Ferrari\'s AWD grand tourer proves it\'s a supercar for all seasons on an epic journey to the Australian ski fields.
The warning sign says ‘Snow chains required; 4WDs exempt … or risk incurring a fine’, but at least that’s a few hundred dollars you can save with the $625,000 Ferrari FF.
You’d normally be wary of driving a supercar worth three-quarters-of-a-million-dollars with options at the snow, but the Ferrari FF is a prancing horse with a difference.
Or make that differences, because FF stands for Ferrari Four – and two elements you don’t typically associate with a Ferrari: four seats and four-wheel drive.
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As a grand touring four-seater, the Ferrari FF is the successor to models such as the 456 and 612 Scaglietti. This time, however, the company’s GT responds to customer demands for an all-seasons Ferrari.
The FF is a far more attractive Ferrari than the 612, though the distinctive marriage of that long front end and hatchback-style rear end guarantees plenty of design discussion from enthusiasts.
And under that long bonnet lie not only another classic V12 engine but also the most technologically distinctive aspect about this Ferrari – a second gearbox.
The primary transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch auto positioned in a transaxle arrangement, at the rear where power is put to the ground in the majority of scenarios.
Up front, however, a two-speed transmission with multi-plate clutches is connected to the V12’s crankshaft and can drive the front wheels independently.
Forget low-range transfer cases; forget centre differentials – because the front and rear axles aren’t linked.
Another indifferent ski season for NSW’s Snowy Mountains meant we had to abandon our original plan to drive to Thredbo and head for the higher elevation of Perisher Valley for the right conditions.
Satisfaction was to be found further up towards the 1750m elevation as a mini snow blizzard laid perfect conditions for testing the FF’s all-wheel-drive credentials.
Here, you can turn the Manettino switch on the steering wheel that controls the vehicle’s various calibrations to suit different driving needs.
Ice mode is our obvious and convenient choice – which puts the stability control system on its highest alert setting and preps the drivetrain for “very low grip” conditions.
Then it’s down to the FF’s clever computer to calculate how to effectively combine the engine’s traction control (F1-Trac), E-diff (electronic differential on the rear axle) and PTU (the power transfer unit controlling the front wheels) to give this Ferrari its optimum performance regardless of grip levels.
The ‘4RM’ all-wheel-drive system also has pre-emptive capabilities for taking off on variable grip surfaces, though generally the computer needs to recognise a significant difference in speed between the two axles before bringing the PTU into play.
It’s difficult to detect when it actually does; instead you’re left amazed – and that really is the right word – at the amount of grip the Ferrari FF finds on precarious surfaces.
You feel it but also hear it – through the power delivery that, while clearly restrained for the conditions, remains progressive and linear even when accelerating from standstill up a frost-coated uphill section of bitumen.
This is where you sense all of the traction control trickery that was mastered in Formula One – before it was banned – and making a genuine transfer to a road car.
There’s torque vectoring front and rear, too, varying the amount of power being distributed to the left-side and right-side wheels to help push the FF around bends.
And when grip does start to run out in corners – which can happen despite all the electronic wizardry and superwide (295/35) 20-inch tyres – the brilliant stability control system provides a quick nudge to keep the Ferrari FF on the straight and wide, or the winding and narrow.
Ferrari says it adopted the unorthodox all-wheel-drive set-up for the FF to minimise additional weight, claiming the PTU system weighs half that of a conventional 4WD arrangement.
That’s crucial for a car that is nearly five metres long, nearly two metres wide, and close to 1900kg.
Back on normal, dry roads, the Ferrari FF feels incredibly agile for its size and weight, and the length of that nose. It’s unfair to expect it to hit the dynamic heights of a 458, yet the steering (light but not as light as the Ferrari California’s) is super-fast – so the FF turns into corners surprisingly sharply and with surprisingly small amounts of lock.
Its composure through one particular fast left-right-left sequence of off-camber corners was also a notable handling highlight during out test.
