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Ford GT: The sports car icon returns

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-06-2017 Hormazd Sorabjee

We are used to seeing the Ford badge on humble cars like the Ikon, Figo and Ecosport. More than 6,800 very rich people, however, are now queuing up with a cheque of $450,000 (around Rs2.8 crore) to buy a car wearing the same Blue Oval. But this isn’t just any Ford. It’s the all-new GT, the grandchild of the legendary GT40 race car, with which Ford demolished Ferrari with a 1-2-3 finish in the 1966 Le Mans endurance race.

It’s quite exclusive too, because Ford will make just 250 GTs a year for the next four years, and the cars allotted for 2017 and 2018 have already found takers. Ford is also picky about who it will sell the GT to, and will screen buyers on the basis of their loyalty towards the brand. That makes driving the GT, let alone owning one, a rather rare opportunity.

Just one look at the GT will convince you that every inch of the car is designed and chiselled to make it quicker. All of it is function over form. Design trade-offs notwithstanding, the end result is an absolute stunner.

The shark nose and nostrils in the bonnet are reminiscent of the original GT40. And to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that historic victory, Ford returned to Le Mans in 2016 and pulled off an incredible repeat performance, beating Ferrari again.

This clearly is a Le Mans racer made street-legal. The chassis is made of high-tech carbon fibre and the suspension is what you would see in a race car. That relentless focus on being the fastest possible strikes you even when you’re trying to wiggle your way into the snug-fitting cabin via the spectacular butterfly doors. The cabin is so narrow that two big drivers will certainly end up rubbing shoulders.

In fact, the cabin is so tight that there is no space for the driver’s seat to slide back and forth. Instead, the steering and the entire pedal box is movable and can be adjusted to suit the driver’s height. Almost all the controls from the wipers, turn indicators and drive modes are incorporated into the race-inspired steering wheel. In other words, you won’t need to take your eyes off the road.

There are no luxuries or fancy carpets inside either. You see a lot of bare carbon fibre all around, a digital display and Alcantara fibre wrapped on the steering with flappy paddles to operate the seven-speed dual-clutch, automatic gearbox in the GT.

A 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 engine blares and hisses with its turbochargers. The soundtrack from the engine, however, is the weakest link in the GT’s armour. Sure, it is loud, but in a gruff manner, not a sweet, high-pitched way. What will quell all complaints, however, is the 656hp and a tidal wave-like 746Nm of torque you have on tap. You get shoved into the seat at the first prod of the throttle, and the GT rockets from corner to corner with a ferocious intensity that makes the 0-100 kmph time of 2.9 seconds completely believable.

It takes a while to come to terms with the savage acceleration. The GT’s aerodynamics actually encourage you to drive faster. The GT generates considerable downforce, which means the faster you go, the more grip you have.

Supercars are usually nervous or edgy at the limit, but not this one. In fact, the predictable handling makes you feel like a better driver than you actually may be. But few owners will ever get to drive the GT at its absolute limit, for that takes serious skill.

Driving on winding mountain roads, the GT’s staggering acceleration is even more accentuated. Hitting ludicrous speeds is easy and the brakes are equally incredible. The ease with which the GT changes direction and the pin-sharp accuracy of the steering allow you to point the GT exactly where you want it and get into a nice flow through the curves

What came as a pleasant surprise is how pliant the GT is for a sports car. In the adjustable suspension’s “comfort” mode setting, it is still firm enough to give you a good sense of stability. The engine note is a bit coarse at all speeds and you get a cacophony of sounds that’s accentuated by the remarkably low wind noise, again a testimony to the cutting-edge aerodynamics that allow the GT to slice through the air to a maximum speed of 348 kmph.

In all, the Ford GT is a sensational car. Yes, it doesn’t have the finesse or charisma of its Italian rivals, and the engine lacks aural drama. But the racing lineage the GT embodies is the reason there’s a long queue for one. The bad news (for us) is that the GT is only available in left-hand-drive, and our regulations don’t allow cars like these to be registered in India yet.

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