This is an extraordinarily rapid motor vehicle and, perhaps in its own way, the most entertaining car in the current Ferrari range.
Quirk of fate
Eccentricity is a quality rarely found in mainstream brands. And, yes, we'd include Ferraris in that bracket, all things relative.
You know what you're getting with a V8 Berlinetta of course; a yelpy engine, an expertly contrived sense of knife-edge thrills and the ability to convince even the most cack-handed that they're but one step away from the offer of a Scuderia seat. Add to this street presence to inspire a thousand camera phones and you're set. OK, so they're really hoping to capture the moment you punt the car into a piece of Knightsbridge street furniture but, hey, live the dream.
F12 seems to have followed admirably, up to the point it revealed itself to be one of the more crazed supercars of recent times. Either way, both templates have lineages stretching back decades and clearly defined roles in Maranello's product range.
Leaving the FF.
Like the 612 Scaglietti before it, the FF is a fascinating glimpse of what Ferrari is capable of when it decides to cut loose and get creative. And creative it most definitely is, from its inventive part-time four-wheel drive system to its four-seater shooting brake packaging. Credit due too - the temptation to build some manner of SUV, crossover or Aston Rapide style four-door coupe must have been considerable. But no.
selfless sacrifice at the altar of Ferrari's finance division brought us extended insight into life with an FF, the speed with which he used up his self-imposed mileage limit testament to how much he enjoyed it. So why a return to the PH pages for this car, given we've also tested its 'shooting brake' pretensions with an extended roadtrip testing ability to carry firearms and fishing tackle.
Well, Ferrari offered us the key. And given a turbocharged replacement for the magnificent 6.3-litre V12 is pending we thought we'd better enjoy the normally aspirated goodness while we still can.
And enjoy it we did. As Harris found out, the FF has the ability to be, simultaneously, both an event car and something that somehow seems an entirely sensible proposition for everyday use. Which, for a £312K (as tested) V12 Ferrari with dimensions to make your average aircraft carrier blush is some achievement.
How Ferrari will make the turbocharged replacement for this engine prick the hairs on your neck in the same way remains to be seen, the way it goes from low-rev gruffness through buttery smooth mid-range and onto soaring, operatic (sorry, had to be said...) top end is just pure magic. That there's no configurable nonsense to go through to achieve this is refreshing too. At the national limit and with the bumpy road setting selected on the dampers you can cruise with the Manettino in Sport in total comfort and composure, engine and wind noise admirably contained and the world a peaceful and relaxing place. To bring the noise and double the indicated speed in mere seconds requires little more than extension of your right foot. And a hearty sense of denial.
On track - as on the road - it feels like a big old bus. And the odd disconnection of being seated a long way back from a darty, pointy front end takes some getting used to. On winter Sottozeros the FF will punish over ambitious approach speeds by pushing on. But a lift reveals hot-hatch like playfulness to tuck back into line, or you can just moderate your turn-in accordingly. And from there the integrated transaxle gearbox/E-Diff will bleed out any understeer into a neatly contained four-wheel drift. And, as you start dialling in the corrective lock and pondering just how much space is required to gather up an FF on the lock stops, the Power Transfer Unit on the front of the engine wakes up the 4RM system to send some drive torque to the front wheels. Making you look like a complete hero, when all you in fact did was point it in the intended direction of travel and mash the throttle. And it does this with everything switched off too, without feeling dumbed down or like you're being artificially flattered by the technology.
And it does all this with room for the family, the shopping and the sporting lifestyle accoutrements of your choosing. It is, possibly, the perfect car. Better than that it seems there are plenty knocking about in the classifieds too, some bearing the scars of some pretty hearty depreciation.
Rude not to really.
Engine: 6,262cc V12
Transmission: 7-speed transaxle dual clutch rear-wheel drive plus independent part-time 4RM front axle drive system
Power (hp): 660@8,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 504@6,000rpm
Top speed: 209mph
Weight: 1,790kg dry (1,880kg 'kerbweight' for European market version)
MPG: 18.3mpg (NEDC combined with optional HELE package - see below)
CO2: 360g/km (with optional HELE package - see below)
Price: £227,142 before options (£312,743 as tested comprising "Scuderia Ferrari" shields £990; Rosso Corsa brake calipers £864; 20-inch dark painted forged wheel rim £3,552; sports exhaust £432; rear view mirrors cluster dark painted £432; panoramic glass roof £10,560; black rev counter £0; carbon fibre driver zone + LEDs steering wheel £4,434; dashboard inserts in carbon fibre £4,272; carbon fibre central zone £2,400; carbon fibre central tunnel £1,920; exterior sill kick in carbon fibre £1,110; charcoal Alcantara upholstery for upper zone £1,134; charcoal alcantara door panel armrest £732; 'Colour upon request' for Alcantara parcel shelf - charcoal £306; ventilated full electric seats £2,112; 'Colour upon request' for contrasting stitching £348; embroidered prancing horse on headrests £1,248; charcoal leather and Alcantara interior trim £2,592; charcoal Alcantara carpet £1,824; Alcantara boot carpet £816; HELE - High Emotion Low Emission £960; AFS - front lighting system £1,248; privacy rear windows £2,640; front and rear suspension lift system £3,564; front parking camera with Dual View £1,920; Hi Fi premium system £3,552; TV tuner £1,152; rear seat entertainment £3,168; passenger display £2,400; boot storage nets £366; exterior in Rosso 2007 F1 £19,130*; rear spoiler painted 'Nero' £3,020*; stitching on upper dashboard 'Nero' £402*
Total retail price)
*Factory fit ExtraCampionaro Options
Track photos and details: Anthony Fraser