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Ferrari FF (2011) review

Published:24 March 2011

Ferrari FF (2011) review
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A new chapter in Ferrari’s rich history begins with this, the FF. The designation is simply shorthand for ‘Ferrari Four’, and not only is it a two-door 'shooting brake' estate, but for the first time ever a Ferrari has four-wheel drive capability.

This new Ferrari FF sounds intriguing. Does it have conventional 4wd system?

No. Instead the FF has a two-speed ‘box (plus reverse) mounted ahead of the engine that takes its drive directly from the crank. The ‘box drives the front wheels via wet clutches that can adjust the torque going to each front wheel independently (essentially by varying degrees of slip). No transfer diff, no connection to the rear wheels. The advantages are light weight, fast response time and, crucially, the ability to pre-empt wheelspin and start to help the rear tyres before they go beyond the limit of grip and traction. And in perfect conditions the FF should remain completely rear-driven to retain that agility so central to the modern Ferrari experience.

Sounds good, but what about the Ferrari FF's engine?

Wisely Ferrari hasn’t strayed too far from tradition for this new 2+2 GT, which replaces the 612 Scaglietti and will be priced from £227,026. Nestled behind the front axle is a 6.3-litre V12 with a mighty 651bhp produced at 8000rpm and 503lb ft arriving at 6000rpm. The engine features direct injection (great for torque and fuel efficiency) and although related to the 599GTB engine it’s much modified – it even has a unique block. Ferrari claims the FF will cover 0-62mph in 3.7-seconds and go on to 209mph, helped in part by the launch control function of its seven-speed dual clutch transmission.

There’s bewildering tech everywhere you look with the FF, from that patented four-wheel drive system (which also offers torque vectoring on the front diff to reduce understeer), to the latest generation of magnetic dampers that provide greater comfort but much increased roll stiffness, to the E-diff, the third-generation carbon-ceramic brakes and a new and more sophisticated ESC system.

Like the 458 Italia, you tailor the FF’s behaviour with the steering wheel-mounted manettino dial, which uniquely has settings for ‘Snow & Ice’ and ‘Wet’ for the FF. There’s no ‘Race’ setting but off course you can still turn all the aids off and you can select the softer damper setting no matter what position the manettino is set to.

Before we get to the finer points of how the FF feels, I should mention the FF’s GT credentials. Inside it’s beautifully appointed but still has that Ferrari edge to it, with a steering wheel bursting with F1-wannabee controls and a low and excellent driving position. The rear seats are comfortable even for real people (as opposed to the specially bred micro people that most 2+2s are designed for) and a six-footer would have no problem spending a few hours back there. Furthermore the latest SCM3 magnetorheological dampers provide a supple ride and the new multi-link suspension cuts road noise compared to the 612, too. All the better to hear that creamy V12.  

Does it still feel like a proper Ferrari?

This is where things get interesting… because there’s no straightforward answer to that one. The ultra-quick and light steering takes inspiration from the 458 and makes this 1880kg GT feel amazingly nimble. The effortless torque of the V12 is as you’d hope too, although a bit more zing at the top end would be nice. So when you’re flowing along open roads it feels superb. The ride is excellent, body roll well suppressed and the way you can flick between corners with barely more than 1/8th of a turn of the steering wheel makes the FF feel much smaller and lighter than it is. The gearbox is terrific too, snapping shifts through with incredible speed and just enough violence to make it feel like a mechanical process. 

However, that four-wheel drive system – so often invisible in the background – occasionally rears its head quite clumsily on corner exits. Sometimes it seems to work brilliantly to improve traction, other times it seems to kill any yaw and actually creates understeer, which it then adjusts to correct as the road straightens. It’s a curious sensation and robs the FF of that last degree of transparency and fluidity that something like a 599GTB, or even the old 612 Scaglietti, has in abundance.

Of course this is a Ferrari for everyday and as such its only right that it’s not quite as malleable on the limit as the 599 or 458, and the added traction is sure to be a bonus on streaming wet roads. However, that little bit of unpredictability of how the front axle is going to react as you start to go faster is at odds with a chassis that otherwise feels so nimble and so trustworthy. The 4RM system certainly has benefits but it’s not an unqualified success.

Verdict

This is a very special car: effortless, nimble despite its dimensions and it retains that super-exclusive V12 glamour that runs from 456GT through 612 Scaglietti. They’re just cooler than the mid-engined cars. Of course for some the FF will be defined by its controversial looks, which seem to divide opinion like little else. If you like the pumped-up Z3M Coupe shape and you like the idea of an all-weather Ferrari (it even has a 40mm lift system!) then you’ll find little to disappoint. However, if you want 458 Italia thrills, 4-seater practicality and four-wheel drive capability… well, they can’t work miracles at Maranello. Not quite.  

>> CAR had a small altercation with the scenery when we drove the new Ferrari FF. Watch our mini crash on video below!

Specs

Price when new: £227,026
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 6262cc 48v V12, 651bhp @ 8000rpm, 503lb ft @ 6000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, 4RM four-wheel drive
Performance: 3.7sec 0-62mph, 208mph, 18.3mpg, 360g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1880kg/aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4907/1953/1379

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