Life With Lusso

Ferrari’s V12-powered GT boasts 690 horsepower and a 208-mph top speed, along with four seats and a generous trunk. Does the GTC4Lusso deliver on its compelling, dual-purpose description?

Life With Lusso 1
October 20, 2017

It’s rare for exotic cars to be driven daily, and there are many reasons for owners not to do so: comfort, space, fear of damage, fear of depreciation due to mileage. That said, modern-day exotics are capable of handling the daily grind, and a few are essentially designed for it. The Ferrari GTC4Lusso (just Lusso hereafter) is one of these machines; it’s practically an every-day dream car.

So that’s exactly how I treated this Lusso during the week Ferrari of North America left it with me. (Not that there was any way I was going to let the thing sit motionless a second more than required, of course.) And what do I usually do in my car? The usual: commuting to work, taking my son to school, getting groceries, and, when the chance arises, having fun. On the first night, brand-new Ferrari in hand, fun means driving into nearby San Francisco to show it off.

The first thing most people notice about the Lusso is its size. At just over 16 feet in length, the second-longest Ferrari ever built—the late ’60s/early ’70s 365 GT 2+2 “Queen Mother” still holds the title—is a couple of inches shorter than a Maserati Ghibli, but it boasts far more sleekly refined presence. While enthusiasts are split about the car’s looks (one Porsche driver asks if I’ve forgotten the dog to go with the station wagon, and no one likes the front fender “gills”), the public at large loves it.

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From behind the wheel, the Lusso’s dimensions are most noticeable around town, whether I’m threading my way through traffic or, worse, trying to park without either curbing the wheels—up front, the spokes protrude beyond the tires—or knocking off the front splitter. I almost did the latter about 10 minutes after I picked up the car; after that, I relied on the front-mounted camera to properly place the nose in tight situations. The rearview camera makes backing up easy.

Although optional, the Lusso’s suspension lift system will appeal to most owners who care about scraping the underside of their car. Ground clearance is excellent in most situations, but the Ferrari’s nose can easily touch down on steep driveways. Activating the system raises both the front and rear ends by about two inches. The process takes a few seconds, which can be awkward if there’s a line of traffic behind you, but it can be triggered while moving at low speed, so with a little forethought I’m usually able to just drive straight in and/or over.

Even if I misjudge the timing, the Lusso’s cockpit is the perfect place to wait. It both looks and smells first-class (every passenger commented on the rich scent of the car’s leather), and where the FF’s cabin was nice, the Lusso’s is truly special. The steering wheel and aluminum shift paddles feel wonderful in my hands; the extra-large central screen is sharp and nicely integrated; the dashboard is sleek and sculpted. The ergonomics, once I decipher the controls, are superb. It’s the best-looking, most luxurious Ferrari interior I can remember sitting in, which makes the car’s occasionally edgy ride quality a little surprising.

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The issue isn’t that the car rides harshly—it’s usually a stretch to call it firm—it’s that Ferrari has spoiled us with the astonishingly serene ride quality of cars like the 458 Italia and, most of all, the California T. Given the Lusso’s dimensions and mission, I (and most other drivers) expect it to feel like a luxury sedan. It doesn’t, but given the car’s performance once the roads open up, it’s a very, very small compromise I’m happy to accept.

IT TAKES ONE FLAT-OUT RUN into hand-cuff territory to forever erase any concerns about ride quality. As the 690-hp engine roars, the Lusso leaps forward, hunkers down, and becomes one with the road. The transformation is impressive: The Ferrari suddenly feels pinned, planted, calm, unshakeable, smooth, and involving, with even serious ridges in the tarmac being dispatched effortlessly under its wheels. It only gets better as speeds continue to climb; the Lusso feels like it could run comfortably at high triple-digit speeds all day long.

While I’m not surprised the Lusso comes alive at higher speeds on the freeway, I’m stunned to discover it feels nearly as capable bounding down Northern California’s patchy, craggy back roads. Ferrari lists the car’s curb weight as 4,233 pounds, but thanks to its sharp steering and magnetorheological shock absorbers, it certainly doesn’t feel, or drive, like it. Body motion is well controlled even over the worst bumps and yumps, with no hint of bottoming out, quick adjustments keep the car on whatever line I choose, and the Ferrari somehow puts down the power and surges ahead smoothly no matter how rough the road underneath. There’s not a lot of feedback through the wheel—the chassis communicates more—but the steering’s speed and weighting are spot-on. The giant carbon-ceramic brakes are easy to modulate and suitably powerful.

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Perhaps most impressive of all is how natural the Lusso’s responses feels, despite all the electronic trickery at work. In addition to its innovative all-wheel-drive system (as on the FF, the front wheels are spun by a two-speed transmission bolted to the front of the engine), this Ferrari features the marque’s full laundry list of driver’s aids: an electronic rear differential, rear-wheel steering, F1 Trac traction control, SSC (Side Slip angle Control), and more, all of which work together with each other and the aforementioned SCM-E suspension. Aside from the car staying on the road, there’s no tangible clue to suggest I haven’t inherited Kimi Raikkonen’s driving talents overnight.

