Forza Ferrari: Driving the Ferrari FF

The Ferrari FF wraps four seats and four-wheel drive in a sublime-looking package

The Ferrari FF wraps four seats and four-wheel drive in a sublime-looking package

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RIGHT Scotland, you’ve had your summer. The snow will sweep in this time next week, knowing our luck, and the convertible you’ve been hankering after since the sunny spell started will slip from your radar as thoughts turn to something with four-wheel drive and a boot big enough to bring home a winter’s-worth of survival rations.

Well, wouldn’t you know it – Ferrari has all the car you need in the sensational shape of the FF, a quick-as-you-like grand tourer built with trans-Alpine escapes to your ski chalet in mind. As with most things Ferrari, your hopes of owning one hinge on whether you have recently enjoyed a lottery win or are already loaded, but let’s not get bogged down in such trifling detail. Instead, let’s take a closer look at this Ferrari like no other.

What do I mean by a Ferrari like no other? The name FF stands for “Ferrari Four”, which refers to the four-seat layout and the car’s four-wheel-drive system. The all-wheel-drive is a first for a Ferrari production car and, of course, the men from Maranello have done things a bit differently.

Most of the time, the FF sends its power from the engine at the front to the wheels at the back, but, because the 6.3-litre V12 makes an awful lot of power (651bhp and a truck-like 683Nm of torque, since you asked), Ferrari has fitted a second, tiny, gearbox to the front of the engine that engages when drive is needed at the front wheels. It’s tiny because a, it only has two forward gears, plus reverse and b, keeping it small keeps the weight down.

If all you want to know is that it works, you can skip this section. Otherwise, bear with me. The front gearbox only engages when the main box is operating in first to fourth gears. Since neither of its ratios match the ones in the box at the back, two clutches constantly slip to make sure the front wheels rotate at the same speed as the rears. The reason these clutches don’t cook themselves is because the front gearbox is only in use for very short periods and only ever has to cope with a small percentage of the engine’s torque. It’s fiendishly complicated to describe, but it seems to do the trick. This set-up also means the FF benefits from torque vectoring, whereby power is sent to the front wheel with most grip.

Four-wheel-drive won’t transform the FF into a Jeep rival – rather, it’s there to make sure the Ferrari gets all its power down without lighting up its rear tyres or suffering the ignominy of having its V12 soundtrack interrupted by a traction control computer.

Right, half-baked engineering lesson over – what about that shape? I believe it’s what’s known as a “shooting brake” in posh car circles. Ferrari buffs will tell you the FF’s coupe-meets-estate-car styling evokes memories of the 250 GT Breadvan racer of the early 60s, but I reckon someone at Ferrari saw an old photo of paparazzi-dodging Princess Anne in her 1970 Reliant Scimitar and thought: “I’ve got an idea…”

I think it looks sensational and, judging by the reaction of everyone who came into close contact with the FF, I’m not alone. From eggbox-grille nose to quad-exhaust tail, the FF is 4.9m long and, because it’s such a long way from the front wheels to the rears, space inside is generous. Four adults can easily travel long distances in comfort and, at 450 litres, the boot’s far bigger than that of a Ford Focus. Skis on the roof, toboggan in the boot, fondue set between the rear seats and you’re good to go. The cabin is a delightful blend of soft leather and brushed metal finishes, the seats supportive and the driving position good.

If all this talk of practicality and go-anywhere prowess sounds a bit un-Ferrari, then relax: the FF still goes like stink and still makes a heavenly sound. The world’s fastest four-seater, claims its maker, although the tattooed and toothless driver of a Transit crewcab seemed eager to prove otherwise, sitting an inch from the FF’s sumptuous rump as we traversed the Stirling bypass in heavy traffic.

“Minted man, minted. G’oan, geeza race!” he barked as he pulled up alongside at a roundabout, his mates doing their best not to drool. What is it about the Prancing Horse badge that turns ordinary men insane? “Go away. Go back to being a painter and decorator, and let me go back to pretending I’m a millionaire,” I didn’t reply, since he was much bigger than me. Instead, a quick turn of the FF’s steering wheel sent me left at the next exit as the Transit trundled straight on.

The FF’s performance is spine tingling, like a fighter jet being slung off the deck of an aircraft carrier but, of course, much better sounding. Superior traction and a few deft flicks of the seven-speed paddle shifters make quick getaways a cinch, before the V12 unleashes merry hell and the world whizzes by at warp speed. It ought to be terrifying, but it’s not, the FF retaining Ferrari’s legendary poise and balance as the speedo needle hares round the dial and the world around you shakes to the Ferrari sound.

For a car weighing the best part of two tonnes once I’m aboard, the FF is a nimble machine and changes direction with a deftness that’ll catch you by surprise the first few times you turn the wheel. Grip from the rear tyres is phenomenal, but it’s the extra tenacity at the front that transforms the FF from high-speed sledgehammer into a precision instrument, helping it hold a tight line in low-to-medium-speed corners. Body roll is well controlled without compromising the supple ride quality. We covered about 700 miles in the FF over the course of a long weekend and would happily have covered 700 more.

Stick snow tyres on it and you can enjoy this sort of performance all year round, for this is a supercar that will take you and your mates across the snow fields of Iceland, or swallow a month’s worth of shopping from… er… Iceland. Or the Val d’Isere branch of Spar. Roll on winter. Roll on my long overdue lottery win.

VITAL STATS

CAR Ferrari FF

PRICE From £227,000

PERFORMANCE Max speed 208mph; 0-60mph 3.7secs

MPG (combined) 18.3

CO2 EMISSIONS 360g/km

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