Phoenix Rising: The New Ford GT

Start your engines!  Ford is resurrecting the GT mid-engine supercar as a 600-plus horse demonstration of the performance side of its EcoBoost engine technology.

The car, slated to go on sale in the second half of 2016, is designed to rev up excitement in dealer showrooms and represent the prime showpiece of a new global performance division.

Ford unveiled the new GT, which it is calling Phoenix, at the Detroit auto show. It also introduced a new aluminum-bodied F-150 Raptor pickup and a Mustang Shelby GT 350R, both of which are lighter and more powerful than their predecessors.

The GT, a nameplate last seen nearly a decade ago when it sold for more than $150,000, is a radically different sort of vehicle than the practical crossovers and fuel-efficient sedans that Ford has introduced since then.

CEO Mark Fields said the car fits with Ford’s efforts to show how technological advances are transforming the company and the transportation industry.

“As we at Ford drive innovation into every part of our business, it’s worth remembering that our first innovation as a company was not in a laboratory, but on the racetrack,” Fields said. “We are passionate about innovation through performance and creating vehicles that make people’s hearts pound.”

The GT is powered by a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 and makes “extensive use” of carbon fiber, aluminum and other lightweight materials, Ford said in a statement.

Fields said he’s confident drivers won’t miss having a V-8.

“I think people want scintillating performance with this kind of vehicle, this kind of supercar,” he said, “and they’re going to get it.”

The Raptor pairs a high-output, 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine with a new 10-speed transmission. It’s 6 inches wider than the standard F-150 for better off-road stability.

The GT 350R features what Ford said is its most powerful naturally aspirated engine ever, a V-8 with a flat-plane crankshaft that produces more than 500-horses. To reduce weight and improve performance, designers deleted items they considered unnecessary, including the air conditioner, stereo system, rear seats, trunk floorboard and carpet and backup camera.

The GT, GT 350R and Raptor are among 12 new vehicles that Ford plans to introduce in the next six years under the umbrella of a new Ford Performance division announced in December.

It already has said the lineup will include a Focus RS, which will be sold in the U.S. for the first time, though Ford is not displaying it at the Detroit auto show. Fields has said that Ford sees significant benefits to developing vehicles aimed at enthusiasts, who tend to be affluent and loyal.

“Folks that want performance — they want the best and they’re willing to pay for it,” Fields told reporters in December.

Ford is scheduled to announce more news in conjunction with Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system tonight, likely that the GT is being featured in an upcoming game. The automaker is holding a session on “the art of performance in gaming” on Tuesday.

To help mark its centennial, Ford only made about 4,000 copies of the original GT — which was recalled last year because they contain the potentially explosive Takata airbags — for the 2005 and 2006 model years.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said the new GT will be built in even more limited numbers.

Many of the 2005 and 2006 GTs sold for well above sticker price, and the first applicants were individually approved by Ford executives. The cars have gained value as they have aged, prompting CNN to call the GT “America’s investment-grade car” in a 2012 story. The GT was dubbed “Gas Guzzler of the Year” by the British TV show “Top Gear” in 2005.

The EPA ratings for the original GT were 12 mpg in city driving, 19 mpg on the highway and 14 mpg combined. Ratings for the new version haven’t been determined.

“It will be very interesting to see what media and public perception of this is, as for supercars, often time, bigger is better in terms of engine size,” Akshay Anand, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s, said in a statement. “The GT from the mid-2000s has developed somewhat of a cult following, and this next one should garner plenty of enthusiast attention as well. Don’t be fooled though — the GT is exclusively for halo and to bring some serious excitement to the brand and nothing more.”

With the GT, Ford will return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2016, which is the 50th anniversary of Ford’s first Le Mans win in the original GT40.

Fields said Ford’s renewed focus on performance, and the GT in particular, shows how far the company has come from the dark days of the industry’s downturn.

“When you look at a vehicle like this, which is really a showcase for the entire lineup that we’ve essentially redone over the last few years,” he said, “it gives our employees a lot of motivation a lot of enthusiasm. It really is a touch point for us, about keeping our feet firmly on the ground, and understanding that to grow in this business you have to continue to innovate. You have to continue to bring out great products across the board.”

Photo Credit: Ford
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