I knew from reading the specifications and other reviews that the Ferrari FF would be fast. But it wasn’t until I came out of turn three at Road America in second gear, hammered the accelerator and quickly blipped the shifter through the gears to fifth going from 70 mph to 132 mph in a matter of seconds that I really understood how fast.
Unlike most street cars where the torque is available at in the lower end of the rev range, the 6.3L V12 engine in the Ferrari FF doesn’t reach its peak torque output of 504 lb-ft until the tach hits 6,000 RPM. And you won’t feel every one of it’s 651 horses until you spin it all the way up to 8,000 RPM. Those are just two of the cues that remind you the FF is not a luxury sports car, but a race car that has luxurious features and appointments.
The ghosts of Ferrari’s glorious racing heritage inhabit almost every inch of this car.
The double-clutch 7-speed semi-automatic transmission shifts more quickly than any I’ve ever experienced. Just touch the paddle shifters and before you can shout “Enzo”, the FF is in another gear. Whatever Ferrari engineers have learned from the gearbox in Kimi Raikkonen’s F1 car, has definitely found its way into this unit.
Another nod to Ferrari’s racing heritage is the steering wheel. Not only is it made from carbon fiber and hand-sewn leather, but it incorporates all the controls you use regularly right at your fingertips. There are no stalks for wipers and signals. These are controlled by buttons that can be operated by your thumbs without ever taking your hands off the steering wheel. Along the top of the wheel are sequential red LEDs that light up as you reach the redline, letting you know that it’s time to shift. And then there’s the drive mode control which allows you to change the car’s performance characteristics just by twisting the aircraft grade aluminum switch.
The deep bucket seats aren’t exactly what you’d expect in a luxury car either. While the leather is rich looking, buttery soft and smells terrific – upon first entering the FF my wife commented, “It’s like I’m sitting in a Coach handbag” – they are very firm and supportive. They’re designed not so much as to make you comfortable over a long haul as keep you comfortably in place while you’re hauling a** over your favorite winding road.
The brakes are overlarge, carbon ceramic discs that are capable of stopping the 4,145 pound FF from 60 to 0 in about 115 feet over and over again without fading. This kind of performance, while useful on the street, is what you expect in a competition GT car that’s designed for trail braking through the corners at Monza, Spa or Le Mans.
Then there are the suspension and steering systems which even in comfort mode translate every nuance in the surface below up to your seat and hands. If you’re not willing to participate fully with four of your five senses (I’m not sure where taste comes into play with the FF) in piloting a luxury performance car, the Ferrari FF is probably not for you.
This doesn’t mean you can’t drive the Ferrari FF through the city to your favorite restaurant or use it to commute to work. It is after all a four-seater. The engine works just fine at low RPMs. And, even though the car both long and wide, the FF doesn’t feel nearly as big as it appears from the outside. It’s just that cruising in urban traffic is not the FF’s natural environment.
When you do get it into its natural environment, the FF is nothing short of revelatory. Run the engine up to 6,000 RPM and it sings to you in a lovely operatic tenor that would make Caruso jealous. Touch the throttle and you’re up to the 8,200 RPM redline before you can catch your breath. It happens so quickly, there’s no time to check the tachometer, which is why the LEDs across the top of the steering wheel are not just helpful, but essential.
And don’t bother with the suggested speeds posted before curves in the road. The only limitation I found in the FF when blasting through a particularly twisty section of my favorite two-lane country road was my line of sight. Even when driving through a blinding downpour just before sunset, with the FF set in Wet mode I never felt anything but total confidence behind the wheel.
In fact, driving the Ferrari FF is so inspiring that it’s easy to forget it holds four adults and their luggage comfortably, that is until your rear seat passengers politely request that you moderate your speed just a bit if you don’t mind, really, please, thank you very much.
My FF was painted in a handsome and understated Grigio Silverstone grey and equipped with panoramic glass roof that completely opened up the interior. If you’re planning on carrying passengers, this is a must-have option. As is the passenger information display panel which allows the person in the right seat to see your speed at all times so he or she can then brag to his or her friends how fast they went in a Ferrari.
There are 16 very useful cubic feet of trunk space behind the rear passenger seats and you can optimize that space by ordering Ferrari’s custom made luggage. The seats also fold down to accommodate golf clubs, antiques or skis.
Yes, skis. Did I forget to mention the Ferrari FF is all-wheel drive? It is.
This is truly the first all-weather Ferrari ever produced. It employs Ferrari’s exclusive 4RM all-wheel drive system which adds a second transmission to the front of the engine and transfers as much as 20% of the power to the front wheels when necessary in gears one through four. The advantage of this design is that it’s 50% lighter than traditional all-wheel drive systems. While I wasn’t able to experience it for myself, I’ve been told by others who’ve driven the FF that it works flawlessly. And to prove it Ferrari offers a winter driving experience in Aspen, Colorado so owners can learn the proper driving techniques to get the most out of their car.
Now let’s tackle the very large elephant in the garage – the most controversial part of the Ferrari FF – its design.
With a front end that bears more than a passing resemblance to the F12, there’s no denying this car comes to the streets directly from Maranello. When you walk around to the side and the see long doors and flowing lines sweep up to a utilitarian hatchback, it looks like the bulked up great-great grandson of a Volvo 1800ES. Some have criticized the car for this design and while I wouldn’t call it a stunner, I think the designers at Ferrari’s long-time partner Pininfarina have done an admirable job of creating a shape that accommodates four adults and looks like it belongs in the family. I may be in the minority, but I’ll go on record as saying this is a good looking car and challenge anyone to design a four-seat race car that looks the part more than the FF.
In then end it doesn’t really matter, because the only view I cared about was the one from behind the steering wheel and the absolute joy I got from driving this car as it was intended over some of the best roads in the Midwest.
I do have one caveat for anyone who’s considering spending $375,000 on an FF like ours: Be prepared to be an ambassador for the brand.
Everywhere and every time you stop, you will be approached and asked questions about the FF. You will be asked to open the hood to show off its beautifully designed 12-cylinder power plant. And, requests will come to hear its mighty roar. My favorite moment came as we were crawling through a traffic jam on the interstate. Four young men in a brand new Chevy SS pulled up next to us and shouted, “Come on, let’s hear it!” Not wanting to disappoint, I pulled both paddles, slipping the FF into neutral and let my right foot play a little melody with the throttle for a few seconds. They responded with hoots, hollers, thumbs up and one well-chosen word, “awesome.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.