2012 Ferrari FF: Review
The latest grand tourer from the House of the Prancing Horse is, in a word, spectacular.
- Stunning engine, gearbox and chassis.
- Clever on-demand 4-wheel-drive system means year-round usability.
- Luxury, high-speed transport for four people and their luggage.
- Still thirsty, even with stop-start and other efficiency technology.
- Rear-seat entertainment and other goodies aren’t standard.
- A Ferrari station wagon? Really?
Out with the old and in with the new. Ferrari is saying bye-bye to its 612 Scaglietti and hello to an eagerly awaited all-new grand tourer, the FF. The luxe 4-seater, Ferrari's new flagship, features V12 power, bold "shooting brake" styling (Euro-speak for an upmarket station wagon), seating for four and a radically innovative part-time all-wheel-drive system for all-weather usability, a Ferrari first.
The real questions here are: Does this sleek new GT live up to the Ferrari name? And can it compete with fast, 4-seater competitors such as the Bentley Continental GT Speed, Mercedes CL65 AMG and Aston Martin Rapide? The 651-horsepower V12 engine under that swooping hood and chassis technology inspired by the 458 Italia are a good start. And it sure stands out from the crowd. But ...
Just a single FF model is available, with only one transmission option: Ferrari's latest 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, which is the first time it has been used on a V12 Ferrari.
As you'd expect, the standard-features list is generous and includes a 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system incorporating Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, USB ports and navigation with 3-D mapping and voice activation. Two-zone climate control and power-adjustable front seats with electro-hydraulic lumbar adjustment and memory settings are also standard equipment.
While you might think a healthy list of standard equipment would limit the number of available options, it doesn't. The extras list is equally expansive, and includes rear-seat entertainment and an oddly named "emotion display" that lets your front-seat passenger see everything from your engine revs to how much you've just exceeded the speed limit.
On a $300,000 car like this, owners will be keen to make their mark and personalize the FF. A visit to Ferrari's flagship atelier center in New York City offers an opportunity to sample a wide variety of exterior finishes, leather options, wheel designs and even brake-caliper colors to choose from — at a cost, naturally. With 16 standard colors, 10 retro shades, three pricey 3-layer paint options and matte gray or silver for you fashion slaves out there, it'll take a trip to the atelier just to get a taste of the various options.
All dealers can perform a simplified version of that personalization via a computer-based configurator, but if you want to go whole hog you can always take a trip to Maranello, Italy, soak up the Ferrari magic and enjoy an extended customization process at the car's factory.
Under the Hood
A flagship Ferrari deserves flagship firepower, and the FF gets just that in the form of an all-new dry-sumped 6.3-liter V12 engine. The biggest news here is the adoption of direct fuel injection, bringing the FF into line with the V8s in Ferrari's California and 458 Italia models. With 651 horsepower and a burly 504 lb-ft of torque, this mill is a real powerhouse, capable of propelling the Prancing Horse from zero to 62 mph in a mere 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 209 mph.
Ferrari's HELE (high emotion, low emissions) technology, which is designed to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by up to 23 percent without any loss in performance, helps take the edge off the engine's worst excesses.
This is a Ferrari engine of the new school, but it hasn't forgotten the old-school thrills. The ability to pull hard from less than 2000 rpm is a novelty, but, as ever, to unleash the engine's full majesty you have to wind it up closer to the 8000 rpm redline. The magnificent, orchestral bellow this unleashes goads you into ever heavier use of your right foot.
It takes more than noise to compete with the turbocharged V12s in cars such as the Mercedes CL65 AMG and Bentley Continental GT, though, which is why Ferrari has worked hard to give the FF excellent low-rev grunt in addition to redline drama. Around 403 lb-ft of torque is available from just 1750 rpm, while peak torque isn't achieved until 6000 rpm, giving you a huge power band to play with. Let it heave away in gear or tug the left-hand shifter paddle and unleash hell — the choice is yours.
The dual-clutch semiautomatic transmission is able to slur the shifts in a much more convincing manner than the F1 transmissions of old, yet it is still able to punch you in the back with a tweak of the manettino switch. The manettino — Italian for "little hand" — is a steering-wheel-mounted control interface that offers the driver a choice of various driving modes.
