Because Enzo would never build an SUV
Most folks have an immediate and uncontrollably positive reaction when they see a Ferrari. Conversely, only a few people have the same admiration for the station wagon. But for those strange creatures who inhabit the tiny overlap of that Venn diagram, the Ferrari GTC4Lusso causes complete and sudden meltdown.
I am among the worst offenders, especially because I believe that the shooting brake—a two-door wagon—is the holy grail of wagons. I about wet myself when I first saw the Ferrari FF. I did, in fact, wet myself, when I drove it. (Turns out the cupholder couldn’t contain a bottle of San Pellegrino during launch control. Always remember to put the cap back on.) Six years later, it’s been replaced by the GTC4Lusso two-door wagon, and I am panting once again.
This isn’t an all-new car—it’s an evolution of the FF—and it’s exciting not only because of the updates but also because it still exists. Ferrari hasn’t sold out to the tyranny of the SUV. Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce are about to introduce their exotic luxo-boxes. Alfa Romeo and Maserati have already done so, as have Jaguar, Porsche, and Bentley. Annoyingly (to purists), this strategy seems to be working out well for all of them. As a result, those companies have convinced themselves that they can make any car in any segment, so long as it’s the (insert brand name here) of that segment.
But Ferrari, the undisputed long-term master of brand-image management, knows where to draw the line. The marque of Enzo’s legacy means Maranello still produces only the types of cars it always has—race cars, supercars, sports cars, and grand tourers. The GTC4Lusso, planted firmly in the latter category, capitalizes on the attributes that make people love SUVs (hatchback cargo versatility and all-wheel drive) and stops short of any of the sport-ute traits—for example, terrible handling—that would be offensive to Ferrari’s core ideals.
Now that we’ve covered what it isn’t, let’s talk about what the GTC4Lusso is. It’s expensive (a shade under $305,000 USD to start), and it’s deceptively large. Speaking of SUVs, this Ferrari has a wheelbase 1.7 inches longer than a Cadillac Escalade. And it’s a mere finger length narrower. She’s a big girl.
Much of the silhouette houses the enormous V-12, Ferrari’s 6,262cc, 65-degree masterpiece. Mounted completely behind the front wheels, the short-stroke screamer squishes incoming air at a detonation-threatening 13.5:1 ratio then injects fuel directly into the combustion chambers. Allowed to run free, it produces 680 horsepower just 250 rpm shy of its 8,250-rpm limit—and just as important, up to 514 lb-ft of naturally aspirated, available-with-no-waiting torque.
Twin perfectly straight intake tracts from the front air dam feed the engine, and dual six-into-one equal-length headers remove the waste. The acoustic result is appropriately deafening. Coming toward you, the GTC4Lusso sounds like it’ll steal the air straight out of your alveoli. Accelerating away, it sounds like the gods of internal combustion have done exactly that and then expelled the gasses by violently breaking wind through a set of dueling tubas. It is divine in the most vulgar of ways.
It’s rather surprising, then, that from inside the Lusso, the V-12 is an acoustic nonevent. It’s not that you don’t hear the engine, but it’s hushed enough to give little indication of the violence experienced outside. That isolation continues to the rest of the in-cabin experience: dual-pane side windows and what must be hundreds of pounds of sound deadening keep road and wind noise to a dull roar.
The Lusso leans, as its name literally means, toward the luxury side of the spectrum. Each of its four seats offers ample real estate for a 6-foot-tall human, and the rears offer more head- and legroom than any sports car and half of all sport sedans. Unfortunately, all four seats are so rock-hard that we suspect their design was inspired by the stone benches in the Roman Colosseum.
It’s a good thing that the Lusso’s suspension is so forgiving. That impossibly long wheelbase, in concert with magnetorheological dampers, gives this Ferrari a true luxury-car ride. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, too, does luxury duty by delivering slurred part-throttle upshifts that are smoother than they are brisk. Even the steering seems tuned for isolation more than feedback. Granted, it remains magnificently, beautifully, and mercifully hydraulically assisted—it’s far more talkative than almost any EPAS system, but it’s toned down by Ferrari standards.
It’s also relaxed on the straight-ahead, but if you turn the wheel more than, say, 20 degrees, the steering ratio suddenly quickens. This gives the GTC4 apparent race car turn in. Or, put another way, Pellegrino will go flying on corner entry. It’s nearly impossible to carve a smooth arc through a corner.