There were only a couple of occasions of momentary understeer that hinted that the PTU would slightly interrupt the flow expected from a rear-wheel-drive Ferrari if pushed to the extreme on a racetrack – though the front wheels are only ever engaged up to fourth gear when required.
Choosing Sport mode on the Manettino switch is the way to go here. This quickens the gearshifts, brings the most aggressive throttle blips on a flick of the downshift paddle as the FF’s mighty brakes scrub speed, and it also solidifies magnetised particles in the shock absorber fluid to stiffen the suspension.
Cleverly, the FF’s steering wheel includes a suspension ‘delink’ button, which allows you to keep the drivetrain in Sport settings but the suspension in Comfort for challengingly bumpy roads (the digital display even says ‘Bumpy road’ when you press the button).
Push the FF’s V12 engine to its outer limits and, from a standing start, you can reach 100km/h in a rapid 3.7 seconds or 200km/h in just 11 seconds.
The seven-speed dual-clutch auto brings rapid, seamless shifts, and the V12 brings an epic soundtrack to accompany its tremendous performance, of course. There’s a raspy, throaty note as the FF accelerates from low revs before morphing into a scream as revs soar to the 8000rpm rev limit (and peak power point), though the engine’s soundtrack remains an aural highlight at lower revs.
Drive on an autobahn and you could traverse Germany at 335km/h.
That speed means you could theoretically drive from Sydney to Thredbo in just one and a half hours as the crow flies, but 110 is the maximum en route so this stretches to about 5.5 hours.
Fortunately, then, the Ferrari FF is a stupendously good grand tourer.
A combination of the suspension’s brilliantly controlled suppleness (in Comfort mode) despite an inherent firmness to the sporty set-up, cosseting leather seats, perfectly weighted and accurate steering, and a V12 capable of delivering nonchalantly easy cruising pace and the FF is a fine way to reel off hundreds of kilometres.
And with 500Nm of the FF’s maximum 630Nm torque available from just 1000rpm (and up to 8000rpm), the Ferrari comfortable climbs steep winding roads in top gear.
The only blemish on refinement is noise from the FF’s big, wide tyres on coarser road surfaces.
This is the only Ferrari that will take a small family or four mates on holiday.
There’s a decent amount of space for luggage when you open the rear hatch. And there’s more room in the back than most 2+2 sports cars. You can fit child seats in the rear, while there’s also genuine space for two adults. Foot space is the tightest, but headroom under the optional full-length glass sunroof fitted to our test car was impressive.
That sunroof ($30,000) is the most expensive of a staggeringly long list of options fitted to our test car – virtually matching the number of standard features.
20-inch alloy wheels are standard but our Ferrari FF featured 20-inch ‘sport forged diamond rims’ worth $12,441, with other notable extras including a ‘high power’ hi-fi audio ($10,450), rear seat entertainment ($9500), suspension lifter kit ($11,000), ‘Daytona’ leather seats ($9000), passenger digital display (with rev counter, $6475).
The options totalled $133,000 – but for many customers these days a Ferrari isn’t unique enough in ‘standard’ form.
Could options such as a lower leather dash section ($2750), white rev counter ($1750), sport exhaust ($1350) and a tyre pressure monitoring system ($2850) be inclusive for a car that costs $624,646 before on-roads are added?
For the same money, you could own a Ferrari 458 and for the $100,000 you save you could have a ‘humble’ Porsche Cayenne V6 or a BMW X5 30d for those rare trips to the ski fields.
This is still one special car, though.
It brings the visceral driving experience expected of any Ferrari, though the Ferrari FF also broadens a Ferrari’s scope of abilities like never before.
Price: $624,646 (before on-road costs)
Engine: 6.3-litre V12
Power: 486kW at 8000rpm
Torque: 630Nm at 6000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto, part-time AWD
0-100km/h: 3.7 seconds
0-200km/h: 11 seconds
Maximum speed: 335km/h
Fuel consumption: 15.4L/100km
CO2 emissions: 360g/km
Photography by author