Monday 12th November 2012


DRIVEN: FERRARI FF

OK, so the FF's got space for guns and fishing rods but what's it actually like to drive?


As road tests go, 2,300 miles in a week gives opportunity for a fairly thorough analysis. The longest day’s driving saw 800 miles racked up – enough to experience the good, the bad and the ugly, even in a machine as gourmet as this one.

It takes some big scenery to shrink the FF
It takes some big scenery to shrink the FF
The FF is the latest in a long line of distinguished GTs from Maranello. Big, sexy, V12-powered Continent crushers have always been a Ferrari forte, so this car has a lot to live up to. By introducing four-wheel drive and a rather distinctive body style to the mix, it breaks with tradition and the FF’s styling has been, let’s be tactful here, divisive.

Mmmm Coupe
For those with fond memories of the BMW M Coupe it looks great though. For some, though, it’s a step too far. But remember that coachbuilders have been producing shooting brake variants of Ferrari’s cars for wealthy customers for decades. Some – such as the 365 GTC/4 Break by Felber – are hideous. Others – the 456 Venice by Pininfarina for example – are beautiful.

And it's about here the front axle wakes up...
And it's about here the front axle wakes up...
At a motorway cruise, the V12 is a discreet purr in the background, but as soon as you stretch that right ankle out the note hardens and deepens, swelling and soaring towards a spine-tingling redline yowl at over 8,000rpm. The way a car weighing, with passenger and full load aboard, over two tonnes responds to the throttle is electrifying.

At just shy of five metres it’s not a small car but with its long wheelbase the wheels really do sit in the corners, while the V12 engine is set right back ‘front-mid’ style behind the front axle. The result is a car that really does seem to shrink you as you tap into its remarkable agility.

Nimble for a big lad
The steering is surprisingly quick and the nose darts into turns. Even when you think you have been a bit ambitious, it dives for the apex and hangs on. The overwhelming sensations – in dry conditions at least – are of grip, grip and more grip. With a soupcon of body roll. It just digs in, hangs on and as soon as you ask for it, unleashes hell. Just when you expect the rear to give up and incinerate the tyres, it finds away to convert the firepower into forward motion.

Yeah. You'll be spending a bit of time here
Yeah. You'll be spending a bit of time here
I’m sure the trick four-wheel drive system is working very hard but it’s hard to tell from the driver’s seat. That’s technology at its best: unobtrusive and effective. If it lacks the razor-edge of the 458 Italia and the inner hooligan of the 599, it counters with all-weather ability and wonderful suppleness. The hallmarks of any great GT. Subjectively it feels every bit as fast as its stablemates, mind.  Top speed: 208mph. The benchmark sprint: 3.7 seconds. Plenty quick.

Click-clack
You do miss the ‘click-clack’ of a classic open-gated manual gearbox on sentimental grounds, but the seven-speed twin-clutch is incredibly fast, smooth and proficient. It’s even pretty acceptable in auto mode, although rather keen to shuffle cogs when you feather the accelerator. The massive carbon ceramic brakes are extremely powerful – way beyond the demands of road driving – but there is a slight lack of pedal feel on initial application that keeps them short of perfection.

As estate cars go the FF isn't the usual
As estate cars go the FF isn't the usual
The FF could just be the most comprehensive supercar ever. It looks magnificent (to these eyes, at least). It is mind-scramblingly quick and handles beautifully. It easily seats four adults. It has a decent boot and you can fit a zimmer frame in the back (don’t ask!). It even comes with seven years free servicing. We say free - this test car tipped the scales at over £272,000.

It’s effortless and epic and of course it doesn’t make any sense at all that it costs more than the average four-bed detached house. But the buyers won’t care. And let’s be honest, you’ll be checking the classifieds for 612 Scaglietti prices and planning for the future. Let us save you the trouble: £50K-ish. 456s are under £30K. Start saving now!


FERRARI FF
Engine:
6,262cc V12
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto, part-time four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 650@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 503@6,000rpm
0-62mph:  3.7 sec
Top speed: 208mph
Weight: 1,880kg
MPG: 15.4mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 360g/km
Price: £227,100  (£272,000 as tested)

Author: Dom Holtham