting the seats but in the GT they’re fixed to the carbon
 fiber tub. Instead, the pedal box extends forward or back, the
 equivalent of wearing a suit that’s been tailored just for you.
 With curb weight at the forefront of their collective mind, the
 engineers bypassed the electric motors you’d expect to find
 making the adjustment in a “luxury” supercar, opting instead
 for a simple pull-cord mechanism.

That efficiency carries over to adjusting the steering wheel.
 It’s a two-step process: a lever under the steering column
 allows for forward and back movement, and then once it’s where
 you want it, a lever on the right allows for finer tilt
 adjustments. The bottom of the wheel itself is flat and, short
 of the paddle shifters, every single control — including the
 left and right blinkers — lives on its compact body. According
 to Christopher Svennson, design director for Ford Motor Company
 America, the whole thing was “modeled after a racing wheel,”
 where the primary focus is keeping the driver’s hands in place.

Out on public roads, the results of that focus takes a little
 getting used to. When you go to make a turn, your fingers
 automatically reach for an indicator stalk; you need to retrain
 them to jab one of the small, round blinker buttons with your
 thumb instead. It’s a little strange to see mundane controls
 like the windshield wash given pride of place on the wheel, but
 it does give the beautifully milled, curved paddle-shifters the
 spotlight they deserve.

It’s one small detail, but it’s an example of the degree of
 obsessive consideration Ford paid to every aspect of the new
 GT’s design. Weight cuts are another instance, the engineers
 having considered the possibility of paring back everything
 they could in the chase for minimal mass, yet discovering in
 the end that sometimes it pays to add weight in order to
 maximize performance in the end. Indeed, just opting for
 minimal weight ironically slowed the GT down.

“The adjustable ride height adds weight to the car. It also
 makes the car faster,” Jamal Hameedi, Ford Performance Chief
 Engineer explained to me. “We studied deleting the system
 saving significant weight and the car was slower, so a lot of
 these features, while they add weight to the car, they also
 make it faster. This is one feature where on a system level,
 moving the seat is lighter than having to move the steering
 column that much, as well as moving the pedal box. But again,
 that was critical enabler to get that frontal area down.”

The most important control on the wheel is up on the left, an
 aluminum cog that switches through the drive modes. Each mode
 changes both the car’s driving dynamics, and the appearance and
 information shown on the fully digital instrumentation. It’s
 actually the 10.1-inch panel from the Lincoln Continental, but
 that’s where the similarities end.

“We toiled hours and hours and hours on this display,” Hameedi
 told me, “to the point where I got so tired showing up to these
 meetings, I never want to see another digital display just
 because we spent so much time on it.” While the engineers could
 have added every bell and whistle and turned it into what
 Hameedi refered to as a “video game”, that’s absolutely not
 what Ford wanted to do. Instead, they took the minimalist
 approach, with only the most pertinent information making it to
 the surface for each of the five drive modes: Normal, Wet,
 Sport, Track, and V-Max.

“V-Max is interesting because we came up with the mode, we
 never intended to have a V-Max mode,” Hameedi revealed. “I
 think this is kind of a nod to the engineers over a beer or
 two… wouldn’t it be cool to put the car in low ride height but
 not deploy the wing, to have the lowest drag setting. Just like
 the nose lift, it didn’t cost anything more, it didn’t add any
 weight to the car, but we’re using the tools and the features
 on the car to create a new configuration.”

In V-Max mode, speed is prominently placed in the center with
 critical temperatures and engine data on the right of the
 display. In track mode, there’s an oversized gear indicator for
 the seven-speed PowerShift dual-clutch transmission. While out
 on the track, though I mainly stayed in 3rd and 4th gear, I did
 notice that even when unwinding out of a tight turn, with my
 eyes focused down the straight or searching for the corner, it
 was nonetheless easy to see the display out of my peripheral
 vision. Making it even easier, Ford put gear shift notification
 lights into the top of the steering wheel, a row of colored
 LEDs that come on when you switch to manual shifting.

