Ferrari’s GTC4 Lusso is the closest thing to practical you’re going to get from the brand, but does this added practicality come at the expense of excitement?
Ferrari’s FF was a bit of an oddball when it launched in 2011… and it still is. Not quite a station wagon, nor a conventional sports car, there’s simply no way of pigeonholing it. But the fact it offers genuine four-seater accommodation and V12 supercar performance also means it has no direct competitors.
Despite its practicality and everyday usability, the FF has never been a looker, and few will argue it’s the least visually appealing offering in Ferrari’s line-up. Right on cue, here’s the new GTC4 Lusso replacement, which we’re about to sample in the picture-postcard town of Brunico – aka Bruneck – in the northern tip of Italy.
The ‘GTC’ part of the new name is a carryover from past greats such as the 330 GTC and is an abbreviation of ‘Grand Touring Competizione’, while the ‘4’ is a reflection of the car’s four-seat, four-wheel steering and four-wheel-drive set-up. As for ‘Lusso’, it’s Italian for ‘Luxury’, and the suffix appeared in the past on classics such as the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso.
During the media presentation, we’re told prospective owners of this car “use their Ferrari in a different way” to those who have a 488 GTB or F12 in their garage. To ram the message home, we’re shown images of FFs in snow, on gravel roads and chock-full of Ikea furniture in the rear. We’re also informed that FF owners made 60 per cent of trips with four occupants on board and clocked up 50 per cent more mileage annually than other Ferrari pilots.
But just as everyday usability is a key component of the new GTC4 Lusso (due on sale here in October, priced from AED 1,171,195), so, too, is the naturally aspirated V12 motor, which can trace its lineage all the way back to the 166 S that launched in 1948. Eventually, the V12 will become a dinosaur, but for now we’re here to bask in all its aural and visual glory. That’s why it’s a mild disappointment to discover the mighty 6.3-litre unit is barely audible on tick-over and at around-town trundling speeds.
It’s only when we’re clear of the township of Brunico that the road opens up and presents an invitation to prod the GTC4 in the guts. The V12 motor gains new pistons for a higher compression ratio (it rises from 12.4 to 13.5:1) and there’s also a brand-new six-into-one (per cylinder bank) exhaust system that’s worthy of being displayed as a work of art in your living room.
As a result, power rises from 651 to 680bhp, while torque is bumped from 683 to 697Nm, with 80 per cent of the latter quota on tap from just 1,750rpm. Ferrari quotes a 0-100kph split of 3.4 seconds (3.5 for the FF), and 0-200kph in 10 seconds (11 for the FF). It also pulls up slightly sharper than before, with braking from 100-0kph achieved in 34m (35m for the FF).
So, on paper that’s several boxes ticked already, but out in the real world, the GTC4 generates its acceleration in linear fashion, rather than with the eyeball-squashing violence of the F12 or 488 GTB. The reason for this is that you simply cannot hide 1,920kg of mass. Stretching a tad under 5m from stem to stern and 2m across the bows, the GTC4 Lusso is a huge car (for a Ferrari). It’s also weighed down by the fact it’s stuffed with four full-size seats, AWD hardware and loads of luxo kit.
There’s no doubt the GTC4 is the quietest and most cossetting Ferrari I’ve ever driven...If you blindfolded someone, sat them in the car and told them they were riding in a Bentley, they’d probably believe you.
But how does it all gel on narrow, windy and heavily trafficked roads in the rarefied atmosphere of the Dolomites? There’s no doubt the GTC4 is the quietest and most cossetting Ferrari I’ve ever driven. At bumbling speeds, the V12 recedes into the background with only a muffled hum audible in the cabin. The roads beneath us are scarred with potholes, but these, too, are all but nullified by the MagneRide dual-shock dampers. If you blindfolded someone, sat them in the car and told them they were riding in a Bentley, they’d probably believe you.
The brakes are huge carbon-ceramic stoppers, but they have their work cut out in retarding the almost two-tonne Ferrari. The sheer mass of the GTC4 Lusso means it’s not a point-and-squirt weapon in the vein of the F12 and 488 GTB. You need to pre-plan your line, get your braking done in time and allow the weight of the car to settle before turning in to corners. The key is to get into a rhythm and make the car flow from one bend to the next.
Push hard and you’ll find the GTC4 clings to the tarmac with tenacity, even if you mash the throttle halfway out of a tight hairpin. A three-metre wheelbase and this much weight are normally a recipe for understeer when ragged this hard, but the active rear-steer and aforementioned electronics do their best to disguise the girth of the car.
Precision is required to thread the juggernaut through some of the ultra-tight roads we encounter, but the GTC4 is equal to the challenge. The seat of my pants tells me it’s quicker than a Bentley Conti GT Speed, Aston Martin Vanquish or Mercedes S-Class Coupe across this terrain… but an F12 or 488 GTB would have dusted it.
Aesthetics is a highly subjective area, especially when you’re dealing with an entity that has a pointy snout grafted onto a station wagon rear end but, to my eye – and clearly those of the fawning gawkers who swarmed all over the car at Lake Misurina – the GTC4 Lusso is a discernible improvement over the anonymous-looking FF it replaces.
Penned in-house by Ferrari Design, the GTC4 looks wider and squatter than its predecessor, even though its key dimensions are unchanged. This visual trickery is the result of a broader mouth and L-shaped headlights that extend inwards to create the impression of added width at the front.
The same applies to the rear with a lower, flatter rump housing four taillights, whereas the FF made do with two. The rear glasshouse has been vertically truncated to make for a more tapered derriere, while the flanks have also been substantially reprofiled, with a sharply scalloped lower section alleviating the oldie’s slab-sided look and gills in the front fender replacing the single vent in the FF.
Inside, there’s a pronounced ‘dual-cockpit’ design whereby even the front passenger gets their own display screen (with digital speedo, tacho, gear readout and G-force graphic) to look at. They can also fiddle with the infotainment and HVAC controls via the new 10.25-inch HD touchscreen atop the centre console.
The interior has an airy feel (the two-square-metre glass roof helps immeasurably here) and all four seats are comfortable and impeccably sculpted. There are more useful little storage cubbies scattered around the cabin than was the case in the FF, and Ferrari claims you can stash up to 800 litres of stuff in the luggage bay with the rear seats folded down.
So, as far as everyday usability goes, the GTC4 Lusso is clearly more capable than any other Ferrari has been to date. Yes, it doesn’t dish out the visceral high to substitute for an F12 or 488 GTB, but then, which other supple-riding four-seater out there does?
It’s hard to imagine a more stylish, comfortable and rapid way of crossing continents by land. The fact that the Lusso offers the ability to take your family along for the ride endows it with credentials that are unique in this lofty segment.