Two decades is a long time in the world of Ferrari. Back when the 456 received its 'modificata' update, it comprised not much more than an interior refresh, some aero tweaks and a mild facelift. Just two generations on and the F151 (internal product code for the FF) modificata is the
, described by Ferrari as a "major evolution" of its GT. While still clearly FF derived it features a host of improvements underneath, including four-wheel steer developed from the
and the latest Side Slip Control, to further enhance what a four-seat Ferrari is capable of. Without wishing to spoil the surprise too much, it's capable of rather a lot...
More of that in a sec; it seems best to begin outside, because what's a Ferrari if it's not spectacular to look at? Naturally as a 21st century Ferrari the GTC4 Lusso brings tangible scientific benefits with its restyle (that rear spoiler cuts drag by a whole six per cent), but also an "extremely streamlined, tapered shape." There's certainly less breadvan to it than the FF, which will likely appeal to as many people as it will disappoint. What it does have though is huge presence because it is, well, huge. Long, low and wide, it's really imposing but elegant too. And if the rear lights look a lot like those on the 456, that's because Ferrari designed them that way, also drawing on the 355 and 512. Bravo Ferrari, they look ace.
Inside there's another 16mm of rear legroom largely thanks to a 15mm gain in overall length, which should make the GTC4 Lusso less tricky to justify as a legitimate family vehicle. Up front there are big changes; the smaller wheel initially looks bewildering with so many buttons on it, but soon makes sense on the road. The main infotainment screen is now 10.25-inches and super smooth in its operation, boasting lovely graphics and ease-of-use that would embarrass other systems. There's even one for the passenger, allowing them to see just how far over the speed limit you're going and exactly how bad your music taste is. Joy...
But the overriding impression inside is one of sublime quality. The way every switch functions, the touch of every material and the fit of every panel is second to none, imparting a real sense of integrity alongside the predictable luxury. Ferrari says FF owners were using their cars more than any other model in its history, and with the interior updates here you will be looking for any excuse to be in the GTC4 Lusso.
Of course there is one big distraction inside, once you've finished marvelling at the leather and the Apple CarPlay: that V12. This is not simply a mild update of the old 6.2 either, with a higher compression ratio (now 13.5:1, from 12.4), a new piston design and a new exhaust too. The aim was to make the engine faster and more fun, while also improving efficiency and the noise as well. The numbers are staggering: 690hp at 8,000rpm and 514lb ft at 5,750rpm, meaning 62mph in 3.4 seconds, 124mph in 10.5 (!) and 208mph. Four-seater or not, this remains a phenomenally fast car.
On the road, even on mountain passes where you could barely move for cyclists (both pedal and petrol powered), the engine and gearbox combo is glorious. 80 per cent of that torque peak is available from 1,750rpm, meaning it will lug itself along with very little commitment. It's super responsive, very smooth and surprisingly subdued when you need it to be too. Then when you don't need it to be it's absolutely feral; the power and the noise just keep on building to a howling crescendo at 8,000rpm, the speed totally relentless. How usable this will feel in Britain is another matter, but to have your sole means of propulsion as a manic, frenzied, screaming V12 remains a fantastic experience. It's sublime.
Remember when Ferrari first put indicators on the wheel and nobody really got it? This one's packed with buttons and looks a rather strange shape, but it works near perfectly. You'll first notice when you're chasing the redline (again) and realise you can see every bit of the dials perfectly through the slightly squared off rim. Furthermore, such is the dartiness of the Lusso's reflexes (this is a modern Ferrari, after all) that your hands very seldom have to move from quarter-to-three. This leaves you in perfect reach of the indicators, those fabulous paddles and the lights too. It really does work, whatever the situation.
However, the immediacy of the response and the steering's lightness can be a touch disconcerting. The car is certainly calibrated for it - the four-wheel steer no doubt aiding the freakish agility - but to be driving something this large with little more than a wrist tilt (a flick seems too much) does feel bizarre at first.
At those rare opportunities when there is chance (and space) to push the GTC4 Lusso, it begins to make more sense. Relax your inputs and the car is mighty, with the composure and ability of something far smaller. On this test there was no scope for really pushing the fourth-generation Side Slip Control or the latest 4RM Evo four-wheel drive, but what's always present is the sense of balance and rear-driven nature in the GTC4. This is a Ferrari with amazing traction, not some dulled down and understeering GT. Almost as soon as it's dived for the apex, you can jump on the throttle, safe in the knowledge that the car is managing the right power, ESC and damping settings through that SSC. It's not distant either, as you can feel the Lusso driving from an outside rear wheel or (very occasionally) losing some grip at the front. With a little more confidence and greasy conditions, it must be incredible fun.
There are the usual Ferrari hallmarks too: brakes that are brimming with feel and power, that dual-clutch transmission that is beyond reproach and damping that is fluid yet perfectly controlled, even in a car so heavy.
But as someone once said and many others have repeated, it's very easy to make a fast car go fast; the trick is in making a fast car go slowly. That's arguably the GTC4 Lusso's strongest quality, that it can go from wild V12 supercar to serene four-seat GT in moments. Tweak the manettino if you wish, but the Sport setting with the' bumpy road' dampers selected seems to suit so many situations so well. FF customers apparently grumbled that the V12 could be a little too vocal when the situation didn't suit, so below 3,000rpm or so this car is impeccably well behaved. The gearbox slides through ratios seamlessly and the Lusso mooches along like the best luxury saloons, the JBL stereo now probably playing something the passenger would prefer. Yes, they can even do that from their screen.
We tend to be rather dismissive of multi-purpose vehicles and crossovers on PH, but the GTC4 Lusso proves that you can successfully have more than one car under one roof. Sure, that's a hell of a lot easier to achieve when you're selling them for a quarter of a million pounds, but the way it combines supercar performance with genuine practicality and tremendous luxury is quite extraordinary. The FF no doubt fulfilled a similar role, yet this thing has raised the bar again. If you're one of the fortunate few who can afford £240,430 (gulp), then it feels absolutely worth that. The tougher question is working out the viable alternatives. An Aston Vanquish will possibly be more rewarding to drive, but is way down on power and nowhere near as practical. A Rolls-Royce Wraith should surpass the Ferrari for luxury, but is significantly heavier and sullies its V12 with two turbos. And while an AMG S65 Coupe is significantly cheaper and probably just as fast, a Ferrari will surely always be more desirable than a Mercedes.
That's not to say the GTC4 Lusso is perfect. The looks still won't be to all tastes, and neither will the super quick steering. But the way it combines so many talents into one package is truly compelling, to a level that no other rival can quite match at the moment. It will be out of reach for all but the privileged few, but there's currently no more exciting way of getting four people around in such luxury. Plus, if the GTC4 Lusso depreciates like four-seat Ferraris often do, then there's the potential for a sublime Ferrari experience a few years down the line.
Engine: 6,262cc V12
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 690@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 508@5,750rpm
Top speed: 208mph
Weight: 1,920kg (kerbweight with 'lightweight options')
MPG: 18.5 (NEDC combined)