Ford GT Detroit 2015 22 Photos Zoom

Ford GT vs. Honda NSX: Extreme hybrid vs. extreme lightweight construction

They were the new sports cars on the block at the Detroit Motor Show: the Ford GT and Honda NSX. One came unexpectedly and surprise with conventional, but ambitious technology. The other is the long-awaited hybrid sports car, but is no less exciting. Initial comparison.

For the first time, sports cars are flat. The Honda is 1.215 metres tall, while the GT can even undercut this. In the back of both lightweights lurks a longitudinally installed V6 biturbo. But that's almost all they have in common. For from the front while the Ford reminds you of the legendary pre-predecessor and conceals extremely flush headlights in its angular snout, the NSX has a rather small radiator grille to the front, beside which lie very flat, but steeply angled head lights.

Different technology, different appearance

The rear of the NSX is classically two-dimensional, whereas the Ford is strongly tapered, as such that far-extending channels for the air stream are produced between the descending roof and the wheel arches. They are intended to direct large quantities of air to the extendible rear spoiler and generate as much contact pressure on the driven rear axle as possible. The rear lights of the Ford are again reminiscent of its predecessor, with monstrous exhausts protruding from the cover plate on either side like canons. The NSX, on the other hand, makes use of the modern active rear spoiler as a means of doing away with the large wing found on its predecessor, and packs its four small exhaust pipes into a chrome frame, positioned centrally but low down.

The contrasting visuals are an expression of differing concepts. While the NSX with its V6 biturbo plus electric motor in the rear and two further electric motors at the front axle looks to be a more powerful BMW i8, and also the hybrid alternative to the Porsche Turbo, Audi R8, Ferrari 458 or McLaren 650S, the GT represents a track car that is as uncompromising as it is conventional: the V6 biturbo to the rear is preferred over the V8 from its predecessor for weight reasons alone, the bodyshell is made from carbon, the chassis from aluminium – this in itself rules out heavy hybrid components such as motors and batteries.

Ford GT with motorsports ambitions

Like it ancestor from the 60s, Ford wants to send the GT to Le Mans and has paid particular attention to lap times in its development: weight not only interferes with the handling and lateral acceleration, but also when braking. And anything that isn't on-board, doesn't have to be accelerated. Inspite of this, the V6 is said to produce 592 HP without any electrical support at all, while the Honda promises well over 500 HP. The Ford developers also strived to achieve an exceptional power/weight ratio – which they managed with a power of 592 HP and a weight of less than 1,300 kilograms.

The NSX, with its three engines, the lithium ion battery and without carbon bodywork is sure to be lugging much more weight around. As with the Ford, the precise figure remains pure speculation. But the Honda surely cannot weigh any less than 1,600 kilos: within this segment, only BMWs carbon i8 with three cylinders and two electric motors undercuts the 1,500-kilogram mark, whereas the Audi R8 with V8, all-wheel drive and an aluminium bodyshell, but without hybrid components, weighs in at 1,635 kilograms.

Honda NSX with torque vectoring

Honda did install the battery particularly low down, with a view to achieving a particularly low centre of gravity. "If the weight can be positioned near to the driver and low down, this can have thoroughly positive effects on the handling," commented Ted Klaus, Project Manager and Chief Engineer at Honda USA. And: "Only a select few sports car drivers are aware how effortless a drive system the combination of electric and combustions engines is, on account of the fact that the electric units deliver their torque from the moment the car is started,“ said Klaus, testifying to the further advantages of the hybrid drive system. The two engines at the front axle can also be controlled separately and, with their so-called torque vectoring, should make cornering faster, more agile and more stable.

Nonetheless, it sounds as though the road version of the Ford GT was designed primarily for race qualification purposes, and wouldn't give the technically well-equipped Honda a chance. By way of compensation, the Japanese sports car offers emissions-free and quiet city driving. That said, Ford has also given the GT a little road-use compatibility: the chassis can be pumped up at the front axle,meaning that curbs or parking garage entrances no longer represent an insurmountable obstacle.

That said, the greatest hurdle for many drivers could be the price. Regarding the Honda, vague hints at a price of around 160,000 come to mind. Where possible, the Ford doesn't want to have to rely on keeping the price down either.



Gerd Stegmaier


3 March 2015
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