All manufactures tend to have these well known formulas for their sports cars that are just as distinguishable as the brand itself. Take a V8 for instance, push the displacement out to 5.4L and drop it in a coupe and you get a Mustang. Slap on two turbos on a V6 3.8 Liter Japanese car and you get a Nissan GT-R. Supercharge a 6.2 liter V8, call it an LS9 and you get a Corvette ZR1. Squeeze 300 horsepower out of a tiny, AWD sedan with a 2.5 liter flat four cylinder engine and you get a Subaru WRX STi. But what happens when you go back to the drawing board, sketch out a fluidly designed 3-door hatch back, with vivacious curves and stunning lines, paint it - oh, let's say - red. Then, stretch out the nose; drop in a 12 cylinder engine and squeeze in an all-wheel drive system. What do you get? With years of automotive mental algorithms going through my head, fitting the features with the engine, platform, and associated brands leads me to nothing. So who is building it? No, it's not the new Prius, it's the new Ferrari FF.
That's right, Ferrari decided to go where no one has gone and build a small hatchback car, with a whole 12 cylinder engine that grips the road with all wheel drive. Three components that traditionally are almost never seen together. My first reaction is, how in the world did they manage to create a small hatchback with 12 cylinders? Their largest capacity engine ever, by the way. That seems almost disproportionally designed. But it isn't. The usual elegance and finesse of Pininfarina design is not absent in the Ferrari FF. My second reaction focuses around the fact that they fitted their first Ferrari ever with All-wheel drive, which is great and all but it brings everything down to one question in my mind: why?
Why would you step away from your traditional mid-mounted V8 engine supercars or your V12 front engine Grand Tourers to create this confusing car? The answer is simple really: Ferrari owners asked for it. That's right, Ferrari owners told Ferrari that they want an AWD car that still retains the performance and elegance of a Ferrari that can be driven like a Grand Tourer.
So at the Geneva Motor Show in March of 2011, Ferrari announced that they will replace the 612 Scaglietti Grand Tourer with the Ferrari FF; FF signifying the four seats and four-wheel drive. The Ferrari FF will be able to reach a top speed of 208 mph and accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, making it the fastest four-seat automobile in the world.
Considering those performance figures, there are three things that I want to consider about the FF, it's engine, weight, and AWD system. The engine displaces 6.3 Liters, is a naturally aspirated direct injected 65 degree V12 that produces 651 horsepower at 8,000 RPM and 504 lb-ft of torque at 6000 RPM. That's a significant amount of power, but once you consider the fact that it's coming from Ferrari's largest engine ever and that the car also has AWD you begin to wonder about the car's weight.
The Ferrari FF weighs in at 1,880 kg or 4,145 lbs. That's sounds like a lot, especially for a Ferrari. But it isn't, you see the outgoing 612 Scaglietti that the FF replaced, weighed in at 1,875 kg (4,134 lbs) and featured a much smaller V12, displacing 5.7 liters. Compare the weight to other high-end Grand Tourers and you start to realize how small 1,875 kg really is. Bentley's Continental GT weighs in at a well rounded 2,320 kg (5,115 lbs), giving obesity a better face than it really deserves. The Maserati GranTurismo comes in close at 1,880 kg (4,100 lbs) but only features a lighter V8. Jaguar's XK weighs in below the FF at 1,675 kg (3,690 lbs) but also features only a V8. Aston Martin's V12 Vantage is the closest to the FF with a 12-cylinder 6.0 liter engine the sleek Grand Tourer weighs in at 1,700 kg (3,741 lbs). So why does the weight even matter? It's simple really, the addition of stronger, larger engines yield higher outputs but the added weight impacts performance from an acceleration and handling perspective. It's important to consider the FF in the context of how it weighs with the competition. In general, it falls right in between other well known Grand Tourers, but we must not forget that it is the only Grand Tourer that features AWD.
When you put a huge engine in a little car the most intuitive problem that comes to mind is traction control, or the ability to put the power from all 12 cylinders to the road. Essentially, the AWD, or as Ferrari calls it: "The patented 4RM four-wheel drive system," is really a RWD system that is able to redistribute torque to the front wheels as various grip "needs" are determined by smart little computers that make sure you don't wrap around a tree...or snow plow. Ferrari is exceedingly determined to emphasize their latest technology as the majority of the FFs promotional pictures are featured in low grip environments such as rain, sand or snow. Who knows, maybe Ferrari will one day have a WRC rally car? When Tiff Needell drove the Ferrari FF, he constantly tried to force the 651 horsepower to through the car sideways but he simply could not due to the immense amount of grip. If you know Tiff, you know that he can turn a car sideways faster than your last girlfriend broke up with you, yet he couldn't do it in the FF.
So what does this all mean? In a nutshell, we're talking about one of the most innovative, unique Grand Tourer's ever made. It's introduction has sparked controversy over it's "shooting-brake" design, excitement over the front-engine mounted power and anticipation by all Ferrari fans and owners. One thing's for sure, this car is designed and engineered around what Ferrari owners want, a powerful car with the typical beauty and performance balance of a Ferrari that can drive anywhere in the world, literally. At a production rate of 800/year you can expect to enjoy indefinite grip as you push all 651 horsepower to the apex while sipping your latte and explaining to your partner how it was definitely worth selling your $300,000 yacht for this car.