The cabin is gorgeous, trimmed in soft aniline leather, with a fascia that wraps around the passenger compartment. Settle yourself behind the wheel of the FF, and if you've any experience of recent Ferraris, like the 599 or 458, you'll feel instantly at home. The carbon-topped steering wheel, complete with shift-up lights, is racy for a GT car. Like the 458, the FF does away with conventional column stalks and puts controls for lights, wipers and more on the wheel itself, and it can seem a little cluttered as a result. This is Formula One technology for the road though, and a shorthand reminder that Ferrari and motorsports go hand in hand.
Say what you like about that styling, but it frees up a lot of space inside, with 6-footers comfortably accommodated behind front-seat occupants of similar proportions. The deeply sculpted rear seats are perhaps a tad upright to be truly comfortable, but the acres of taut, beautifully finished butterscotch leather create a luxurious ambience in keeping with the FF's GT ambitions.
Trunk space is plentiful — nearly 16 cubic feet — enough for those four occupants to bring their belongings with them. With the rear seats folded flat, that space grows to more than 28 cubic feet, big enough for the sporting equipment of your choice, whether that is skis, golf clubs, scuba gear or even that Pinarello racing bicycle hanging on the garage wall.
On the Road
For buyers new to the Ferrari brand — or to supercars in general, as many of those in growing markets like China will be — the idea of a 650-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive car can be intimidating. Here's where the new all-wheel-drive system comes in, and the solution is as neat as it is innovative.
Most of the time, the FF is a traditional, purist, friendly rear-driven GT with perfect front-to-middle weight distribution, thanks in part to a transaxle-mounted gearbox.
The technically minded among you will now be wondering, "Fine, but how does it drive the front wheels?" Via a clever, additional gearbox and clutch unit mounted directly to the front of the engine, that's how. The two forward gears operate in tandem with ratios one to four on the main transmission, with computer-controlled torque vectoring and clutches managing the balance in road speed between the front and rear axles. As a default, power goes exclusively to the rear wheels; the front axle wakes up only when the black boxes — honed with "predictive" Formula One technology — sense the grip at the rear axle is about to run out.
The novelty of being able to perform full-launch take-offs even on compacted snow is one you may get over, but even on dry pavement, the all-wheel-drive system plays a part in the FF's formidable traction. For our test drive, Ferrari helpfully laid a driving route of endless hairpin turns that were ideal for putting this beast to the test. Aggressive use of the throttle wakes up the front axle just as the rear feels like it is about to shake loose, hauling the FF out of the bends with incredible speed, its V12 howling.
With the manettino in Sport mode and using the paddles to shift gears manually, the FF can be hustled along with real conviction for a big car. True, it's no 458 or 599, but it feels relatively light on its feet and is as thrilling as you could hope for. The huge power band, fast-geared steering and superb body control make the FF a devastating back-road tool, while the comfort and space mean it's just as good on a more relaxed long-distance cruise, too.
Only the pedal feel from the third-generation carbon-ceramic disc brakes gave us cause for concern. An eye-opening run with Ferrari test driver Raffaele de Simone later in the day confirmed that the pads hadn't had been broken-in properly — a task he took on with typical gusto to restore the necessary bite to the pedal.
Right for You?
The FF will satisfy both Ferrari purists and those stepping up to the brand for the first time. It is an absolute triumph. The FF delivers all the driving thrills you could ever wish for, while bringing a sense of practicality and an all-weather, all-conditions capability no Ferrari has ever offered before.
From the snowy streets of Aspen, Colo., to the leaf-strewn autumnal back roads of New England, this is a Ferrari you can enjoy year-round. The FF is capable of so much more than cruising Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Will Ferrari customers dig that unusual body styling? It's something different for sure, but it's executed with real panache and matched with a fabulous chassis and drivetrain that make every journey an event. Sure, it costs more than a small home, guzzles gas and attracts attention like no other car — but, hey, that's all part of the Ferrari experience.
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It is like some one cut the BMW Z3 and the Ferrari in half. Took the back of the Z3 and joined with the front half of the Farrari.
It is fair to say that it looks like a "MAD WOMAN STITCHING".
What have they done?Who ever came up with this concept should be beaten with a rubber hose. That thing is just ugly.