LOS ANGELES, California — “This your Ferrari?” Before I’d answered, the guy was pressing his nose against the passenger-door glass to look inside. I didn’t feel like explaining. (“Actually, I’m an auto journalist, so I regularly get cars to review, and that might be a Kia or a Volkswagen, but this week it’s a Ferrari GTC4Lusso.”) So I just answered, “Yes.”
He backed away from the curb for a better look, a mirror image of his face now imprinted on the Ferrari’s window. “How much?” he asked, squinting at the car.
For a moment the guy said nothing, his eyes drinking in the Ferrari’s lines. Then he turned, flashed a grin. “Smarter than me. One year I probably spent that much on cocaine.”
If you’re driving a Ferrari—especially a new and relatively unusual Ferrari like the Lusso—you’re going to meet people. Ferraris draw crowds as easily as Kardashian reality shows kill brain cells. In a week I met dozens of curious onlookers. Some were surprised by the Lusso’s rear seat: “It can carry four adults?” (It can indeed.) Many were wowed by the Lusso’s dramatic wagon/coupe profile. Others hated it. (One kid, I’m guessing around 12, opined, “I know it says Ferrari, but that looks like a weirder version of my mom’s Volvo.”) Naturally, everybody wanted a selfie. Frankly, after a while the constant commotion got tiresome. If I’d had the car longer than a week I’d probably have hired a ride-along spokesperson to field questions while I got my errands done.
Yes, the Lusso is great at running errands. It’s quiet (at low speeds), smooth, completely tractable in traffic, and as luxuriously outfitted as any top-class sedan. But it wasn’t made for running errands—not with a 680-hp V-12, all-wheel drive, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and all the latest Ferrari electronic chassis systems. I’d first driven the Lusso in the Italian Alps back in the summer of 2016, but unleashing the car on my own home turf, on roads I know almost blindfolded, produced unexpected revelations. For instance, I learned that if you want three good friends to become not-good friends in less than 20 minutes, just ask them to ride along in a Ferrari GTC4Lusso as you wring it out on your favorite Malibu mountain roads. The front-seat passenger has it bad enough, trying to hang on against g-forces from a machine that can scorch to 60 mph in just 3.3 seconds and brake to a stop as if it’s just run into a mattress-delivery truck. But at least that rider can see out the windshield, so he or she knows when to scream at the next approaching corner. The two unfortunates in the back can only stare up through the giant glass roof at the clouds overhead and pray for a lightning bolt to shriek down from the big blue sky and kill the engine. Said one of my former friends (who sat in back) after we pulled into a turnout to soak up the ocean view: “All I could see was the leather of your seat back. I felt like I was tied to the ass of a bull barreling through Pamplona.”
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of having the keys to a $350,000 exotic in your pocket. As you might have guessed, the Ferrari spent very little time in my garage. That said, there’s also an uncomfortable, queasy feeling you get when you’re sitting behind the wheel of a car worth this much while working your way through Los Angeles traffic. I mean, it would be a terrible thing to crash and total a nice sports car such as, oh, a Jaguar F-Type. But that would be a good day by comparison with, say, a distracted skateboarder performing an accidental trick move on the Lusso. Driving a Ferrari through the L.A. bump and grind is about as relaxing as trying to sneak through a wild-animal park carrying a large salami.
The Lusso (and I) made it through the week unscathed. But I was not unchanged. Living with a car such as the GTC4Lusso for a week—suddenly, a supercar is your daily driver—is a glorious thing: stepping into the garage, seeing a Ferrari with your name on it, pressing the starter and hearing, feeling that big V-12 whump to life. No matter what you do, no matter where you go, you know today is going to be special, thanks to the succulent aroma of fine hides, the rapture of clicking off paddle upshifts as the engine wails to 8,000 rpm, the chassis hovering over the ground with a magical finesse as only the Maranello magicians can make possible.
Every time I hand back the keys to a Ferrari, I feel like I need a cigarette.