Today, the future happened in Detroit.
Like many of you today, I had to process two massive announcements: the Ford GT and the NSX. They came begging comparison, both revivals of a nameplate that has sat for years unused. So, on the generally uneventful drive home from work, I did what many of us did, debated to myself which one was the winner. So I started picking away, going back and forth between the out-of-nowhere mic-drop GT and the long awaited NSX. I think I found my winner, but the more I thought, the more I realized that these are both incarnations of the same future.
The NSX wins my vote for most important reveal of the day. It lacked all the shocking nature of the GT reveal, instead the reveal was filled with a general sigh of relief: "Finally". It was something everyone knew what was coming, everyone knew what to expect, and there it was. Its importance for me, however, came from its readiness; from the believable, modest interior, to the garish orange indicator, the NSX stated "I'm ready to sell". That in itself isn't to impressive, especially for a car that has been teasing us for what seems to be a lifetime.
Now, if it was just one two seat, mid engined, V6 halo car vs another, the GT might have slipped by it, but the NSX has a very impressive ace up it's sleeve: a hybrid system. Right now, if I want a sports car with a hybrid system like the big boys in F1 and LMP1 use, I need to be prepared to drop $850,000 on a 918. That's the kind of money that classifies these as "dreams", even for those of us that are financially well off. That's the kind of money that restricts a car to an expensive garage. Want something a bit more flashy than the 918? Well too bad, the La Ferrari is sold out. But with the NSX, it looks like this technology is going to be obtainable somewhere in the 100k range, which for some of us, brings this into the realm of obtainable.
While the entry price drop from 850k to 150k might seem to fall into the realm of "Too good to be true", the reality is that there isn't a whole lot else between the million dollar hypercars, and the infinitely more obtainable GT class cars that would be suited to a performance hybrid system. This is why the NSX is going to be so important, it is going to mark the beginning of an era, and era of Hybrid GT.
Sure, at first it is just the NSX, I'm sure deriving some minor "trickle down" tech from Honda's newly revived F1 effort. But how long before Audi follows suite, pulling from their very successful LeMans prototypes, and released their new hybrid R8? Nissan seems to be leaning towards the Hybrid approach for the R36. Once Audi has the tech in the R8-esque flagship, its going to be transplanted into some Lamborghini. Think Ferrari is going to take that sitting down? Porsche will then have the first hybrid 911 (will rear engined though). And before you know it, you have a whole segment of wonderful, race derived hybrids roaming the streets and fighting it out in the GTE class.
But what about the good ol'e U.S.A? Where these hybrid efforts appear to be lagging? At the moment, we don,' have any manufactures that compete in F1 or run LMP1. WE don't have the brands that can sell you some million dollar hypercar. What hope do we have?
This, this is where the Ford GT comes in. The new GT, is for the most part, what would be expected: a two seat, mid engine, GT car built to kick Ferrari's ass. With one exception: it will be powered by a turbo V6. America has always been about the V8, any time someone suggest an American performance car with less than 8 cylinders, there is a record skip within the community. Yet, today, Ford displayed what will be their fastest car, and will certainty be in the top three for American sports cars, clearly stating it will be powered by an Ecobost Turbo V6. This is a car built using a nameplate of a classic American sports car, which was powered by a V8, yet there it sits with a V6. And no one cared one bit about that. The GT is a message that "No replacement for displacement" is losing its dominance on the top performing end of the American market, and paving the way for certain technological advances to break through in a big way.
Ford isn't the only one. With a few spy shots and a suggestive ;) face, the once fabled mid-engined Corvette seems to be inching closer to reality, maybe only requiring that the Vette faithful be ready to accept the engine being behind them. Even dodge has showed some signs of needing change with the Viper: first spinning it off onto its own brand then back again, pulling out of motorsports for the time being, and facing lackluster sales of what is one of the most beautifully proportioned front engined cars of today.
But this is leaving a void, an in that void a new segment seems to be rising. This is to satisfy those that still want some of the "raw" experience, while keeping certain technologies to a minimum. The z/28, with its track focused take on a relatively pedestrian car tested the waters for this.
Then ford just jumped in head-first, upping the game with the GT350R. Even the Germans seem to be noticing this space opening up, and have responded with the Cayman GT4.
These will be the cars that stick around and give people a more old school experience, while letting the envelope of the top end push into new, and sometime scary territories of technology.
The future happened today, and much like the change to having flappy-paddles on all of our poster cars, its going to be a bit scary at first, but it will lead to so many breathtaking cars over the next 10 or so years, it will be worth it.