In Sport mode — which is more intended for road driving — the
 current gear remains prominent in the center, with the
 speedometer flanking it on the right. Finally, for Wet and
 Normal drive modes, current gear is pushed to the side,
 yielding its spotlight to the mph indicator. The overarching
 hockey-stick-style tach remains consistent through all the
 drive modes.

The rest of the cabin is near-brutalist in its simplicity. The
 dashboard itself is a narrow band that runs the width of the
 cabin, punctuated in the center with a 6.5-inch touchscreen
 running SYNC 3. It’s easily reached by both driver and
 passenger, and offers the same navigation, audio, and app suite
 you’d be familiar with from an Edge or Focus. Two USB ports are
 underneath, along with a tray roughly the width of an iPhone or
 Galaxy S8.

Plug in an Android device and mount it on the windshield, and
 Ford’s track app for the car will overlay driving and engine
 metrics on top of a first-person view for the camera. You’ll be
 able to share those results on social media, too, as if having
 access to a GT in the first place wasn’t bragging-rights
 enough.

Physical knobs control the HVAC system, again milled out of
 metal. However, keeping the cabin cool presented a problem,
 since there was virtually no room in the car to snake the
 ducting. Cleverly, the engineers integrated the necessary
 pipework directly inside the molding of the carbon fiber tub,
 eliminating additional parts and weight in the process.

Aerodynamics defined the shape of just about everything. The
 cockpit has an extreme front-to-rear taper, Svensson explained.
 To keep airflow adhering to the fuselage without becoming
 turbulent. The subsequent teardrop shape meant keeping the
 seats fixed — not to mention low down in the body — was the
 only option for maximum interior space. You’re sitting shoulder
 to shoulder with the person next to you.

You won’t care, just like I didn’t, because the vista ahead of
 you is panoramically awesome. The A-pillar is almost
 non-existent, unlike in the first-gen GT, and taking one tight
 turn is all you’ll need to immediately appreciate the
 meticulous care that Ford put into this design. Back then, the
 A-pillar was an extruded aluminum section; now, it’s part of
 the integrated roll cage — composed of tubular high-strength
 steel — which is built into the upper cockpit. It meets both
 FIA and global road car safety requirements.

Why, you might be asking, would Ford want an integrated roll
 cage? It’s another example of that perverse “adding something
 to remove something” strategy in the same vein as the
 adjustable suspension. As Hameedi explains it, the roll cage
 helps to cut down on redundant structure for the GT racer.
 Without the integrated cage, the GT racing car would have to
 double-up: it would get both the structure of the road car, in
 addition to racing safety hardware. Early on in the development
 process, Ford made the conscious decision to only use the FIA
 certified roll cage as the basis of the roof, for all GT
 production vehicles. “It adds a little bit of weight to the
 road car,” Hameedi says, “but it makes the racing car much
 lighter.”

The result is around 3,000 pounds, and all of it worshiping at
 the twin-altar of aerodynamics and suspension. They’re “the two
 magical things about this car,” Hameedi says, and I can’t argue
 with him.

“We wanted to make the air flow,” Hameedi explains, “and
 everything else followed after that.” It starts with a front
 end inspired by the “keel-suspension” design found in Formula 1
 and Le Mans cars. Like those racers, the GT uses unusually-long
 lower control arms to move the attachment points inboard, while
 the springs and dampers are packaged inside the car’s body and
 actuated by pushrods. This leaves gaping voids on either side
 of the radiator to move air through the body and generate
 downforce.

The GT’s pushrod-actuated inboard suspension, with its primary
 torsion bars and secondary coil springs, is fiendishly complex
 in turn. What it really boils down to is that, in Track mode,
 the car is nearly as low as the Le Mans-winning GT racer.
 Normal ride height offers 120mm ground clearance, while the low
 ride height is 70mm; the race car dips down to as low as 57mm.
 Since Le Mans drivers don’t have to worry about speed bumps,
 the road-going GT has a very useful nose-lift feature: hit a
 button and, in a fraction of a second, the front of the car
 pops up to 170mm.

