Owner Review: Ford GT vs. Gallardo, Porsche GT3 RS, Ferrari F430, Ferrari 458


w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
DISCLAIMER: I have no agenda here. I love both cars and will not try to justify my move from a GT to a Gallardo. I have never driven either car on the track. I drove the GT for about 1300 miles in many different conditons, including my favorite canyon drive. I have driven the Gallardo about 350 miles on the same roads, including the canyon drive. I also posted this at the Lamborghini web site, so I've tried to be as objective as I can. Okay, for what its worth, here it is:

Power:

The GT has immense thrust, and it just gushes out like a fire hose all the way up the tach. The gearing is very tall; it's amazing that the monster motor still pulls those tall gears without a whimper. 60 mph comes in first gear, allowing for those incredible 0-60 times you see in the mags. Immense fun to drive, especially when you add in the whine of the supercharger. Torque is stupendous, from way down low. There is the slightest delay in throttle response due to the supercharger.

The Gallardo is a different animal altogether. The throttle response in much more sharp than the GT; there is no lag between touching the loud peddle and blast off. Reminds me of my sport bike. Amazingly, this makes the Gallardo "feel" faster than the GT sometimes, especially in normal street driving. The torque is not equivalent to the GT and you can't feel it like you can in the GT, down low. However, I was very impressed with the flexibility of Gallardo engine compared to a 360 (which I found to be zingy and pipey).

Seat of the pants power analysis: Gallardo wins for throttle response and sharpness, GT wins for torque at ANY rpm. Sheer velocity under wide open throttle: GT :thumbsup

Engine sound:

The GT has that cool supercharger whine, and the engine note is very unique from other American iron because of the short route from engine to exhaust. It sounds great.

I had the dealer put a Tubi on the Gallardo before delivery, so this isn't a fair comparison. However, I must say that it makes the hair on my neck stand up when I fire it up. I mean, that baby BARKS! The small bore V-10 makes a high pitched wail that no big bore V-8 can match. Also, the GT redlines way lower than the Gallardo.

Unfair advantage: Gallardo

Handling:

The GT is super user friendly. The controls are surprisingly light and easy to master on the first drive. Clutch work is like driving a Honda, turn in is razor sharp, the breaks are superb, and the steering feel is very reassuring and communicative. Makes you feel like a hero driver, even if you're not. Outward visibility, however, is scary. The car is wide, and your passenger is always cringing away from the shoulder, wondering when you are going to hang a tire off.

The Gallardo's controls feel heavier and more deliberate than the GT, although still not bad. The steering ratio feels a tad slower and the wheel effort is higher in the twisties. Turn-in is not as sharp, although this may be an alignment decision made at the factory. The Gallardo is head and shoulders above other sports cars I have driven, but not as keen and responsive as the GT. Keep in mind that I drive the car 7/10ths, and I have yet to explore the limits of the Gallardo. Your experience may vary. Outward visibility in the Gallardo is superior in every way to the GT.

Advantage: GT :thumbsup

Ride Quality.

The Ford guys worked magic. The GT is stiff without being harsh. The Gallardo is stiff. Period.

Advantage: GT :thumbsup

Build Quality

The GT was fast tracked from inception to final product, and frankly, it shows. Kudos to Ford for the brass to build the GT, but another year of product development would have helped. The car kind of has a kit car quality to it. In fairness to Ford, I think they invisioned the car as a limited production race car first, and a consumer product second. They succeeded. It's pure heaven as far as vehicle dynamics go, but for the guy who likes tight body gaps and fully developed product design, the little things that aren't right on the GT will drive you bonkers. Lucky are the guys that don't sweat that stuff, but I'm not one of them.

The Gallardo is a jewel. Much better than I had anticipated. It may be the first flawless new car I have ever owned, and that is saying something with my compulsive pickiness. Reminds me of my NSX, or a Lexus that I owned, except better. In terms of fit and finish, the comparison between the GT and the Gallardo is not even close.

Advantage: Gallardo

Gawk factor (faces plastered against windows, people hanging out of car windows, crowds at gas stations, thumbs up, etc.)

Believe it or not, it seems that the Gallardo is even more of an attraction than the GT, and that is saying something! The whole "pimp factor" thing bugs me, and I personally find it the least attractive facet of exotic car ownership, but then I again, I've been happily married for twenty two years and have two kids. However, for those who like to be seen and noticed, the Gallardo outdoes the GT.

Looks/Design

Yea, right. Like I'm going to open that can of worms. :biggrin Both look great parked and on the road. Both make you happy to be a car guy when you see them coming your way.

Overall experience:

I guess the best way I can sum it up is with an analogy to food; the GT is like a perfectly prepared T-Bone steak with baked potato and corn on the cob -- hearty and satisfying. The Gallardo is like the best italian meal you can dream of, zest, passion, flair. In both cases, you leave the table happy for what you experienced. For me, the biggest difference between the two is exactly what you might expect -- the GT is all about American racing heritage and big bore, stump pulling grunt, combined with VERY athletic vehicle dynamics. The Gallardo is a celebration of a passion for the mechanical art of the automobile, from the wail of the the V-10 to the cache of the Lamborghini name, to the absolutely inspiring attention to product quality. It is a true exotic, at least as I have defined that term since drooling over the Countach in Motor Trend in junior high.

Hope the reader finds this to be of some interest.
 

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Owner Review: GT vs. Porsche GT3 RS, Ferrari F430

I flew out to the great State of PA. this weekend and bought an 06 GT, very late build (July 06). I also had a mid build 05, which I sold awhile back.

I spent about two hours looking the car over and driving it, and it does appear to me that there are some very subtle differences between the two. For what it's worth, here they are:

Panel gaps appear to be a bit narrower and more uniform, especially with relation to the clamshell fit. The car seems to be a bit less "kit car" the my previous one.

General fit and finish appears to have improved (although this may be a variance in build quality as to my particular car and not related to the year).

Lower panels are smoother and more uniform, less of a bump flexing the panel outward where the various lines and hoses exit the engine bay on the passenger side and run forward.

Driving feel is magnificent, this is easily the most responsive supercar I have ever driven, and in retrospect, much friendlier and lighter in control feel than the Lamborghinis I have owned. Somehow the '06 felt even more that way than the '05, but I'm sure it was just the euphoria of the moment. :wink

Otherwise, felt, smelt, and looked just like my 05. Bottom line, not a big difference between the two years, probably more of a difference from car to car and what mood the workers on the assembly line were in when the particular car was built. I would submit that the guys who have 05s and the guys who have 06s have virtually the same cars, one was just more expensive than the other. :bored

My 06 is a non-mac car, and it feels so much better inside without that huge tumor between the seats.

These are the greatest cars ever built and we are the lucky few who bought them new. There will never be another car like it... :thumbsup
 

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Owner Review: GT vs. Porsche GT3 RS, Ferrari F430

I'm sure most people have a favorite drive through the twisties. Mine, located in Northern Arizona, is a strecth of road about twenty five miles long on Highway 89 between Prescott and a wide spot called Congress Junction. Some of the the locals call it White Spar Road.

White Spar is, in my mind, the ultimate drive; smooth, ample shoulder, and a combination of tight corners (30 mph) and medium speed (60 mph) sweepers. Many of the corners are in quick succession, resulting in quick left/right/left transitions. There is one portion I call the rythm section, which features heavily banked corners that pour and snake into one another, unloading the suspension as the road camber changes, and reloading the suspension just as you dive into the next high g sweep. Makes the hair stand up on your neck. It also makes your hapless passenger either holler with enthusiasm or choke back the car sick. There is a remarkable section going down to the desert floor where the road is one lane and one way. In other words, no oncoming traffic to dodge as you howl from apex to apex.

Truly a poetic experience, providing that Johnny Law does not show up to rain on my parade. It's also a pain in the neck when you get behind that moving chicane, also known as a minivan, tottering from corner to corner at half the posted speed limit. Into each life a little rain must fall...

Anyway, I have had the opportunity to drive some impressive cars on this road over the past ten years, including the NSX, S2000, 427 Cobra, Corvette, and couple of Lamborghinis to name a few. I have driven the road hundreds of times, which is beneficial in allowing me a personal frame of reference comparing car to car. Of all the cars I have driven on it, my favorite had always been the NSX. Until now.

I just finished driving my GT on the road for the fourth time in the last week, and I am dumb struck! It's like someone took my NSX and cross bred it with the Cobra. Giant, fluid, gushing thrust out of the corners and down the straights, razor sharp steering response that requires virtually no correction once a line has been selected, and no fuss on even the most difficult transitions. The control feel is light and the shifter is as positive as loading a cartridge into a Thirty Ought Six. Rev matching is as easy as falling in love. Moreover, the music of the Accufab howl bouncing off the canyon walls as you launch out of a tight corner could very well be the national anthem of gearheads everywhere.

This car is a masterpiece. Period. You simply cannot appreciate it fully by driving it to the local Starbucks on Saturday morning and then back to the garage. Unless, of course, you get there on a twisty road. :thumbsup

I'm ready to declare the GT as the Ultimate Canyon Car.
 

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Owner Review: GT vs. Porsche GT3 RS, Ferrari F430

I apologize for the length of this post. If you don’t like to read, just look at the pictures :wink



The following comparison is based entirely on my subjective opinion. I own both of the cars in question, and I have no agenda regarding the deification of one over the other. I am, first and foremost, a car guy, and a partisan for a particular marque, never. I should also point out that I am not a mechanical engineer, a professional race driver, or an automotive journalist. I am posting this comparison on both Ferrarichat.com and Fordgtforum.com, the members of which I respect and admire. I will attempt to honor both august bodies by being as honest as I know how to be regarding the two cars.

Important Data:

Ford GT: 2006. I lowered the car about an inch, added a light-weight exhaust, and a larger Whipple supercharger. I will NOT be comparing acceleration between the two cars because the GT is no longer stock. Any discussion of comparative engine performance will, accordingly, be framed by my experience BEFORE I added the Whipple upgrade. (By the way, the Whipple modification is incredible. It is fully capable of warping the time/space continuum. The other day, I stood on the loud pedal and ended up in next week.) This is the second GT I have owned. I sold the first to get a Lamborghini. I missed it so much that I sold the Gallardo and bought another GT. I find it interesting --and telling-- that several of my GT brethren have left the fold, only to come back later.

Ferrari F430 Coupe. 2007, F1 Transmission. Lots of cool carbon fiber bits inside. Everything else is covered in buttery soft tan leather. Standard brakes. Daytona seats. I had to sell organs to get it from the dealer. No modifications, although I would dearly love to lower the front end about two inches. It looks goofy way up in the air like that. Although a long time Ferrari fan, this is my first experience as an F car owner, although I have driven several modern Ferraris owned by a generous friend. I have taken the F430 to the track for some very tame lapping, taken at about 7/10ths.

Note: Because the Transmissions are of different types, I will not compare them. However, as a die-hard 6 Speed Guy, I will tell you that I am thrilled with the F1and can say without hesitation that it is the perfect choice for the F430. It is dyn-o-mite on the track and in the twisties, and is an important element in making the F430 such a unique car. I heartily recommend it.

Category 1. Exterior Appearance.



Any question of beauty is rife with subjectivity. You may therefore feel free to completely reject my observations. To my eye, the GT looks meaner and more purposeful that the F430. Its stance is low, wide and athletic, and represents a fundamental difference between the two cars that I will reference throughout this review; the GT looks like a race car, a weapon for mano a mano combat on the track. The way that it hunkers down over its massive rear meats, the way that the rear fenders swell to contain those steam roller tires just looks so cool. It sits so that you know by looking at it that a tiny move of the steering wheel will translate into a corresponding slot-car change in direction. It telegraphs its abilities just sitting there, brooding in the driveway. The roof height of the GT measures much lower than the F430, and it looks it.

