The Ferrari FF is not the first car from Maranello to pop into the minds of a person with an average to middling interest in cars. When you tell people Ferrari are giving you an FF for the weekend, they screw up their nose and look at you a bit funny.
When you explain it’s a four-seat, all-wheel drive V12 coupe, there’s a flicker of recognition before the light comes on. “Oh, you mean the one that looks a bit like a two-door wagon?”
Yep, that’s the one.
One step from the top of Ferrari’s “normal” range is where you’ll find the FF. The entry level California might have four seats but fitting four actual humans in it will be a pretty tough ask, so if you want to carry friends or family, the FF is the Ferrari for you.
Starting at $624,646, the FF may not be for everyone’s bank account, however. For that substantial sum you get bi-xenon headlights, auto wipers and headlights, front and rear parking sensors withe reversing camera, cruise control, heated electro-chromatic rear vision mirrors, 20-inch alloys, five driving modes, electric seat and steering wheel adjustment, dual-zone climate control, double-glazed windows, electric bootlid and anti-theft protection.
In a nod to how infrequently these cars are used by their owners, the FF comes with a trickle charger and fitted cover.
Our car had been specced with the devil-may-care attitude of an investment banker after a massive bonus/whisky bender. Many of the options came from Ferrari’s Tailor Made program, which allows prospective owners to choose every stitch of thread and scrap of cloth, in this case $147,000 of tartan cloth linings (yep), amazing three layer paint, RMSV wheels and a fitted golf bag with yet more tartan ($11,500).
The total options list came to $295,739. On top of the Tailor Made splurge, this included the panoramic glass roof ($30,000), lots of carbon fibre pieces in the cabin, carbon steering wheel with LED shift lights ($13950), white tacho, Apple CarPlay ($6790) and iPad mini fittings for the rear seat passengers.
There’s more, but you get the picture. You can make a Ferrari yours and yours only and virtually nobody buys a Ferrari without ticking a few boxes.
We’ll come right out and say it looks a bit odd. Proportionally-speaking, it shouldn’t work – there’s a lot of bonnet, with a gap between front wheel and door you could almost fit a Smart ForTwo in. The 20-inch wheels help swing things back in favour as it lowers the look of the car and helps offset the cab-back stance. It looks way better in person than in the photos.
It’s not ugly but not as distinguished as the 458 or as beautiful as the F12. From the front, though, it is pure Ferrari – gaping grille with prancing horse, long backswept headlights with trademark LED stacks. It certainly has presence.
Inside it’s suitably stylish. Ferrari has a minimalist approach to the interior, the FF going for luxury over sporty. The big front seats are super comfortable. The rear buckets, carved into the rear bulkhead, were deep and comfortable enough for a sturdy six-footer who volunteered.
The FF has four airbags. ABS fitted to mighty carbon ceramic discs and stability and traction controls. There is no ANCAP star rating for perhaps the obvious reasons.
Our FF came with Apple CarPlay. When plugged in via USB, an iOS-style interface replaces the standard Ferrari one (which in itself is quite good). The nine speaker stereo is impressively powerful, but we didn’t use it much…
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Ferrari’s 6.3 litre V12 is jammed hard against the firewall to make the FF effectively a mid-engined car. There’s room in front for a another boot if it weren’t for pesky (pretty) cold air intakes. At an ear-pleasing 8000rpm the twelve cylinders produce a whopping 495 kW, with the maximum torque figure of 683 Nm arriving 2000 rpm earlier.
The seven-speed twin-clutch transmission drives all four wheels. Drive is, naturally, rear-biased with the Italian company’s F1-Trac rear diff ensuring things won’t get out of hand. Foot flat, you’ll reach 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and 200 km/h in 10.9, while destroying the claimed 15.4L/100km combined fuel average. In a couple of days of mostly enthusiastic driving we used about 20L/100km.
Stepping into an FF is nothing like the harder, lower F12. The long door swings open easily and with its extra ride height, it’s easy to drop into the driver’s seat. The squared-off wheel features all of the controls you’ll need, including the inviting red starter button. The manettino control allows you to switch between drive modes – Snow, Wet, Comfort, Sport and ESC Off.
Above the starter button is a ‘bumpy road’ button to soften things in the active dampers – particularly useful on what passes as well-surfaced Australian roads.
The thing about the FF is it’s so utterly usable in every day driving. Like the California T, there’s little in the driving experience – if you restrain yourself – to mark the car out as the monstrously capable thing that it is. It will behave itself, almost wafting, as you make your way around. It borders on easy to park and manoeuvre, no worse than any other car that’s a tick under five metres long, although most of that is bonnet. The width is what can make things tricky.
Its length and weight mean nothing when you flick up to Sport – the dampers stiffen up, the throttle needs less travel and the whole car feels engaged, ready. We’re ready – there’s a tremendous set of bends ahead. Activate launch control (for the twelve year-old inside) and rocket to 100 km/h before the first corner, which is obscenely close all of a sudden
The huge perforated brake pedal acts on a set of gigantic carbon ceramic brakes. That first turn will tear your eyes from their sockets as you stand on the pedal, thinking you’ll need all of that braking power. The FF comes to a composed yet brutal stop, or would if you stayed on the brakes. It’s much more fun to get back on the accelerator, windows down, and listen to the car talk to you, through your ears and palms.
As you gain confidence, which happens very quickly indeed, you will learn that while the FF doesn’t have the lightness of touch found in the 458 and F12, it’s no slouch.
The V12 is absolutely glorious, filling the valley we’re in with that unmistakeable sound, a businesslike crack with every pull of the right paddle.
The various electronic systems and brilliant F1-Trac diff provide you with extraordinary grip while still delivering buckets of fun.
Under power the front end does have a tiny bit of initial understeer, betraying that a little bit of the power is going through the front wheels. While it isn’t tail-happy like the rest of the range, the FF’s poise and composure mean it’s a more comfortable car to be going flat-out.
Flat-out being a relative term, of course, keeping in mind the certain disaster of falling off a public road lined with trees, a guard rail and a long drop into a river.
Even on our tremendously bumpy test loop, the FF holds the line with implacable capability and rewards with just enough latitude from the traction control to make you feel a little bit heroic.
SUMMING UP 4.5/5
The Ferrari FF is a mightily impressive car. While the performance and handling are dialled back to make it a comfortable GT car, it’s still colossally fast. Just as importantly, it’s a car that keeps a smile plastered across your face no matter what you’re doing in it. While it’s well out of the range of mere mortals like us, hearing one coming your way is some of the best free entertainment on offer.
The FF has its haters but this is almost entirely unjustified, based on some mythical purist view of the brand. There’s no reason a car like this shouldn’t exist and it absolutely deserves its Ferrari badge.
LIKES: Soaring engine note, usability, practicality (no, really!)
DISLIKES: Optional carbon interior bits a bit cheesy, optional tartan very cheesy, doorhandles seem a bit cheap.