The Japanese hot hatch is all grown up in terms of character, technology and...
There are some aero and rear roof profile changes, too, but while some coupé-estates are beautiful and some are plain quirky, to me this still errs towards the latter. Nothing particularly wrong with that, mind.
Don’t think for one moment that losing four cylinders makes the V8 GTC4 Lusso a pussycat, as it produces 602bhp at 6500rpm and is capable of knocking off 62mph in 3.5 seconds (the V12 manages 0-62mph in 3.4sec) before rocketing on to 199mph.
Where things get a little complicated is the four wheels driven through two gearboxes: at the rear there’s a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle gearbox, whose position helps give a slight rearward weight bias.
In front of the engine, however, which is mounted so far back in the chassis that there’s room for this feature, is a ‘power transfer unit’ (PTU), which is a two-speed gearbox - driven directly from the crankshaft - with two wet clutches, one for each front wheel.
The PTU can handle up to 20 percent of torque, but often gets none, and the clutches always slip so that the front wheels turn at the right speeds relative to the rears. Its lower gear works during first and second on the rear gearbox, and its higher gear in third and fourth.
Beyond that the wheels are turning so fast that the PTU would be a drag rather than a help to them, so the GTC4 reverts to rear-drive only. Which, given that the top end of fourth gear arrives at around 120mph, is a speed at which you probably shouldn’t need four-wheel drive anyway.
There are big changes inside. The steering wheel is new and Ferrari has vastly improved the ergonomics of the buttons on it (although it still refuses to acknowledge the ergonomic advantages of the rim being round).
And then there’s the new infotainment system. There’s a screen. A wide one – 10.25in to be precise. Neatly, it’s covered at the corners by the swoopy bits atop the dashboard, so it looks nicely integrated and rather classy. It doesn’t work too shabbily, either – although you’d want to play with it for a few hours straight before saying whether it’s up to the standards of BMW’s iDrive and the like. On the passenger side it’s augmented by a wide, short touch-screen panel so the passenger can fiddle around with some settings, too. Nice touch.
The GTC4 genuinely seats four, as well: at 5ft 10in I could comfortably sit behind my own driving position with an inch or so of knee and head room. Plus there’s a 450-litre boot, which is wide but far from flat, although the upper halves of the rear seats split and fold to increase the volume to 800 litres, and you care so little about that you’ve stopped reading, haven’t you? So fine, onwards.
Other signs are strong, too. The seats are comfortable, the driving position good, visibility decent – you can’t see the end of the bonnet and the rear window is small, but the GTC4 feels quite usable. You still have to think twice about kerbs and grounding it over harsh speed bumps and such, but, hey – it is, after all, a Ferrari.
In case you forget it’s a Ferrari (unlikely, given the number of prancing horses with which the company adorns the car), the engines will remind you. Oh, sure, it mooches around amenably enough at low speeds, at which point the gearbox shuffles ratios cleanly and smoothly and the ride is fairly composed.
But this is an engine that ‘only’ makes 514lb ft of torque and makes it at 5750rpm (yes, that’s a lot, but not in the context of 680bhp at 8000rpm). If you want to make progress, in other words, you will have to exercise your right boot.
Do so and the noise hardens, the response quickens and the whole 1920kg caboodle finally takes off. Throttle response at any revs is good, but the strength of acceleration just grows and grows as you wind around the rev counter. Upshifts feel instant and downshifts are nicely brapped if you’ve got revs wound on and you’re braking hard (the limits of the standard carbon-ceramics are unapproachable on the road) but muted if you’re driving more slowly.
That’s something the GTC4 remains good at, too, by the way. Adaptive dampers mean the ride/handling balance is always a good one. I can’t think of a road situation when you’d really want the dampers in their Sport setting, but even if you put the drivetrain into Sport, you can push the dampers back into a softer ‘bumpy road’ setting.
The steering is pretty good. Ferraris steer quickly, as a rule, which can make some feel too lively, but the GTC4’s measures around 2.2 turns lock-to-lock, and it’s stable at speed yet responsive on turn-in. Doubtless the rear-steer helps in both of those situations, but you don’t really notice it working, unlike in the massively aggressive F12tdf on which the system made its debut.
Here it’s honed and more suited to giving a bit more agility on turn-in yet a bit more stability on the highway.
And that’s how these systems should work: unidentifiably. I wonder if you sometimes can feel the four-wheel drive system shuffling things, and the steering tugging a bit in response, but I’d want a more thorough handling test than our drive allowed to be sure of its extreme handling.
Especially bearing in mind that it costs nearly a quarter of a million quid before you’ve even put an option on it – and you will, which would take the price towards twice as much as a Bentley Continental GT or an Aston Martin DB11. It is not twice as good as either.