The F430 is a beauty, and appears better in person than in photos. The F430 is not the prettiest modern Ferrari (that honor has to go to the 355 or maybe the Stradale) but it is a very composed design. It, like most Ferraris, looks best in motion. When I see it in my driveway, I say “man, that car is pretty“. But when I see an F430 on the road, surrounded by taller vehicles, it is truly inspiring. The F430 has certain angles that favor it (full side view, rear 3/4) and some that make it look homely (front 3/4 where you can see how high the nose is). If one were to lower the car right down onto its tires (like they do in the pretty hardbound Ferrari brochures) it would look much better. I love to watch my reflection as I pass glass buildings in the Ferrari. I wish I looked as good as the car. FWIW, the new Scuderia appears to have improved upon the looks of the F430 significantly. I am presently growing more organs so that I can sell them for the Scuderia. I’m also sending cookies to the dealer and occasionally sleeping at the dealership door overnight in a tent to demonstrate my sincerity.

It’s strange; in my mind, the F430 looks a lot better to me when it is not in the presence of the GT.

Advantage: GT, but a close call, and only in my eyes.

Category 2. Interior .





It is not even close. The Ferrari interior is beautifully crafted and of impeccable design and quality. It smells like the inside of a Ferragamo shoe store. The dinner-plate sized tach in the center of the dash tells you where your priorities should be. The Daytona seats are perfect. The side bolsters are deep, but very comfortable. They provide excellent lateral support, even on the track. You could probably build a hundred Corvette seats for what it costs to build one Daytona seat, and it’s worth every Penney. The 430 feels like it has a lot more interior space than the GT, especially head room.

The GT interior, is -- ahem -- stark. I’m not crazy about the huge expanse of silver plastic that covers the “ship in a bottle” fuel tank and which sits between the two seats as the center console. The way the shift lever exits the console is strange and looks like an afterthought. It’s that race car thing again. The door panels look barren, and the first thing that happens when you shut the door of your new GT is the aluminum trim panel falls into your lap. It’s easy to fix in about two minutes with a stronger version of the double sided tape that Ford used. On the plus side, the seats are superb, and the quality of the leather and assembly of the seats is the equal of the Ferrari. The smell is fantastic and very distinctive of the GT. It just smells like $$$$$. Yes, that IS strange for a Ford. The dash is well laid out and very reminiscent of the GT40 racer from the sixties. The gauges are logical, easy to read and the glowing back light looks great at night. Once you fix the aluminum trim panel, the interior is rattle free and very pleasant. My wife says the passenger seat on the GT “digs into her back.” I bought her a bottle of Advil. Think race car.

Advantage: F430, clearly.


Category 3. Outward Visibility

The F430 reminds me of my beloved NSX. Nothing interferes with your view of the road ahead, and you feel like you are sitting on the nose on road missile. It instills absolute confidence and allows you to put the car exactly where you want it in a corner. Simply superb.

The driver sits much lower in the GT, and you fell more “buried” in the cockpit. The size of the infamous “A” pillar, while large, is not a problem for me. (I understand that they beefed it up to enhance torsional rigidity because of the doors cutting into the roof). Once I removed the wipers (they really do interfere with your vision) I was much happier with the outward view. Remember the GT feeling like a race car? Well, you feel it particularly clearly when you take the wheel and look out of the windshield. It feels great, but doesn’t quite give you the ability to locate the two front corners of the car the way the F430 does.

Advantage: F430, clearly


Category 4. Fit and Finish.

The exterior quality of both cars is about equal. Certainly, the GT is boxier and has more joints and lines because of its engineering, but the body gaps on both cars are uniform and very acceptable. I will note that the quality in this area is much improved in my ‘06 GT compared to the ‘05. The paint quality on the GT is slightly better than the F430. In fact, the paint finish on my GT is the best of any car I have owned. Its finish was virtually flawless from the factory, with no visible orange peel. The F430 finish is also superb, but there are minor sanding flaws and some very faint body waiver that I don’t see on the GT. As stated above, the interior finish of the F430 is superior to the GT. I am compulsive about these things. I should note that paint finish varies from car to car of the same make. I have seen some Gts that had lower quality paint finishes, and I have read some of my Ferrari brethren comment on finding paint flaws in their F430s. The fit and finish of the interior has to go to the Ferrari.

Advantage: Draw


Category 5. High Speed Stability:

The GT is a 200+ mph car and it feels like it. Words cannot describe how easy it is to go FELONY fast in the GT, and not even notice except for the wind noise and the blurry landscape. If you doubt me, check out YouTube. It is truly a land rocket, and unlike any other car I have owned. The Lamborghini Gallardo, with its German DNA, is stable at speed. The GT, however, is in an entirely different class. A class of one, or maybe two, if you count the Bugatti Veyron.

The F430 does not inspire the same level of confidence at nosebleed speeds. It feels light on its feet and vibrant, which is a good thing when cornering but no so good a thing at felony speed. I certainly do not imply that the F430 gets light, wanders or becomes dangerous at higher velocities; I’m saying that it telegraphs its speed more directly to the driver. That means that 140 mph in the Ferrari feels like 200 mph in the GT. (Presuming, of course, that one were insane enough to violate the laws of the great state of Arizona by attempting such reckless speeds , which I do not advocate)

Advantage: GT, clearly. It’s that race car thing again.


Category 6. Cornering.

The F430 is a revelation. Remember the NSX I mentioned earlier? It is the benchmark against which I measure other cars in the handling department. The F430 is the new NSX. I am amazed at how precise it is and how willingly it does what I ask it to. I, of course, have never driven a car with the E-diff system until the 430. Amazing. It is difficult to describe how the rear diff can make the front of the car track like a hog on rails, but it does. Simply superb.

The GT is not blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with the driver aids of the F430. It, however, is also a magnificent canyon car and a great deal of fun to drive. It’s all about the driver and his skill, or lack thereof. The steering is light and communicative, but just a bit less than the F430. It understeers when pressed on the track, as most street cars do. However, for spirited driving in the twisties, the GT is almost the perfect weapon. It’s just not quite as perfect as the F430.

BTW, I should add here that one of the most surprising things about the GT for people who get their first drive in one is the incredible torsional/structural rigidity of the car. I think they see that huge rear clam shell and think that the chassis is just going to sort of flop around beneath it. Nope. It is race car rigid and the whole car feels like it was billeted out of the same slab of steel. It feels significantly more rigid than the Ferrari. The Ford engineers are world class.

Advantage: F430, but both cars will make you cheer. I’ll betcha the GT is faster around a race track, but for me, the F430 just feels so right. That’s what driver aids will do for you. If you want to pretend your are a race car driver, however, it’s the GT.

Category 7. Engine.







This is truly like trying to compare apples and oranges. The GT is a torque monster, huge, honking, gushing fire hose volumes of torque from way down deep. The F430, on the other hand, starts to find its voice and breath after it zings well PAST the GT’s redline. It’s like my kids; they are just warming up when I am ready for bed. We ‘mericans like torque. It just feels like effortless power --like you got power you aint even used yet. Nudge the loud pedal and the car surges forward. Maybe that’s why we buy so many of those big One-Ton diesel pickups to go to the mall in. That’s also why your friends LOVE to drive the GT; it just feels fast.



In the F car, you kind of have to wring its neck before it will show you what its got, but when it does, hold on. From about 4000 to 8500, throttle response in the lower gears is EXPLOSIVE. And the sound, for crying out loud, makes the hairs stand up on your neck. Also known to give a guy a woody. Bottom line: both cars accelerate with authority, they just do it so differently. This is the classic difference between European sports cars and American sports cars.

Advantage: Draw, depends on what you like.
Bonus point for Sound: Ferrari, and its not even close. Aint no car in the world sounds like a Ferrari.

Category 8. “Yea, yea, but which car is Fastest?”

Define fast. If it is acceleration and top speed, its got to be the GT. Remember, race car. Put a Whipple on it and just make sure your life insurance is paid up.

Advantage: GT. Clearly. Especially if you live at the drag strip or on the Salt Flats.

Category 9: Gawk Factor.

This if for all the guys who want everyone to look at them. The GT probably wins in this category, just because it is so low and wicked and most of ‘em have those huge stripes running down their length. The Ferrari, while beautiful, is just not as starkly unique as the GT.

True story: the shortly after I bought the it, I was stuck in traffic while driving the F430 just outside of Provo on 1-15. I’m sitting next to a shiny new Buick. We both have our windows down. A lovely older lady in the Buick gets my attention and says: “Is that the new Mustang?”. Traffic was starting to move so I smiled, and not wanting to be rude but also not wanting to announce that it was Ferrari, I said yes. She says “I saw that little horse on the back and I just knew it was a Mustang. They sure are pretty.” Now, if I was a twenty something trust baby that had just finished giving the dealer $250,000 so that I could profile around in my new Ferrari, that would have been a downer. Better get a Lamborghini next time. The real, joke, however: I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked if the GT is “that new Ferrari”.

Advantage: GT, if attracting attention is considered an advantage.

Category 10. Sense of Occasion.

You know, this is the feeling you get when you go out to the garage to start the car and go for a drive. Compare how you feel getting into the Camry with how you feel getting into the Ferrari. BIG difference.
The Ferrari is totally unique in every regard; the way it smells, the way it looks, the way it sounds, the way the F1 transmission works. It’s a complete package, and its exotic in a way that other cars are not, not even the GT. This is part of what makes the Ferrari a Ferrari. Either you get it or you don’t .

The GT is also unique, especially out in traffic. However, it is similar in some vague ways to other American sports cars, including the engine note and power delivery.

Advantage: Ferrari. There is no other car like it.

Category 11. History.

I’ve read some of my Ferrari brethren say ,when speaking about the GT, that at the end of the day, “it is still just a Ford”. I have a philosophical problem with this statement. I would respectfully remind the author of this pronouncement that it was “just a Ford” which soundly trounced the world-wide competition at Lemans from 1966 to 1969. I would also note that the shiny blue oval may be distinctly visible when the “just a Ford” GT blows past your Enzo at 212 mph. Us Ferrari fans love history, including Ferrari’s treasured racing lore from days gone by. We also loved it this year when Kimi and the team were vindicated on both fronts by winning the manufacturer’s and driver’s championships in F1. However, to dismiss a great car like the GT because it is “just a Ford” ignores a vast amount of racing history and displays the most crass sort of badge snobbery. Such rhetoric is far below the standard of a gentlemen and a true car guy.

Advantage: Not Important


SPECIAL AWARD: Car most likely to kill you. GT

The GT does not have electronic nannies to watch over its pilot. When you mash the go pedal, you better aim first. Take a look some time and note how many GT cars have been destroyed. You know those famous photos of the Enzos busted in half? Think GT as well. You gotta respect this car, and say nice things to it, or it will bite you, and hard.

SPECIAL AWARD, PART II: Rarity. GT

After all the crashes, there are maybe 3500 Gts left in the World. They aint building any more. Ferrari builds more F430s than that in one year.

SPECIAL AWARD PART III: Depreciation or lack thereof. Draw.

Contrary to predictions, the GT did not become worth “$100,000 after the first year”. They still sell regularly for original MSRP and sometimes well above. The prices for really nice cars seem to be creeping upward. The Ferrari, of course sells for way over MSRP, and starts slowly going down from there. However, I’ll bet that in ten years, a low mileage GT will sell for more than a low mileage F430.

Conclusion

So, the final question: If you could have just one, which would it be? The answer would depend upon your personality and whether you wanted a race car for the street (GT), or a street car that also shines on the track (F430).

Certainly, the cars have the potential to attract a completely different crowd. I cannot picture some of my GT buds buying a Ferrari, just because of the prima dona/garage queen factor wrongfully associated with the F car. On the other hand, there are some Ferrari guys (you know, the guys who wear all their red Ferrari clothes when they take their car out, as if they needed to announce more loudly that THEY are driving a Ferrari) who would never buy the GT because it is “just a Ford”.

