Ferrari regains its former engineering glory with a car that amazes at each turn
OK, forget all the breadvan jokes – when you drive like this, you can look how you like. Actually, Ferrari’s FF — the first all-paw prancing pony — looks better in the metal. As to how it drives . . . well, our man has to dig deep for superlatives.
LIVE by the mantle of expecting the unexpected and life would quickly lose its surprises.
I expected Jennifer Hawkins would wait for me but unexpectedly, she didn’t and has announced her nuptials to another man. I never expected Ferrari would make a fourwheel drive, but life this week showed me I should not be surprised.
There are a lot of firsts in this Ferrari FF, successor to the 612 Scaglietti and due to land in Australia in early 2012 for about $625,000. Yes, it has a remarkable system that allows all wheels to be driven. It also has a dual-clutch gearbox with seven cogs.
It is Ferrari’s first directinjection V12 and its most powerful and biggest-capacity production road car. It is also the world’s most powerful four-seater car, uses technology that makes its V12 engine about 25 per cent more fuel efficient than its predecessor, and wears standard kit including carbonceramic brakes, three-mode drivetrain and a near-perfect weight distribution. It is, simply, stunning.
It will cost about $625,000 when it gets here in February. Value? I don’t think so.
But put it alongside some rivals and it’s actually competitive. Beware, though, because the option list is as endless as Maranello’s pasta menu and even cruise control could end up costing extra.
Every car is built to order so the chances that you’ll see another one like yours at the McDonald’s drive-thru is remote.
Bread van springs to mind but despite its dominant length and width, it has an almost delicate quality to its lines. Ferrari said it wanted versatility in this car, hence the wagon-esque tail that lent itself to an effective luggage area and space for two extra adults.
Phew, where do I start?
A direct-injection V12 with its block modified from the 612 to a more severe undersquare design and upped to 6.3 litres. The engine sits behind the front axle line so the drive out to the front wheels comes off the nose of a new crankshaft, meaning Ferrari had headaches in
relocating the harmonic balancer. It has direct-petrol injection, too.
The seven-speed box with an overdrive gear is a dual-clutch unit mounted with the diff at the rear of the car. The mechanical diff incorporates lots of electronics that control slip and allocate torque instantly to both or individual rear wheels.
There are three modes for the transmission and engine – they share the same management computer – to select: automatic, sport and race. Each changes the response of the drivetrain and, in race, keeps the exhaust free for that glorious V12 sound.
Road conditions can also be dialled up, for wet, ice and snow and even to turn the ESC off.
The front suspension retains Ferrari’s staple doublewishbone system but the rear is an all-new multi-link arrangement that is claimed to better suit the FF’s role of being a comfortable saloon.
On top of all this, the steering wheel looks like it’s off Schumachers F1 car, with an array of switches and buttons that replace steering wheel column stalks. Gear changes are via long carbon-fibre paddles.
Surprisingly, the FF has only four airbags. Ferrari says that’s sufficient and has done all the crash tests – including an 80km/h rollover – and come away with the maximum star rating.
On top of that, there’s a brilliant traction system that introduces all-wheel drive and the ability to cope with snow and ice, plus carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes with discs the size of a family pizza plate. Without fade and with virtually an unlimited disc life, the brakes will pull the FF down from 100km/h in an incredible 35m – or exactly 2.7 seconds.
Died and gone to heaven. The FF is almost what the perfect car should be – versatile, comfortable, quiet, breathtakingly quick and capable of arousing its driver with a sound track of soaring cresendos, resonate basses and sharp, urgent barks. It’s a tactile, aural and visual overload.
The massive, time-worn faces of the Dolomites on Italy’s northern border are etched with tightly wound and narrow ribbons of road that rise and fall, twist and turn. Perhaps too tight for the 5m long car but the complexity of the route didn’t daunt the FF.
Not only was it nimble enough to wind its way up to 2200m above sea level, but so comfortable that occupants were never compromised – and that was a huge surprise in a car from Ferrari.
Flick the lever from auto – which is actually a very smooth and city-friendly mode – to sport and the car changes, the engine sounds noisier noisier and the car feels more poised for battle. Go to race and the baffles in the exhaust system are relieved, making the car bark and spit on over-run and passers-by gasp.
Yes, as expected, it’s fast. Unexpected is how easy it is to drive. The engine is immensely torquey – 500Nm from 1000rpm – so it softens the feeling of urgency. It’s only the G-force on your face and the powerful swing of the tacho needle on its yellow facia that tells the real story.
The engine delivers its maximum 486kW at 8000rpm and has a cut out at 8200rpm, so will run hard and effortlessly from idle right through to the red line and never slow its delivery.
Impressive – and yes I know that goes hand-in-hand with the price tag – is the ultra-fast gear shifts, the comfort of the
Reason to prance: The brilliant FF is the first fourwheel-drive to come off the