High Fives for the Ferrari Four

The FF, the new grand tourer from the magicians at Maranello, is the first-ever four-seat, four-wheel-drive car from the Prancing Horse.

Revealed at the 81st Geneva Car Show March 1, this potent V-12 Ferrari is also versatile, as suitable for highway touring as it is for taking the children to and from school.

Recently, at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver Felipe Massa commented: “It’s a car I like very much, indeed: the perfect combination of performance and usability. I have a son who’s just over a year old now, and this is a Ferrari that you can use with the family without having to compromise on the driving pleasure that only our cars can deliver.”

During that event, Car & Driver awarded it “Most Beautiful Super Car 2011” and Oriental TV, one of China’s largest networks, called it the “Most Popular Imported Car Model at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show.”

“The FF is a radical departure for Ferrari, adding definition to Ferrari’s view of its line of cars,” says Gary Simon, Ferrari/ Maserati sales manager for Scottsdale Ferrari, a Penske Automotive Group dealership, 6825 E. McDowell Road. “There is now a clear divide between what the company views as their ‘extreme cars,’ such as the 458 and 599, and their grand-touring cars, the California and FF.”

An acronym for Ferrari Four (four seats and four-wheel drive), the FF carries the signature design of Pininfarina, suggesting power and aerodynamics and, of course, beauty.

“The shape of the car is brand new, edgy, and very, very different from anything Ferrari has ever done before,” Gary says. “However, give it a closer look, and you will see all the aerodynamic and design elements that make a Ferrari so special; it’s just that this has been accomplished in a very unique way to incorporate Ferrari’s packaging goals.”

In Italy, Quattroruote Editor-in-Chief Carlo Cavicchi blogged after seeing the FF: “I hugged this fascinating car with my eyes: a car planned in every single detail of its form, the interaction of light and shadow on its details.”

Simon adds: “With the FF, Ferrari has answered the requests of its clients to build a car with all the power and handling expected of a Ferrari but at the same time provide more interior space, additional luggage capacity and the capability to use the car in any type of weather.

“This is the first Ferrari in the history of the company that will comfortably seat four adults, carry enough of their luggage for a long weekend and allow them to go anywhere they wish, regardless of weather or road conditions. Want to carry less people and more luggage? Not a problem: Simply fold the rear seat or seats and load in the skis, golf bags or extra luggage and be on your way.”

For sure, Ferrari power isn’t sacrificed to everyday versatility: This is still a vehicle that will prove its worth on the street or the track. The 65-degree direct-injection V-12 roars out 651 bhp at 8,000 rpm and maximum torque of 504 pound feet at 6,000 rpm — with much of this available at just 1,000 rpm. This generates performance figures worthy of any super sports car, with 0–60 mph in about 3.6 seconds. The top speed is approximately 200 mph.

“You give up nothing that makes a Ferrari such a special car,” Simon explains. “The engine produces just five less horsepower than the motor that was used in the 599 GTO — the most powerful production car in Ferrari’s history.”

Some of this performance excellence is attributable to light-weight components: new castings for the engine as well as new aluminum alloys and production processes for the body shell.

A rear-mounted F1-inspired gearbox — the same dual clutch unit used in the 458 Italia and the California — provides smooth instantaneous shifts up or down, Simon notes.

Ferrari’s innovative four wheel drive technology is integrated with the car’s electronic dynamic control system, allowing you to negotiate all types of road conditions. In normal driving situations, power is only delivered to the rear wheels; however, when the car senses a low-grip condition, Ferrari’s Power Transfer Unit delivers a portion of the power to the front wheels and determines how much torque is needed at each wheel to maintain directional control.

“It takes the car only a few milliseconds to respond to changing road surfaces because all of Ferrari’s dynamic vehicle controls are integrated into a single CPU,” Gary says. “It’s a brilliant piece of engineering. Every four-wheel system in use is heavy, cumbersome and places limits on handling. So, Ferrari invented its own system, which is only engaged when road conditions demand.”

In addition, Ferrari’s four-wheel drive system weighs just 95 pounds, less than half of the weight of a conventional four wheel drive system. Because of the low weight of the unit, Ferrari has been able to maintain its excellent weight distribution of 47 percent front and 53 percent rear.

The combination of superlative power-to-weight ratio and rearward weight distribution contribute to the FFs responsive handling and will allow you to enjoy the car wherever you take it and in whatever conditions you are in: city driving, rain, snow or on the track.

Also ensuring the FF does what you want it to do is the latest shock-absorber system (it’s called SCM3) and third-generation Brembo light carbon-ceramic brakes. The pads should last an astonishing eight times longer than Ferrari’s previous versions, Gary says.

Thirty-two colors are available, including six model-specific colors, and the FF interior incorporates high-tech materials such as magnesium for the seats and Frau aniline leathers specially treated to enhance natural softness.

Other options include a new rear-seat infotainment system with two screens for watching TV and DVD and a 1,280-watt, 16-channel stereo system with Quantumlogic Surround Sound.

Gary anticipates a demonstrator in the showroom by December, with deliveries of ordered cars by the first quarter 2012. Expect a base MSRP between $300,000 and $305,000, he says.

“Everything is provided for your convenience with this outstanding new Ferrari,” Gary says. “You provide the key — and the FF will provide the exhilaration of driving.”

Scottsdale Ferrari, 866.415.8548, www.scottsdaleferrari.com