If you look beyond the labels, however, both cars are stellar performers and worthy of comparison. They are, in my opinion, natural rivals and competitors.

Thanks for reading. I would be deeply grateful if the owners of both cars would add their thoughts, and I welcome the critiques of my less than perfect review.
 

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Owner Review: GT vs. Porsche GT3 RS, Ferrari F430



As an introduction, allow me the standard preamble. I have no agenda in writing the review set forth below. Obviously, since I own both, I gain nothing by promoting one car over the other. To insure that I will be roasted from both top and bottom by unhappy readers, I am posting this review on both the Ford GT Forum and on Rennlist.

The Players:



My Ford GT is an ‘06, late production. I lowered the car about an inch, and I had the guys at Whipple install a thermonuclear detonator which they humorously refer to as an upgraded supercharger. However, I will base the comparisons regarding power and acceleration exclusively on my observations of the GT before the power upgrade. This is my second GT; the first was completely stock.



The RS is an ‘07. It is not modified in any way. I have been driving it non-stop since I got it, and put more miles on it one day than it had on it when I took delivery from the original owner. It has the Michelin Pilot Sport tires which look and behave suspiciously like track tires. This is my third 911, the most recent a 997 Carrera 2S.

The test drives upon which I base my comments were taken on Arizona Highway 89, between Prescott and Congress Junction. It is a superbly twisty canyon/mountain road of generous width, and it is a favorite of the sport bike crowd. A good friend who is also a great driver did me the favor of driving the second car so that we could switch off and compare notes on the fly. Of course, I have also driven each car on this road in isolation on many other occasions.



Please note: for your further automotive edification, at the end of each category, I have included a ranking in that specific area of not only the Porsche and the Ford, but also of my Ferrari F430 F1 Coupe, a car which I compared with the GT in a previous review.

1. Acceleration



According to Porsche, the GT3, is the most powerful naturally aspirated engine per liter that they have ever produced. Combine 415 horsepower with relatively light weight (around 3000 lbs.) and you’ve got the recipe for a thrust-fest. Indeed, the engine pulls with authority throughout the rev range, with greater urgency as the revs build. Redline is 8400. Touch the throttle, especially above 3500 rpm, and it’s blast off time, razor sharp, right now. The Ford’s supercharged engine can’t compete with this brain-to-foot-to-thrust immediacy. Underpowered the Porsche is not; in stop light stand-offs, it will easily spank just about any sports car that comes up against it. In many ways, the power delivery reminds me of a sport bike; the force just swells and then swells again as the revs build. Very cool, and very quick.



The Ford’s 5.4 liter V8 has more displacement than the Porsche and two more cylinders shoving on the crankshaft with each revolution. It produces at least 135 horsepower more than the GT3 RS. I say “at least” because stock GTs, in independent dyno testing, appear to regularly produce horsepower numbers well in excess of the claimed 550. A single stab of the throttle in a GT is all it takes to open one’s eyes to a beautiful new world of acceleration. It’s not so much that the power is ferocious (which it is), but that it belts you from way, way down deep, and then all the way to redline. In overtaking maneuvers, one can either leave the shifter alone, squeeze the throttle, and be done with it, or for extra flavor, grab a lower gear, let loose the hounds of hell, and prepare for a distortion of the time/space continuum. I can literally pass a minivan (aka: rolling chicane) before the tottering cell phone user within ever knows what happened. The power delivery is like drinking from a fire hose. It has a vast torque reserve that only the very brave, or the very foolish, would try to plumb. As evidenced by a rapidly growing list of totaled GTs, wide open throttle in first, or even second gear is strongly discouraged. Especially on cold tires.

Advantage: Ford GT, but you won’t feel outgunned in either car.

(Overall ranking in this category: 1st: Ford GT 2nd Porsche GT3RS 3RD: Ferrari F430)

2. High Speed Stability

One of the things I noticed when I owned my first Porsche (a 1984 911 Carrera) was how it disguised its velocity. I was amazed at how I could roll along at triple digit speed and not even be aware of it until I looked down at the speedo. The GT3 is no different, tracking freight train straight at felony speeds. We only had the chance to test it to an indicated 170, but it was completely without drama. Yawn. The Porsche feels a bit lighter on its feet than the Ford at these Talladega speeds, but nothing uncomfortable.

The Ford boasts some serious aerodynamic engineering, from its perfectly flat bottom and rear venturies to its through-the-nose-and-over-the-hood air management. When you follow a GT from behind at high speed, you can literally see the car sucking debris off the road like a hoover and leaving a cloud of dust and road grit in a tall trail behind it. It’s awesome. Those aero aids really work, and it becomes even more apparent as the speeds increase and the car hunkers down. On a separate occasion and under controlled conditions, I ran the GT up to an indicated 205. While I was scared to a shaky pallor at that speed, the GT just hoovered down and acted like the rocket sled that it is. I don’t know of a car that can match the Ford in this department, except maybe the Veyron.

Advantage: Ford GT, but it’s the only car that can beat the RS in this department, and both cars are far superior to the nervous Ferrari F430. (Sorry Enzo)

(Overall ranking: Ford, Porsche, Ferrari)

3. Cornering/Handling

I cannot describe how direct and incredibly communicative the Porsche’s steering is. There’s absolutely nothing lost in the translation between that which the driver’s hands tell the car and that which it then does. It inspired me to a level of confidence on the first drive that I have never experienced in another car. The Porsche was a revelation of razor sharp turn-in and planted, controlled and correction free cornering. Have you ever gone to a movie that was so entertaining and inspiring that after you got home, you decided to go see it again? And again? That’s exactly what happened after I got home from my first canyon drive in the Porsche. I went right back. It gave me goose bumps to plunge from one apex to another, suspension loading and unloading with the pronounced banking of each undulating corner. I’ve probably driven that stretch of road in the RS 20 times since the first time, and I can certainly understand why the British EVO magazine selected it as Car of the Year for 2007. The Scuderia was a contestant in that group, by the way.

The Ford is not blessed with the same steering feel as the Porsche. Where the Porsche feels organic, the Ford feels digital. I’m not sure if it is the factory alignment, the vast difference in tires, the fact that the engine is in the rear of the Porsche, or a combination of these factors that distinguish the GT from the Porsche. Whatever it is, I want to work on getting the Ford a dose of it. This is not to say that the GT has poor steering feel. Taken in isolation, it is terrific and far superior to most other cars. However, when compared back-to-back with the Porsche, it just lacks that transparent feedback. In all other regards, the GT is a fantastic canyon car and superbly competent. And, while the steering is less direct, the GT actually feels more involving in the corners than the Porsche does, as if it wants to work with the driver and not do the work for him. In that regard, is it possible that the Porsche handling is simply too good?

Advantage: Porsche

(Overall ranking: Porsche, Ferrari, Ford)

4. Braking

The Porsche has the new carbon ceramic brakes, and they are simply a generation better than the steel brakes on the Ford. It’s definitely overkill for the street, but on the track, they should be dynamite. Having said that, I’ve never been able to get the GT’s brakes to fade under any circumstances. They are huge and very much adequate to the task.

Advantage: Porsche, but it’s probably not an apples to apples comparison.

(Overall: Porsche, GT, Ferrari)





5. Gawk Factor.

This refers to the amount of attention that the car draws in traffic and during the fuel/convenience store stop.

The Porsche can’t compare to the GT in this regard, and draws little attention from passers by. Never thought I’d call a Porsche the red-headed step child of the garage, but there you have it. I expect that most non-car guys can’t tell the difference between it and any other Porsche, assuming for the sake of argument that they can even identify that much. Unless, of course, they are Porschefiles, in which case they are very interested in the super rare RS. I personally think it looks sinister and industrial (that’s a good thing).



Everyone, and I mean everyone, notices the GT. If onlookers were ants, the GT would attract them like honey with powdered sugar on top. As I drive it, the GT is the regular subject of car chases with the vehicles in pursuit identifiable by the arms hanging out of windows with cell phones attached to them. I have grown tired of looking up in the rearview to see cars jockeying for position in traffic to get next to me. I feel like Elvis, and that’s not a good thing. I’ve got to admit, however, that when my bud was driving the GT and I was following along side in the Porsche, I was smitten with the looks of the GT. It is so low and mean and exotic when you see it on the road, that you can’t help but holler out loud. I have a theory that the driver of a GT becomes instantly ten times sexier when the car begins moving. Good thing I’ve been happily married for the past 22 years…



Advantage: GT

(Overall: GT, Ferrari, Porsche)

6. Fit and Finish

Both cars are superb in this regard. Great paint, great body panel alignment, no rattles, no issues.

Advantage: Draw

7. Interior

The Porsche interior is virtually identical to any other 997, well thought out, superb quality of materials, and evident of Porsche’s design skill. It’s also a bit boring in its Porsche perfection.



The GT interior is not as carefully designed as the Porsche’s, but it is definitely more exotic in appearance and more appropriate of a car in this price and performance range.



Advantage: Interest: Ford. Quality: Porsche

(Overall: Ferrari, Ford, Porsche)

8. Sense of Occasion

This refers to the driving experience. You know, the feeling that distinguishes driving a Camry from driving a Lamborghini.

The Porsche is very traditional in its format. The windshield is upright, and so is the driving position. The cabin is light and airy, and the outward visibility is superb, especially the over-hood view. Ergonomics are great, and the interior feels narrow, which is reflective of the European streets of its birthplace. From the inside, the Porsche feels like just about any other car you might drive off a rental lot. In traffic, it feels small and easy to toss about, and the superb handling adds to that perception. I can think of no better car to dice it up on a California freeway than the RS, assuming that the traffic is actually moving. Even though I won’t track the car for a couple more weeks, I can already tell that the no nonsense visibility and driving position, while boring in the exotic sense, will pay off in a big way at the track. I’ll wager that Porsche intended it that way. The Porsche is a superb driving appliance, and I can think of no better way to say it.

Don’t get me wrong. For the hard core Porsche guys, the RS is as cool as it gets. Wide body, functional carbon wing on the back, lower, wider, and meaner than the standard 997. I love how squat and hunkered down the RS looks, especially from the back, with those huge semi slick rear tires peeking out from beneath the rear apron. Very industrial and race car serious. Is it possible that the 997 RS is the most sinister looking 911 ever?

The GT is exotic car poetry. It’s got the big bad V8 under glass behind the driver’s head, and you can also see that boss supercharger through the windshield, perched like a bomb between the driver’s and passenger’s heads The GT is low, mean, wide and nasty when you view it the rearview mirror as it approaches from behind. As you watch it pass, it becomes an unadulterated race car with an impossibly low roof line. It’s a gleaming land missile at full tilt boogie. Once the GT is in front, it shows you its fat haunches stretched tautly over those huge steam roller meats in the rear. I defy any car guy to not fall crazy in love with the GT as it passes. It taps into that deep, instinctive region that has made us all love low cars with fat tires ever since we were old enough to say “Hot Wheels.” When you drive the GT, it is an event, a momentous occasion that brings smiles to the faces of other drivers and makes them give the double thumbs up. I am now convinced that the GT is the coolest car ever built, but that’s just my opinion…

Advantage: For me, it’s the GT, but your experience may differ

(Overall: Ford, Ferrari, Porsche)

9. Misc. Question and Answer

Q: Which has the best shift feel?
A: The Ford, much more direct and mechanical, like chambering a round.

Q: If you could have only one, which would it be?
A: The Ford, it’s not like any other car out there, and they stopped building ‘em.

Q: If you were being chased down a canyon road, and your life depended on getting away, which would you choose as the getaway car?
A: The Porsche. It’s so easy to drive at the limit and so razor quick through the corners. Ironically, all that power makes the GT a bit scary.

Q: Which car feels more rigid and most resistant to chassis flex?
A: Both cars are race car rigid. No flex, no rattle, no shake and bake.

