Ford’s Power Play: New GT, Shelby Mustang and Raptor

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -
The Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang is introduced at the 2015 North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015 in Detroit. (Diane Weiss/Detroit Free Press/TNS)
The Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang is introduced at the 2015 North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015 in Detroit. (Diane Weiss/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

The Ford GT made a triumphant return Monday, with the unveiling of a sleek and edgy supercar the automaker plans to build next year.

The GT was developed over the past year by a small team, in a small room in the basement of the Product Development Center in Dearborn, Mich., said Joe Hinrichs, Ford President of The Americas. The hidden entrance was only accessible to a few people.

Ford will make a limited number of GTs for sale in the second half of 2016. It will be a global car, but the first sales will be in the U.S., said executive chairman Bill Ford.

Ford kept the car largely secret until about a month ago, when news began to leak and spread on the internet.

The GT was among a trio of performance vehicles Ford showed. As expected, Ford revealed the next-generation 2017 F-150 Raptor high-performance, off-road pickup.

The third was the Shelby GT350R Mustang: a stripped-down, track-ready and street-legal version of the GT350 shown in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The three are among the more than 12 new Ford performance vehicles coming by 2020 as the automaker has reorganized its regional performance divisions into a single global unit. Ford wants to take advantage of a 70 percent increase in performance-vehicle sales in the U.S. and a 14 percent increase in Europe.

The GT marks the return of the rear-drive mid-engine super car that was last sold in the 2006 model year. It returns for 2016, the 50th anniversary of the first of the GT40’s four consecutive wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

“Ford shook the automotive world when it introduced America’s first true exotic car in 2005,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with KBB.com. “Now the Blue Oval is poised to do it again, only this time there will be a street and a race version of the car. This allows the automaker to pay homage to Ford’s 1-2-3 sweep at Lemans 50 years ago, while creating the possibility it will do it again. Dealers, start your waitlisting!”

The new GT will feature a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 engine, generating more than 600 horsepower. The last GT had a 550-horsepower supercharged 5.4-liter V-8.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said the lightweight body and aerodynamic shape will enable the V6 to exceed 600 horsepower.

At the other end of the spectrum, pickup fans have been waiting for a new Raptor off-road pickup since Ford redesigned the 2015 F-150 with an aluminum body. The 2017 Raptor will go on sale in the fall of 2016. The truck that was introduced for the 2010 model-year has developed a cult-like following.

The new truck has its own purpose built steel frame body that shaves off more than 500 pounds. It continues to have a prominent and distinctive grille.

Under the hood is a new second-generation turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that replaces the current 6.2-liter V-8, and the truck will get Ford’s new 10-speed transmission.

To better handle all kinds of terrain, there are six preset modes, including street, mud, snow and rock crawling.

The other hot car is the GT350R. A limited number will be available in the U.S. and Canada later this year. They will be made at Ford’s plant in Flat Rock, Mich.

Like the regular 2016 GT350, this race version has a naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V-8 with a flat-plane crankshaft which gives it a different firing order for more high-revving power and powerful exhaust sounds. It puts out more than 500 horsepower and more than 400 pound-feet of torque. It has a six-speed manual transmission.