It was Track mode I selected as I took my place in the pits at
 Utah Motorsports Campus. The 2.2 mile course at the former
 Miller Motorsports Park is punctuated with a wide variety of
 challenging turns, an excellent foil to test the GT’s promise
 of extreme stickiness on the asphalt. Then you plant your right
 foot, and any awareness of technology, engineering prowess, or
 wind tunnel shaping is blown from your brain.

The Ford GT is quick, of course. Purists may have decried the
 decision to go with a smaller-displacement twin-turbo V6 rather
 than a big, naturally-aspirated V8, but frankly the latter
 woudn’t have fit in the car. If it comes down to choice of
 compromising on “tradition” or not having the GT exist at all,
 I know what I’m choosing. Really, though, the V6 versus V8
 argument is gloriously irrelevant.

0–60 mph comes… fast. Ridiculously fast. Ford is only saying
 “under 3.0 seconds” and wasn’t allowing any sort of time trial
 equipment to be used, but acceleration like a runaway cruise
 missile is more than sufficient to put numbers-on-paper out of
 your mind. At the same time, there’s a jump-jet howl from the
 turbochargers behind you. The GT doesn’t roar like a V8 might,
 it screams like an enraged banshee. As the LEDs on the wheel
 tick rapidly up to the redline the Valkyrie war-cry doesn’t
 stint; it’s almost a relief to snap the upshift paddle and feel
 the gearbox snick lag-free to the next ratio.

Then you’re back on the throttle, and the whoosh of the
 twin-turbos as they gulp that carefully-channeled air begins
 all over again. Before you know it, you’re stamping hard on the
 brake pedal and marveling as the carbon-ceramic brakes work in
 tandem with the active aero — the rear wing, which can crank up
 on two pleasingly-beefy looking pistons, flipping upright to
 act as an airbrake — to shed speed. No twitching, no jitter; no
 bucking side to side across the lane. Ford’s achingly-refined
 downforce system sees the underside of the GT act as a massive
 vacuum, sucking the front axle to the track and sending you
 hurtling around corners like a particle round CERN.

Yet this is no computer-tamed version of speed and performance.
 Everything about the GT is communicative, and it glories in its
 mechanics. The steering — electromechanical, naturally — is
 heavily-weighted, piping details of every twist and ripple of
 the road back to your hands. Every spray of gravel as you risk
 more and more aggressive turn-in sends a staccato hiss through
 the cabin, the GT’s minimal acoustic insulation holding little
 back.

That same rawness makes the car a challenge on public roads. At
 speeds far from stressing its V6, the GT proves nonetheless
 smooth if a heavy handful, but the arcane sculpting of its body
 means things like the flying buttresses or intercooler pods are
 a constant reminder in your mirrors that you’re surrounded by
 $400k+ of exotic. There’s a comfort mode, but its contribution
 is minimal.

Not that you’d want to tame the GT. After my all-too-brief time
 with the car on the track, a ride-along with one of Ford’s
 racing drivers underscored just how relentless the car can be.
 Yet even at its gory, howling best, the GT flatters: it wants
 to go fast, and it wants to help you go fast, and as
 long as you don’t do anything stupid the two of you can drive
 like little else on the market.

I hope, from the deepest depths of my envious soul, that those
 who buy the new Ford GT don’t just leave it in their
 museum-garage. It may be striking to the eye, not to mention –
 with a final production run capped at just 1,000 cars — rarer
 than the Lamborghini Aventador S, McLaren 720S, and Ferrari 458
 it’s been compared to, but it would be a travesty not to see
 the fruits of Ford’s labors prove their worth on the track.
 With three-quarters already accounted for, and competition
 likely to be fierce among those who can afford the sticker and
 convince Ford that they’re suitable candidates for the
 remaining 250, I doubt I’ll ever see one in the wild. No
 matter. It’s a modern-day icon, a Le Mans-winning champion, and
 the halo car that puts Ford Performance on the map.

Photography by Chris Davies

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