When it comes to understanding the latest generation of Ferrari models, the 458 Italia works as a useful guideline. Certainly when compared to the F430, which represented the highest expression of the eight-cylinder Ferrari, the 458 seemed a radically new departure. The two cars have almost nothing in common, if one excludes the V8 midengined configuration. The FF symbolises a similar break from the past; a completely new direction from the 2+2 V12s that went before it. This is a model that has been created from a totally clean slate, setting a template for the development of future cars that will have nothing to do with their predecessors.
There’s revolution in the air, as Managing Director Amedeo Felisa explains: ‘To plan the FF we started by analysing the two earlier 2+2 models: the 456 GT and the 612 Scaglietti. Experience has shown that they were cars that were perhaps a little too distant from the Ferrari spirit, they were too refined. In addition, their luggage compartments didn’t have enough space for a car designed to be used by four people. Two couples would have had a little difficulty carrying their baggage for a weekend. And the rear seats, although spacious, could have been better.’ In addition, when it came to Ferraris for everyday use, they lacked a final requirement, something fundamental in many countries that are cursed with bad weather: four-wheel drive, renamed by Ferrari as 4RM (Quattro Ruote Motrici). Felisa, with his deep roots in engineering, acclaims the FF as the first in a new generation of V12 cars: ‘It has been created to be a 2+2. It isn't just a 599 GTB that has had an extra pair of seats installed into it. But it has also been created to be an authentic Ferrari, with performance levels that meet the expectations of people who buy one of our cars.’ This rational approach begins to trace a perfect outline of this new model with its aim of positioning itself, in relation to the 599 GTB Fiorano, in exactly the same way as the California is positioned in relation to the 458 Italia. ‘Different Ferraris for different Ferraristi,’ as Chairman Montezemolo likes to say.
Look closely at the images of the car on these pages and you might experience a slight feeling of disorientation on discovering such an unexpected Ferrari for the first time. The FF sits in a large, rather metaphysical space, in which the ritual of the car’s encounter with harmony, strength, surprise and love takes place. Love for a model that brings together spectacular performance, with its 660bhp, and a 30 per cent reduction in consumption and emissions; large internal space and undreamed of storage possibilities; functionality in all conditions, thanks to that four-wheel drive; and a sober and very personal style for everyday use.
All of the car’s features are striking, but the real surprise is that this is the first Ferrari to offer four-wheel drive. ‘The car has an excellent architecture that does not need to be corrected by four-wheel drive’, Felisa emphasises. ‘Its purpose is to improve the car’s qualities by supplying, on the one hand, a more entertaining drive on very low grip surfaces and, on the other, a feeling of safety and peacefulness. With this drive solution, which is in fact very light [about half the weight of usual systems], we avoid complexity and unnecessary weight.’ The system employs the front wheels only when the rear axle does not manage to use all of the torque. Does the driver actually have to do anything? ‘The system works independently: the concept of the car is based on the fact that, thanks to its weight distribution 47/53 front to rear, to the size of its tyres and to its control system, the vehicle needs no correction. The all-wheel drive is used whenever the rear axle does not succeed in transmitting the torque. When these conditions do not apply the system has no need to go into action.’
It seems to be almost an extension of the traction control system to the front wheels; a kind of full traction control with maximum efficiency created by the synergy of all on-board systems. ‘Exactly,’ Felisa nods. ‘It works when it’s needed and is integrated with the ABS, ASR and stability control systems. In practice, it puts together the optimum settings and the driver has only to choose the position on the manettino. Each position modifies the entirety of the way things work: as you exit conditions of low grip, the functions change back towards those of a classic Ferrari.’ Examining the cabin, with its spacious seats and easily enough comfort for four people, it’s notable that there’s ample room for three passengers and a real driver’s station at the wheel. ‘This is a real Ferrari, with high performance and remarkable cornering agility. The steering wheel has all the functions on it, from the start button to the gear change. We have extraordinary know-how in this area. For the passengers, the seats are comfortable and enveloping, as well as spacious. And passengers can have, if requested, their own small dashboard on which they can receive all the information on the vehicle’s performance.’ Looking at these features in detail, you can't help wondering what competition there will be between the FF and the 599 GTB. ‘There won’t be any,’ Felisa insists. ‘In the sense that these two models are conceptually different, in the way that the California and the 458 Italia are conceptually different. The choice will be guided by the customer’s preferred type of use. What we have to guarantee, and we are doing so, is that when the customer for each one of these cars sits behind the steering wheel, he feels himself unmistakably to be in a Ferrari.’ The photo shoot held at the Hangar Bicocca, a contemporary art museum in Milan, provided the perfect opportunity to observe the FF at length. This vast space is dominated by the towers designed by German artist Anselm Kiefer, and they give the atmosphere a metaphysical aspect. The car looks compact and agile, revealing its extraordinary power-to-weight ratio of scarcely 2.7kg per horsepower. Its great versatility is evident too; not only can it carry skis, two golf bags or a raft of suitcases but also, as the photographs show, it can even comfortably accommodate four acrobatic dancers without asking them to perform any painful contortions. Even though he had only just returned from attending a ceremony marking the 999th Ferrari delivered in China, Felisa betrayed no signs of tiredness.