Ferrari claims the nameplate applied to its 2012 FF stands for four and four, but it may well be an acronym for first and first. Not only is the it Ferrari’s first all-wheel-drive production model, but the FF, which debuts at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, is also the brand’s first wagon -- or shooting brake, if you prefer.
All-wheel-drive? Wagon? Those two adjectives are commonly paired when describing Subaru’s best-selling models, not the latest gran turismo to roll through the factory gates in Maranello. Still, Ferrari says rolling those two features together -- as unconventional as they may be in the world of traditional V-12-powered luxury sports cars -- produces a vehicle that “effortlessly melds extreme sports car performance with the versatility and usability of a genuine GT.”
Admittedly, the FF looks much like a genuine Ferrari GT, albeit with a modern twist. The exterior design, executed by longtime styling partner Pininfarina, blends cues from the company’s recent 458 Italia with those of the FF’s forebear, the outgoing 612 Scaglietti. The long, upright headlamps and oblong fender forms bear some resemblance to the company’s latest mid-engine sports coupe, while the expansive eggcrate grille apes those used on modern Ferrari GT models.
Although the FF’s elongated roofline and hatchback may rankle the most traditional of Tifiosi, the car’s rear quarters aren’t as ungainly as previous coachbuilt attempts to craft Ferrari station wagons. The roof dramatically curves down towards the car’s trailing edges, but the D-pillars are neatly sculpted into the already muscular rear fenders. If nothing else, this design does afford considerable space within. Not only are rear seat occupants treated to commendable headroom, but there’s nearly 15 cubic feet of cargo space to swallow their belongings (that volume swells to 30, should you fold the second row flat).
Like beauty, innovation is more than skin deep, so it isn’t surprising to learn the FF’s mechanicals are as groundbreaking as its exterior. Its 660-horsepower, direct-injection, 6.2-liter V-12 is certainly a welcome new addition, but the true party trick lies with the driveline itself. Although the rear-mounted, seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle may be identical to those used in other rear-wheel-drive GT models (including the 599 GTB), the addition of a driven front axle is truly newsworthy.
Instead of developing a transfer case for the transaxle and running a prop shaft to the front end of the car, Ferrari’s 4RM system actually drives the front wheels from the engine’s crank itself. A separate gearbox for the front axle has two speeds, with ratios similar to those used for the transaxle’s third and seventh gears. When the FF’s stability system detects a loss in traction, computers select the proper gear in the forward gearbox, and then manipulate an electronically controlled clutch pack. between the crank and the gearbox. Doing this allows the system to vary the amount of slippage, and subsequently, vary the power sent to the front wheels.
An unusual approach, but the system allows Ferrari to craft a rear-biased all-wheel-drive without disrupting the FF’s near-perfect weight distribution or developing an all-new driveline. Better yet, the company says the 4RM system is roughly half as heavy as a conventional AWD configuration.
We’ve yet to sample the FF on the road, but based upon the preliminary specifications, we’re certain this GT hauls in both the figurative and literal sense. Ferrari claims the car can rocket from 0-62 mph in 3.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 208 mph. Impressive, but we expect the FF’s production run to sell out just as quickly. It may not have the same sex appeal as a 458, but the FF’s combination of space, storage, and surefooted traction renders it a true Ferrari GT that’s usable in any place, any time, and any weather, and that will find it favor among Ferrari's well-heeled clientele.