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If you’d been told a decade ago that Ferrari would build a car with all wheel drive and space in the boot for a mountain bike, you may have believed the story to be as authentic as Riaan Cruywagen’s hair.
But today the Ferrari FF (which stands for Four seats and Four-wheel drive) is in-the-metal reality, and though the Italian firm’s first all-wheel drive car is no SUV (Maranello hasn’t taken that un-purist leap yet) it is the closest a Ferrari’s ever come.
The press pack is replete with photos of the car in exotic locales like desert tracks and icy arctic roads, and with drive to both axles and a practical ground clearance (with an optional lifting kit on top of that), this is the first Ferrari in which you could realistically tackle such conditions.
Add that to its roomy four-passenger cabin and sizeable boot, and you have that most unlikely thing: a practical, family Ferrari.
I found out just how practical when I took the world’s fastest four seater grand tourer for a spin in the Magaliesburg area last week. It’s the most user-friendly prancing horse car I’ve ever driven.
It may have 660 angry horses on call under your right foot (485kW in the new-speak), but the FF can be a docile pony that happily trots along in busy traffic.
The steering’s light, the ride quality’s impressively cushioned and the power delivery’s serene and smooth, not snatchy as if the car’s straining at the leash for an open road. Except for the view of that long exotic snout through the windscreen, you could almost be driving a Merc E-class.
When it does find a clear section of tar though, the FF’s Ferrari side comes to the fore, and it can outrun just about any other car it encounters.
The 6.3-litre V12 under the long bonnet packs enough venom to spit this big GT from rest to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds at sea level, and onto a 335km/h top speed.
It’s a satisfyingly high-revving kind of performance, the kind you only get from a normally-aspirated engine (Ferrari has so far resisted the turbocharging trend), and the FF’s big lungs only run out of puff at 8000 rpm.
As cool as that is, it’s vocally a bit bland and lacks the operatic bellow of an F12berlinetta or a 458 Italia. I got Barry Manilow when I was expecting Luciano Pavarotti.
The car lacks a raw edge, opting instead for a slick and super-refined approach as it casually smashes the speed limit through high velocity curves. There’s no nose-heaviness from the big front-mounted engine, and the FF tucks into corners like a hungry miner into his breakfast.
The carbon-ceramic brakes wipe off speed with eyeball-stretching vigour. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a delight, and probably the quickest and slickest of its kind in the automotive world.
My dry, all-tar driving route didn’t tax the all wheel drive system at all, but it’s a clever piece of engineering that will come into its own in slippery conditions. It’s a rear-biased system but with drive diverted to the front as grip demands.
Ferrari’s novel 4RM all-wheel drive employs a rear-mounted seven-speed gearbox supplemented by a second two-speed transmission mounted at the front wheels, making for an ideal 47/53 front/rear weight distribution.
The FF’s oblong shooting-brake styling polarises opinion - some dig it, some don’t - but there’s no argument that it looks striking from any angle, as a Ferrari should.
As a Ferrari also should be, the FF is a sporting thoroughbred that can’t be faulted for its superb chassis and engine. But in being geared for a more family-oriented buyer it’s perhaps a little over-refined and quiet, lacking a hooligan edge and an evil glint in its eye. Turn up the volume, maestro.
The Ferrari FF is available from Viglietti Motors in Joburg and Cape Town for R4-million. -Star Motoring