BRUNICO, Italy – I arrived here in the towering Alps with lofty expectations for Ferrari’s latest all-wheel-drive, four-seat adventuremobile, the GTC4 Lusso. After all, a colleague and I once drove its predecessor, the FF, to the snow-capped summit of a 14,000-foot volcano in Hawaii.
If the FF could tackle Mauna Kea, the Lusso seems outfitted to have a go at the Matterhorn. Says Ferrari product marketing chief Nicola Boari: “The Lusso is as far as we can go to an SUV.” Faster, more powerful, more spacious, more luxurious, and better-looking, Ferrari’s new hatchback “shooting brake” is also equipped with so many cutting-edge chassis technologies, it’s like an all-wheel-drive Formula 1 car with way comfier seats. Never mind snow: The Lusso is designed to get you safely to your ski chalet and electrify your neurons like a true Ferrari. The downside: After stepping out of this 680-horsepower supersled, hitting the slopes will probably be a crushing bore.
The GTC4 Lusso’s name harks back to several models five decades in Ferrari’s past, including the 330 GTC and its predecessor, the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso. These were especially beautiful gran turismos (some of Enzo Ferrari’s personal favorites), cars optimized for refined long-distance cruising with an emphasis on comfort and luxury. And so it is with the new Lusso: The cabin is a gorgeous “twin-cockpit” layout (as an option, the front-seat passenger even gets a personal 8.8-inch color touchscreen with engine performance gauges and infotainment controls), the armrests are softer than before, noise insulation is vastly improved, the climate-control system is more efficient and 50 percent quieter, and in the center of the dash lies a beauteous 10.25-inch HD touchscreen for easily controlling and displaying everything from navigation to climate controls to Apple CarPlay. Ferrari customer data shows that 60 percent of FF trips were made with all four seats occupied, so rear legroom has been improved by almost an inch. An actual adult can sit back there without feeling like a prisoner. The sense of spaciousness is enhanced with an available panoramic glass roof that offers incomparable views above. The glass incorporates “low-e” technology that reflects solar rays in summer and, in winter, reflects cabin heat inward to minimize drain on the climate-control system.
All told, Ferrari has nailed the Lusso cabin. It’s a feat of ergonomic savvy that’s equally a work of art. (Indeed, Ferrari head of interior design Luca Casarini says many of the shapes and contours were inspired by the dramatic designs of the late, prizewinning architect Zaha Hadid.) And for potential customers who, as Nicola Boari says, “aren’t asking for more performance; they want wider usability,” the Lusso delivers there, too: It boasts more than 50 percent more storage space than the FF. As for the cockpit’s artfulness, it extends even to the smallest details. For instance, there’s a neat and secure fob holder in the center console so your keyless key won’t rattle around.
The exterior is likewise a major step up. The FF was never ugly, but it was usually dubbed “strange in a good way.” Ferrari Design penned the Lusso’s shape with the goal of “cleaning up the mouth, making the look more stable and precise, lightening up the rear end.” The team succeeded: The Lusso looks sharper, tauter, way more aggressive. By far the most noticeable improvement comes at the back, thanks to a lowered fastback roofline, a new rear spoiler, and four taillights (versus the FF’s two) that broaden the tail visually. As an added benefit, the new car’s drag coefficient is 6 percent better than the FF’s. Like the outgoing model, the Lusso looks like nothing else. But the new car is striking, not strange.
The naturally aspirated 6.3-liter V-12 carries over from the FF, but in the Lusso it makes an extra 29 horsepower, a monstrous 680 hp at 8,000 rpm. Torque rises, too—to 514 lb-ft—and 80 percent of it is on tap from as low as 1,750 rpm. New piston heads and multispark injection, among other refinements, help reduce emissions, as well. Six-in-one exhaust manifolds with an electronic bypass valve enable the engine to purr at startup and at low throttle settings, while under a heavy right foot the system opens up so the V-12 can scream fortissimo. Ferrari’s superb seven-speed, dual-clutch paddle-shift transmission remains the one and only gearbox.
Like the FF, the Lusso distributes the engine’s torque through Ferrari’s first-ever all-wheel-drive system. But the new car now boasts rear-wheel steering as well. Ferrari claims improved drivability on wet and snowy surfaces, plus greater agility in high-grip conditions. As for electronic aids, the Lusso benefits from Ferrari’s new and patented 4RM-S system, which integrates all-wheel-drive, four-wheel steering, and the latest 4RM EVO driving-dynamics controls (a combination of E-Diff electronic differential, F1-Trac traction control, driver-adjustable SCM-E magnetorheological shocks, and electronic stability control).