Q: Which car feels most like a race car?
A: On the street, the GT. I’ll tell you more after I’ve taken them both to the track.

Conclusion:

As I have re-read this review, I am dismayed at how difficult it is to give a true and honest comparison of these two magnificent cars. Take either car in isolation, and you will be convinced that you have the greatest car on earth. Drive them back to back and it’s like trying to compare a ruby and a sapphire. They are both beautiful, but what’s your taste? I come away from the exercise with only one clear conclusion: I am pretty confident that I am lucky enough to own two of the greatest road cars ever built.



Thanks for reading. I value your comments.

 

DBK

PHX
Staff member
Le Mans 2010 Supporter
Jul 30, 2005
14,528
Metro Detroit
Figured I would combine and sticky the W.Mitty reviews in here, as there is now another imminent review with the Dodge ACR Viper coming.
 

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Owner Review; Ford GT vs. Viper ACR (Long, w/photos)



Disclaimer: I own both of the cars discussed in this review, and hopefully this will be a non-partisan exercise. I have posted this review on both the FORDGTFORUM and VIPERCLUB sites, and I welcome views from both camps. I will base my comparison of the two cars on random categories, presented in no particular order. First, the basics:

The 2006 Ford GT.

I purchased the GT new in 2006. Since then, I have driven it about 6500 miles, on both the track and the street. It is the second GT I have owned, the first was a 2005. Since purchase, I have added a larger Whipple supercharger, a cat-back x pipe, and I lowered the car about an inch. I also installed a transmission cooler and a short shift kit. In fairness, I will base my comparison of the GT’s engine performance in its pre-Whipple form.



The 2008 Viper ACR.

The ACR arrived about a month ago, and I’ve already put over 1500 miles on it, on the street and on the Track. I have not modified it in any way, except to lower the ride height by an inch front and rear, which is very easy, considering that the Viper comes from the factory with fully adjustable KW shocks.



Category 1: Engine

Ford GT. The Ford engine is an all-aluminum mechanical masterpiece. Supercharged, liquid intercooled, dual overhead camshafts, 32 valves, dry sump. Its beefy bottom-end design allows for major power modifications, sometimes in excess of 1000 horsepower. In comparison to the Viper, the GT engine is relatively compact, and the dry sump allows for low mounting in the chassis, reducing the car’s overall center of gravity. The power delivery of the GT is unique; a satisfying combination of polished refinement and neck straining ferocity. The engine starts with an exuberant bark, but it is docile at light throttle and as easy to drive in traffic as a Lexus. When you decide to poke the loud pedal, however, prepare for honey smooth, fire hose volumes of thrust. The GT pulls and pulls and then pulls some more. There is virtually no lag between pedal and blast off, and the power build is exponential as the revs climb. It’s an experience in controlled violence, like igniting dynamite in a billet steel box. When evaluated as a complete package, the GT has the most satisfying and entertaining engine of any car I have ever owned. It really is that good.



Viper ACR. After spending some seat time in the Viper, including a road trip from Arizona to Utah and some quality track time, I have tried to imagine the conversation that the Viper team had when they first envisioned the project: “Okay guys, here’s our mission: first we get the biggest honkin’ engine we can, (hey, how ‘bout maybe we use our V10 truck engine?) then we cram it into the front of a light, mean looking coupe so we can stomp the snot out of the Corvette. Refinement? We don’t need no stinking Refinement. We spit in the mother’s milk of your refinement.”

The first ten minutes in the Viper will convince you that they did not stray from their mission. The engine has so much torque that it twists the two-by-sixes in my garage when I fire it up. The Viper is a hoot to drive from signal to signal simply because it all feels so effortless, like you have a well of freight train torque so deep that you could never fully plumb its depths. The Viper takes that concept of effortless power to its extreme, and then adds about three more liters of displacement to it. For crying out loud, this thing has ten pistons, all going medieval on the crank at the same time. And it’s got 8.4 liters! That’s a Ford GT engine with a Porsche engine added in for good measure. As you would imagine, acceleration is ballistic; it distorts the vision and even makes respiration a challenge. Where the GT engine builds power in an exponential swell, i.e., 2 becomes 4 which then becomes 8, the Viper starts at 8 and stays there all the way to red line. This thing is a brute. A strange characteristic of the Viper is how the engine note in your ears and the accelerometer in your bung do not correspond: take a long draw on the throttle, and the engine just sort of grinds out a low, protracted belch. All the while, however, your internal organs are jostling for new positions as your body cavity is compressed. A glance at the speedo and your now overworked self-preservation nerves begin screaming phrases like “criminal speeding” and “custodial arrest

While driving the Viper on the two lane roads between Arizona and Utah, I was passing cars like swatting flies. Just outside of Panguitch, I busted a move on a wheezing Toyota Yaris. As I approached, I grabbed a lower gear for effect and mashed the throttle. Without warning, the little giblet of a Yaris got sucked right into the Viper’s intake. It just disappeared. The remains came rattling out of my exhaust a few seconds later. The owner’s manual didn’t say anything about this dangerous phenomenon.



ADVANTAGE: Refined power: GT. Unrefined, jet-engine-strapped- to-a -sled power: Viper.

Category Two: Fit and Finish, Exterior and Interior.

Ford GT. The longer I own the GT, the more impressed I am with its quality. After two years of pretty regular use on both the road and track, it still looks, feels and drives like brand new. The quality of the interior is evident in how well the materials stand up to use, and the exterior paint and panel quality is among the best of any car I have ever owned.



Viper ACR. The paint/panel work on the Viper is virtually flawless, and for a black car, that is saying something indeed. It has no detectable orange peel. The red stripe on my car is sharp and clean edged. The panel gaps are surprisingly tight and uniform, easily comparable to any of the European competition. The interior is well assembled, but overall, lower quality materials are used than in the GT. For example, the fantastic leather on the GT seats could easily compete with that of the Ferrari F430, where the seat bolsters on the Viper are vinyl. (This is probably great for wear and durability, but somewhat unusual in a $100,000 car.) Ironically, the Viper seats are far more comfortable and have better lateral support than those in the GT. The Viper’s interior is obviously not where the Viper guys spent a lot of their design or financial resources. However, I am more than impressed with the overall quality of the Viper.



ADVANTAGE: Exterior, Draw. Interior, Ford GT.


Category Three: Handling and Stability on public roads

Ford GT. As mentioned earlier, I lowered the GT about an inch, and I also had a more aggressive alignment performed on the front end. The already excellent handling of the GT is significantly improved by adding a bit of negative camber. Steering response is even more razor sharp, and turn-in crisp and accurate. The alignment work also dialed out the mild understeer that I noticed when I really pressed the car into a corner. On the road, the characteristic that is the most striking about the GT is its straight line, high speed stability. My personal top speed record was shattered (by 40 mph!) in the GT, and it was without any mechanical drama. At warp speed, the GT tracks so effortlessly true that it makes the posted speed limit seem like a cruel joke. I have yet to drive a car that is as stable and secure at speed as the GT. It is, plain and simple, a missile on rails.

Viper ACR. I must preface my comments on the Viper’s street handling by stating that I have not measured the car’s alignment, either before or after I lowered the spring perches on the adjustable shocks (I also have not altered the rebound or compression from the factory settings). Certainly, lowering the car has a significant effect on the alignment specs.

The Viper, not surprisingly, feels like a race car on the road, much more so than the GT. I can’t imagine being brave, or foolish, enough to exceed its incredible adhesion thresholds on any public roadway. Frankly, all the ACR swagger seems like overkill if all a guy does with it is drive to the mall for a Starbucks. The steering is almost too sensitive; the smallest movement on the wheel translates into an instantaneous jink in that direction. The steam roller front tires follow ruts in the asphalt with alarming proclivity, and on several occasions during the drive to Utah, I had to slow down where the Southwestern sun and tractor trailers had rutted the tarmac. On smooth roads, of course, the problem disappears. However, you’ve still got to hold the wheel stock steady unless you want to wander about like a drunken sailor. I’m not sure if this characteristic is a result of the tires, the alignment, or something else, but it does take some getting used to. When my bud drove the Viper for the first time, his initial response was that the steering was very nervous. High speed stability (120+) on a smooth road is fine, but even under the most ideal circumstances, the Viper cannot compete with the stellar GT in the category of high speed stability.

ADVANTAGE: GT, by a long shot

Category Four: At the Race Track.



I am fortunate to have a membership at Larry Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. This is truly a world-class facility, and I have been privileged to drive the track in various configurations on many occasions, in at least six different cars. I’ve gone to driving school there twice, and regularly participate in open track events. While I certainly do not fancy myself an expert (my lap times establish that I am in no danger of leaving the “gentleman driver” category any time soon) I have, at least, driven the track enough to allow for some basic comparisons.

The GT. (On hard-as-a-brick factory supplied Goodyears) The GT is as friendly and stable on the track as it is on the street. When driven at 8/10ths, the car is remarkably neutral and composed. The chassis is billet rigid and flex free, and this makes for a sense of absolute precision and composure at the track. When pressed, the GT has mild plow in a neutral, steady state corner. However, this is easily corrected with either a) a heaver right foot or b) a minor alignment modification. The GT’s abundant power and torque make gear selection on corner exit not nearly as critical as it would be in, say, a Porsche. Overall, it is an incredibly satisfying and confidence-inspiring car at the track. The engine temperature in my GT tends to get a bit hot when driven in anger at the track on toasty summer days. This is usually not a factor since the sessions are only twenty minutes long, but it is something that causes me concern.

The Viper ACR. (On super wide, soft, semi slick Michelin Pilot Cup Sports) The ACR is, pure and simple, a brilliant track car. Several months ago, I was at the track driving my GT, and I had passed and respassed most of the other street cars participating that day. I began to feel quite smug. I was reflecting upon my heroic driving skills when a brand new green Viper with the Woodhouse plate still on it entered the track. It came blowing by me like I was driving a Plymouth Volare. I attempted to give chase, but it was hopeless. The Viper was simply too fast, and/or too well driven for me to compete. I was so impressed that I decided to look at getting a Viper and oulah, the ACR called my name.

Allow me to digress for a moment. I lived in Chile for a time. One day, while visiting the seaside, a tiny little penguin came weebling and wobbling up the beach. We were all amused at how ungainly the wee little creature was on dry land. Obviously, mother nature had not designed the bird with an emphasis on taking beach strolls. However, in the water, the penguin was quick as a watermelon seed squeezed between two fingers. The disparity of ability was amazing. On the performance/predator evasion spectrum, the weight was obviously on the surf side, not the turf.

Similarly, the ACR makes a whole new world of sense to me once it is unleashed at the track. It’s gargantuan torque becomes the equivalent of a medieval mace in a pumpkin patch. The hyper-quick steering, which is distracting on the street, is like a scalpel at the track. The massive aerodynamic aids really do pin the car to asphalt as speeds increase, and I feel more confident in it, at much higher speeds, than in any other car I have taken to the track. Those massive front tires that wander through ruts on the street? They laugh in the face of understeer and make the car change direction like a slot car on the track. The Stoptech brakes are terrific, and, at my level of driving, are in no way inferior to the carbon brakes on the Porsche GT3RS that I owned. (Except, of course, for the comparative unsprung weight penalty). The car is so far beyond my driving capabilities that it will be a year-long project for me just to find and exploit its limits. This is not a car for amateurs, but I won’t let that stop me.

ADVANTAGE: VIPER ACR, and its not even close.

