Every 2019 Fast Ford driven and ranked – where does the GT come?
Ford? Completed it mate. After a mad few days in the beautiful Lake District in the North of England, I can finally say that I’ve driven every fast Ford currently on sale in Europe. From the humble Fiesta ST through to the Mustang and, yep, a couple of track laps in the GT.
They’re all obviously different cars that fulfil different needs and are aimed at different customers, and I’ve spent more time in some than others, but this is the definitive* ranking of Ford Performance products right now.
* according to me, an imbecile
5th place: Ford Mustang
Why’s the Mustang last? Well on the plus side, it’s a great-looking slice of Americana that us Brits finally get to sample in right-hand drive. And, if you ignore the 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine and go for the 5.0-litre V8, it sounds fantastic. Trouble is though, it doesn’t really have the same fun-loving DNA that you get in (most) of the other cars on this list. It’s a bit of a barge, and despite having independent rear suspension it still feels a bit wayward when you start driving it quickly.
The Mustang's not the great value for money it was when it first launched in Europe – a V8 version will set you back £43k
It’s a bit like bungee jumping – you’ll try it once to see what it’s about but that’s probably enough, thanks. Having covered more than 2,000 miles in current-gen V8 Mustangs in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and the leafy hills of Surrey, UK, I feel pretty confident that the Mustang deserves its place. It’s a cruiser, not a sports car. If you grab any other car on this list by the scruff of its neck it’ll come back wagging its tail, whereas the Mustang will look you in the eye while curling one out on the kitchen floor. It's funny depending on your mood.
4th place: Ford Focus ST
The newest car on this list comes in fourth. Why? Well, despite packing 280hp in petrol form, the Focus ST just feels a bit – dare I say – too grown up. It’s a decent hot hatch, but chances are if you want a hot hatch you really want a memorable experience every time you go for a drive – and the Focus is a little bit… forgettable. I drove it back in July among the hills around Nice and struggled to gel with it. A more recent drive showed that it feels more at home on UK roads, but it still doesn’t get under your skin. The steering’s a bit too meaty for its own good, and the artificial engine noise is a bit annoying.
This is a seriously torquey car – but also a pretty thirsty one. It's very possible to get 23mpg on a run.
It does, however, have a lot more chassis magic than the Mustang, and it’ll indulge your childish hooligan tail-wagging driving style should you choose to. Oh, and don’t get the diesel – it doesn’t really feel as if all 190 horsepower are at home, and it just feels like a very normal diesel Focus and not worth the £29k asking price.
3rd place: Ford Ranger Raptor
A Raptor shouldn’t be a diesel, blah blah blah. Whatever. The Ranger Raptor may not have the straight-line crotch stuffing of the F-150 Raptor, but it does have serious amounts of durability. On the car’s launch back in May I had several mid-air moments where vertical sand dunes looming in the windscreen made me think “things are going to break when we land”, but it just kept on truckin’. It feels invincible, and the specialist off-road suspension means you can carry ridiculous speed over rough terrain without losing control or your lunch.
I’ve just got back from flying around a World Rally Championship (WRC) test stage in a Ranger Raptor being driven by a junior WRC driver, and it felt as surefooted as a mountain goat. It’s also mega on slower, more technical off-road tracks, and despite my driving it ham-fistedly over several exposed tree stumps, I couldn’t break it.
Then you can stick it in Baja mode and do off-road skids to your heart’s content. If I were a farmer and I needed to check my cattle at 80mph of an evening, I know what I’d be buying.
2nd place: Ford GT
Admittedly my experience behind the wheel of the GT was limited to a handful of laps around a short development circuit that wasn’t especially dry, but it was enough to tell that the Ford GT is a very serious car.
Perversely, that also makes it the Ford Performance model that actually doesn’t carry much Ford Performance DNA.
Did I notice the benefit of the carbon-fibre wheels when I drove this car? Nope. I was too busy ducking to see out of it
It’s designed to grip on track, rather than make you laugh on the road. I barely fit in the thing with a helmet on (I’m 6’3”), but the GT gives you an incredible amount of confidence otherwise, with the carbon tub providing a direct line from your bum cheeks to the Tarmac. Full throttle acceleration in second and third gear is nowhere near as astonishing as in something like a McLaren 720S or Ferrari 488, and the interior feels like a racecar that’s wearing its Sunday best, except it has tucked its shirt into its boxer shorts.
Moving the pedal box into my preferred position felt a bit Heath Robinson – you have to yank on a tiny fabric loop under your right thigh and stamp furiously on the left-hand edge of the pedal box to slide the brake and accelerator pedals to where you want them.
Oh, and it’s a nightmare to park because visibility out the back is best described as ‘yeah you’ll need that parking camera’. So why’s it second on this list?
Because it’s literally a Le Mans car for the road. And that’s cool.
1st place: Fiesta ST
I know what you’re thinking: anyone putting a Fiesta ahead of the Almighty Ford GT must surely be a little bit silly. But it’s the Fiesta’s silliness that sends it three-wheeling to the top of this list. And how.
This isn’t a hot hatch that demands the skill of a keen driver to extract any fun. Nor is it a hot hatch that laughs in the face of a 60mph speed limit and drags you into three figures before it tickles you pink. Nor is it a car that relies on electronic gadgets and gizmos to put the fun into the way it drives.
It’s a laugh riot of a car that, were it to be described in one word, would probably demand you choose ‘lol’. It’s a car that has rear suspension springs shaped like bananas to help pick up a rear wheel in tight corners and to help turn the car through a bend. It’s a machine that’ll encourage you to jump off the throttle mid corner and enjoy a smooth sideways slide from the back tyres. And it sounds decent too, thanks to a characterful three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine with 200bhp, which turns out to be the perfect amount of power for getting through the gears and enjoying the car within the speed limits.
It’s a car that gives me – in 2019 – the same scampish feeling the first hot hatch drivers must have enjoyed in the late 70s.
It’s a car I’ll be spending lots of time in, because Ford has kindly lent me one for a while. It’s only been outside my house for just under a month, but it’s already given me the sort of drives that stick in your mind in vivid technicolour for weeks. It’s a car that you’d buy even if you had a Ford GT or two tucked away. It’s that fun to drive, and it tops the class of fast Fords in 2019.