Will the owners of the 2015 Ferrari FF truly be in a position to load up the back with groceries?
Are they going to throw their climbing/hiking adventure gear in the back, or maybe their rifle and hunting dog?
Can they ever load the whole family in?
Or put a ski rack on the roof and just take slick highways up to the mountain?
Certainly, they won’t.
So is it pointless to make a practical Ferrari?
Some of these questions hang over me during some of days with the FF the past month…
…and thought about doing any of those activities, or putting the FF through anything similar to a normal set of tasks.
The FF brought some additional concerns about the solutions of things like parking dings, of speed bumps or ramps the nose lift still couldn’t quite save me from, of general grime from the outside world, reaching the pristine cabin, of parking practically anywhere, of acting out in mere jealousy, or of leaving the keys with a valet.
After which, I made the decision that those questions are moot:
the FF really need to be treated like a Ferrari.
The 2015 Ferrari FF stays an outlier, but those very reasons why it is an outlier make it a must-have in any collector’s garage…
…no matter if the collection is one of Ferraris, sports cars, or just rare luxury cars.
This model is the only Ferrari in the brand’s history that is being designed from the outset to be a shooting brake, and the first one to have had a special four-wheel drive system which is developed for it.
It might still have all the practical and functional things, and a look just a half-step from a concept car to some eyes, but still it brings all the sensations of a Ferrari from behind the wheel.
Also, it offers equivalent exclusivity and gravitas.
Sexy throughout, reeled in just the right amount
Which is to say that the whole car, in the way that it has been designed and planned, looks like the product of some combination of depravity and excess spliced with engineering perfection.
Is there sex in this car?
Oh yes, it lives and breathes it…
…and the test car wasn’t even the obligatory Rosso Maranello, I might add – but there’s also a sense that it’s a little more reeled-in until the time is right.
The 651-horsepower, 6.3-liter V-12 motor whirs with just the ideal quantity of bravado up to about 3,000 rpm, provided you to hold your right foot light on the accelerator.
Use the manual mode and paddle-shifters, as you should with the F1-derived gearbox, and as you near 5,000 rpm it emits a fantastic roar.
Put it out to near 8,000 rpm, and it is a guttural howl…
…all as the car, somewhat miraculously, seems to have no problem with traction.
Understanding the FF’s mechanical layout:
which some may find at the same time relatively straightforward and utterly ridiculous, is maybe the key to understanding how the FF drives the way it does.
There is a smaller, two-speed transmission (plus reverse) in front of the engine, with the main seven-speed gearbox installed aft:
A viscous clutch pack is here to work the magic between the two, and most likely goes a long way to making brute-force acceleration in the FF remarkably docile…
…muting the shift shock that you feel in the Nissan GT-R, for example.
There are actually advantages and disadvantages to that:
the down side of course is that the FF ends up feeling a little less like an all-out sports car and more like a touring coupe.
However, the system has some actual advantages.
It weighs about 50% less than most all-wheel drive systems.
And also, it keeps the weight and traction bias of the car at the rear.
Moving the FF progressively harder on a mountain twisty road, you can tell that its weight distribution is biased toward the rear (53 percent, regarding to the spec sheet); still as you increase the Gs around some of the tightest corners, you can feel the four-wheel drive system at work, doing what feels like softly turning the car while tightening your line.
Fundamentally still a rear-wheel-drive touring car
On faster sweepers, the FF feels every bit like a rear-wheel drive touring sports car.
But slow it down on the tightest, smoothest hairpin with plenty of runoff, and attempt to find “glorious oversteer” mode (or realistically, anything short of the slight understeer that this car defaults to)…
…and there’s an odd personality change in the car, as the front wheels do not understeer.
There is a tugging from the front wheels, which seemed to be helping rotate the car, in subtle ways.
In effect, it is assisting you to find the way around the corners, but in very various ways than the most supercars or performance all-wheel drive systems.
