Exactly 42 minutes after my hand touched the key to a Ferrari FF, a group of seven complete strangers publicly gave me the finger. And exactly 0 percent of me cared, because I was driving the Italian hate-armor that is a Ferrari.
Maybe it was partially my fault. I briefly revved the exuberant V-12 as my roommate took a bite of Cookies ’n Cream in an ice cream shop’s parking lot in downtown Ann Arbor. He jumped like a scared tabby. Suffering from momentary shock and definite brain-freeze, he couldn’t resist doling out some public humiliation.
“Look at me, I’m driving a Ferrari. I’m such a big freakin’ deal,” he mocked, loudly enough for all dairy-loving patrons within earshot to hear. His scorn swayed the crowd’s opinion away from me and my ride. As I pulled out of the parking lot, they all collectively flipped me the bird.
Surprisingly though, you don’t get an outrageous amount of attention driving a Ferrari FF. Unfortunately for me, being that I’m 25 and look 21, those who can tell that I’m driving a Ferrari assume I’m just the asshole son of some older, richer asshole. How do I know that’s what they think? “Hey asshole!” I heard at a stoplight from a gentleman in a Pontiac Bonneville. While just idling. At a red light. Car geeks in the know might temporarily lose control of their mandibles when they see the four-seat phenom, but by and large you’re treated no differently than if you were driving some other very pretty station wagon.
That is, until you stomp the throttle.
The V-12 is really the Ferrari FF’s jewel. One, it’s a spectacular engine with seemingly endless power and an exhaust note that will echo in your dreams for weeks after experiencing it. Two, not much else about the car (aside from the freakishly fast dual-clutch shifts) really screams “exotic” or “supercar.” Yes, the interior’s quality, fit, and finish are just about perfect (I struggled to find anything made of plastic), but at least on public roads I wasn’t absolutely blown away by how it handled. In fact, what’s perhaps even more impressive is that such a capable performance car is so comfortable and easy to drive around town like it’s not a $400,000 exotic. -- Eric Weiner, Daily News Editor
The most telling thing about a Ferrari FF is that every second you're behind the wheel, you want to drive the car even more. I'm hooked the second I swing out onto Woodward Avenue, ease into the throttle, and flick my pointer finger back on the upshift paddle. Oh, yeah. That feels good. Let's do it again at the next light.
I peel off Woodward and slink around the quiet, leafy roads near an expensive boarding school, the sort of neighborhood a 2+2 Ferrari belongs in. When you're not hammering on the V-12, the Ferrari FF reveals itself to be an ultra-glamorous GT with supportive seats, impeccable leather trim, and gorgeous swaths of exposed carbon fiber. But gawking at the cabin is not the reason you drive a Ferrari. Let's go back to faster roads.
Each time the engine starts to sing and the shift lights flash angry warnings on the steering wheel, a smile plays across my face. There is nothing as intoxicating as the crescendo of an Italian supercar ripping through first gear before “Pop! snap! thunk!” -- you're into second and performing an encore. It's not just the way the Ferrari FF inspires confidence on winding roads, the way it torches speed limits, or the way its engine sings. It's that every mile I drive, I discover some new sensation from the FF. Some cars you can figure out with a quick jaunt to the dry cleaner or the commute home or a lunch date with your co-workers. Not the Ferrari FF. It begs, nay insists, that I drive it more and more.
Which makes it all the more tragic when I back into a parking space at the office and extract the red key from the ignition. Before I go inside, I have to pace around the car one last time and take in its graceful curves, its elegant lines, the way the sunlight glints off the paint just so. There's so much more for me to learn from this car, and I can't stand parting so soon. -- Jake Holmes, Daily News Editor
If there is one main surprise with Ferrari’s FF, it must be how an Italian-built, 6.3-liter V-12-powered machine making 651 horsepower and 504 lb-ft of torque is simultaneously so Ferrari but also so docile and user-friendly.
You’re at one moment torching around a freeway ramp in second gear, third gear at the most, simply to see the LED shift lights in the steering-wheel rim illuminate as the revs climb, and mostly to hear that noise only a Maranello V-12 spits out above 5,000 rpm. Moments later you’re back on metropolitan roads, slinking along in traffic at 45 mph, radio turned up again and, if you like, mostly unaware you are driving anything special. Well, unaware other than the prancing horse logo on the switch-heavy steering wheel, and the looks and thumbs-up signs -- I must be getting old, since no one called me an asshole -- cast by the occupants of what seemed to be about every fifth car I encountered. If there is such a thing as a “sleeper” Ferrari, the FF is surely it; remove the badges and you’ll get the jump on an even greater number of hapless wannabe racers.
The do-it-all performance GT car, then? Yes, in many ways, even if it is technically a shooting brake. Open the doors, inhale the scent of “semi-analina” leather as you usher your passengers into cocooning rear seats, and proceed with your night on the town. Heavy rain? I found myself in a soggy, chilly downpour, switched the steering wheel’s manettino to “wet,” and never flinched while putting the power down aggressively. In the dry, the FF behaves more like a rear-wheel-drive car: Leave traction and stability control engaged -- don’t worry, they allow a fair amount of slip -- and the rear end wags and drifts on the power, smoothly under control. Grins all around.
“Smooth” might be the best description of the FF overall. Other than at-times jerky behavior from the seven-speed, paddle-shift gearbox, the car delivers to you the full experience without ever feeling high-strung or intimidating. Certainly it is quick, with Ferrari claiming a 3.7-second (or so) run from 0 to 62 mph, but it feels a little dialed back from what you might expect when you light the afterburner. Likewise, while the V-12 conjures memories of a bygone Formula One era -- especially under viaducts and through tunnels, and I imagine to anyone standing streetside as you accelerate past -- the in-cockpit soundtrack is subdued. The on-throttle sound is delicious, just not quite loud enough inside the car, and there’s little hint of the cracking and popping on the overrun that Jaguar’s F-Type has made some of its name on. I yearned in vain for a button to uncork more decibels.
The steering feels a bit light; it is not too boosted but also not heavy at all. With 20-inch Pirelli P Zero rubber front and rear, the FF will follow road undulations but not to an annoying degree, and it tracks straight over bumps. The suspension transfers some tire impact into the cabin, and passengers will notice tire noise as the main soundtrack at normal highway cruising speed with the revs down and the radio off. Hit the “bumpy road” damper setting, and the magnetorheological suspension backs off on its damping and improves what is already a relatively compliant ride, without ever making the car feel floaty or overly compliant.
Attack a curve and the light-ish steering is quick enough that I at first found it easy to apply too much input, taking a tighter line than I intended. Smooth inputs are your biggest ally in the FF, as its eager-to-turn front end and stable, long-wheelbase architecture produce smirk-inducing cornering, even more so when you remember it weighs more than 4,100 pounds. Ferrari’s FF provides a GT experience and a shooting-brake experience, yes, but nothing resembling a numb experience.
It is not without faults: A redundant, silly ignition key that must be turned before the start button will operate; an astronomical price tag, with this particular $388,464 car’s build sheet including a stone-face-inducing $90,000 worth of options; and perhaps specific to this FF, spongy brake-pedal feel despite being equipped with carbon-ceramic stoppers. Not a candidate for the Best Value of the Week Award, then, but certainly in a class all its own when it comes to usability combined with a special experience.
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