Fantastic Four

We drive the back roads near Maranello in the four-seat, four-wheel-drive, 660-hp FF, then talk with GT Technical Director Roberto Fedeli about the car’s creation.

September 2, 2011
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Walking through the original gate of the Ferrari factory is always an exciting experience. But walking through the gate and finding a dark blue FF with your name on it? A different kind of thrill altogether.

This is the first time I’ve seen an FF (which stands for Ferrari Four) in the metal, and I’m impressed by both its presence and its visual compactness. The FF isn’t small, but given that it’s the same size as the 612 Scaglietti it replaces, has a long, tall roofline and sports enough room inside for four six-footers and their carry-on bags, it doesn’t seem big at all.

To my eye, the FF is also a good-looking car: aggressive, hunkered-down and simple. Some of the details don’t quite gel—the 458 Italia-esque headlights seem too extreme and I’m not sure about the front grille’s smile—but the overall design works very well. While the shooting-brake roof has been criticized in some quarters, it looks completely harmonious, and unquestionably Ferrari, in person. And, as is so often the case, photographs do not do this car justice.

While the exterior is a big departure from the rest of the Ferrari lineup, the FF’s interior embraces it. The instrument panel (a center-mounted analog tachometer flanked by a pair of digital screens) and the steering wheel (which features the Start button, manettino, controls for the lights, turn signals and more) are inspired by the 458. The air vents and center stack are updates of those found in the 612. The center console’s bridge, which contains buttons for the gearbox and launch control (and looks a bit like an Xbox 360 video-game controller), is a fresh take on the one found in the California. The seats and door panels are new, but very much in keeping with the California’s flavor.

It’s time to get going. The front-mid-mounted direct-injection 6.3-liter 660-horsepower V12 engine fires with a deep bark. The gearbox defaults to automatic mode at startup; I leave it there and gently push the accelerator. The FF pulls away smoothly, the gate raises in front of me and I stop at the street—where, to my surprise, the car promptly stalls.

A FEW SECONDS LATER, I realize that the FF’s stop-start function, part of Ferrari’s High Emotions-Low Emissions system, has killed the engine. This feature, designed to save fuel and decrease pollution, will be optional on U.S.-bound FFs—American owners apparently not being perceived as environmentally conscious as Europeans. When the light turns green, I lift my foot off the brake and the engine restarts by the time I reach the gas pedal.

Puttering around Maranello, I’m initially struck by two things. First, with the windows up, I can’t hear the engine. That changes when the V12’s revs rise above 4,000 rpm, and a valve opens in the exhaust, allowing a mellow, brassy growl into the cockpit.

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