The magnificent four-seat, four-wheel drive Ferrari is a hypercar carrier of four unrivaled in ethos or execution

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An exhaustive introduction to the Ferrari FF is likely to be superfluous to even the most casual Ferrari fan so we’ll only pause for a brief recap before getting to the nitty gritty.

Launched in 2011 as a replacement for the Ferrari 612, the shooting brake-styled four-seater offered buyers a first: a full-size Grand Tourer with a 651bhp V12 engine and, somewhat contentiously, four-wheel drive.

The Ferrari FF is a full-size Grand Tourer with a 651bhp V12 and four-wheel drive

Dubbed FF for its four seats and four-wheel drive, the car was designed by Pininfarina under the direction of Ferrari’s own chief designer, Flavio Manzoni.

Maranello had previously dabbled with four driven wheels in the 1987 408 Integrale concept, but the V12-engined FF is the first Ferrari to make series production with such a system.

Most initial assessment of the FF when it was launched was at least partially concerned with the question of identity; can this generously proportioned four-wheel-drive estate car really be considered worthy of the emblem plastered on its flanks?



The 651bhp Ferrari FF interior

The arrival of the Ferrari FF marked the return of the shooting brake, a configuration largely forgotten but now gaining in popularity among premium manufacturers.

The colossal, naturally aspirated engine under the bonnet is a direct-injection descendant of the V12 that featured in the Enzo, but Ferrari’s first production all-wheel drive system is an altogether more novel solution.

The V12 is a descendent of the engine from the Enzo

When required by the front wheels, power is fed directly from the crank into a second, smaller gearbox located beneath the engine.

Unlike a conventional all-wheel drive transmission, there is no centre differential in the FF. Instead, for the majority of the time, the FF is effectively a regular rear-wheel-drive Ferrari, with the power directed to the back wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Only when drive is required at the front axle is power taken directly from the engine into a second gearbox. The fascinating aspect is that neither of the two front ratios are a match for those in the rear gearbox. The wheel speed mismatch is then managed by slipping two clutches in the forward gearbox.

These clutches also provide the role of the front differential, not only to manage traction but also to provide torque vectoring for improved handling. Apparently the slipping clutches don’t overheat, because in practice drive is delivered to the front axle only for short periods.

The main benefit of the system is that it offers all-wheel-drive traction (you’ll doubtless have seen video footage of the FF ploughing through snow) without the normal weight penalty.

Ferrari claims it adds just 45kg and, with no front differential, steering feel corruption is reputedly minimised.


Ferrari FF dashboard

The cabin is as typically lavish as you'd expect, with extensive use of Frau aniline leathers. Ferrari’s steering wheel includes regular driving functions such as the indicators and headlights as well as a start button and the Manettino set-up switch.

The black sliver above the glovebox can be specced as an optional LCD display, which shows the current gear, a linear rev-counter and the speed.

The Ferrari FF's large boot has plenty of room for golf clubs

An optional rear infotainment set-up also features, with a pair of headrest screens and a 1280w surround sound system.

As well as four perfectly chiseled sports seats the FF provides 450 litres of boot space – enough to put some family hatchbacks to shame. The deep seats in the rear can fold independently to increase the boot space to 800 litres.

The central section of the rear seat can also be folded down to accommodate particularly bulky items such as a large golf bag or two pairs of skis.

The FF's cabin also includes 20 litres of smaller storage compartments for the kinds of odds and ends occupants might like to keep close at hand.


Four-wheel drive Ferrari FF

The FF doesn’t feel as insanely ballistic as a 599 GTB in the lower gears, but in third and above it’s mighty, and since 80 per cent of the engine’s 504lb ft of torque is available from 1750rpm, it feels every bit as effortless as a serious GT should.

Consequently the 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in just 3.7sec, and the FF can power on to a top speed of 208mph. More impressively, against the clock the FF accelerates from 0-124mph in 11.0sec, exactly matching Ferrari’s claims for the 599 GTB – despite that car’s superior power-to-weight ratio.

The Ferrari FF can feel remarkably docile for a 651bhp car

In part, this can be explained by the FF’s seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, but also its superior traction.

