The only reason why Porsche has the Cayenne SUV and Aston Martin has its minute Cygnet shopping trolley is because both have attempted to satisfy needs. Porsche wants volume, and the Cayenne delivers that in a truck load. The Cygnet on the other hand makes folks at Aston Martin greener than the supreme leaders of Greenpeace.
So what’s Ferrari’s answer to requests for a more lifestyle vehicle that owners can share with their family and with space for luggage? A station wagon. The top dogs at Maranello say the brand will never have an SUV or a crossover but they never said a word against having a station wagon in the stable.
Don’t pull out your hair just yet – the FF is not really a stationwagon, although the design is called a ‘shooting brake’ and takes cues from the days of the horse-and-carriage. This Ferrari looks more like an elongated two-door hatchback with seats for four and room for their luggage or golf bags. We believe this is as domestic as a Ferrari can get. The Ferrari FF – the FF stands for Ferrari Four (which means it’s called a Ferrari Ferrari Four) – is a supercar designed for everyday driving, no matter how foul the weather is.
Since we don’t have snow blizzards here, we guess owners can appreciate the all-wheel-drive system when facing KL’s flash floods or our torrential downpours. Anyway, first, the looks: you need time to take it all in. The front end looks extremely mean, with headlights that ape the 458 Italia, while the rear features two taillights that are recessed into the duck-tailed bodywork which is left empty except for the prancing horse logo stuck in the centre. Walk around the car and there is no emblem that mentions the model type. Pretty different for a Ferrari.
Ferrari Four actually refers to four seats and four-wheel-drive. Built to replace the 612 Scaglietti, the FF is more of a grand tourer than anything else. It’s slightly bigger than the Scag, and the interior proves it. The rear quarter was pretty spacious even for our six-foot tall writer. The dashboard is simply Ferrari, where the focus is more on the details and materials used. As suspected, the steering wheel houses the important driving controls. There is no gear lever and even the traction setting is controlled by the ‘Mannetino’ switch. Even the wiper control and the turn light switches are housed on the steering wheel hub, leaving the steering column only for the paddle shifters. The boot offers 450 litres of space, but the floor is interrupted by a big rectangle box that houses the rear differentials. If you think this is a major issue, please get a Nissan Teana.
Having said that, the FF is actually better than the Teana. Where the Teana has a fixed backseat, you can actually fold down the FF’s back seat and get 800 litres of boot space. Now that is practical, and mind you, this is a Ferrari. Naza Italia loaned us its demo FF for a ride through the city. Sometime ago, when we drove the Scaglietti around town, each time we stopped, we would walk around and check whether we had accidentally scooped up a motorcyclist or a cat or a dog. It felt big and cumbersome, and was only agile on an open road like the highway.
The FF did not feel that way. Vision was good and, in a matter of minutes, we knew how to place the car on the road and squeeze in and out of traffic. Having 651hp and 683Nm helped us to stay ahead of the traffic, pretty important when you didn’t want to be stuck behind an auntie driving a white Perodua dawdling at 45km/h with hundreds of mopeds circling you, mere millimeters away from that expensive paint job.
When parking it, the FF feels like a big German/Japanese limousine. Push the R button and one of the three meter pods turns into a screen, showing a picture from the rear mounted camera. Press the camera button and you get to switch to the front mounted camera, or turn the fisheye view effect on.
On the highway, the FF reminds you that it is still a super car. Speeds above 200km/h can be reached in a matter of seconds (top speed is over 330km/h). Once, we mashed right foot to the floor while navigating a sharp turn, expecting the rear to wriggle a bit but, sadly, this Ferrari just squirted out of the apex nonchalantly, leaving a trail of its signature V12 scream.
The Ferrari 4RM system (4 ruote motrici or four driven wheels) apparently stops any form of understeer or oversteer. Though most of the power is routed to the rear wheels and less than 20 per cent of it goes to the front (even in reverse), the system works so well that you will not feel it at all.
Unlike other All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) cars with gadzillions of horsepower (think Mitsubishi Evolution and Subaru Impreza), the 4RM makes the FF feels so neutral. On a track, we would have switched off the electronic aids but on a public road, that would have been a big no-no, especially when that was the ONLY Ferrari FF in the country then. The 7-speed dual-clutch Getrag gearbox gets all the power down to the four wheels. As expected, gear change was super quick and the sound effect gave us goose bumps. Find a tunnel and you would be shifting the gears just to listen to the V12 wail.
The V12, 6.3-litre engine is the biggest you can find in a road going Ferrari. It has some similarities with the engine in the Enzo or the 599, but this one has a new block and heads and the introduction of direct injection. Though it is the most powerful road production Ferrari, it offers 25 per cent better fuel economy than the 612 model.
The third generation Brembo carbon-ceramic brake discs are as big as dinner plates from a fancy restaurant and foreign publications keep reminding their readers how one needs to ensure the brakes are hot enough to get optimum braking ability.
That’s the beauty of Malaysia, where the weather is already hot and you need not pussyfoot around while waiting for the brakes to perform. However, if it rains the whole night, the brakes do need some heating up, said the local Ferrari chap. In Comfort mode, we swear this is the most comfortable Ferrari we have ever driven. We were around Section 17 PJ where some of the roads are like the lunar surface but the FF glided smoothly like a Mercedes-Benz E Class, or even the Toyota Camry your uncle drives.
Then when traffic started clearing up, we twisted the mannetino to Sport setting and quickly felt the suspension stiffening. Don’t worry, the ride never does become jarring. It’s just that the car corners in a flatter manner and the gearbox keeps the rev needle hovering within the power band. It’s the wicked mode that your mother always tells you not to touch.
While we were pushing the car around, colleague Vikram was seated at the back, peacefully enjoying the aircon and the view. ”It doesn’t feel like a Ferrari back here because it is very comfortable,” he said. True enough, there were even LCD screens on both headrests and air-con vents for the rear occupants.
The two back seats are rather upright though and on long journeys we suspect one might feel a bit tired but legroom is extremely good for a super car. It reminds us of the Panamera except, unlike the Porsche, this actually looks like a performance car.
During our photo shoot, we were all impressed with the practicality of this Ferrari. It has a parcel shelf and, with a pull of a lever, you can fold down the rear seat. Unfortunately, that big axle cover disrupts the otherwise flat boot floor. If you are thinking how many golf sets you can squeeze in, with the rear seats up, you can easily do two.
We think that Ferrari realizes the odd shape of the FF might drive buyers away. To overcome that, the designers put in the biggest engine they have and installed a four-wheel-drive system to make sure it is drivable, even for the ladies. Perhaps the wife will now give in knowing that this Ferrari can also take her and the kids along. But once you have ditched them at the hotel, drive out and enjoy what Ferrari FF really stands for, Freaking Fast!
Front engine, V12, DOHC 48-valve, 6,262cc, aluminium block and heads, direct fuel injection, 651hp @ 8000rpm, 683Nm @ 6000rpm, 7-speed dual clutch gearbox
RM2.3 million (before you spec it up with options)
Who says a Ferrari man can’t have a family?