When your mission is to pick up a Ferrari for extended road testing, it’s hard to resist the impulse to dress up a bit. It’s an extraordinary moment in your motoring life, after all, and you can also bet that everyone you meet on such a mission will be pin-striped.
Ferrari dealer Marcus Uzzell certainly was when I stepped over the threshold of Maranello, his Egham dealership just outside London’s orbital M25, to collect the 13,700-mile Ferrari FF we’ll be running through the summer.
The car looked magnificent, of course, resplendent in the same metallic red Ferrari designed for its 2007 grand prix cars, when a colour adjustment was needed to the livery in order to make the cars extra-red on digital television.
The FF (for Ferrari Four) is the marque’s rule-breaker of recent years, a two-door four-seater with a novel on-demand four-wheel drive system that takes drive to the front wheels directly from the front of the mighty front/mid-mounted V12, but only when the rear wheels have already begun to slip. The car was born out of a perception among Ferrari’s bigwigs that the firm’s cars weren’t being used day to day like those of some competing marques. Indeed, the brochures show FFs forging up snowy hillsides, evidently bearing their owners towards ski chalets.
This is probably the most sensible Ferrari you can buy, with its roomy cabin and big doors, its snug but useable rear seats and its long-wheelbase chassis built for stability and bristling with sophisticated electronics, plus, when needed, that four-wheel drive system. Our own tests have already shown the combination confers on the FF all the high and low-speed traction a supercar needs, even when powered by a 651bhp 6.3-litre V12 and endowed with huge performance (for the record, 0-62mph in 3.7sec and a top speed of 210mph).
Ferraris and four seats have never had a massive take-up, not least in the UK. When the Ferrari FF was launched in 2011 by company CEO Amedeo Felisa, its production target was given as 800 units a year worldwide, which (given that the UK regularly takes about 10% of total Ferrari volume) indicates that only about half a dozen FFs a month find new owners in the UK. So it’s a rare car.
Still, the thread of our enquiry over the next few months won’t primarily be about the spectacular side of Ferrari driving, ever available though that is. The idea is to take this extraordinary machine and apply it to ordinary motoring situations, to discover what living with a Ferrari V12 is really like. Ferrari’s steady contention is that the car works well in a wide variety of situations, which is why it is allowing a car priced at just over £300,000 a couple of years ago (and able to command about £180,000 today) outof its sight for more than a few days.
The Maranello dealership is located in a recently restored art deco showroom on the Egham bypass, well known to generations of visitors because it was once the lair from which the Colonel Ronnie Hoare, the UK’s legendary Ferrari importer (reputed to have a direct line to Enzo himself) ran his business for several generations.
Nowadays it has all the modern facilities, including a close replica of the famous atelier at Ferrari’s Italian HQ, where buyers can sit for as long as they want, reviewing their new Ferrari’s specifications, options, colours, leathers and trim materials and configuring them on a big screen that can combine them. But in a sense, such facilities are expected by luxury car buyers.
More surprising is the remarkable deal Ferrari offers buyers of secondhand cars through its official dealerships. Choose a nearly new Ferrari and it’ll be covered by the balance of a standard three-year warranty that is extended by a year for free in the UK.
Even outside that, it’ll be covered by a two-year warranty. Beyond that, up to the 12th year of its life, it can be covered by a warranty Ferrari calls New Power Formula. This is run by Ferrari itself and not an insurance company, because its aim is to keep Ferraris on the road, not generate profits for shareholders.