And while it felt a little juddery around a tight, smooth-pavement hairpin, I can see how this system would shine as soon as the available traction went into the realm of snow, sleet, and rain-slicked roads, allowing something more akin to a drift in which you could tightly control the radius with your hands and right foot.
At that time spent with the FF, the reliably mist (and snowy in the mountains) the Pacific Northwest winter weather was instead clear, crisp, and sun-drenched, sadly.
Once you are on a road that combines low-speed corners and high-speed sweepers, things make even more sense.
It feels like it is everything about torque flow.
Essentially, the system does not bring any power to the front wheels when you are above fourth gear or about 80 mph, whichever comes first…
…whereas in lower-speed corners you’re better-served diverting some of that torque to the front wheels.
Rebelliously civil, for 650+ horsepower
Regarding your passengers, the FF acts remarkably civil, and free of mechanical whines and graunches.
There is something gloriously rebellious regarding the way this car goes about its business…
…about all the power on tap, and the animal let out in high-rpm driving that’s kept mild-mannered otherwise.
Various driving modes affect the drive quality through the magnetorheological shocks, and there is even a bumpy road mode here which allows a little more compliance.
Even though I’ve been up close to the FF before at auto shows and events, as well as out on the street, the other thing that hit me the first time I saw it in my own daily perspective is how long and wide it looks.
It is over 193 inches long, and almost 77 inches wide, but just about 54 inches tall.
Given all the attention that is being paid to the FF’s snow-driving ability, I expected more ground clearance, yet I actually had to back away from a speed bump that the FF might not have cleared…
…even with that optional nose lift.
By the way, that hatch really is quite practical:
You get a floor which is definitely not flat, even though the trunk capacity is 15.6 cubic feet, and can be increased to 28.3 cubes with the folding of the seatbacks.
Otherwise, if the 458 Spider that we drove a few months ago made us surprised with its forgiving nature and brilliant, predictable dynamics, the FF was in the same way awe inspiring for its civility and practical side, as it meets that traditional, howling V-12 touring-coupe side of Ferrari heritage.
The FF is a car that tracks well, offers very good seat comfort and decent ride comfort (the FF was cruised in the ‘comfort’ manettino setting and took to the twisties in ‘sport’), and is not in any way fatiguing to drive near the speed limit.
I could drive it all day, covering vast distance, and not have been worse for wear; and truly, I cannot claim that for a lot of performance cars.
Our chief complaint of the FF was the old, Chrysler-carryover (or Daimler…it’s from those days) head unit…
…until we found that the test car was technically a 2014 model and so didn’t have what is the probably the main upgrade for 2015:
a new head unit.
Ferrari claims that the FF is the first car in the world to be offered with CarPlay, and the new system allows access through core functions and apps – like for maps, calling and messages – through the vehicle’s screen, as a remote extension.
Ferrari, naturally, works on the idea that buyers are going to check a lot of option boxes and customization boxes and end up with a car which is different from any other one in appearance and build.
Yet just be prepared to not at all think in terms of the base price.
By including a liberal amount of the optional equipment:
Some of it reasonably pricey, other pieces of it just plain gasp-inducing…
…you can blow past the $350k mark.
The test car, that included things like a Passenger Display that costs more than $4,000:
Allows your passenger to see your speed and revs…
Plush semi-anilene leather with a diamond-quilted pattern…
And an $18k panoramic roof…
Yes, that is pretty much the price of a MINI Cooper.
The lift kit, a must given the ‘practical Ferrari’ image and lack of clearance in stock form, costs $5,779 and also requires the Advanced Frontlighting System Headlights – another $2,023, so raising the price by $7,802.
The 2015 Ferrari FF is purely an attractive car, a rolling piece of art, and pretty much everything you might expect in something with the prancing-horse pedigree.
To a lifelong shooting-brake fan like me, just the potential for all those practical uses makes it brilliant, and the zenith as worlds collide.