Mash the loud pedal in the middle of that corner, and things get even stranger, thanks to Ferrari’s new rear-wheel steering. The biggest compliment you can give to an all-wheel-steering system is that you never feel it working. In the GTC, sadly, it’s as obvious as a donkey in the middle of a blind corner.
In response to the request for power, the Lusso toes its rear tires toward the outside of the curve. Ferrari calls this thrust-vectoring control, and the logic behind it is sound: If the engine can produce enough power to overcome traction in the rear, why not use that excess thrust to help rotate the car?
What works on paper but doesn’t, however, always translate to an enjoyable experience. The system makes the rear end feel like it’s about to slide out—even when it’s not—and gives both the driver and passengers a boost in blood pressure. Further, the rear wheels don’t seem to return to the straight-ahead position quickly enough exiting a corner, so there’s an unnatural change in direction at the end of a fast bend. The all-wheel steering probably makes the GTC4 quicker around a track, but it certainly doesn’t add to its trustworthiness on a back road. And it’s certainly out of character with this Ferrari’s GT nature.
It requires getting comfortable with that one small hurdle before you realize what the Lusso is so incredibly good at: hauling the mail. If government officials were assigned GTC4Lussos as their company cars, there would be a near-immediate executive order to double all speed limits—and for once, everyone would be happy about it.
This Ferrari is more composed, confidence inspiring, and relaxed at 130 mph (209 km/h) on a winding back road than most cars are at 65 on a flat, straight interstate. It is the rare car whose absurdly high top speed seems perfectly within the realm of prudent and reasonable. We certainly didn’t hit 208 mph (335 km/h) on public roads, but at three-quarters of that speed on a closed course, the GTC4Lusso seemed practically asleep. And the rate at which it piles on the mph (km/h) at triple digits is as staggering as the ease with which it happens.
As for the nondriving experience, it might seem odd to discuss a capacitive touchscreen infotainment system as part of an exotic car review. But we can say it features beautiful graphics and quick response. The best part, however, is the front passenger’s display, which is now full color and touch sensitive. It can display navigation, chassis, entertainment, or performance data. Unfortunately it won’t tell you why the whole infotainment system has crashed, which it does far too often.
As a grand tourer, then, this Ferrari is everything it should be, except for the uncomfortable seats and overzealous rear-wheel steering. As a driving enthusiast, though, I wish it were a little less GT and a little more sports car. Then again, the GTC4Lusso says both GT and luxury in its name, and it doesn’t mention sport anywhere.
Most important, though it could have a “sport utilità” badge somewhere on it, and the GTC4Lusso doesn’t. It’s one thing that Ferrari hasn’t sold out to the SUV craze. It’s another that it sells a four-wheel-drive, 208-mph (335-km/h), two-door station wagon with a V-12 in it. Sure, it’s a unicorn’s unicorn. But this time it has cupholders deep enough to contain your favorite acqua minerale while you unleash all 680 horsepower. The Italians really know how to live.
|2017 Ferrari GTC4Lusso|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||6.3L/680-hp/514-lb-ft DOHC 48-valve V-12|
|TRANSMISSIONS||Front: 2-speed auto; Rear: 7-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,250 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||193.8 x 78.0 x 54.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.2 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||11-12/17/13 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||281-306/198 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.40-1.48 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|
Two Transmissions, Four Wheel Drive
The GTC4’s all-wheel-drive system, first seen in the FF, remains the simplest, most brilliant arrangement in the automotive universe. With the V-12 mounted completely behind the front wheels and the dual-clutch transmission back by the rear wheels, adding front-drive would require a shaft from the output side of the transmission (the rear) going through the passenger compartment, under the engine, and to a front-mounted differential. That solution is complex and heavy, and it would likely require raising the engine to the detriment of speed, styling, and handling.
Ferrari’s brilliant solution was to bolt a small second transmission to the front of the crankshaft. The power transfer unit has independent clutches for the front wheels, meaning it can provide real torque vectoring under power. It uses only two gears—one slightly taller than the rear transmission’s second gear, the other taller than fourth—so it can send more than half the engine’s power to either (or both) of the front wheels at its will in the first four (rear) gears. The only drawback to the system is that it can’t work when the rear is in fifth, sixth, or seventh gear.
The GTC4Lusso hits redline in fourth gear at approximately 135 mph (217 km/h). If you’re still spinning the tires at that speed, you don’t need all-wheel drive. You need a good estate attorney.