Typically, a Ferrari is the type of car that is low slung, has an evocative and slinky design, has a tremendous exhaust note and is a testament to the company's history in motorsport.
As the automotive landscape has evolved through technology and consumers' desire to have a car that can be used for a variety of purposes, we've started to see a shift in automotive offerings.
Practicality is in.
Though Ferrari's history of two-door, front-engined V12 coupes is incredibly rich, one area the prancing horse hasn't exactly conquered is the grand touring market with 2+2 seating. While there have been gorgeous predecessors, like the 456M, there have also been less than stellar examples, like the 412 that was recently turned into a pick-up truck across the pond. I don't think you'd find any other Ferrari turned into a utility vehicle. Just saying.
And one particular issue with Ferrari's four-seater GTs is that their value depreciates significantly after several years on the market. Usually, these are the most aggressively priced Ferraris on the used market. Something tells me that the prancing horse's latest four seater is an attempt to stanch the bleeding.
This neatly brings us to our subject, the Ferrari FF. Sporting a provocative design, it's a mix of traditional and new age styling elements. That's the direction the storied automaker has taken in recent years. It will never forget its legacy; however, the cars are at the cutting edge of automotive technological advancement whether it comes down to design or the actual mechanics.
Looking at its exterior, likely the first thing to draw your attention is the vehicle's controversial hatchback design. While some have chastised this practical feature, I think these naysayers aren't looking close enough. That's because you'll find hints of old-school Ferrari with its wide-mouth front grille and the gorgeous bone line that runs from the front fender, into the door handle and flares out over the rear fender. Plus, if you've never owned a vehicle with a hatch, you've never experienced the ease of use whether you're shopping for groceries or hitting the slopes for a weekend of skiing.
There's no question some people will not be able to bear a hatchback Ferrari and that's OK. The F12 will happily satisfy those folks. The FF is a more forward-thinking vehicle that's propelling Ferrari into the future with a new buyer in mind. Along the same vein as the Porsche Panamera, it may take some lumps for its rear end design but it commands presence and has a feeling of exclusivity when compared with its peers.
Anyone can pull up in a 458 or F12, but the risk taker and confident individual rolls up in an FF. And they will be able to have more than one friend.
Once you get behind the wheel, you'll quickly forget any misgivings about the exterior. That's because the FF"s interior is not what you may expect in a Ferrari. Years ago when I was in a Ferrari F355, the entire cockpit felt a bit kit car-ish and though it had been put together on a Friday. The FF, however, is more like a Bentley with a strong whiff of luxury. Everywhere you look there's a leather-trimmed surface that has gorgeous stitching, and seams that look as though it could have been done easier but the leatherworkers decided to have a bit of fun and create a meandering line. And though my test car had a splash of carbon fiber here and there to remind you it has performance intentions, the leather was like that of a high-end piece of luggage. Soft and durable. Extra style points were given to the Italians for its clever use of Alcantara to make the seats and door panels pop a bit more, as well as the heavy duty metal bits that add masculinity to the cabin.
A controversial element of the latest Ferraris is that all of the controls you typically find on stalks behind the steering wheel are now on the steering wheel. Predictably, the folks in Maranello took creative license from Formula 1 racecars that put as many controls on the steering wheel as possible. It's a genius idea. Sure, it's wonky for about 20 minutes, but once you stop reaching for where you think turn signals ought to be and muscle memory kicks in, you'll soon find it extraordinarily intuitive and you'll curse every other car that's been built with standard controls. Seriously.
Being 6'8 and 275 pounds, fitting into an exotic isn't always easy. In the FF though, I had zero problems. When I had a six-foot passenger with me, I had him hop in the backseat to see if it was feasible for a long haul — it was. Even more surprising was his insight: he felt the rear seat was more comfortable than the front. In a Rolls-Royce I'd expect to hear that, not in a 2+2 Ferrari.
There are only two nitpicks about the FF's interior space.
First, the headunit for the infotainment display is lifted from the Chrysler parts bin. It's not necessarily a bad thing because the system's software works well; however, it's just something that will need an update as in-car systems have progressed significantly since this iteration. If you take a look at the latest Ferrari model, the California T, you’ll see there’s an all-new new infotainment display. Expect that to come down the pipe across the product portfolio.