Category Five: Styling

The GT. Viewed from the rear ¾ view, it’s striking how hunkered down and horizontal the GT is. The roof line is so low that you can lose the GT completely when it is surrounded by other cars in a parking lot. Equally striking is the supercharger-under-glass centered in the rear clamshell. Viewed from the side, you are surprised at how compact and tidy the car appears, the rear haunches of the car mounting up taut and poised behind the cockpit, stretched over those tall rear wheels and fat tires. The top of the broad, flat front fender comes up just above your knee, and the broad, deeply contoured venturi wedge of a hood is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Only a mid engine car can look this good. At the rear of the car, the diffuser, strapped way down low, looks like something straight out the American LeMans series. The whole car looks brooding and purposeful, as if it will slip beneath the wind like a polished stone under a silk sheet. If you’ve ever seen a GT jink through traffic on a busy freeway, you know that is looks like an F1 car among school buses. The GT is seriously one of the coolest cars, ever.



The ACR. I must admit that I have been a sucker for the styling of the Generation III-IV Vipers ever since I first saw one at the Chicago auto show a few years back. The Gen III-IV out Corvettes the Corvette, that is, it perfects the look that the Corvette tries for: long, low, wide hood, sharply creased pontoon front fenders flowing back to muscular rear haunches. The proportion of the hood length compared to the size of the cockpit and the flowing rear glass is just right to my eye. It’s hard to find a bad angle on the Viper Coupe. The ACR package in black makes an already mean car look sinister. The rear wing, in all of its exposed carbon fiber glory, is almost cartoon scale and surprising complex in its contour. It sits so high that the driver cannot even see it in the rear view. The front splitter and winglets, also in carbon fiber, combine to make a sort of visual-mechanical logic when viewed in conjunction with the massive rear wing.

The Viper’s styling can best be described as exuberant swagger. The hood is a masterpiece of overstatement: huge, functional air inlet front and center, impossibly long with beautifully sculpted symmetrical vents stacking back on one another like the exhaust outlets on a P-51. The single red stripe, offset to the driver’s side, is transferred, with a wink of the designer’s eye, to the top of the steering wheel, as well as to the upright that supports the rear wing. When I look at the Viper, I almost get the impression that the designers was like the homerun slugger who gives a devilish smile just before he puts the ball out the park. The ACR seems to say, in its own southern drawl, “It aint braggin’ if you can do it.”



ADVANTAGE: The nod here has to go to the GT, but it’s purely subjective on my part. The GT’s mid engine configuration allows for a more unique styling language than the traditional front engine design of the Viper.

Category Six: The “Keeper Equation”

This refers to whether a car is the kind of woman you want to date or the one that you want to marry. In this regard, both cars are, without a doubt, true keepers.

Ford GT. Even in exotic-drenched Scottsdale, seeing a GT rolling along is a rare treat. Ferraris and Lamborghinis are commonplace in comparison. Ford broke the mold after they built the GT, and given the price of fuel and the new green craze, it seems unlikely we will ever see the likes of it again. When it comes to the GT, I like that idea that I will never be driving “last year’s model”. When you drive the GT, when you wax the GT, when you look at its engineering and its aerodynamics, you know that it is a very special car. Viper guys, if you haven’t had the chance to ride in, or better yet drive, a GT, you owe it to yourself to do so. If you are ever in Utah (summer) or Arizona (winter) I would be happy to oblige.

Viper. The Viper is slated for extinction in 2009, and the ACR is the Viper in its purest, least compromised form. It is the high water mark of modern, front engined American race muscle for the street, and I can’t imagine a better example of pure, exuberant excess. It is a track monster that, in the right hands, will slap down all comers, the new GTR included. It has a street presence that will make the Corvette driver soil himself. I can see myself still owning both of these cars twenty years from now. At least, that’s what I keep promising my wife.

Special Awards:

Best shift action: Viper. I thought the GT’s shifter was the ultimate, I was wrong. If there is a more positive and perfectly mechanical shifter than the Viper’s, I haven’t found it yet.

Car most likely to result in bodies hanging out of windows on the freeway taking cell phone photos: Draw. True story: A bud of mine and our wives went out on a Saturday night in the GT and the ACR for dinner. We were rumbling side by side on the freeway. I now know what it must feel like to be a rock star. My friend said he actually started to get nervous with the hectic swarm of groupies crowding around us – all while driving at 80 mph! We began to tire of the theatrics, and when some poor little misguided M3 thought he’d try to do a roll-on, he got slapped down by the Whipple-ized GT and the Mighty ACR like a Bavarian prima dona in a WWF tag team match.

Car most likely to make a Z06 owner pummel his forehead and ask “what was I thinking?” The Viper. For roughly the same money (yes, even the non-ACR Viper is more expensive, but only by a bit, and what’s $10,000 when automotive greatness is at stake?) the Viper bests the Corvette in every category. I’ve had significant wheel time in a Z06 and it just can’t compete with the Viper, much less the ACR. For my money, the Viper is worth twice the price of the Z06. Hmm…wonder if the new ZR1 can step up to the plate?

Worst exhaust note of any car, ever, for all time: Viper. I once read in Car and Driver that the Viper sounds like a UPS truck. I thought they were exaggerating. They weren’t. I’ve read that the Viper team has worked on making the Viper sound more exotic. It didn’t work. I guess you could say that the Viper’s engine note is exotic in its own, “special” way. To me, it sounds like a cross between a school bus and a dump truck. Guess I just have to accept that the V-10 geometry results in an engine that sounds like an industrial cement mixer.

Final Thoughts. Overall, both cars certainly deserve their reputations near the top of the exotic car food chain. If I could have only one, it would have to be the GT, owing to its unique design, engineering, and high speed abilities. However, if I made my living as a track hustler, I’d be crazy to try to go up against a well driven ACR. When I get out of the Viper at the track, I find myself spontaneously gushing that gem of astute observation annunciated by the unnamed Nascar driver: “Ma car’s jus’ all ate up with motor”.

For you comic book movie fans, the best analogy I can come up with is that the GT is the equivalent of Iron Man, lithe, quick, tough and ballistic. The Viper is Hellboy, cigar stub smoldering in his mouth, a stone sledge hammer hand on one side and a street cannon being held by the other.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and as always, I would sincerely appreciate my fellow GT and/or Viper owner’s comments, criticisms, corrections and observations. I also apologize in advance to the Corvette owners that I have offended. May I assuage their anger by sharing that I have owned no less than five Corvettes, and I have many fond memories of driving each of them. I’m also a huge Corvette GT1 fan in the Amercan Lemans series. Just take my word for it, Corvette guys, and don’t try to tangle with an ACR.

 

Cyclenirvana

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Feb 7, 2006
596
Winston-Salem, NC
Thanks for combining these reviews. And I would add the Viper ACR to these reviews. W. Mitty, how does the ACR compare to the Porsche GT3RS in the track and canyon road departments?
 

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Owner Review: GT vs. Gallardo, Porsche GT3 RS, Ferrari F430

Fellow enthusiasts,

I apologize for the delay in posting this review. I hope that you will find it interesting, notwithstanding its late arrival.

As some will recall, I have posted several comparisons of the GT against the other exotics I have had the pleasure of owning. In those cases, as well as this, I tried to be as objective as I knew how to be. Certainly, I would submit that because I have owned all of the cars in question at the time I prepared the reviews, I gain nothing by denigrating the “other” car. Indeed, I continue to keep my eyes open for cars that may challenge what I believe to be the throne of superiority upon which the GT presently sits.

First, the essential information. I bought the Nissan GTR new earlier this year. The Ford GT is an ’06, which I also bought new, about three years ago. I have since added a Whipple Supercharger, and the car has been lowered and aligned. I will, of course, base my review of the cars in their stock form. Boring, yes, but also fair.





A final note before I begin. In the past, I have always posted these comparisons on both the Fordgtforum and the leading forum of the competing car. For this review, I will only post here. I have elected to do this simply because it will allow me to save an exhaustive discussion of the GT; I figure most of us already know what it's like to drive one. Besides, I’ve used up my vocabulary in describing the GT in my previous reviews and I don’t want to become redundant.

And now for the burning question: Is it possible for a car to be too good? Read on…

1. Overall Street Performance:

NISSAN GTR

The GTR is incredibly quick, especially given its porcine weight and dimensions. The turbocharged engine produces prodigious thrust when on boost, and when mated to the robotic clutch transmission, it has to be one of the greatest red light/green light cars on the planet. The mouth breather in the Camaro next to you simply doesn’t stand a chance against the mighty GTR. The primary source of the slingshot-holeshot has to be the tranny. It shifts so quickly that the engine can stay on boost with each gearchange. There is simply no loss of momentum between shifts, almost like a continuously variable transmsission. By the time you get to sixth gear, the poor Camaro is an impotent gnat vibrating in the distant background of your rearview mirror. Funny thing is, it requires zero skill to tap the GTR’s performance. (More on that later.) I should also mention that the GTR has all four wheels pulling together to make the magic happen.

Nowhere is the GTR’s power prowess more thrilling, at least for me, than in the two lane passing environment. Here’s how it works: 1. Identify sputtering minivan ahead with overburdened mom, who, bless her dear heart, is simultaneously wrangling the young’uns, putting on her makeup, and texting the dog groomer. 2. Glance at tach and calculate how many dowshifts will be required to dispatch said vehicle. 3. Flick downshift paddle with left hand as many times as your calculation from step 2 dictates. 4. Point car in direction of intended travel and nail the throttle. 5. Hold on. Note: do not be alarmed if the landscape blurs and the Minivan appears to hit a brick wall as you time-warp past. Warning, do not become so intoxicated with the thrust that you forget to shift. Redline comes quick in the GTR. 6. Repeat as necessary.

Finally, a few more words on the GTR’s transmission. While it is a bit clunky driving around in a parking lot, the road manners of the manumatic are great. It shifts very quickly and smoothly, especially in the higher gears. However, it is so refined that it's almost boring. I actually prefer the Ferrari F1 transmission in the F430. In the Ferrari, you can select neutral by pulling both paddles toward you at the same time. In the GTR, no neutral while the car is rolling. You basically leave it alone as you approach a stop, and the computer works its magic until you accelerate again. In this way, it’s just like the automatic transmission on your average Camry. And, when you put it in full auto mode, the transmission behaves just like a normal automatic. At least in the Ferrari, there was some finesse required to achieve a smooth gear change, even if it was a two pedal car.

FORD GT

In comparison to the GTR, the GT is old school. It’s got a shifter, and you actually have choose your own gear based on your cranial calculator. Moreover, only the back wheels get power. You have to have a degree of skill to tap even a portion the GT’s ability. However, therein lies its appeal. Now that more exotics are using the automated manual transmissions, the debate between two pedal and three pedal cars will rage on. This I will say for sure: the GT demands focused involvement where the GTR does not. Remember the Minivan mom I mentioned earlier? Well, you better hope you don’t come up against her in a drag race in the GTR while you are driving the GT. Anybody, I mean anybody can drive the GTR like a pro. The same cannot be said of the GT. Proof of this fact is evidenced by the growing number of GTs totaled by their less than attentive drivers.

As you would imagine, the Ford’s advantage in low RPM torque makes it feel more powerful in day-to-day driving than the GTR. I am a sucker for torque; you simply nudge the throttle and the car responds, like it has a wealth of power it aint even used yet. The GT certainly feels more brawny, more effortless, than the GTR at low revs. However, the GTR has very short gears, so the GT’s advantage is not nearly as pronounced as I thought it would be. The passing acceleration of the stock GT does not feel as ferocious as the GTR, and I attribute this to the natural tendency of a turbocharged car to build thrust as it accelerates.

One area where the GT dominates the GTR is high speed stability. It’s not even close in my book; I would rather drive the GT at 200 (done it) than the GTR at 150 (also done it). The GT is simply without peer in this regard, and it’s no surprise. Put them next to each other and look; the GT is the land missile, low, angry, mean. The GTR looks like a brick, and by relative comparison appears as tall as the aforementioned minivan.

