Ferrari couldn’t have chosen a better locale than the Sudtirol region of Italy for the global media unveil of the FF’s successor. We take a first drive of the Ferrari GTC4Lusso in its home ground.
Author: Raj Warrior | Photography: Supplied and Author
The Sudtirol is a very odd region indeed. Classically beautiful landscapes composed of craggy mountainsides, pines descend to rolling meadows and cows munch away contently on the slopes; complemented by a mix of traditional alpine homes interspersed with modern structures. It is one of those regions that most people have never heard of – a self-governing, largely German speaking population that is part of Italy since the early parts of the 20th century. We understand that it is prosperous and by virtue of its unique status also retains much of the taxes that are raised locally. The region definitely has a very active tourism department. For Ferrari had tied up with the local government to launch their new GTC4Lusso at the very same locale where they had first launched the Ferrari FF, which the new model replaces.
The launch itself was held on top of a local mountain called the Kronplatz, with the presentation and dinner being held in the restaurant after a reception and visit to the Zaha Hadid designed Messner Mountain museum.
As with most modern Ferrari presentations, this one too delved into the technical elements of the new car and how it’s underpinnings had improved over the outgoing FF. The session was split into four segments covering Market positioning, Engine, Vehicle dynamics and Design. For the sake of this story, we are about to flip the order to put Design at the front and market positioning at the end.
The car is obviously the follower of the FF in that the hatchback look hides a rather longish profile and the sportscar platform. While major changes have been brought about to the front and rear presentations, the profile took a bit of explaining – the visible change is around the functional front fender air intakes and a pronounced rising trimline from the base of the front wheel arch to the top of the rear. Having said that, we like the way the hood has been sculpted with a clear sweep back to the A-pillars, while the grille does manage to look a bit happier with its eyes and grin offering.
The rear deck pushes the hatchback feel even more with the D-pillars spreading out to the rear flanks, a wide set rear track and strong horizontal styling that enhances the width of the car.
The interiors of the GTC4Lusso haven’t just been cleaned up; they reflect the best of current day trends in style and electronics. Excuse us while we gush about the seats. We drove a car that had almost pure white interior trim and the way the leather is offset by hints of dark material in the intricacy of building up a layered backrest looks stupendous. If we could give an award for the best-designed seat, the Ferrari GTC4Lusso driver seat would win hands down.
The rest of the cabin is just as interesting – it is split into twin cockpits that encompass the front and rear seats. We managed to get in the rear without too much effort and there is just about enough legroom and headroom to justify the full four-seat claim of the car. In fact, the brand has tried to connect the FF and now the GTC4Lusso with a multiplicity of connections to four; four seats, four-wheels driven and now four-wheel steering, which we will touch on in vehicle dynamics.
The dashboard has undergone a major revamp. The already exquisite Ferrari interior is taken to a whole new level with the four prominent air-conditioning grilles serving to segment the dashboard into zones, with the very busy driver’s zone to the left now getting a bit of visual offset with the new touch screen panel that serves as part of the dashboard for the passenger. The centre console is dominated by the large 10.25” high-resolution monitor powered by a new Jacinto J6 CPU with physical controls just below the display.
A very interesting feature of this arrangement is that the passenger can choose to be a more active participant of the journey. You not only get speed and tach readouts, but can also call up Navigation way points and send that to the driver’s console. And if you choose to just sit back and enjoy the drive, you can use the display as your own personal window on the journey. Apple CarPlay is the default pairing available for your smart phone, so if you are an Android fan you will have to just use it as a media source.
The zone in front of the driver is a more traditional Ferrari one, although some new features have crept in like the oversized turn indicator buttons that allow one to operate them from behind the wheel as well. The IP layout has the traditional tachometer centric layout, with a white background revolution counter flanked by two smaller digital displays that can scroll through various functions. Again, you see the traditional separation of chassis dynamics controls towards the left hand. The steering wheel is the latest variant of the Ferrari F1-inspired ovoid, complete with settings that can take you through snow, wet and all the way over to ESC off.