Second, headroom is a bit tight in the front and back, especially in the back for my six-foot friend. The good news is that the engineers in Maranello made sure that passengers don't feel claustrophobic as you can option the FF with a full glass roof. It's a real nice touch but it will set you back five figures ($17,666, to be precise).
So far this may sound all good and well, but the reality is that these are bonuses. That's because if you buy a prancing horse, you really care about driving. And, my, oh my, do we have a specimen here.
Equipped with a 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V12 motor, the FF produces about 650 horsepower and just over 500 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to Ferrari's first-ever application of an all-wheel drive system in a road-going car, gaining traction isn't a problem from a standstill. You'll quickly realize this as you rocket off to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds with the FF's V12 symphony in full swing. And with AWD, you can put the FF on winter tires — like my test car — and use it in the snow. Though it's considered a heavyweight by Ferrari standards — weighing in at nearly 4,000 pounds — it's light compared to the competitive set that ranges from luxury 2+2s to high-performance luxury sedans. THINK: Bentley Continental GT Speed, Rolls-Royce Wraith, Aston Martin Rapide S, Porsche Panamera Turbo S, Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG.
There are a few things I have to point out.
First, there's nothing greater than a naturally aspirated motor because the motor's power is linear and lag is a non issue. Second, the engine's redline is high. Really high. 8,000, to be precise. If you find yourself working the needle past the 6,000 mark, you feel as though you're Fernando Alonso competing in a Formula 1 race. Next, Ferrari deserves a lot of credit for implementing a dual-clutch transmission that shifts without hesitation or jarring passengers. Not only does it shift gears incredibly quick but it is so well tuned that it isn't wasn't noticed by occupants, which can't be said of other high-performance autos with dual-clutch gearboxes that are sharp and brutal. Take, for example, Porsche's much heralded PDK. When you put it into Sport Plus, don't be surprised if your compadres tell you to chill out and pump the brakes.
Lastly, the sound. It is really hard to beat the sound of a Ferrari V12 operating at wide open throttle; however, what surprised me are the other noises you hear in the cabin of other mechanics operating. I don't know what parts were operating and, frankly, I don't care. I just know it all sounded lovely and like an ode to engineering.
The third point above about the transmission really speaks to the nature of the FF. Though I could write endlessly about how its steering is literally perfect and how its quick steering rack makes the FF feel as nimble as a vehicle weighing less than 3,000 pounds, the real beauty is in how the company's engineers made this a vehicle that's comfortable to be in. It may be equipped with 20-inch wheels and a hardcore suspension, but it rides even more comfortable than the Bentley's I've piloted. Even when you dial up all the settings and make it as sporty as possible, it's easily the most comfortable auto I've been in with over 500 horsepower.
Essentially, the FF does the impossible. Not only was I sold on the controversial look, but every time I got behind the wheel I would be amazed at the car’s ability. Usually I hate surprises but I could get used to them if they were always as good as the FF’s.
I never thought I’d say it but Ferrari has made a car that’s essentially a Swiss Army knife. It can do it all. The FF is a supercar when you want it to be and can serve as a grocery getter in treacherous snow conditions.
Simply put, if you drive the FF you won’t want anything else.
The Good:- A naturally aspirated V12 is terrible thing to pass up — power is linear and continuous to its 8,000 rpm redline
- The transmission is a work of art: though it shifts at unbelievable speed it remains comfortable even in Sport mode
- You can carry four adults and there's space for several pieces of luggage, try that in a 458 Italia or F12
- Controversial styling that will not win over everyone's heart
- Headroom front and back is tight, especially in the back for a six footer
- Worrisome depreciation that has still yet to be really tested in the marketplace — if you're buying a Ferrari, you should consider depreciation as there are plenty of F cars that go UP in value
- I've driven some amazing grand tourers in my day but I have to admit, there's nothing quite like the Ferrari FF. I would have expected something like this from the likes of Bentley or Porsche — a four seater with all-wheel drive that I can take anywhere — but those automakers didn't execute their products nearly as well. It's hard for me to say a vehicle is perfect but if you're looking to move four people, have an unforgettable driving experience and do it in comfort, style and luxury, the Ferrari FF is as close to perfection as you're going to get. Hands down.