The Ferrari FF has never been regarded as one of Maranello’s greats. Not even a charismatic V-12 engine and 208-mph top speed could overcome the discombobulation induced by a car with wagonoid styling and all-wheel drive wearing the Prancing Horse badge. Ferrari won’t release sales figures, so it’s hard to know whether the FF was a success, but the gossip among the Ferraristi—vehemently denied by the factory—was that buying one became a shortcut to being shortlisted for the next special edition from Maranello. The 2017 Ferrari GTC4Lusso turns all that nonsense on its head. For this is a wagonoid all-wheel-drive Ferrari that is truly, deeply desirable.
Just as well, because appending the Lusso name to the FF’s successor invites comparison with what is still widely regarded as the most beautiful road-going Ferrari of all time—the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso from the early 1960s. But it’s semantics, nothing more. “Lusso” means luxury in Italian, and the term is used on this new Ferrari in a purely literal context. GTC4Lusso describes, simply, a luxurious gran turismo coupe whose engine drives all four wheels.
The GTC4Lusso is built around the same basic hardware as the FF, though virtually every component has been upgraded or improved. The naturally aspirated, 6.3-liter V-12 under the hood now delivers 29 more horses—680 hp at 8,000 rpm—thanks primarily to a careful redesign of the engine’s combustion chambers that includes an increase in the compression ratio from 12.3:1 to 13.5:1. The highly sophisticated engine management system can fire each spark plug up to three times per cycle at lower revs, improving drivability and fuel consumption. It also recognizes the effective octane of the fuel in real time and adjusts the park advance in each cylinder during each cycle, thus avoiding detonation.
The GTC4Lusso’s all-wheel-drive system, called 4RM-S, is an evolution of the innovative 4RM setup of the FF. Drive to the front wheels is via a small gearbox—Ferrari calls it a power takeoff unit (PTU)—with two forward gears and a reverse that’s bolted to the front of the crankshaft and uses a wet multiplate clutch to engage each front wheel as needed. The two forward ratios are, respectively, geared slightly taller than second and fourth gears in the rear-mounted, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. While up to 20 percent of the engine’s 514 lb-ft can be sent to the front axle, up to 90 percent of that can then be directed by the PTU to a single front wheel. The big change over the FF is the integration of active four-wheel steering, a first on a Ferrari gran turismo. Developed from the setup first seen on the track-rat F12tdf, the GTC4Lusso’s system does all the usual rear-steer tricks to enhance stability and agility, plus what Ferrari calls thrust-vectoring control, the ability to turn only the inside rear into the corner to further improve chassis response under certain conditions.
You would expect the GTC4Lusso’s relatively long 117.7-inch wheelbase and its 47/53 percent front/rear weight distribution to deliver somewhat languid transient responses and relatively neutral handling that devolved into mild understeer at the limit. But on the tight, twisting roads through Italy’s Dolomite mountains, the GTC4Lusso felt like Ferrari’s vehicle dynamics team had rewritten the laws of physics.
There is no understeer. None. No matter how hard you push—and with that magnificent V-12 up front delivering 80 percent of its torque at just 1,750 rpm and an endless surge of power all the way to its 8,250-rpm redline, you can push very hard indeed—the GTC4Lusso simply goes where it’s pointed. You can feel the front end snuffling around a little on straight roads at low speeds as the tires track the contours in the tarmac, but as speeds rise, the steering is perfectly weighted and wonderfully concise.
Kick the big V-12 hard in the guts out of a tight turn, and you might get a tiny wriggle from the rear end before the GTC4Lusso hunkers down and lunges for the next corner. But that’s it. The traction is stupendous. The ride quality is remarkable, too. This coupe, 193.8 inches long, 78.0 inches wide, and 4,232 pounds, dances over wicked frost heaves in the Italian mountain roads like a prima ballerina, breathtakingly light-footed and delicate in its body motions yet beautifully composed and tightly controlled at all times.