ADVANTAGE: GTR

2. Handling the Twisty Mountain Road

NISSAN GTR

As is the case with every all-wheel drive car I have owned, there is a bit of a trade off when it comes to handling. The all-wheel drive cars can exit a corner with abandon; all four contact patches digging to move the car forward. Add computer driver aids to apportion traction to the wheels that need it, and you have a recipe for an even more fantastic launches out of tight corners. However, the steering feel always seems to suffer a bit. The Nissan is no exception, although it comes the closest yet to overcoming the tactile disadvantage. Having said that, steering feel still doesn’t measure up to the best of the rear wheel drive cars like the Porsche GT3 RS, the Ferrari F430 or the GT.

When driving the twisties, however, the GTR transmission once again shines. It really is entertaining to enter a corner on the brakes, and while keeping both hands luxuriously on the wheel with the right foot lazily on the brake, flick your left fingers a couple of times for a lower gear, and blast off out of the corner in the perfect part of the power curve. Yawn. Rev matching? Ha! The computer will do it for you. Heel and toe? What the heck is that? A dance move? Take the GTR to the track and watch your lap times tumble. Problem is, the minivan mom can take it to the track and probably do just about the same thing you can…maybe even while texting.

THE FORD GT

It comes back to what I wrote above; the GT is old school, and that's even more evident in the twisties. It is, frankly, a bit daunting to have all that power behind your head (driving only two wheels) and throw yourself into a corner with a rock wall on one side and a guard rail on the other, all the while blipping the throttle with the side of your right foot and braking with the ball of the same foot, clutching with the left, changing gears with your right hand and steering/reading steering traction with the left. Not a pastime for sissies. On the other hand, it sure is thrilling when you get it right.

ADVANTAGE: GTR. HOWEVER, after a few passes over your favorite canyon road, it becomes a bit dull. I get enough of my computer at work, thank you very much. I’ll take the GT.

3. Styling and Road Presence

I need to preface this section by observing that styling analysis is purely subjective. Your opinion is every bit as valid as mine in this area, and I offer my views for entertainment purposes only.

NISSAN GTR



Um, sort of like the girl who (I'm told) is more attractive after a few judgment-altering beverages, the GTR is lots prettier after you’ve done the high speed overtaking I described in the first section of this review. Truthfully, I think it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every limb on the way down.

A good, if somewhat primitive, indication of a car’s styling is how much favorable attention it attracts on the road. Based on that standard, the GTR is lucky to get a sideways glance from most motorists. Unless, of course, they happen to be male and between the ages of 14 and 24. The video game set is crazy about this car.

Sitting there in the parking lot, the GTR is easy to miss and looks like about every other car sitting around it, with the exception of those lovely, fat tires. Put it next to the svelte GT and it’s almost sad…


THE FORD GT.



The stance of the GT is slap-you-in-the-head wicked, especially on the road when it’s rolling along with all those towering civilian cars around it. Sometimes I have my buddy drive the GT while I follow in another car, and I am smitten all over again at just how impossibly low and hunkered down the GT is. It looks like a steam rolling rocket sled, an oversized slot car, a wedge shaped monster-dart cross bred with a hovercraft.

You feel like a rock star when you drive the GT, and like it or not, you are the center of attention everywhere you go. Because there are so few GTs out there, it seems people never get tired of seeing one in the flesh. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come out the mall or the filling station to find a small crowd around the car with cell phone cameras in hand. It always makes me nervous and uncomfortable, but I know that if I didn’t own it, I’d be doing the same thing myself.

ADVANTAGE: GT.


4. Build Quality

NISSAN GTR

The build quality of the GTR is impeccable. The paint is perfect, and in “super silver” the car looks awesome. The interior is also beautiful and without any visible flaw. Very nicely put together, easily comparable to the fit and finish of a Lexus. Yawn again. The computerized display panel to the right of the gauges is amazing, and on it you can elect to track any number of parameters, including lateral g’s, steering input, boost, and even transmission temperature. I

FORD GT

The GT was virtually hand made in very limited numbers. It is also of impeccable quality (door panels excepted) and mine has perfect paint, but the fine details cannot (and were not intended to) duplicate those of a “mass produced” car like the GTR. The GT is certainly less common in its interior styling details than the GTR. I sure love the smell of the leather seats in the GT.

ADVANTAGE: DRAW

5. Driving Experience

NISSAN GTR



You sit very upright in the GTR. The position is very conventional, and the controls all feel very standard. It's very easy to get in and out of, and the road perspective feels tall and a bit distant. Sitting stationary in the GTR feels like just about any other car on the road, and the overall effect is of a large Japanese car, sort of like the Infinity Q45 that I owned for awhile as a company car. It's not until the GTR gets moving that you realize it's got something special going on. However, even then, if it didn't have that amazing gear box and potent engine, it would be pretty average in most other ways.

FORD GT



Nothing about the GT is average. The seating position is low, and while not uncomfortable, very different from the work-a-day sedan. The view out of the windshield is like no other car on the planet. The driver is so low, so close to the road, that you feel like you're in a F1 car that somehow escaped from the track. The driving dynamics are magnificent, from the supercharger whine behind your head to the way the car begs you to explore the upper ranges of the perfectly angled speedometer to the driver's far right. Driving the GT is an event, both for the driver and the other motorists on the road. The only cars I've owned that are similar are the Ferrari and the Lamborghini. (See photos below).

ADVANTAGE: FORD GT, and it's not even close.


6. CONCLUSION: Overall Ownership and Driving Experience

The GTR is a technological wonder. It does everything effortlessly and without drama, with the exception of the incredible thrill of feeling the car stay on boost from shift to shift. It is a true modern car, combining in one machine all that the industry has learned in the years during which the motorcar has been built. It is a true all-rounder, a car that truly does perform anytime, anywhere, and for every driver.

I have thought long and hard about it, and this is the best way I know of to sum it up:

Imagine that someone came to you and said “okay, you get one car and only one car to keep forever. HOWEVER, and you have to use it for everything; daily driving, fun days at the track, touring vacations, polishing in the garage, getting groceries when the roads are slick, etc. Which one do you pick?” My answer would have to be the GTR. It does everything so well. And it even has back seats.

On the other hand, imagine someone came to you and said “okay, I'll buy you the car of your choice. You can use it as seldom or as often as you want, in whatever capacity you choose. You can use your own money to buy other cars or trucks if you want them, but I’ll buy you one, special car. Oh, and by the way, you can’t flip it for a profit and you have to maintain it. (Dangit, there goes the Enzo) My choice would have to be the Ford GT, even over all the other cools cars that I have owned. It really is that good.

So” you may ask “hypotheticals aside, who wins this comparison?” Well, it comes down to a matter of taste and personal preference. My parting observation is that the GTR, while certainly able, is a bit boring and detached from the actual joy of piloting a sports car. The GT, conversely, is all about the irrational exuberance of exotic motoring. It embraces the in-your-face combination of heroic Le Mans dominance and American muscle, with just a dash of British heritage for a completely unique driving experience.

In my mind, the GT still reigns supreme. Now all I have to do is wait for the 458 Italia.

The moral of the story: It really is possible for a car to be too good. The GTR is rolling testimony to that truth.

Thanks for reading. I would, as always, sincerely appreciate your feedback and observations, especially from those of you, if any, who own both cars.
BTW, for your viewing pleasure, I have attached some shots of my prior cars, some of which have been the subjects of prior comparisons. Enjoy.













 

skyrex

FORD GT OWNER
Mark II Lifetime
Apr 11, 2008
2,108
Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, NV
All great reviews! :thumbsup:thumbsup
 

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Owner Review: Ford GT vs. Ferrari 458: Part 1

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A few of points to get out of the way: First, I own both of the cars discussed here, and I don’t feel particularly partisan toward either; thus I would suggest that I have no motivation to skew this review in favor of either car. Second, I have owned the 458 for about five months, compared with the GT, which I bought nearly six years ago. Third, I have compared the GT with various other cool cars that I have owned, and while I’ve really liked most of the “contenders”, the GT has survived the cut as others have come and gone. I confess that in my somewhat warped book, the GT has proven to be the ultimate manifestation of sports car greatness. The burning question therefore becomes whether the universally acclaimed 458 can lay claim to that honor. I plan to answer that question, as objectively as I am able, with this review. Finally, I am not a journalist, an automotive engineer, or a race driver. I have no particular expertise that would recommend me, or my observations, to the reader. I do, however, have a keyboard in front of me, which by the standards of the World Wide Web, automatically qualifies me as an expert.

Apples and Oranges?

As a preemptive response to the ubiquitous naysayers, we must first address whether it is fair to compare the arguably antiquated GT (designed more than eight years ago to compete with the 360 Modena) with Ferrari’s freshly minted, world dominating 458. Hell no it’s not fair. However, relative to the common automobile, these two are remarkably similar: they weigh roughly the same amount, and in factory form, the V8 engines have similar horsepower. Both are aerodynamically advanced, with completely enclosed, flat undersides and sophisticated air management for high-speed stability. Both are mid engine, rear wheel drive cars. Both are (or were) made in somewhat limited quantities. Accordingly, I would suggest that in the big picture, the GT and the 458 are both designed to scratch precisely the same sports car itch. For me, owning both cars at the same time has made for a fascinating experience, and I consider these cars to be natural rivals.

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The 2006 Ford GT.

My GT is not stock. We lowered it all the way around by installing adjustable spring perches, and I replaced the factory supercharger with a more potent Whipple unit when the car was basically new. The pulley size and tune is quite mild and it burns 91 octane gas. I’ve put about 13,000 miles on the car, and it’s never given me a problem of any kind since I drove it, literally, off the showroom floor. I’m not kidding. I’ve driven it to an officially certified 210 mph in a little over a mile, taken it to the track on various occasions, and enjoyed more than a few interstate tours in it with my wife. It still looks, smells and drives like a new car. Sometimes, when we are alone together in the garage, I say nice things to it just before I go to bed at night.


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The 2012 Ferrari 458

I special ordered this car through my wonderful local Ferrari Dealer. We did the whole sha-bang: including a trip to Italy and a tour of the factory in Maranello. I bought Ferrari undies. After about six months, the car appeared in all of its Scuderia Red glory. I specified the options that were important to me, including the deeply contoured carbon race seats with the no-slip alcantara seating surfaces. I also lowered the car, again by adjusting the spring perches. It has no engine modifications, and unless I was to be subjected to a non-elective frontal lobotomy, I would never dare tinker with any part of the powertrain, as it may interfere with my warranty. In the Ferrari world, out-of-warranty repairs are about as desirable as jalapeno-laced Preparation H.

I’ve come up with a few random categories of comparison that are important to me as a car guy, and I will discuss them further down the page. If you want to learn about hard, verifiable test data, I recommend Car and Driver, as they are not afraid to slap the soup out of a perfectly innocent car in order to get the best test times. My review will be a lot less scientific, but hopefully also a little more realistic regarding the experience of owning and driving the two cars.

The Exotic Owner’s Dilemma: Life in the Real World

Consider the following: in the realm of exotic car ownership in the United States, there are very few instances where one can truly drive a car like the 458 or the GT the way that it was designed to be driven. It’s sorta like keeping a cheetah in a Manhattan High Rise; a great conversation piece, but fun for neither the cheetah nor its owner. I thought it might be helpful, therefore, to begin the review of the two cars in the real world environments where they are most likely to be driven. Here is a grossly oversimplified summary of the three most typical driving experiences available:

The Cars and Coffee Run

This is basically slogging through city traffic, dodging the weaving teenagers who are trying to feature your car on their Facebook page via their phone camera. Many of us are familiar with this, and I dare say some unfortunate souls spend most of their exotic car ownership suffering this death-by-a thousand-cuts. Raise your hand if the following sounds familiar: wake up on Saturday morning. Take the highly polished and usually spotless beauty off of the trickle charger and head out to the local gathering spot. Squirt from traffic light to traffic light, run through the gears a bit, maybe even find an onramp for a good hard pull, providing that the Fuzz aren’t out there keeping the world safe from the grievous perils of exuberant acceleration. Avoid aforementioned weaving teenagers/enthusiastic fellow drivers. Park next to the other shiny cars, ingest stimulant, talk, go home. If there is a Hades for exotic cars in the afterlife, I have to imagine that this is what it looks like to them. You might as well be driving a Yaris for the mechanical demands encountered.

