Wheels - Ford GT
Light and Loaded
It’s 115 degrees outside, but the temperature inside the cockpit of this black-on-black Ford GT is somewhere north of that figure. The air conditioner is doing all it can, but my body’s sweat glands are working double time to keep me from melting into my component parts. If it could, the GT would be sweating, too — its coolant temperature is only 10 degrees shy of the red line. We have to get out of this traffic!
While we sit here being gently poached, we might as well enjoy all the attention we are getting. In the Coachella Valley — where every other car is either a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, Mercedes are what the help drives, and Aston Martins are solely for going to and from the golf club — you would hardly think the Ford GT would generate this much interest. Yet it attracts more point-and-stares than Barbra Streisand strolling El Paseo. Its appeal does not seem related to age or gender; everyone seems amazed and amused by the sight of it on the road.
That’s great for gawkers and even better when you are behind the wheel of this $160,000 super car, because as good as it looks — it is a stunner — it’s even better to drive. The design modernizes the original GT40, which was designed by Ford to beat the Ferraris at the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race (and it did, repeatedly). But more impressive is what’s beneath the hood of this 21st century take on the iconic race car.
Everything about the design makes the GT either faster or better-handling. The lightweight body secures onto a super-light (and phenomenally strong) aluminum space frame. The massively supercharged V8 engine produces 500 horsepower and 500 pounds per foot of torque. The brakes are huge. The fiber-optic headlights reduce weight and ensure clarity. And the cabin is sparse at best. It was a genuine surprise to find a stereo in there.
A gap in the traffic opens up, and I gently press the loud pedal to see what kind of power we have here. The car warps forward instantly. I change up a couple of times, then check the rearview mirror. All I can see is the massive supercharger on top of the V8 waving back at me. Beyond that, nothing. The traffic has disappeared. OK, so no shortage of acceleration. Or brakes, I quickly note, scrubbing off speed as the next wave of slow-moving motors slingshots toward us.
We repeat this go/stop process several more times — to the apparent delight of every other road user under the (mental) age of 21 — and then we see our turnoff, a ribbon of blacktop wriggling up the side of a mountain into the sky. It’s not the first time we’ve driven on this road, and it won’t be our last. But I doubt we’ll ever have much more fun than we are about to have today.
Notching down a gear — purely for show, the GT will gallop forward irrespective of the gear you’ve chosen — and planting the throttle, we are enveloped in a wave of unceasing acceleration that makes us feel like we could outrun bullets. The supercharger yelps with glee that it’s finally being allowed to work at full capacity. The engine erupts into a slightly strangled baritone gargle (open pipes are on the way). And you can only watch in disbelief as the GT sucks in the road like a child with a piece of spaghetti.
As good as this feeling is in isolation, it’s when you stack the GT up next to some of the competition that you really get a feel for its monumental abilities. As luck would have it, a hotshot in a Porsche 911 had the same idea and was immediately galvanized by the monstrous presence of the GT in his mirrors. We are stuck behind a line of traffic more intent on ogling the scenery than attacking this insane piece of road, so we keep it calm for the next few miles.
Then, as we round a bend, there’s a gap with vision ahead showing a clear road, and he’s off. With no time to waste, as the gap is closing, we just stand on the throttle and engage maximum thrust.
Without going into too much detail, over the next 30 miles we discover a lot about the GT’s handling and performance, relative to a 911 and to the real world. All of it is good.
We’ve been lucky enough to drive many cars over many different roads around the world, but the GT is the best car we’ve had the fortune to steer. It is so unintimidating to drive — closing, shrinking in around you — that you spend all your time reveling in its inspired reactions rather than wondering when it’s going to spit you into the bushes.
The GT’s handling flatters your driving to such an extraordinary degree that you try — and, importantly, get away with — some radical maneuvers. Power sliding out of junctions becomes second nature; braking way, way late for corners feels only natural; and cornering is, frankly, surreal.
Die-hard Ferrari or Lamborghini fans might find the GT’s ease of steering a threat to their machismo. For many of them, getting out of the car feeling like they have just finished two hours with a trainer at the gym is all part of the super-car story. But not for anyone with 21st century sensibilities: If you want a workout, go for a run. If you want to drive a brilliant car and not get all hot and sweaty about it — whatever the ambient temperature — the Ford GT should be the first car on your shopping list.