First Drive: 2012 Ferrari FF


The FF has two transmissions. Yes, you read that right. Located right ahead of, and transmitting power to, the rear wheels is a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transaxle similar to the one in the California and the 458 Italia (just beefed up for the V-12’s additional output.) Unlike those cars, however, the FF is geared for maximum performance in the first six gears -- and indeed its top speed of 208 mph is reached in sixth gear. Seventh gear is used to reduce engine revs -- and correspondingly, fuel consumption -- while cruising.

Like all Ferrari automated manuals, the FF’s transmission offers an automatic mode for drivers who can’t muster the energy to pull the fixed paddles behind the steering wheel -- or for those drivers who don’t understand how or why to do so. And that’s where the FF’s only big problem lies: the automatic mode is a bit of a misnomer: it’s really only semi-automatic, as it won’t perform multiple full-throttle downshifts. That means if you’re trundling along at 40 mph in automatic and you mash the throttle, you’ll get a downshift to fourth gear, a couple thousand revs on the tach, and not much additional forward progress.

Ferrari’s engineers still don’t understand why this is a problem, pointing out that you can just pull the left paddle for each additional downshift you want. The word “automatic” must have a different meaning in Italian, because this is not only counterintuitive, it’ll be a source of frustration to any FF owner who just wants to get in and drive it like a regular automatic transmission car. And let’s not forget that the big reason to upgrade to a dual-clutch transmission in the first place is to offer a smooth automatic mode, since its shifts are barely noticeable -- whereas a single-clutch unit’s shifts are accompanied by a big head toss right when you least expect it.

Oh, what’s that? You want to know about the second transmission?

Ferrari wagon, Porsche 4 door... What next? A Lamborghini minivan or maybe a Lotus Hummer? It *is* nice to see high end and exotic car manufacturers taking care of our rich friends and their needs. For example, it's hard to get those mega-packs of toilet paper from Costo home in a classy sports car. Wait, did I just say the FF and Panamera aren't classy? Shame on me!

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