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Saturday, 26 March 2011

Supercar Saturday - Prancing Donkey

The Ferrari Ferrari-Four
Ah, Ferrari. The most famous car company in the world. They've been in Formula 1 ever since its beginnings (with varying levels of success over the years), they've been making Sports GTs and supercars for more than 60 years, including some of the most iconic sports cars in history. The 250 GTO, the 365 GTB/4 "Daytona", the Testarossa, the F40, the F355, the Enzo (named after the company's dead founder), the list goes on and on. Then there's Juan Manuel Fangio, Gilles Viellneuve, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher, who, among others, earned their places in Scuderia Ferrari's F1 history as some of the best and most-loved drivers in the sport. Their cars are the embodiment of Italian passion, with fans (called 'Tifosi') more devoted than Star Trek nerds, a mix of front-engined, rear-wheel-drive powerhouses and mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive road racers, occasionally joined by front-engined, rear-wheel-drive Riviera cruisers like the 250 GT California Spider and its modern-day spiritual successor. In some ways, Ferrari is the motoring world's Disney.

Hopefully, as a car fan, you will recognise at least half of the above names (including the F1 drivers). Remember all those amazing and stunningly beautiful cars? Now look at the above picture. That thing is the replacement for the four-seater 612 Scaglietti, Ferrari's equivalent of the Aston Martin Vanquish. Not a pretty sight, is it? In fact, it's the most controversial Ferrari for a long time...

If anything/anyone ever grins at you like that, you'd rightly feel disturbed
I am very much in two minds about this car. Called the FF (or 'Ferrari Four'), it is many things that, traditionally, a Ferrari is not. It's the first Ferrari that isn't Rear-Wheel-Drive. It's also not available with a manual gearbox and appears to have a hatchback glued onto it. Yes, I should thank whoever needs thanking that it's not another prestige-branded SUV - parent company FIAT are already giving sister Maserati a Jeep-based SUV, and this set up is also the reason Ferrari doesn't need a four-door car, as Maserati make the Quattroporte - but even so, can it really be called a Ferrari? The unimaginative name comes from it being their first Four-Wheel-Drive car (as well as being a four-seater, which in itself is not unusual), but it will confuse some people, as keen gamers might associate the term 'FF' with front-wheel-drive cars and older people will think you're talking about a late-'60s Jensen, which in some ways is actually a remarkably similar car.

Oh yeah, because THIS is what Ferraris are for...
So I don't like the silly name, I don't like that it's Four-Wheel-Drive and I don't like the chop-shop body. There are 458 Italia headlights, a resized 550 Maranello front bumper, F599 tail lights that have been squeezed in to the housing from a Farboud GTS and a rear end that combines BMW M Coupe and Reliant Scimitar... on a Ferrari. Despite borrowing heavily from the Z3 M, the tall-ish rear end just doesn't look right either. There are precious few angles from which this oddly-proportioned car looks good in fact, and that 'face' (created by the headlights and grille) looks like a Pokemon. A ghost-type Pokemon that's floating over a traffic light. I should say at this point that while I don't like companies ignoring their heritage, I'm not a stuck-up purist who wants every car company to make the same cars forever. I don't mind some cars being different. But this Ferrari shooting brake just isn't working for me. It just isn't Ferrari-ish enough. Plus, what's it meant to be for?

Well, the answer appears to be "everything". When you set aside Ferrari's illustrious history and peel away that iffy styling, there are actually a lot of things to like. It's motivated by a 6.3 V12 producing a whopping 660PS (651bhp), equalling the world-beating Enzo hypercar of 2003, as well as 504lb/ft of torque. That's enough grunt for the Four to hit 60mph from rest in just 3.7 seconds, after which it will take a quartet of adults up to a dizzying 208mph, on par with most of today's supercars despite a ~1800kg kerbweight. The 4RM system weighs 50% less than a conventional AWD system, which - along with the V12 being mounted behind the front axle - helps to maintain a near-perfect 47:53 Front:Rear weight distribution. Then there's the practical stuff. The bootspace is seriously comparable to that of a Renault Scenic, with 450 litres of space in that peculiar rear end, which is increased to 800L with the rear seats folded down. Yes, I did just say that about a production Ferrari. Also, that 4RM system means it has much higher traction than a 599, meaning that not only can you drive on snow, you can put the hammer down harder and more often than in most supercars, meaning that all of those 660 prancing horses can actually be used. Blistering speed, huge levels of grip and estate-like practicality. Those are the three reasons this car exists. Fuel economy, however, probably isn't a reason.

If I absolutely had to, I'd specify it like this, except probably with a bit less red leather. Configurators are fun
This car is hard for me to sum up. If I'm honest with myself, I can see why this exists. Ferrari say it's actually born from what customers told them they wanted, and satisfying your customers is not a bad thing to do. Also, if you were to tell someone that there's a new Ferrari with a shooting brake body and a 660PS V12 engine, they would probably drool open-mouthed just thinking about it. I think it's just the looks and the 4WD that's putting me off. While it is being praised as excellent to drive by journalists (although evo magazine's Chris Harris brilliantly makes it clear that you shouldn't believe everything you read in said reviews), I don't think I'd buy one, even in the darker colour seen above, which I much prefer to the red 'n' shiny press pics.

Tech Specs:


Layout: Mid-Front-Engined, All-Wheel-Drive


Engine: 6262cc 65-degree V12, Naturally Aspirated


Power/Torque/CO2: 660PS (651bhp) / 504lb/ft (683NM) / 360g/km


Weight: 1790kg (dry weight), 1880kg (kerb weight)


Acceleration: 0-62mph (100km/h): 3.7s, 0-124mph (200km/h): 11s


Top Speed: 208mph (335km/h)


Price: £223,570 ($363,300 / €260,000)


A Ferrari sports-GT that's a shooting brake with the heart of a supercar and 'allterrainability'. What's not to like? Oh yeah, the styling. And the price.

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