What is it?
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 of our first UK drive.
Launched around a year ago, 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 colossal, naturally aspirated unit 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. When required by the front wheels, power is fed directly from the crank into a second, smaller gearbox located beneath the engine.
This transmission only has two forward gears, and because its ratios cannot replicate the seven speeds of the main gearbox, the resulting wheel speed mismatch is managed by two continually slipping clutches. 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 its Power Transfer Unit adds just 45kg to the model’s kerb weight.
The innovative packaging is not limited to underneath, either. 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 only thing it consumes more enthusiastically than people and luggage is fuel and air: up to 80 per cent of the engine’s 504lb ft of torque is available from 1750rpm – use all 8000rpm and it will reach 62mph in 3.7 seconds, splinter 124mph in 11sec, and top out at a claimed 209mph.
What's it like?
Most initial assessment of the FF was at least partially concerned with the question of identity; could this generously proportioned four-wheel-drive estate car really be considered worthy of the emblem plastered on its flanks?
Let’s tidy that one up first: yes, it most certainly can. It is not perfect or peerless like the 458, but its strengths are mighty, its demerits negligible and, crucially, it practically croons with character.
First, the strengths. There are many initial impressions to be left with on encountering the FF – its distinctive, almost strained appearance; its parking space-busting size; the utter perfection of its driving position – but all of these will be swept away by the chattering cough and percussive throb of its ignition.
The noise is liable to leave a mark on you every bit as real as the thumbprint you will have just deposited on its steering wheel-mounted starter button. Tickle the throttle and a sinful guttural giggle accompanies the first whoosh of a power delivery apparently oblivious to the FF’s accompanying 1880kg millstone.
As speed rises, the steering, light at slow speeds, inherits weight and clarity without telegraphing the technical endeavour required to get it there. It has obviously been made quick to disguise the FF’s mass and encourage deft changes of direction, but this has been achieved without the artificiality perceptible in the Mercedes SLS’s sometimes-hyperactive nose.
Together with a chassis built to chew through the quarreling computations of body control, grip limitation and suspension loading, and return nonchalant agility, the FF feels not just compliant in a user-friendly GT way, but malleable and accommodating.