On a frosty January morning in downtown Detroit, Ford revealed a stable of red-hot high-performance vehicles designed to revolutionize the auto industry.
By Joe Angio
Photography by Bridget Barrett
The energy surrounding January’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit was palpable. This year, Ford revealed a number of supercharged vehicles that will make up its new global Performance Team, including a completely overhauled Raptor, a track-ready Shelby GT350R Mustang, an all-new Focus RS and the high-octane Ford GT Supercar*. Traditionally, NAIAS is where manufacturers show off attention-grabbing concept cars whose rubber may never meet the road.
What made the Performance reveals so notable is that they are expected to be available in certain countries around the world, as part of the Ford global team’s initiative to deliver 12 new performance vehicles through 2020. Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development, explained how the initiative will deliver more performance vehicles, parts and accessories to global enthusiasts. “Ford remains committed to innovation through performance,” he says. “It will allow us to more quickly introduce products and accessories that meet the needs of customers around the world on the road and on the track.”
In envisioning a radically revamped Ford GT, the challenge facing the Ford engineering and design teams was clear: deliver a new, forward-looking design capable of meeting aggressive performance targets while also paying homage to the legendary GT40 of the ’60s (and its 2005 protégé). Aficionados will recognize the front end’s squared-off headlamps, the juxtaposition of short rear haunches and the long front, and the center exhaust pipes—all Ford GT signatures. Then things get interesting. “It’s a completely different animal from its predecessors,” says Moray Callum, Ford vice president, Design. “It’s lightweight. Using carbon fiber technology is a big part of that—it improves acceleration, braking, handling, all sorts of things. And the carbon fiber also plays a part in the striking visual nature of the interior.” Aerodynamics are important as well, says Callum. “We worked to get the downforce right, to get the air to flow around the car in the most efficient way. Air flows through the pontoons and out the exhaust in the taillamps. Those elements are really functional but also add a really nice piece of design."
- ENGINE: 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost V6
- TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed, paddle-activated dual clutch automated manual transmission
- RELEASE DATE: Late 2016
The GT350, introduced last year, gains an “R” primarily from what it loses: namely, 130 pounds, the result of shedding weight in order to optimize the car’s performance on the track. Rear seat? Gone. Air-conditioning? Sayonara! Stereo system? See you later. Major weight reduction was also achieved by shaving unsprung weight from the car by virtue of the 350R’s carbon fiber wheels—it’s the first vehicle in its class to feature them as standard equipment. The result is a Mustang built for speed. “It’s the ultimate Mustang for the track,” says Christopher Svensson, Ford’s design director for the Americas. “We added a deeper splitter at the front and an all-new high efficiency carbon fiber rear wing. That’s not just a styling exercise; it’s a functional piece of aerodynamic efficiency that increases its performance on the track.” And you can expect the flat-plane crankshaft engine displacement, a 5.2L V8, to propel you around the course at top speeds.
- ENGINE: 5.2L V8
- TRANSMISSION: TREMEC® 3160 six-speed manual transmission
- RELEASE DATE: Late 2015
Ford raised its bar so high when it debuted the original F-150 Raptor in 2010 that it needed to make a bold statement with its successor. Well, mission accomplished. Like the Shelby, the Raptor upped its performance game by shedding weight—in this case up to 500 pounds, thanks to its high-strength, military-grade aluminum-alloy body. “For the new Raptor, it’s all about off-road performance,” says Ford designer Craig Metros. “We looked at extreme desert racers—lots of ground height, wide stance, exposed shocks—and created something that’s much chunkier and more robust.” Gordon Platto, chief designer, Ford Trucks, elaborates. “It’s a racing vehicle, yet it needs ground clearance,” he says. “We’ve lifted the bumper to expose the mechanicals and expose the four-inch dual exhaust system.” Platto is particularly proud of the revolutionary new terrain-management system of the Raptor, which lets you select from six preset terrain modes—everyday, high-performance on-road, rough weather (ice, snow, rain), Baja (high-speed desert racing), rock crawling, and mud- and sand-trail riding.
- ENGINE: 3.5L EcoBoost
- TRANSMISSION: All-new 10-speed transmission
- RELEASE DATE: Fall 2016
Just a few short weeks after Ford revealed these three powerful performers to the world in Detroit, another cog in its high-performance machine was unveiled in Cologne, Germany. The Focus RS—equipped with the specifically engineered 2.3L EcoBoost® engine—is the first Ford to showcase the innovative Ford Performance All-Wheel Drive with Dynamic Torque Vectoring. That means thrilling performance and exhilarating driving enjoyment for anyone who gets behind the wheel. The Focus RS will be produced in Ford’s plant in Saarlouis, Germany, and exported to major world markets. And it will live up to the cars that have come before it in the prestigious RS high-performance family. “We are acutely aware of the benchmarks we have set for ourselves with RS performance models through the years,” says Jim Farley, president, Ford of Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Rest assured that this new car raises the game to a new level.”
- ENGINE: 2.3L EcoBoost
- TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual transmission
- RELEASE DATE: Spring 2016