And in real-world use, on anything but completely dry roads, the FF is likely to be the significantly quicker car. The engine delivers 80 per cent of its torque from as low as 1750rpm, making it remarkably tractable.

While from a refinement perspective the four-wheel drive engages imperceptibly (a tell-tale dash graphic displays when the front axle is being called upon), the effect on the cornering behaviour can be felt.

Through fast corners the FF retains the sense of being rear driven, but in slow to medium-speed bends – just at the point where the FF is about to transition into oversteer – the front drive intervenes and there is a sense that the FF is being pulled as well as pushed.

The result is that, for a 651bhp car, it comes with remarkably little intimidation, just the ability to dispense its performance potential extremely effectively. For a GT car that makes sense, as does the fact that the 4WD system means the FF needn’t be sidelined during the winter.


Ferrari FF hard cornering

From an emotive point of view the addition of all-wheel drive has eroded a little of the interaction often expected with a Ferrari.

Sure, the FF looks and sounds sensational, but sometimes it would be nice to be a little more involved in the job of managing and exploiting what fundamentally feels like a nicely sorted rear-drive chassis.

All-wheel drive has eroded a little of the traditional Ferrari interaction

For such a large car, the FF hides its size and weight impressively well. It can take a while to tune in to the FF’s surprisingly quick steering ratio, but with time the steering becomes almost instinctive – at which point the FF changes direction with very little body roll, beyond the first initial weight transfer (particularly with the adjustable dampers in their firmer setting, achieved by moving the Manettino to Sport).

There are only a few minor issues with the FF. Its normally superb dual-clutch gearbox can occasionally be hesitant at low speed, for one thing.

In auto more, under light throttle openings in traffic, the F1-DCT transmission can intermittently shuffle back and forth between first and second as it tries to balance the engine's output with the necessity to trundle along among slow-moving cars.

Some potential buyers may also frown at its ride quality which, away from the smooth roads of the continent, is merely respectable.

Even with the FF’s adaptive Manettino dial pointed towards 'Comfort', the FF doesn't quite deal with the roughness of some British roads as well as you might hope. It's smooth enough, but there's no mistaking the potholes or divots underneath the FF's wheels.

Regardless, the finished product isn't uncomfortable or jarring. Many will expect the FF to feel firmly sprung and reactive, which it does, but those looking for a luxury GT may be better off in something softer and more pliant.


Ferrari FF

Like the 612 Scaglietti that went before it, the FF is a car in which you’d happily drive serious distances.

It’s quiet when you want it to be, it has a large, 91-litre fuel tank and is claimed to average 18.3mpg.

You'd happily drive seriously long distances in the FF

The addition of direct injection and stop-start helps bring a 25 percent improvement in emissions over the 612, too, resulting in a CO2 figure of 360g/km.

Of course, the FF’s massive price tag – the base cost is £227,077 and our test car came in at £275,827 with options – puts it in the upper echelons of motoring excess, well beyond the normal means of anyone familiar with personal loans and PAYE paychecks.


Gran tourer Ferrari FF

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the FF is the absence of a direct rival. Probably the closest competitor is the Bentley Continental GT, but in truth they are very different cars.

The Bentley is heavier, more obviously four-wheel drive, and not as agile or fun to drive.

It is impossible not to be impressed by what Ferrari has achieved

Then there's the fact that the Ferrari is remarkably well packaged, with plenty of interior space (yes, it really seats four), a decent load bay, and a refined and comfortable cabin.

While you could conclude that a 4.9m-long car should be able to offer decent space, the Maserati GranTurismo is only 20mm shorter and yet provides significantly less space.

Given all this, it is impossible not to be impressed by what Ferrari has achieved. The only word of caution, though, is that the FF is a different type of Ferrari to a 599 or 458, and for anyone contemplating a purchase, that is key to understand.

For some the FF may be too big, too heavy, and with its four-wheel-drive safety catch, even too conservative to offer a proper Ferrari fix.

Others may find it too noisy and punishingly raw for high-end grand touring. But for those in-between, those willing to compromise slightly at either end and also not yield to inclement weather, the FF could be the compelling purchase of a lifetime.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Ferrari FF 2011-2016 First drives