On second thought, the most impressive thing about the Lusso on these back-road tarmac rally stages is how much fun it is; two months after the fact, I can’t help but grin when telling the story. It’s more enjoyable than on similar but smooth roads. There, the Ferrari’s incredible grip and traction are gently tempered by a hint of hesitation on turn-in and a little too much roll in quick transitions. Put another way, in a better environment, the Lusso’s GT-ness knocks a little edge off its sporting game. That’s not a knock against the car, though; it’s not trying to be an 812 Superfast, after all.

The Lusso may be 100 horsepower down to Ferrari’s flagship, but I never wish for more power. As you’d expect, Ferrari’s 6.3-liter normally aspirated V12 is a gem, just as happy to be lugged down to 1,000 rpm as it is to rev up to its 8,250-rpm redline. It also propels the Lusso to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds, and on to a top speed of 208 mph. There’s no particular reason to shift most of the time, given the V12’s flexibility and 514 lb-ft of torque, but more often than not I put the transmission in Manual in order to keep the engine in its sweet spot, where it pulls ever harder from around 4,000 rpm on up.

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The Lusso’s engine howls a hollow, highish-pitched song, one that’s never too loud for the civilized cabin, even when the windows are down. Cruising along at 70 mph, the Ferrari’s cockpit is hushed, aside from some barely audible tire noise.

IT’S 8 A.M., time to head to school. My son and I hop into the Lusso, sniff the leather-scented air, and I fire the engine. I then raise the suspension so we can get out of the driveway, and we head down the road: windows lowered, transmission in Automatic, manettino in Sport. After some experimentation, I never use Comfort mode, as it makes the transmission rush even more quickly into seventh gear (when in Automatic) and leaves the Lusso feeling a little loose in even modestly quick corners. Besides, Sport mode, after I push the Suspension button on the steering wheel, feels just as comfortable.

I’ve read several reviews that describe the Lusso’s seats as hard, or too hard, but I disagree. The seats are indeed firm, but to me, at least, they’re not uncomfortable. I spend far more hours in the Ferrari than I normally drive during a typical week, and never once emerge from the car stiff or sore. Just as important, the front seats offer more support in corners than I expect from their appearance. The rear seats are suitable for actual adults, though some flexibility is required to climb in and out.

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Anyway, the entire five-mile school run is completely unremarkable. My son, sitting in back, spends the time peering up through the glass roof (this must-have option completely changes the experience of sitting in the back of a car), while I fiddle with the (optional) CarPlay and my apparently too-old iPhone. I have to raise the suspension and angle the car sharply to get into, and out of, the school’s parking lot, then one of us has to struggle to reach the passenger-door handle so he can get out. Not surprisingly, any number of people offer to open the door from the outside, and take the opportunity to stick their head in and look around. Then it’s time to get back on the road, engine purring.

Actually, the engine isn’t always purring during such mundane travel, because, in order to save fuel, a Stop-Start function shuts it off at stoplights. The V12 restarts when I lift my foot off the brake, but it isn’t instantaneous; it takes just long enough for any impatient driver behind the Ferrari to honk his or her horn. The key, which anyone who regularly drives their Lusso in traffic will quickly figure out, is to lift off the brake about a second before I expect the light to go green. Or just disable the function entirely.

My drives to work, the grocery store (the Lusso’s trunk will comfortably hold a cart’s worth of groceries), soccer practice, the movies, and so on are equally unremarkable, normal even, aside from deciding where to park in a crowded lot and taking regular opportunities to stomp on the loud pedal and attack exit ramps just for the thrill. (Okay, I do the latter all the time, just usually much more slowly.) Nighttime driving reveals one more desirable option: AFAS headlights that brightly illuminate the inside of the corner I’m turning into.

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After a week defined by a mix of eye-popping speeds and shuttling other people’s Ferrari-loving kids to and fro, it’s time to say good-bye to the Lusso. Aside from having to stop at gas stations more often than usual, the big Ferrari slotted almost invisibly into my life yet never failed to put a smile on my face. I had been skeptical about Maranello’s claim the Lusso was more sporting and more luxurious than the FF, a machine we called “the best car Ferrari makes,” but now I’m a believer. It’s that good.

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Also from Issue 162

  • Portofino preview
  • One-of-a-kind 375 MM
  • Ferrari's 70th Anniversary celebration
  • Visiting Ferrari's 70th Anniversary
  • Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
  • Driven by Emotion at Pebble Beach
  • F1: Seventh-inning slump
  • FORZA Tifosi Challenge: 360 title chase
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