We very recently had the pleasure of a couple of days with the Ferrari FF, the much-anticipated successor to the 612 Scaglietti. Armed with a full family, luggage and anything else the team could put in the car, we hit the mean streets of Dubai to find out what it was all about. Much has been said about the FF, from the naysayers who consider it a strange looking beast, to the Ferrari devotees who applaud this bold 4WD step. But having spent a good few hours musing on the FF – consuming tea by the pail and burning through a number of cigarettes – we couldn’t help but be drawn to the FF’s simplistic design. It certainly flows beautifully and yes the overall look is unconventional, but when was beauty ever straightlaced?
The FF, an acronym for Ferrari Four (four seats and four-wheel drive) is the first car Ferrari have launched with a four-wheel drive system and unlike most manufacturers out there, Ferrari has done it in a rather unconventional way (there is a theme coming through here). How does channelling drive off the front of the crankshaft and directing it through a small gearbox and two wet clutches sound? Yup, not the obvious choice, but one that delivers in spades.
As always with a company that has the heritage Ferrari carries in its bags, engineering decisions are not made frivolously. The clever bods back at base in Maranello indicate that the rather bizarre front end configuration weighs 50 percent less than a normal arrangement. The patented 4RM system also provides the big lady with perfect weight distribution, and after some heated exchanges with the tarmac in Dubai, we can fully agree it has lovely composure. Throw in the most recent development in carbon-ceramic brakes from Brembo and you have the ability to do things with the FF that at first you wouldn’t have believed. Not to mention the family or three mates can swing along for the ride.
Rain in Dubai is never much of an issue, but even considering our bone dry climate, we can still appreciate the traction the 4RM system provides: ‘bonkers’ sums it up nicely. Big dirty oversteer slides won’t be on the menu (unlike the 458 Italia) since the 4RM system steps up to the plate and sneakily passes drive forwards, transforming that potential slide into a surge of forward momentum. It’s not the easiest concept to explain, but experiencing it is definitely something we urge you to try if you get the chance.
One aspect of life in a Ferrari that totally throws us every time is the tactile beauty of the steering. Light yet beautifully weighted and responsive, Ferrari has given the car the ability to hide its real size and bring the car in and around the driver. Once you’re aboard, the FF actually feels much smaller than it is, and the pace you can achieve when let loose in the UAE mountains takes it unfathomably close to many of the thoroughbreds within the Ferrari stables. We’re not saying the FF will hang with a well driven 458, but a 599 would have to work hard to stay with it.
And what of its true role in life, as a big GT car? Amazingly, and almost frustratingly for other brands out there, the FF ticks that box too. Cruising, cross-country hacking and family shuffling; all in the bag. Yes, the ultimate dynamic flare may not be there, but the FF certainly pulls its socks up when asked and is capable of taking on roads and terrain you couldn’t even contemplate in another Ferrari.
One part of the equation we were most interested to look into was just how usable the car could be. Are the rear seats there for the fun of it, or can you actually use them? How, for example, would two six-foot crankandpiston hulks manage in the back seats? Okay, it’s not the most comfortable place to be for a multi-hour continental blast, but for a quick thrash in and around the city, there are definitely worse places to be than in the back of Ferrari’s 4WD model. Remember we’ve also squeezed our bulky frames into the back of the Aston Martin Rapide.
All in all then, crankandpiston‘s time with the Ferrari FF has been surprising, but no less dramatic. We knew the FF was never going to challenge either the 458 or 612 for sheer lunatic performance, but with the keys in our clammy mitts for the first time, the rush that comes before climbing into anything from the Scuderia was still there. And the performance knocked us bandy. Yes, the Ferrari FF is pricey. But would you expect anything less when you are getting the best? Thought not.
All images care of Ferrari Middle East Press Office.