Detroit Showdown: Ford GT vs NSX

Looking back at this year’s preeminent “Car Show” there is one undeniable fact; Ford stole the show. In any other year the new Raptor and Mustang GT350R would have been among the biggest stars. This year however, they were completely overshadowed by Ford’s jaw dropping new GT. Every other manufacturer’s best was rendered unimportant. Hyundai made a pick-up truck. Buick made a car that is actually interesting. (No, seriously they made a car that is actually appealing to someone not on Social Security, see “Our 10 Favorite Cars from the Detroit Auto Show“.)

Then somewhere in the Blue aura of the new Ford GT, Acura managed to roll out the production version of the New NSX; a car we’ve (most of the auto industry) has been drooling over for what seems like eons. They finally get around to the production model and the GT Launch makes it a total afterthought. Which brings me to the point of this post.

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Both cars are iconic names to gear-heads for completely different reasons. In the 60’s, Ford had a hand shake deal to purchase Ferrari and at the last moment Enzo backed out of the deal. Incensed, Henry Ford II gave his racing division one simple edict;: build a car that would smack Ferrari around at Le Mans. The end result was the original GT40. The GT40 would go on to win Le Mans 4 years in a row (1966-1969). To comply with the homogenization rules of the day, Ford also produced a limited number of road legal versions.

In stark contrast the Original NSX was developed to be a top notch sports car. It too was designed to take on Ferrari, but more out of reverence for the Italians as opposed to pure unadulterated spite. (As is the American way, piss us off and chances are you’ll regret it.)

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Apart from a brief moment in 2005, these two were not in production at the same time. With the new NSX and GT, all of that is about to change. All of which got me thinking. How do these two cars stack up against each other?

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2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the GT40’s first win at Le Mans. Just like its predecessor the new Ford GT was built to be a racer. Everywhere you look you are reminded of what this cars primary focus is. The seat position is fixed. I mean really fixed, as in it won’t move. It’s bolted directly to the chassis. But fear not, the pedals and steering wheel are adjustable, so short people like Greg can drive it. The steering wheel itself is “F1 Based.” There are no traditional stalks behind the wheel. All of the controls are on the wheel itself. Apparently this is so nothing interferes with the drivers access to the paddle shifters. Everything else is as you would expect. Digital read outs, GPS and the latest versions of my sync, all quite exciting.

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Ford has boasted that the new GT will have one of the best power to weight ratios of any car. To achieve this they had to be obsessive about making the GT as light as possible. The body is carbon fiber and designed for maximum aero efficiency and downforce. The rear wing is active, moving to suit your driving, becoming an air brake when needed. Carbon fiber is everywhere, apart from the aluminum sub frames. Ford has even crammed in more racing paraphernalia in the forms of push rod suspension and carbon ceramic brakes.

And finally, the best part of any performance car, the engine. Gone is the thunderous V8 found in GT’s of old. In its place sits a 3.5 liter, direct injected, twin turbocharged V6 courtesy of Ford’s Daytona Prototype race car. The new engine is mated to a 7 speed dual clutch transmission. No exact power figures have been released, but Ford says to expect more than 600 hp. All of this should propel the GT to 60 in about 3 seconds and have a top speed around 200 mph. Combine all of this and it means Ford has once again put Ferrari squarely in its cross hairs, specifically the 458 Italia.

2016 Ford GT at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show - Our Top 10 Picks

In contrast, the NSX was not built to be a race car for the road. It was designed to be one damn good sports car. While the GT is obsessive about the lightweight, racer approach, the NSX is going in a high tech direction. Like the GT the NSX’s interior features the latest and greatest from Honda/Acura. Apparently they are quite proud of the slimness of their A-Pillars. Increased visibility, very exciting.

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Similar to the GT the NSX’s body is designed for optimum efficiency and down-force. The NSX features fully independent suspension with carbon ceramic brakes and utilizes a super geek level of technology. The suspension is tied in to the NSX’s 4 wheel drive system. (More on this in a moment)NSX Powertrain - Side View

The NSX also uses a twin turbocharged 3.5 V6. The power runs through a 9 speed dual clutch transmission. Yes, 9. Why 9 speeds? I got nothing, I’m sure it has something to do with power delivery and efficiency blah blah blah, but 9 speeds seems a bit much to me. The biggest difference between power plants is Honda’s V6 is connected to a high performance hybrid system that drives all 4 wheels. There are three electric motors, one each on the front wheels, and one in the back. The rear motor is designed to fill the torque gaps in the gas engine. Acura has gone to great lengths to keep all of the power unit’s weight as low as possible to keep the NSX’s center of gravity low. Like I said above, the electric motors work with the traction control system, all told they are expecting some pretty epic handling. This is why they gave it the equally “epic” name: “Super Handling All Wheel Drive”. Not an exciting name, but rumor has it an “R” version is already in the works.2016-acura-nsx-photos-and-info-news-car-and-driver-photo-654987-s-original

As for that Ford GT Racing pedigree, Ford has announced that Chip Ganassi Racing will pilot two factory backed GT’s in 2016. Ford has already announced they will be making a GT Race version to conform to the ACO GTE Class. Expect to see the GT racing in the GTLM Class in the Tudor United Sports car Series and naturally a return to Le Mans. Technically the NSX is already racing in Japan’s Super GT series. However the NSX racer shares very little with the production version shown in Detroit. The cars share nothing in common apart from a name and basic body shape. At any rate, rumors have been swirling around about a NSX GTE contender. Stay Tuned.

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Two very different cars that are historic for two very different reasons. I for one can’t wait to see these two out on the road. I’m partial to the GT for the obvious, ‘Murican reason. That and I like old fashioned engineering over computer controlled wizardry. With that said, both cars are awesome.