Article by Rick Jensen and Ryan Randels. Photography by Ryan Randels and Ford Media.
Breathtaking. That was our purest response upon seeing this high-tech machine at Ford’s new Palo Alto location. We’d seen it in person at Detroit of course, but this meeting would prove to be a much more intimate experience.
We walked into the Ford Research and Innovation Center to find the stunning silver beast crouching in the center of a small conference space. We haven't seen the new Ford GT in its silver color way yet. Our pre-production GT commanded complete attention from the swarm surrounding it; its knife-edged front fascia ready to slice doughy journo legs, its massive air intakes threatening to inhale us into an angry forced-induction engine.
The GT’s appearance at a West Coast innovation center opening is no accident. This supercar isn’t just the 2017 GT, it’s Ford’s technology showcase. Dearborn is touting "Performance Through Innovation,” and the GT’s powerful and efficient EcoBoost engine, active aerodynamics and lightweight construction methods are Ford’s future roadmap. The Blue Oval plans to use this tech on a global scale to increase its fleet’s fuel economy, reduce its weight, maintain (and even raise) its vehicles’ performance and digitally enhance the overall driving experience. That’s a big statement, and an even bigger task. But while we’ve yet to see a production version, the 2017 GT can certainly walk the walk. Here’s why it’s so special.
As if creating a futuristic representation of a classic racing car wasn’t hard enough, Ford stylists put aerodynamic efficiency at the heart of the new GT design. Every inch of its stunning body was massaged to minimize drag and optimize downforce, and only then could the drivetrain work begin. And what good is active aero without a deployable rear spoiler—this fun toy will function through both speed and driver inputs, and have Normal (down), Deployed (downforce) and Air Brake (braking) positions.
Ford is dead serious about fuel savings these days, which means that even the mighty 2017 GT will include a side of economy with its powerful main course. Compared to the 2005-2006 GT’s hella-thirsty 5.4-liter supercharged V-8, the new GT’s 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 is two cylinders and nearly 2 liters smaller.
But it’s based on the same race-proven engine architecture serving Ford’s IMSA Daytona Prototype endurance racing efforts and packed with tons of tech: highlights include variable cam timing, a low-friction roller-finger-follower valvetrain, a dual fuel injection system using both port and direct injectors, and Ford-engineered pistons, rods, camshafts and twin turbochargers.
Fuel economy numbers don’t exist yet, but considering that recent power estimates have jumped from "north of 600” at the Detroit show to "possibly 700+” today, if the GT turns in high 20s on the highway it’ll blow everybody’s mind, ours included.
Of course fuel economy is heavily dependent on vehicle weight, and anyone familiar with the new aluminum F-150 knows that Ford is on its weight-loss game. The GT will be a carbon fiber and aluminum marvel dressed in structural carbon fiber body pieces. Carbon fiber wheels and center-lock wheels are also being considered.
Power numbers always fly around supercars, it’s just that they’ve never been about computing power before. The 2017 GT will change that: it’ll use over 50 different sensors—from safety to environment, pedal position to wing position—and use over 100GB of data an hour. With 28 microprocessors analyzing all that information at 300MB a second, it will require over 10 million lines of code. The supercar’s six CAN networks will carry 3,000 GT-specific messages.
This much brainpower could easily give drivers information overload; instead, the GT’s software will simplify the driving experience. One example is the Drive Modes selector: while engine throttle, traction control, electronic stability control, suspension damping characteristics, active aerodynamics and ride height are all adjustable, the driver can simply choose one of four modes—Normal, Sport, Track, and Wet—and those parameters will be automatically optimized for him.
The $400,000-500,000 2017 GT will need extreme performance to match its expensive price. For comparison’s sake, the second-gen GT weighed 3,500 pounds and made 550 horses. It pulled 1g on the skidpad, blasted low-3s to 60 and high 11s in the quarter and hit 205 mph flat out.
Ford’s new GT could bow at 3,100-3,300 pounds and will utilize advanced Launch Control and Traction Control systems for its wicked twin-turbo mill. Even at "only” 600 ponies, the 2017 GT would obliterate the previous car’s numbers: mid-2-second 0-60s, 9-second quarters, 1.4g in the corners and a similar top speed. In short, it’ll be one of the greatest performance car programs of all time—from Ford!
Until we get some seat time, we won’t know if the GT is a great driver’s car with highly advanced, intuitive electronics, or a numb theme park ride that’s too complex for its own good. But there are two things we do know: one, Ford has the right idea in embracing cutting-edge technology and investing in its new Research and Innovation Center. And two, no matter how good the GT is, owners and journos will probably bitch about how their smartphones didn’t instantly connect to it.
Still want more? Check out the processes behind the manufacturing of the new Ford GT and what it means in terms of product development and how it all trickles down to the production platforms in our latest article about the Ford Research & Innovation Center.