FIRST DRIVE

Fer­rari re­gains its for­mer en­gi­neer­ing glory with a car that amazes at each turn

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Inside - NEIL DOWL­ING neil.dowl­ing@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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

Fer­rari pro­duc­tion

line

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