CAR is reporting live from the Ferrari FF launch in Italy. Join our contributing editor Jethro Bovingdon as he blogs a real-time test drive and delivers the first verdict on Ferrari's new four-seat, four-wheel drive estate. Stay tuned throughout the day as we update Jethro's road test live. NB Start at the bottom and work your way up; all the times are CET (GMT +1hr).
The Ferrari FF launch – Wednesday 23 March 2011
5.00pm: Read Jethro's full first drive CAR review of the Ferrari FF here
4.00pm: End of the day
It's been a long, exhausting day, but it's time to head back and hand the FF back to Ferrari. It's an amazing car, but I'm not sure about the four-wheel drive system; I'll publish a full review tomorrow. We had a minor run-in with a kerb, which derailed some of today's plans so apologies for the patchy reporting. Click here to see a video of our incident!
2.15pm: The looks
Parked up for static shots or sitting alone I will admit the FF looks rather odd. But in amongst traffic, thanks in part to its size, but also to its unique shape and silhouette, it is a very cool shape.
1.47pm: Picking up the pace
We finally find some decent roads, narrow but good. When you're just cruising you can't tell this car is 4wd, and even when driven quickly it doesn't feel that way either: the steering is light and quick, much like a 458's.
It only feels like a four-wheel drive car when you're coming out of tight corners and can feel the front getting drive. It's not a lairy car, it's all about stability and traction, and owners will be best served by leaving their manettino dial in Sport: this setting allows a little slip but not much. It understeers, but only in really tight corners; most of the time, on fast, flowing roads it just feels rear driven.
The gearbox is really good, almost seamless in Auto mode, and really punchy and emotive when the manettino dial is twisted into Sport mode.
Most of the Tarmac of Northern Italy seems to be in the process of being dug up, but at least the workers are out in force, ready to wave, smile and give you the thumbs-up. We're on narrow roads with traffic lights, but as we crawl past every patriotic, neon vest-wearing worker makes the universal hand signal to ask for throttle blips and full-bore starts.
We oblige when and where we can. The V12 is really, really creamy smooth. It's so linear, with a solid lump of torque, but without the crescendo of the 599 or 458 so it perhaps doesn't feel as fast as the numbers suggest. Still damn quick, though.
12.10pm: Is the Ferrari FF better than an Aston Rapide?
The FF is impressing. The refinement of the damping is excellent, and the ride is really good. There's a distinct lack of road noise, and it's comfortably ahead of something like Aston's Rapide limo in terms of its ability to quietly cruise.
The manettino dial doesn't massively change the exhaust note as on a 458, so there's no over-loud bark ever time you touch the throttle pedal. It's smooth and all about the treble, not the deep bassy noise you usually get with V12s.
11.24am: FF figures
Quick recap on the Ferrari FF's headline figures, as I ready myself for the road drive. I like fast cars so let's start with engine, a huge direct-injection 6.3-litre V12. It's good for 651bhp at 8000rpm and 504lb ft at 6000rpm, will blast the FF to 209mph and let it decimate the outgoing 612 Scaglietti in any race. Despite the big engine in the nose the weight distribution is 47:53 front-rear, and although it's a V12 Ferrari estate so owners don't care, the official figures 18.3mpg and 360g/km. I reckon I can get it in single figures today...
Beyond that there's a transaxle dual-clutch gearbox for seamless shifts (Ferrari seems to do twin-clutch transmissions better than anyone else at the moment), and the company's first four-wheel drive system. Dubbed 4RM, it's ligther than a conventional 4wd system and helps the FF hit 62mph in 3.7 seconds. Makes Ben Barry's E63 AMG Estate look slow...
10.59am: The big boot and back seat space
Boot space in a Ferrari? Oh yes, and the photographer's gear is easily swallowed, along with camera gear, while three of us are comfortable inside. An average-sized bloke will be fine in the back, and definitely better off than in a Rapide or Bentley Continental GT.
10.05am: FF on ice
First taste of FF (on Pirelli Sotto Zero winter tyres) on a hellishly tight ice circuit which doesn't give your a chance to get out of second gear. Great demo of traction and the seamless switch to four-wheel drive, but not much else: steering feels very light and quick, engine super torquey and smooth, gearshifts extremely punchy.
Also a great demo of stability control, which seems to allow some slip and then hold you on suspended animation even when you're flat on the throttle. I flick between Comfort, Sport and ESP Off modes and the car feels good. You don't feel power being shunted to the front because that's not the way Ferrari's 4wd system works, but you do feel it pulling you out out of corners and slides.
Now for the road and some real driving impressions...
7.45am: Up and away
We're in the lobby early, then shuttled onto a bus for the short ride to the cable car, then we're climbing 2500m up to our ice track location in the Italian Alps of the South Tyrol region.
We get one lap with test driver Raffaele de Simone (he of 599XX 'Ring record fame) who demonstrates all the electronic systems, then it's my turn...
The Ferrari FF launch – Tuesday 22 March 2011
11.08pm: Bed time
Time to go to bed, ahead of a long day tomorrow. Can't wait to see what a 4wd Ferrari feels like; hopefully much like a rwd one. Tech presentation made my head hurt but test driver says 'closer to 458 than 612 in the way it feels'. Never driven a V12 Ferrari that didn't feel ballistic, so that base will be covered. But will it feel as sweet/mad as a 599? Hope so...
Ferrari has also arranged an ice circuit for FF so my MX-5 racing will help... 160bhp compact rear-driver and 651bhp 4wd should be similar, right? Just hope the roads lower down are nice and dry. Snow great for a laugh but not much else.
Speaking of racing, Ferrari had British Racing Green FF on display. Anyone like it?
>> CAR had a brief collision with a kerb during the Ferrari FF launch. Watch the terrible moment on video below
>> Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know what you think of the new Ferrari FF