The engine is a variant of the F12 berlinetta’s V12 unit, tuned to a slightly lower peak output but compensating with some really healthy midrange torque figures. Here too, Ferrari engineers are keen to point out how they have engineered equal length paths for the inlet and exhaust piping, although unlike on the turbocharged V8-engine California and 488 variants, here the pipes are welded rather than cast to keep the weight low.
The engine has a higher compression ratio than before, boosting power output to 690hp with a max torque of 697NM. The engine revs freely into the higher bands hitting the stops at 8,250rpm. While the engine could run a little hotter, the team has improved the size of the oil radiators. Similar to the FF, the layout of the engine is front-mid, with the power transfer unit for the front wheels taking power off the front of the crankshaft, while power to the rear wheels is sent back to the transaxle with electronic differential.
The engine also switches to a 6-cylinder mode as and when required, while offering a broader range of fuel diversity through an ability to handle 91 octane to 98 octane ratings. Using ion sensors the engine shifts its firing pattern to compensate.
The major change affecting vehicle dynamics is the introduction of rear wheel steering, although the steering effect is in the single digits. What this does is tighten the turn circle at low speeds and allow the car to slide across lanes as we use the steering at higher speeds.
Other than that the company insists that the weight distribution and power delivery has been targeted to keep the handling of the car neutral, with just a slight tendency to understeer. The weight distribution is 47:53 front-rear and the transmission can shift 100% of the available power to the rear axle on demand. The rear E-diff allows for a huge degree of torque vectoring to compensate in turns as it sends torque to the outer wheels. Ferrari also credits the combination of an upgraded PTU off the front end of the engine, SCM3 damping control, 4RM-S which handles the power distribution to all four wheels and the 9th generation ESP for the new dynamics.
The GTC4Lusso also gets SSC4, which takes care of sideslip control with a special feel for the four-wheel drive characteristics of the car. You can feel the SSC kick in on Sport mode, especially if you carry your momentum into the curve, although the sharpened steering wheel response is also likely to be tangible.
What’s to say about the potential customer of the GTC4Lusso? A rich sportscar aficionado who would like a car that can actually accommodate something more than himself and his girlfriend – or vice versa in many cases! The logic of the FF owner is continued – it isn’t quite the traditional sportscar, but the GTC4Lusso isn’t the sort of car you would ignore if you had the sort of money for a top end sportscar.
Of course no Ferrari launch event is quite as exciting without a drive event thrown in and that was part of the agenda for the following day. As we paired up for the drive around what passes for local highways in the Sudtirol, we knew that we would be turning heads. For even in the exclusive northern Italian region, a fleet of new Ferraris does tend to do that. The loop took us around the two lane hill roads as well as through some of the most beautiful landscapes and the Ferrari does tend to excite the senses in more than one manner. For instance, you begin to relish the active sound baffle that kicks in as you stomp the pedal, the vibration of the engine as it rocks in the cradle and the feel of the tyres as they navigate the roads and gravel. The selection of the twisty tarmac was spot on to feel the wheel as the rear-wheel steering kicks in at slow velocities, but the wheel itself feels very direct.
As you accelerate through the gears the car settles into its haunches and pulls away in a very linear fashion. A very strong midrange keeps the drive interesting even while your car is trying to grab a higher gear to maintain better efficiency. You can easily tap and hold your way down of course and the damper management ensures that the harder you steer in the stiffer the response.
One of the pairs in our journalist wave came back with a photograph of the speedometer showing 317 km/h, but we didn’t even try to get anywhere close. The small roads that we were driving on were public roads with enough traffic to limit our top speeds, but we were anyway well over any posted speed limits.
Is the GTC4Lusso an all-new vehicle? Nominally, we must believe so, not so much for what the architecture changes offer as for the internal changes. The technology is certainly cutting edge as demonstrated by the new IP, consoles and interfaces. The car is also more powerful, driveable and definitely better handling. Would you rush out and replace your FF with this? Only, if you had bought the very first FFs. You are more likely to be the new kid on the block sitting on top of your new internet startup and yes, the GTC4Lusso may just be your everyday car.