When Ferrari first announced the 612 Scaglietti’s replacement, I must admit I was a little miffed. The 612 Scaglietti wasn’t the slinkiest of cars, but when I saw press images of the FF (Ferrari Four – four seats, four wheel drive), I was taken aback by the successor’s shooting brake concept. While its looks will no doubt divide opinion, you’ve got to admit that Ferrari has discovered a niche within a niche – just have a look at Mercedes and Jaguar who’ve both come up with their respective shooting brakes variants.
Seeing it in the flesh for the first time at Naza Italia’s flagship showroom over a year ago, I remember being pretty impressed. While it isn’t the prettiest model around, the Pininfarina styled FF carries a lot of the new-age Ferrari DNA. The headlamps are stretched upwards through the long bonnet with clean lines running through from front to back, sloping off abruptly at the rear. Yes, the rear tapers off in a slightly awkward manner, but I believe this design language is simply a little ahead of time, and many will eventually grow to like it.
Very few Malaysian media have had the privilege of testing the FF on local soil, so you can imagine we were pretty excited to get a phone call from Naza Italia with this invitation. The condition of our drive was brief: we simply had to return the car to the flagship showroom before the sun set. Because the FF seats four (comfortably too, I must add), we were allowed to bring along an additional photographer so we could get more quality pictures. Of course, we were also given a gentle reminder to not launch the car off the line.
As I settled into the seats in the FF, I took a little while to admire the gorgeous interior. Our test unit came spec’d in a gorgeous tan hide that exuded a luxurious GT feel, with smatterings of carbon fiber across the cabin. The seats are supportive, seating its occupants perfectly and are supremely comfortable. Like most modern Ferraris, driver controls are all integrated into the flat-bottomed steering wheel: signal indicators, horn, lights, manettino control, engine start button – all are at the tip of your fingers. The layout might seem very alien at first, but it does allow for quicker response times once you get used to it.
The FF was conceived as a grand tourer and in truth, it looks quite peaceful and relaxed. But then I start the engine, and the hairs on the back of my neck prickle as I listen to the V12 roar to life. I couldn’t help but blip the throttle several times; after all, this was essentially the same V12 used in the Enzo and 599 GTB. The 6.3-litre V12 is mounted up front and makes a healthy 660PS/683Nm. Mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, same as used in the 458 and California, the FF also boats a four-wheel drive system – a first for any production prancing horse. Ferrari calls it 4RM, this tech was first fitted onto prototypes in the late 1980s. In the FF however, 4RM is said to be about 50 percent lighter than a conventional system and works seamlessly to deliver power to each wheel independently.
Despite its obvious size, the FF was surprisingly easy to navigate as we weaved through the city traffic away from Naza Italia. Proximity sensors kept going off whenever a car or bike was in range, and we knew we had to stretch to some highways towards our favourite test roads to stretch the FF’s legs. With a mighty 660PS/683Nm to play around with, it was surprising to note how docile the FF could be at relaxed cruising speeds. Switch to Sport and hammer the throttle however, and the V12 shrieks as the FF blitzes past legal highways speeds. We clocked almost 300km/h with almost no effort; such was the phenomenal power that was packed within the FF.
By now, our regular readers here at ‘(00) will probably know we have a favourite bit of road we head for, to test most of our cars. Yes, we brought the FF there for a punt too, but took several test runs prior. Standard on the FF are CCM3 (carbon ceramic material, generation 3) brakes. They’re more progressive and are easier to modulate than before, but still work better with some heat packed into them. We’ve taken some properly powerful cars to this stretch of tarmac before, but it was the FF that left us properly in awe. Three point seven seconds; that is all the time needed to get from zerotohundred. Past that, we managed 230km/h, with plenty of road left and three persons in the car, before I stomped hard on the brakes. The FF managed to clock the fastest speed on our test road, and I believe it would have managed closer to 250km/h had I attempted several more run. Still, I wasn’t going to take any crazy chances in a crazy that cost close to RM3mil!
For what it is, the FF is a supremely competent bit of machinery. Although the engine is mounted in front, the nose remains keen and darts quickly at the driver’s inputs. Even with 4RM, the FF is gifted with an ability to remain mostly neutral through corners. Weight distribution is set to 47:53 (front:rear) and Ferrari claims 4RM will maintain a rear-wheel bias most of the time. Ride quality is excellent and body roll is contained very well despite its size and weight. Perhaps the my only gripe with the FF is the way it drives – a little too sterile, slightly artificial, and lacking some sort of edge. Then, I have to remind myself that this is a four-seater Ferrari, one that was meant be used as an everyday car. Its ability to keep up with the current crop of supercars is just a huge added bonus.
Rivals to the Ferrari Four then are naturally the Porsche Panamera (Hybrid, Diesel), Bentley Continental (GTC), and Aston Martin Rapide. We’ve tested them all before in the past, and comparing them with the FF brought a very quick, easy conclusion: the FF is simply the best car of the bunch. Grace, pace and substance… and in my books, slated to become a modern classic. As this article is being written, there is already a long waiting list, with most production units heading for buyers in the West. It’s a pity then, that the car doesn’t seem to attract many well-heeled Malaysians. A real pity, because the FF is one of the most rewarding cars I’ve driven yet, and left me wishing I had more time with it. Trust me; this car really is FFantastic.