For the Cars and Coffee run, I’d have to give the nod to the GT, quite simply because its got a manual transmission. I gain very little enjoyment twitching from gear to gear in the 458 between traffic signals. Furthermore, the prodigious torque of the GT in comparison to the 458 makes urban driving at least tolerable. The effortless thrust available at all RPM makes for a more enjoyable driving experience. Plus, once you get to Crack House of Coffee, you can really impress the admiring public by opening up the GT’s huge clamshell to show off those Dodger blue cam covers.
The frenetic 458 feels tortured and caged in signal-to-signal city driving. That is, unless you put the transmission in Auto Mode, which is even worse. At that point you are back in Yaris territory. The irony here is that I have well founded suspicion that most of the 458s that see duty in the United States are used for exactly this kind of driving. After all, you gotta be really careful how many miles you put on the prima donna, and driving more than the allotted ten blocks to Starbucks in your Ferrari may result in a week of remorse and self loathing. Wow, fellas, good thing you got those pizza sized carbon rotors; you never know when you may need to perform a panic stop for a surprise yellow light. The cheetah in the apartment…


The Canyon Run

The second is the Canyon Run. This enterprise involves finding some open piece of twisty road, usually either ascending or descending a mountain side. Here, in theory, one can exploit much more of the car’s ability. Sometimes, at dawn on a weekend morning, it actually works out that way. However, whether it’s the Motor Home plugging your lane, Johnny Law and his magic ray-gun, or the ever-present threat of oncoming traffic, there is an element of restraint and vigilance required here. This is the realm where I personally prefer to spend most of my time, even accepting the aforementioned compromises. Referencing the cheetah analogy, this is like taking the big cat out to Central Park. Lots more room to play, but just keep one eye on the cop and the other on that snack-sized Shitzu.

In the instance of the canyon drive, the comparison of the two cars becomes more complicated. First off, the visibility out of the 458 is clearly superior to that of the GT and inspires considerably more confidence as one swoops from corner to corner. The driver of the 458 feels like he’s sitting on the nose of a missile, lodged snuggly between the two peaks of the unobtrusive contours of the front fenders. The steering is very quick and absolutely direct, meaning that a twitch on the wheel translates into an immediate twitch in direction. Once you get used to it, it gives a marvelous dimension to the canyon drive that other cars lack. The turn-in is amazing, and instantly inspires irrational amounts of confidence. The car feels like a spiked track shoe on these roads: light, grippy and incredibly nimble. The e-diff is brilliant, and you can feel its subtle influence in pointing the nose exactly where you want it to be as you transition from corner to corner, from sweeper to g-loader and back. At this point in the drive, the dual clutch F1transmission really becomes useful, and you can grab gears without interrupting your steering inputs or your braking. This allows razor focus on the tasks at hand. Tasks like watching for the 1994 Mercury Marquise drifting into your lane in the middle of a blind corner.

The GT is incredibly competent in this realm also, but it does it in a much less robotic way; the nose won’t point as quickly as the 458, but in a way it almost feels more natural. In canyon driving, the GT never feels heavy or cumbersome in comparison to the 458; it simply feels less frenetic. The throttle inputs of the GT are not so hair-trigger, and the ferociously torquey engine makes for smoother thrusts at corner exits. The manual transmission requires a degree of driving skill that the 458 does not, and this contributes to a feeling of Zen-like satisfaction when you get it just right. I’ve often said that the GT is like the lovechild of a 427 Cobra and an NSX. It’s a joy to drive in the canyon.

So, which is the better car for the twisties? I’d have to give the nod here to the 458. Here’s why: recently, my best bud and I took the GT and the 458 back and forth over our favorite canyon road, Highway 89 between Prescott, Arizona and Congress Junction. It’s an undulating, banked ribbon of asphaltic poetry, and I’ve driven it religiously in every sports car I’ve owned over the past fifteen years. I’ve got it memorized. The road has thrilling, banked corners with rock walls on one side and dangerous blue sky on the other. The road clings to the slopes of the Bradshaw Mountains, and then plunges, on a one lane, one way road down to the desert floor. Overall elevation change is over 2000 feet. It’s a Mecca of the sport bikers, and the occasional cross on the shoulder of the road commemorates those who placed the ultimate bet and lost.

I drove the GT through the twisties first, and had a typically euphoric experience. I switched into the 458, for what would be my first canyon drive in the car. My immediate impression was telling; I was amazed at how much confidence I felt right out of the box. I came up the canyon at a significantly faster pace than I had just done in the GT. That has to say something about the stellar quality of the 458. It’s truly awesome as a canyon car, and maybe the best car I have ever driven in that environment.

The Race Track

View attachment 25786

Finally, it’s the racetrack, runway, or other unrestricted location. Ah, the thrill of no speed limits and the shocking Darwinian reality that you really can kill yourself out here. This is like returning the cheetah to its natural habitat. Of course, the problem at these events, discounting the danger element, is the expense. Whether it’s the $2000 worth of rubber and brakes that one can quite handily destroy in a full track day, or the scary possibility of wadding your shiny big-money ride into a ball at over 200 mph at the Mile events, this is a pursuit for either the very brave or the very wealthy. Being neither, but a bit more of the former than the latter, I limit myself to a couple of these events per year.

My bud and I drove the GT and the 458 to Miller Motorsport Park so that I could drive them back–to-back and try to make a rational and accurate comparison. The sessions were thirty minutes long, which allowed me to drive the cars, literally right after one another. This was fascinating, and also very surprising: where I felt so immediately at home in the 458 in the canyon, I had almost the opposite experience at the track.

In switching back and forth between the two cars, the GT simply felt more planted. I was surprised at the amount of body roll that the 458 exhibited in comparison to the GT. Moreover, I felt much, much more confident in the brake feel of the GT than the 458 at the end of the main straight, this despite the 458’s massive carbon brakes. The pedal effort of the 458 felt “off” and non-lineal in relation to the deceleration, as if more pressure was required to slow the car than the GT. However, I must be very honest with myself here and admit that I have ten fold more track time under my belt in the GT than the 458. I must also admit that I completely lacked the inclination or enthusiasm to drive the 458 as it was designed while on the track. Let me explain.

To really extract the most from the 458, you have to be willing to beat on it like a rented mule. Throttle response between 6000 and 9000 rpm is simply explosive, and thus precisely were you want the engine to be on corner exit. The brilliant dual clutch F1 transmission makes it incredibly easy to do this. I fully realize that this is exactly the way the car was designed to be driven, and I have no doubt whatsoever that if I were willing to enter and exit each corner between 6000 and 9000 rpm, my lap times would smoke those of the GT. However, that’s just not the way I like to drive. It just seems so…abusive. I accept that this is completely irrational. However, having learned to drive at the track with big torque, low revving engines (Viper, Mustang, Cobra) I just have trouble keeping the revs hovering so close to redline all the time. I am considering counseling for this problem.

View attachment 25787

The bottom line is that I don’t think I’ll take the 458 to the track again, simply because I don’t like to drive it there. I don’t necessarily feel that way about the GT, but I am coming to realize that I’m really not crazy about track driving anymore. I’ll take a deserted canyon road any day. And for that road, the 458 is going to be hard to beat.

A quick note about driving on a Runway. As mentioned above, I took the GT out to the Mojave Air and Space Port a while ago, where we were able to take a running start at a mile and a third. A lovely black 458 attended the event, and after numerous runs, I believe his best speed was in the 190s. That’s a massive achievement for the 458 straight out of the box. My GT, which is admittedly not stock, saw 210. However, having now driven both my 458 and the GT at high speeds in other environments, I must say that the GT is significantly more stable at super high speed than the 458. Thus far, I have not owned or driven a car that is legitimate match for the ballistic GT in this regard. Unfortunately, I’ll never own a Veyron, so I’m pretty convinced that the GT will be my personal high water mark in the land rocket department.

For the next installment, we'll go into more specifics...
 

Attachments

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Part 2

Engine

View attachment 25793

What makes the comparison between these cars so fascinating is that the engines/transmission combinations go about their brutal business in such completely different ways.

The GT is absolutely American: big bore, big torque, big rumble. I mean Texas big. It’s also impressively high tech: unlike the Corvette or Viper, it has the super boss dual overhead cams, along with 32 valves and a liquid intercooled supercharger. The engine has a dry sump and, courtesy of the Brits, a wonderfully visible, beefy, Ricardo transaxle is attached. The GT engine can be (and has) been modified to produce over 1000 horsepower. It is virtually bulletproof and, given that the engine holds the world record for top speed achieved in the standing mile, it is arguably the best production-line American high performance engine ever built. The power delivery is just what you would expect from an American supercar: big, engorged, whale size quantities of thrust. The power delivery is an unusual combination of brutal, ferocious power delivered so honey smooth that it must be experienced to be fully understood. As a favor to my 17 year old daughter, I took one of her gearhead friends (a Subaru STI junkie) out on a quick jaunt in the GT. I found an open stretch of road, dropped into second gear, and unleashed the hounds. The standard tire squirming and chest compression ensued. I grabbed a couple more gears just for effect, then looked over at the kid. His eyes were wide, and he had a death grip on the lower bolsters of the seat. “ That” he said in righteous awe “was, like a life altering event.” Ah, life is beautiful.

View attachment 25794

The 458s engine, while of lesser displacement and torque than the GT, earned the International Engine of the Year Award in 2011, and it deserves it. It is wonderfully flexible and much more quick to rev than the GT. Redline is 9000 RPM, which truly distinguishes this engine from that of the comparatively slow spinning unit in the GT. The 458 also sounds like a Ferrari should. The banshee wail of it zinging through the gears at redline might just woo you into believing that a car can actually be worth as much as a nice suburban home. What’s really impressive about this engine is that is produces such fierce acceleration throughout the rev range. While the 458’s engine still lacks the stump pulling torque of the GT, it is by no means a pipey, high strung European gas sipper; it’s a big hunk of fast from down low and it guzzles the gas like a true super car should. It leaves a carbon footprint the size of Sasquatch. Mama mia, but that thing will pin your ears back when you give it the prod. The gears are super short, and acceleration in 1st and 2nd gear is particularly ferocious. An easy way to impress friends is to roll into the throttle in 1st, then flash hyperquick into 2nd at 9000 rpm to continue the thrust fest. Throttle response in the higher revs is particularly neck cracking, and shift speeds are blink-blink quick. Which leads to a discussion of a singular difference between the two cars; their transmissions.


The Conundrum of the Transmissions

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There is nothing particularly special about the GT’s transmission, except that it’s a true transaxle, mounted at the tail of the car. It’s got six speeds, and as mentioned, the GT has very tall gears. I am truly torn between the two strategies employed by the Ford and the Ferrari to select gears: When I switch straight from the robotic transmission of the 458 to the GT, I must confess that I find a distinct pleasure in feeling the familiar, smooth shift ball of the GT humming faintly in my hand in concert with the revs of the engine. The GT’s shift feel is wonderfully mechanical, like a hot-oiled bolt action on a dangerous game rifle. I miss that tactile connection when I drive the Ferrari. One simply feels more connected to the car through the communicative pedal and stick.

However, I have to admit that when considered objectively, the Ferrari’s transmission is simply a faster mechanical solution to the basic goal of keeping the engine in the meat of the its torque as vehicle speed changes. By side-stepping the need to depress a clutch and move gears around by hand, the 458 has eliminated the inherent pause in acceleration that accompanies the old school hand and foot work.