As if that mouthful of acronyms and gizmos weren’t enough, 4RM-S also integrates the latest version of Ferrari’s Side Slip Control (SSC4). Essentially, by monitoring its myriad sensors and estimating grip, SSC4 can continually and seamlessly adjust each of the Lusso’s components and on-board systems for maximum performance and grip in any driving condition. From adjusting the amount of E-Diff lock to tailoring the stiffness of the magnetic shocks to controlling rear-wheel thrust vectoring (new on the Lusso), SSC4 rules like a champion racer to wring the best from the Lusso no matter how or where the car is being driven (much of its “brain” was developed on a driving simulator). The manner in which SSC4 steps in (or doesn’t) is controlled by the red manettino switch on the steering wheel—which offers the driver a choice of Snow, Wet, Comfort, Sport, and ESC Off modes.
But most of the above—speaking about the GTC4 Lusso in such clinical, nuts-and-bolts detail—misses the car’s point. Ferrari built the Lusso to appeal to a more youthful customer (FF buyers are 10 years younger, on average, than other Ferrari owners). This is a group that uses their Ferraris more frequently, travels farther, and carries more passengers on their trips. They want great performance, of course, but above all they want their car to be comfortable and useful. This is a Ferrari you might very well see sporting a ski rack. And in the parking lot of the Grand Park Hotel in Gstaad, well, there isn’t a cooler “SUV” out there.
All of the advanced hardware and leading-edge systems similarly don’t portray how the GTC4 Lusso drives. In the tight, twisty mountain two-lanes near Cortina, the Lusso proved itself both a masterful feat of engineering, and an exotic four-seat automobile brimming with soul.
For all of its on-board electronic wizardry, the Lusso doesn’t feel at all like a “digital” car. It’s completely organic in its responses and character. The V-12 is almost muffled at mild speeds, but tromp the throttle and it awakens with a mechanized howl completely in keeping with the Prancing Horse on its nose. The speed is just sensational. Its 0-to-60-mph time is about 3.3 seconds, and it has a top end of 208 mph. The Lusso feels every bit that fast. During my test drive, the two-lanes were often blocked by Tour de France aspirants and plodding tour buses. Neither is normally easy to pass on the short straights the mountains served up. But in the Lusso? You see a gap in oncoming traffic—even a tight gap—and you simply bang down a gear or two, mash the gas, and hang on as the GTC4 blasts you past the bus without so much as a twitch of the chassis. And when the road ahead opens wide, well, prepare for sensory overload. Even in occasional heavy downpours—hell, even in a brief smattering of hail—the Lusso kept me pinned to the seat back and working hard for breath in the turns.
The rear-wheel steering is something you can immediately feel. The first few times I turned in—on a dry section of road—I almost couldn’t believe how hard the Lusso bit into the bend. Steering response is ultra-quick, so much so that it takes some getting used to before you’re deflecting the wheel less and easing into corners more gracefully. There’s so much power and torque underfoot you can experiment with different gears or just leave it in third most of the time; the engine doesn’t mind. The big shift paddles make changing cogs effortless, and as always the Ferrari seven-speed manumatic responds brilliantly. Yet even when I dropped down to second or first and stood on the throttle, the Lusso never once stepped out of line. It’s completely confidence-inspiring, ferocious but well-trained and predictable.
The new central display is one of the better ones in the industry today. It’s intuitive, responsive, and highly legible. For once, I can shower high praise on a Ferrari nav system. Despite the complexities of parts of the driving route, the female “navigator” kept me on track. The few off-course wrong turns were largely my own fault.
Perhaps most important, like every other Ferrari in the stable, the GTC4 Lusso exudes character. From the intoxicating aroma of the fine cabin leather to the thrust and roar of the V-12 to the magical feel simply of holding the thick leather steering wheel in your fingers, the Lusso radiates the history and specialness of the machines from Maranello. The FF’s quirks are gone; this new four-seater ticks pretty much every box on the dream-car wish list. If any future Lusso buyers need a chauffeur for their next ski trip, I’m your man.
2017 Ferrai GTC4 Lusso Specifications
|Engine:||6.3L DOHC 48-valve V-12/680 hp @ 8,000 rpm, 514 lb-ft @ 5,750 rpm|
|Transmission:||7-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Layout:||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD coupe|
|EPA Mileage:||12/18 mpg (city/hwy) (est)|
|L x W x H:||193.8 x 78.0 x 54.4 in|
|0-60 MPH:||3.3 sec (est)|
|Top Speed:||208 mph|