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Auto review: 2018 Ford GT drives like a dream, just not in city traffic

Ford says its 2018 GT,  a race

Ford says its 2018 GT,  a race car for the street, can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds.  Credit: Foird Motor Company/Wes Duenkel

The Ford GT is the hottest American production supercar ever made, and it’s an icon that represents homegrown automotive glory.

Ford built the first prototypes to challenge Ferrari’s dominance on European racetracks. The GT beat the Italians at their own game in a historic 1966 victory at Le Mans — taking first, second and third place.

Then Ford came back to Le Mans on the 50th anniversary of that win and did it again, in 2016.

The current Ford GT is loud, low, impractical and uncomfortable. Getting in and out through the dihedral doors is a calisthenic ordeal. The visibility is almost nil. The steering is balky and the suspension is stiff. The roar of the engine drowns out the radio and makes everyone on the other end of a phone call say, “Where are you?”

Inside, there isn’t even a cup holder. Luggage? Sorry. No trunk.

Slow-speed driving is a nightmare. This two-door coupe couldn’t possibly feel more awkward crawling through city traffic, creeping over speed bumps, or using the small backup camera to parallel park.

Under 30 miles per hour, the transmission jerks through the shift points. It’s so clunky on downshifts that I was afraid I was leaving gearbox parts on the road behind me.

But higher-speed driving is a dream.

The Fords that beat Ferrari were powered by massive American V-8 engines. The modern GTs are a little more sensible, and get their boost from a 3.5-liter V-6.

Similar to the EcoBoost engine Ford puts in its F-150 pickup trucks, this twin-turbocharged V-6 makes 647 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque. That’s a lot, especially for a car that weighs only 3,054 pounds dry.

Ford has shaved weight from the GT by replacing steel and aluminum hard parts with carbon fiber.

Uncommonly low and uncommonly quick, the GT sits wide and flat. At speed, it’s all business. The power is instantaneous, with no appreciable turbo lag, delivered to the rear wheels through a tight, seven-speed paddle-shift transmission.

Ford’s engineers have limited the dashboard details to the bare minimum. Everything required to operate the car is embedded in the steering wheel. Though there is a navigation system, and the GT has Apple CarPlay, the cockpit is designed for maximum efficiency.

Want to adjust the seat? You can’t. Instead, you can use a lever to bring the gas and brake pedals closer to the immovable seat.

The stiff suspension and balky steering make the GT shockingly easy to manage once the speedometer starts to spin. The car gets lighter and nimbler as the speed rises. Above 71 mph, a rear wing deploys to help keep the rear tires on the ground. The faster you go, the better it feels.

Ford says this sports car will go from zero to 60 mph in 3 seconds and achieve a top speed of 216 mph. (In addition to Normal, Sport, Track and Wet driving modes, there’s “V Max,” which is meant to maximize acceleration for maximum straight-line speed.)

Being an Eagle Scout and a current member in good standing with the California Safe Drivers Club, I didn’t attempt anything like those performance numbers. So I was not able to push the envelope, or even approach the envelope, of this car’s abilities.

Other drivers with access to a helmet, driving gloves and a race track will be able to do that — but not many of them. Ford is going to make only 1,000 Ford GTs, at the rate of about 200 a year.

Former late-night host and permanent car enthusiast Jay Leno got one of the first ones, at a reported cost of $505,000. Anyone else able to get on the waiting list will have to cough up close to the same to take a GT home.

2018 Ford GT

Vehicle type: Two-door, two-passenger sports car

Base price: $450,000

Price as tested: $505,000

Powertrain: 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 gasoline engine

Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic

Horsepower: 647

Torque: 550 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy: 11 mpg city, 18 highway

Bottom line: Beautiful to look at, delightful to drive, but oh so spendy.

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