The Fantastic Ferarri FF (not for the purists though)

“Every year Ferrari will be launching a new car” – says Luca Di Montezemolo at the recent Maranello factory unveiling of the new FF. It seems the brief this time around is ‘functionality’. It’s clearly dictated the FF’s profile and although it will undoubtedly divide opinion, I really like it. It’s also a very big Ferrari; from the large, swept-backed headlights and wide open grille, to the very un-Ferrari looking rear, the FF is just shy of five metres. As I’m sure you know it’s not just a ‘new Ferrari’ but the replacement for the 612 Scaglietti. Seeing as their customers asked for something that could realistically be driven every day, the FF is the first practical and useable Prancing Horse – two requirements Maranello thought they’d never have to use.

Let’s not just assume that this is to mask an unfamiliar territory because the truth is, with the split rear folding seats it really can accommodate four tall adults comfortably plus luggage. To be considered as a truly practical GT then it not only needs to be spacious but to whisk it’s passengers across the continent in utter comfort. Speaking of which, the FF features the now third-generation magnetorheological dampers (first seen on the 599) which provide an incredible all-round ride. Even when I set the suspension from Comfort to Sport, not once did I feel it crash or jolt over the uneven roads as most adjustable settings can do. It sat quietly too; at three figures on the motorway there was a cocoon, quiet-like feel about the cabin and at no point did I need to raise my voice to the other three critical passengers as we discussed our first opinions on Ferrari’s new car.

Before I climbed into the FF, I took the opportunity to try and decipher the technical jargon on Ferrari’s first four-wheel-drive system. It’s a clever piece of kit and one I’m sure other manufacturers will no doubt adapt to their own formats. Rather than the traditional all-wheel-drive layout, Ferrari have cleverly split the system into two; a single prop shaft running to the rear axle where the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox sits with the electronic differential remains, but at the front Ferrari have fitted a small Power Transfer Unit (PTU) which sits right over the front axle. This contains two wet clutches – one for each wheel. The PTU draws power from the crank via an integrated gearbox then apportions it to either or both front wheels when required. The front gearbox has just two gears, so the desired wheel speed is achieved by slipping the clutches – I tried explaining this to my three trusted passengers thinking I’d mastered Ferrari’s press release as we started slicing through a series of fast corners. It all fell to pieces as my brain couldn’t take in the FF’s astonishing grip combined with my useless technical recital.

What Ferrari’s clever system can’t tell me is how the 4RM (Ferrari’s speak for their four wheel drive system) affects the driving experience – the FF is a rear-drive car most of the time (and all of the time above 125 mph) with the front wheels only receiving power when needed. Usually in a four- wheel-drive car you generally get a whiff of under steer when you come into a corner too quickly then suddenly the power is shifted and rear traction takes over. The FF is a totally different experience. With the ESC (or traction control) turned off and an aggressive stamp on the throttle into a long sweeping corner, the car simply holds the line with one continuous surge of traction and fires out the other end with an unbelievable neutral balance. Just when I thought it would under steer the transition of power took over and held the FF perfectly. Even with 504lb ft of torque to shift around, your brain is expecting the traction to break but instead you find one enormous punch of power and grip all fusing together perfectly. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the FF out of shape. All 642bhp from the 6.3-litre V12 fires this extraordinary machine out of every corner with unimaginable amounts of grip and maximum forward momentum.

Some purists might say that this deters the special relationship owners experience with their Ferrari’s. But once you get to taste just how it behaves it’s something you get used to very quickly. The ride quality is really excellent, too. Body roll is controlled perfectly as minor pitching is just about non- existent. This all comes into play thanks to the FF’s precise and accurate steering. The capabilities of an 1880kg GT car should feel a tad too much to get to grips with but Ferrari have yet again mastered this to a fine art. It’s weighted perfectly as you tackle a challenging piece of road with a confident and reassuring feel. Test your bravery as you nail the FF into deep, tight turns working the wheel which looks like it’s been lifted out of the 458. There is a fraction more weight as you dial up lots of momentum but the FF feels like a much smaller, lighter car.

I’ve never been fond of carbon ceramic brakes as they give the impression of a spongy, dead brake pedal feel. There’s also a distinctive grainy sensation to them but Ferrari’s third generation CCM brakes are never uncooperative despite the huge punishment of late braking and high speed, nose-diving plunges as you try and curb your enthusiasm in a £227,000 car. After 100 miles of hard brake usage the pedal always had a reassuring bite making you feel happy to use all the power and hang onto the gears.

Quiet and sedate it may be inside when cruising but you only have to flick the paddle lever and take in its soul (and soundtrack) to dampen any criticism that this isn’t a true Ferrari. Despite its perfect score I do have some of my own though; take the multi-function steering wheel. Like the 458, every function from the indicators, wipers and headlight switches to the Manettino traction rocker switch are littered round the rim. They do get in the way after a while as I kept flicking the wipers and indicators on with my palms trying to get some momentum on a fast series of roads. Even the multi-screen central information display – where you can select all manner of functions from electronic speedometer to car physics – is a sensory overload.

But I do give Ferrari credit for creating an extremely practical layout. Immensely impressed with the amount of room the FF has for a full car load and a decent size boot makes it an incredibly capable all round GT car. Yes, you do have the 599 and 458 if you want driver involvement and to test your car handling skills, but the FF shows just what Ferrari is capable of time after time and more importantly, what is to come from one of the most extraordinary car makers around.

The FF is very intoxicating and that’s exactly what makes it a true Ferrari.

Engine V12, 6262cc, CO2 360g/km
Power 642bhp @ 8000rpm Torque 504lb ft @ 6000rpm
0-62mph 3.7sec (claimed) Top speed 208mph (claimed)
Price £227,026 On sale Now

+ No doubt a true Ferrari
Some might still need convincing

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4 Responses to The Fantastic Ferarri FF (not for the purists though)

  1. Peter Dean May 18, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    I wonder if zany carrot topped ferrari fanatic dj chris evans has given it his seal of approval and whether the guys down at Egham have alerted him,only then will we know if its likely to be a hit!

  2. Michael "Morphy" Richards May 19, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    You know what? I couldn’t care less what annoying copper knob Evans thinks about the FF all I know is that I never thought I’d live long enough to witness the manufacture of a Ferrari estate car. what next a MPV or a crossover…I bet they’re in the pipeline. C’mon Ferrari don’t dillute your brand FFS!

  3. Peter Dean May 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    say what you like about the geeky red headed tv presenter but he does know his prancing horse!

  4. Bernie madoff May 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    I have it on very good authority that there is a Ferrari 2 seater “city car” in the pipeline called the “i2”. They are also developing a diesel delivery van called the “consegna cavallo” and a 5 door 1.6 litre 95bhp hatchback called the “famiglia cavallino”. This is all very hush hush.

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