Silvio Calabi: Does ‘FF’ mean Family Ferrari?
If you have to talk your spouse into a Ferrari, the FF is the one, and this is how you do it: No, honey, it’s not a sports car. It’s a hatchback with four seats — there’s room for the kids, the groceries, your mother. It’s got four-wheel drive, for crying out loud, and cruise control. It’s practical! FF buyers even qualify for free scheduled maintenance for seven years, to cover those pesky $150 per hour labor charges and $300 oil changes.
And then you’d take her for a ride. Naturally, you’ll do this on a day when the conditions are marginal, and you won’t dip further than about midway into the gas. This is to emphasize the all-weather capability and comfort of the car, and to calm the misgivings that arose when you held down the Engine Start button. The 6.3-liter V-12 lights off like a clap of thunder, an explosive bark that turns heads for a block around. (You might dismiss this as mere Italian bravado.) Oh, and you should set the drive-mode switch — in Ferrari-speak, the manettino, “hand lever” — at least to Comfort, if not Ice/Snow. This softens the ride and decaffeinates the steering, engine and gearbox so that you may tiptoe around as if you were in any old ordinary super-luxury car, sort of.
The FF can feel fairly docile while motoring along with the other commuters, and it’s possible to forget what you’re driving for minutes at a stretch. Nudge the gas gently and the semi-automatic dual-clutch transmission stays in high gear as the engine digs for torque. Bang the throttle, however, and your wake-up call is a swift double downshift, a riotous blare from the quadruple exhaust cannons and an almighty 651-horsepower shove. Then, mission accomplished, the car will settle back like some fierce beast that’s relaxed but watchful and easy to rouse.
“FF” stands for Ferrari Four, as in four seats and four-wheel drive. Four-place Ferraris have come along before, but this is the company’s first production 4X4. The 4WD system in the FF is unique. While the seven-speed transmission sits above the rear axle—a transaxle—there’s another gearbox at the front of the engine that has two speeds. The first one meshes with first and second gear, and then the second one takes over when the FF is in third or fourth gear. Hit fifth, or about 125 miles per hour, and the front power takeoff disengages. Evidently Ferrari feels that’s the limit for ice or snow, and who are we to disagree? Would you take the FF to its 208-plus-MPH limit on anything other than dry pavement? At most, about 20 percent of the power goes to the front wheels, but both axles can vary the torque from side to side too, depending on need. Four-wheel drive is also available in reverse, but not at all when the manettino is set on Sport. Then, like any other Ferrari, the FF “defaults” to super-high-performance RWD. In any mode, the FF benefits from the latest in electronic traction control.
Ferrari’s patented 4RM system saves about half the weight of conventional 4WD. This, plus the rear transaxle and placing that great lump of an engine behind the front axle, helps balance the FF almost evenly fore-and-aft. For a longish, two-ton car, the FF is highly responsive and, while it doesn’t change direction like a jackrabbit, it carves through sweepers like a TGV locomotive on rails. Switch off the traction control, though, and a good driver can pivot the FF around hairpin bends all day long — to music from the thrilling Ferrari V-12 and clouds of expensive tire smoke from the rear.
But that would be so wrong. Remember, we’re selling this at home as a family car. No spouse could fail to be impressed by the tailored caramel-and-champagne interior, trimmed in black leather, brushed alloy and carbon fiber, or the superb seats and stereo sound, and the spacious, airy cabin. Clambering into the body-hugging rear buckets isn’t difficult (the front seats purr forward and then return to position) and adults are comfortable back there. It’s an especially nice place to be under the available panoramic sky roof.
There’s one last hurdle, of course, to making the case at home: Four-place world domination doesn’t come cheap, or even reasonable. With nearly a hundred grand in options, at least half of which we’d have ordered, this FF’s price tag read $375,087.
- Practicality and world domination in one package
- Nearly-every-day drivability
- Available Ferrari child safety seats (red)
- Four seats need four doors
- Constant threat to operating privileges
- $375,087 sticker
Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.