Family Ferrari

BY Brian Harper. Jul 22 04:00 am

PIETRASANTA, Italy — Until Ferrari, iconic constructor of the most lustful sports cars in the world, inevitably succumbs to the temptation of building some ultimate version of sport-utility vehicle, its new GTC4Lusso will have to stand in as the most family-friendly, all-season-capable vehicle in its lineup.

The car, a replacement for the somewhat formal-styled, four-wheel-drive FF, is Maranello’s latest fine-tuning of the shooting brake coupe (a sportwagon in other words) concept, providing four-seat accommodations in a more streamlined, tapered shape that gives it more of a fastback-like profile.

Pictures do not do it justice. Looking at the GTC4Lusso — a model designation that does not trip off the tongue — as a sports car might be hard to swallow for the gentler esthete. As a Grand Tourer, though, it is just that — grand and a tourer. More succinctly, it is striking, being sleek and slippery until just past the rear wheels, where it drops off hatchback-style, ending with a little flip-up spoiler. It’s not just for show, either. The slotted diffuser and rear spoiler, which are integrated with the hatch, help reduce drag and improve aerodynamic efficiency; all the better to assist it in reaching its maximum speed of 335 km/h.

It’s long as well, just under full-size if based on its length, a stretchy 4,922 millimetres from tip to tail, which makes back-seat usage possible if not always practical (at least for those on the plus side of six-feet tall). And, based on what it found with the former FF, Ferrari envisions the GTC4Lusso as more of a family vehicle, with a younger customer base who will make four-season use of the car and on a broader selection of roads. No dilettante, this, to be driven only on weekends or to one’s private motorsport club. There’s actual luggage space, too — up to 800 litres.

According to Ferrari, the GTC4Lusso “references several illustrious predecessors, not least the 330 GTC or 2+2 330 GT, as well as the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso.” OK, why not?

Like its storied predecessors, the GTC4Lusso is fully capable of leaving devastation in its wake if one stomps on the loud pedal. Under that long hood lies a red-faced God of Thunder 6.3-litre V-12 pounding out 690 horsepower, making the GTC4Lusso, says Ferrari, the most powerful car in its segment. Just what that segment might consist of is not clearly defined: Other shooting brakes? High-end sports cars? Jets? Surface-to-air missiles? The engine revs to 8,250 r.p.m., the noise sending vibrations through one’s nibbly bits.

But it’s not as though all the GTC’s power is up top; maximum torque of 514 pound-feet is reached at a far lower 5,750 r.p.m., with 80 per cent already available at just 1,750 r.p.m. Just tickle the throttle anytime you want to send a lesser car scurrying back into its hole.

Unfortunately for Ferraristas wanting a vicarious thrill, there was little high-speed hooliganism, except for the occasional WOT (wide open throttle) through mountain tunnels, just to get the full reverb effect from the exhaust pipes. Our route had us winding inland from Pietrasanta, on the Mediterranean coast, up through the Apuan Alps to the Fortezza di Verrucole, a medieval castle in San Romano in Garfagnana. On the way up the mostly narrow roads, we encountered countless hairpins and switchbacks and spent much time dodging pelotons of bike riders, poky Fiat Pandas and Piaggio delivery trucks, unforgiving Iveco transports and the like. Thus, it was not the magnificent roar of the V-12 at full aria, but the GTC4Lusso’s brilliant 4RM Evo system — which is now integrated with rear-wheel steering — that we ill-treated.

(Tech geekspeak here: 4RM-S (four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering) system was developed around the fourth generation of the Side Slip Control (SSC4) and now also encompasses the E-Diff electronic differential and SCM-E suspension damping. Management of front torque has been improved across the board, but especially, in terms of SS4-based torque vectoring, the faster delivery and distribution of torque to the front axle. The result, says Ferrari, is an improvement in the differentiation and precision of the torque delivery between the two wheels during cornering. At the heart of the system is the innovative PTU, which delivers four-wheel drive while still maintaining 53 per cent of the car’s weight (a total of 1,920 kilograms) at the rear while weighing as much as 50 per cent less than conventional 4WD systems.

The afternoon had us on wider — though still serpentine — roads toward Lucca, where we played with the car’s throttle response (instantaneous) and various modes (Comfort, Sport, Wet, etc.). Handling was superb and the grip from the wide Pirelli P Zero rubber limpet-like. However, the ride, even in Comfort mode, is decidedly skewed to the firm side, with a lot of tire slap over rougher surfaces and tar strips.

Dialed down several notches, the big Ferrari is positively docile; in full automatic mode the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts early and seamlessly, keeping the revs down and doing its best not to make a mockery of fuel economy numbers.

Moving inside, the Lusso’s cabin is a classic combination of sporting business and high comfort. Typical of the latest Ferraris, many of the major controls (ignition, turn signals, suspension damping, drive modes, etc.) are located on the sport steering wheel. A first for the car is what Ferrari refers to as “dual cockpit architecture,” which features both a driver cockpit and a passenger cockpit separated by a central divider on which are clustered all of the “comfort-oriented controls” common to both. On the driver’s side, and thanks to a more compact steering wheel, which is now more compact due to a smaller airbag, the instrument clusters behind the wheel are now more visible. The controls, both primary and secondary are also new and easier to use. On the front passenger side, the control commands are within easy reach, a dedicated LCD touchscreen providing the visual cues. In between the two cockpits, a 10.25-inch full HD capacitive touchscreen heads the infotainment functions.

The GTC4Lusso is not the most beautiful model in Ferrari’s lineup, though, as I said before, it is striking. And the thumbs up, grins and comments we received from the locals when passing — slowly — through towns was immediate confirmation both the car and the brand still provoke strong feelings of lust and yearning. More to the point, the Lusso is clearly the most mainstream model Ferrari has — for now. Four-season usability and four-seat capability make it less of a toy and more of (dare I say it?) a functional family vehicle … admittedly a very pricey and very fast family vehicle for very rich households.

The car will be in dealerships the third quarter of 2016. Pricing has not been announced, though it is expected to carry a sticker of more than US$300,000 in the United States.

— Postmedia Network Inc. 2016

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