Like many who follow Formula 1, I’m fascinated by the sound of those cars exploding through the gears, shifts banging so quick that it makes the hair stand up on your neck. That quality has finally been translated faithfully to a street car in the form of the 458. It is immensely cool and quite incomparable to pull that svelte black lever on the right with two fingers and then to feel and hear the car stab into the next gear, quicker than a blink. The engine misses not a single beat, and in a scant few seconds the engine howls toward redline and its time to shift again. The dual clutch technology has finally allowed Ferrari to offer an automated manual transmission without the compromises or excuses of the previous iterations. It borders on perfection...

So, which is better? This question, which has been debated ad naseum in various discussion forums, comes down to a matter of which side you are between the Guild of the Two Pedals vs. the League of the Three. I’ll not be able to solve that debate here, but make it even less clear with the following three observations: First, there is no doubt that the F1 transmission is faster on a track than a pedal with a stick, the GT included. It also requires about a tenth of the talent. Second, I postulate that it would be awesome to drive a 458 and its magnificently responsive, flexible engine with the control of a manual transmission. (Such, however, is never to be). Third, where an approximation of the tactile and aural experience of driving the manual transmission of the GT can be had in select American cars (the Corvette ZR1 and Viper, to name two) I don’t think the frenetic Ferrari has any peers in this regard, although I have not driven the widely admired Porsche doppelkuggenfluggenfieger. I did, however, own a Nissan GT-R, and there really is no comparison with the machine-gun-quick 458. Yes, the ticket to get into the show is outrageously high, but the transmission/engine combo of the 458 does provide a uniquely thrilling driving experience. The price we pay to have the latest and bestest…but it precisely this which makes Ferrari the international object of lust that it is.

Next: Styling...
 

Attachments

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Part 3

Styling

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It is truly fascinating to put GT and the 458 side by side, as opposed to considering them in isolation. With the two belligerents sitting next to each other, the first word that comes to mind to describe the GT is purposeful. The 458, on the other hand, is, um {grimace} ... beautiful. Before you mutter "cliché" under your breath and skip this section in disgust, stick with me for a moment and allow me to try to make my point.

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Form Follows Function

I have a theory that man's primitive brain finds an innate satisfaction in an object that looks as if it will be effective at its intended use. This is true whether it’s a well- balanced wooden club for Ally Ooping an opposing caveman in the head or a Handsome M1911 Colt Pistol. For example, whenever I see a heavy military vehicle (usually being hauled on a flat bed semi on the interstate) I marvel at the industrial, brutal efficiency of its design. While I wax poetic over the sight, my dear wife does not seem to see or appreciate this. Likewise, I sometimes find myself looking at one of those awesome four wheel drive farm tractors (Like the John Deer 9R) and it makes me, a professional desk jockey, want to go out and just plow something, for crying out loud. I find a deep and almost inarticulate satisfaction in looking at the form that immediately telegraphs the function.

The GT is a great object lesson of this theory. You walk around it, and your brain immediately conjures… speed. Blistering speed. 200 mph speed. The deeply contoured nose vents, the flat, low roof, the narrow, wide windshield. The haunches of the GT are literally stretched out and over those huge rear steamroller tires, which is particularly impressive when viewed while following the GT in another car. The brain sees this and instantly references huge, honking buckets of power being transferred to those tires. The sinister black diffuser assembly, slung low at the back of the car, makes the GT look like it’s from a completely different solar system than your sister-in-law’s emasculated Prius. This ain’t no grocery hauler, son. Most of the prominent lines on the GT are horizontal and impossibly low to the ground. The menacing CG of the car is instantly striking, and this is nowhere more apparent than when you see a GT in traffic, surrounded by comparatively towering minivans and SUVs. Of course, there should be no surprise that the GT's design is so purposeful; it’s a brilliant (and blessedly faithful) adaptation of a design that started life in the early 60's with one ambition in life: to dominate international endurance racing. It just happened that the GT40 Mark I was also incredibly mean looking. To this day, any person with taste will agree that the Mark I, in the wide-haunched Le Mans configuration of 1968 and 1969, has to be one of the most beautiful cars of all time.

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The 458, on the other hand, takes a very purposeful mid engine design, and then in typical Ferrari fashion, makes it a degree more beautiful. When one takes a little time to really examine the design of the 458 in person, one is amazed at its detail and complexity. There is so much going on with the mechanical and cooling necessities of a mid engine car, but it is all integrated masterfully, and with flair. Sighting down the car from the rear three quarter view, the highest line of the rear fender swoops up and over the tire, and again down into the door, only to flow forward and be repeated, still lower, at the front of the car. The Enzo-esque contour of the lower surface of the door, as it coves in to meet the angular sill, is wonderful. The car is low and wide, and I particularly like the way the rear portion of the car (from whence the power comes) is more massive in form than the almost delicate and dart-like nose. Missles are also shaped this way. The 458 rides on 20" wheels, and I ordered the diamond finish five spoke option, which, in my opinion, is the only wheel a gentleman should consider. The overall effect is a car that does a great job of telegraphing both purpose and beauty. That's what has made many Ferraris (like the 250 GTO) special, and this car is a homerun in comparison to the somewhat homely F430.

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Next: Fit and Finish...
 

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w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Part 4: Fit and Finish

Fit and Finish

The exterior of both cars are very well executed. The panel fit and gap alignment on both cars is good, although the Ferraris’ panel gaps are much tighter than the GT. The clamshell configuration of the GT seems to require wider gaps to maintain clearances. Panel smoothness on both cars is of very high quality.

Factory Ferrari’s have never been known for Pebble Beach paint quality; it seems that the water- based paint that Ferrari uses goes on a bit lumpy in places. I should emphasize here that many owners would never even notice this. However, if very mild orange peel drives you crazy, the Ferrari finish will not be good for your mental health. Based on experience, I would say that the Ferrari paint quality is roughly equivalent to that of a new Corvette.

The exterior finish of the GT, on the other hand, has obviously been exposed to the Bentley treatment; the quality of the finish is mirror smooth, and even after six years, the paint on my car still looks ten feet deep. The GT finish has a definite hand rubbed quality, and compares with the finest factory paint jobs that I have seen on the various cars that I have owned.

Inside the cars, it’s a different story all together. The interior of the Ferrari is magnificent and smells like big honking piles of money. Granted, I ordered a few special flourishes on the 458 interior. Even so, there really is no comparison between the Ferrari and the GT as far as pure, filthy luxury goes. The 458’s is the Ferragamo of car interiors, whereas the GT is more the Allen Edmonds. I must say, however, that the GT interior has held up to use perfectly, and the leather used on the seats is both very tough, wonderfully resilient to use, and smells like leather should. (I’ve never been in a car that smells like the GT, a pleasant, analine aroma, friendly and substantive, like a saddle shop). Plus, the entire center console of the GT is made of cast magnesium. Stark, yes, but also incredibly cool.

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Attachments

w. mitty

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Sep 1, 2005
703
Part 5: Conclusion

Conclusion: What if You Could Have Only One?

This is the question that perhaps tests the real impact that a car has on its owner. In this case, despite the 458s obvious appeal, I would have to choose the GT. The reason is quite simple: in two or three years, the 458 will likely be old news as Ferrari rolls out it latest and greatest new version. (I try to remind myself how I thought my F430 was an amazing car, and then I look at how the 458 mops the floor with it by comparison). The GT, on the other hand, will never be built again. However, it’s not just that the GT won’t be directly replaced, it’s the fact that the GT is just so dang awesome in the first place. I’ve never had a car that is such a sweet combination of performance, styling, historic importance, and sheer American hot rod exuberance. It’s just a rare manifestation of an endeavor where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I don’t think even Ford could have intended the car to be as special as it has become. My car is now 6 years old, and it still feels as current and relevant in the exotic car world as it did in 2006. I wonder if the 458 will still feel that way in 2018? And, while it’s not crucial, look at what happened to the prices of 360s and 430s after a few years. The GT, on the other hand, still sells easily for its original MSRP, and the car is almost universally recognized now for its collectability.

However, as the Oracle said in The Matrix, what really bakes my noodle is to consider how this might change if Ferrari were to suddenly announce that it was going to abandon building 458s and go into the blender business. What then? The 458 is certainly head and shoulders above the previous model in both looks and performance, and if it were not going to be replaced, it would doubtless become the high water mark of modern, usable exotics. Then, I just don’t know which I would pick. For now, I guess I’m just glad that I don’t have to make that decision. I’ll keep the GT and keep selling organs to buy the replacement for the 458 when it arrives.

Other Miscellaneous Thoughts

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The Cool Ferrari Steering Wheel

I love the Ferrari steering wheel and its convenient controls. I especially like the turn signal switches, located right at your thumbs. It takes a minute to overcome the habit of reaching for the stalk, but once you are used to the arrangement, it’s a better solution. I wish all of my cars had this feature. Its also great to be able to make the suspension more compliant with the push of a button. Just like a Cadillac.


My Deep Skepticism About Ferrari Ownership


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I harbor the belief that there are too many of my fellow Ferrari owners who are really not true cars guys at all; and wouldn’t know a crankshaft if it hit them in the head. These guys are much more interested in conspicuously consuming that which the hairy unwashed can’t have. It’s a free world, but I’d vote these poseurs off the show if I had the power. For these guys, it’s a lot more about the name, the badge and the cache than actually driving the car. The sad reality is that after I bought my first Ferrari, I realized that I was still the same jerk I was before I bought it. Amazingly, the car, no matter how lovely, didn’t change that. He who dies with the most stuff still dies. And it’s still just a car. To quote a favorite song: The greatest thing/ you’ll ever learn/is just to love/and be loved in return. Cars, no matter how wonderful they may be, cannot love you back. End of sermon. Amen.

The Gawk Factor

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I often have the GT and the 458 in the same garage, and it’s interesting to see how people respond to both cars. Because of my teenage daughter, the usual garage guests are her male friends. They seem genuinely impressed with the GT. However, when I ask which they want to go for a ride in, the almost Turrets-like response is “the Ferrari.” That Ferrari name and the mystique that goes with it is more powerful than I could have predicted.

In traffic, both cars are like walking naked down the middle of main street for the attention they attract. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s enjoyable to be able to witness and share others people’s enthusiasm. I guess if I can be instrumental in bringing a smile to someone’s face, that’s not a bad thing. On the other hand, sometimes it becomes disconcerting and it can even become dangerous. I have recently had a quite unfortunate and almost unbelievable experience in that regard, but that is a story for a different day.

For those of you who soldiered on to the end of this windbag narrative, I congratulate you and can only assume that it has been a slow day at work. I would honestly love to hear your feedback and observations/criticisms/common experiences.

Finally, as my last great act of multimedia razzle dazzle, here is a comparison of the GT and 458 accelerating from a rolling start to 100.

[video=youtube;58DSiLLEwZQ]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58DSiLLEwZQ&feature=plcp[/video]
 

Attachments

DBK

PHX
Staff member
Le Mans 2010 Supporter
Jul 30, 2005
14,528
Metro Detroit
Updated with 458 Comparison.
 

KJD

GT Owner
Mark IV Lifetime
Dec 21, 2005
914
Location, Location
I'm speechless. Even though I've read all of Mr. Mitty's comparo posts before.

Forget Car and Driver, Road and Track, Automobile, Motor Trend, Autoweek, etc.

His posts are pearls of automotive wisdom and peerless poetry.

Thank you again Mr. Mitty!!!!
 

AHudson

GT Owner
Nov 6, 2009
136
Alabama
This has been fun. Something about knowing you're a 'real' owner and have neither advertisers nor editors to impress, has made this a far more realistic journey. The first night I discovered these reviews, I'd been offered an F430 in trade toward my GT (plus cash interestingly enough) and was astonished at the comparison of my dreams right before me. I literally got 'ready' for reading it with a fond beverage. Great reading; I did not do the trade.

Thanks for sharing. Hope there's more to come, but if not, the gift has been given.