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Old 04-04-2011, 10:53 AM  
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Keizer, OR
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all-wheel-drive, 651-horsepower, $300,000 grand touring car

2012 Ferrari FF: The Coolest Ferrari Ever—Drive Carefully | Rumble Seat by Dan Neil - WSJ.com

This is absolutely the coolest Ferrari of all time, "cool" insofar as it delivers brain-solvent performance without looking like it gives a damn what you think, cool insofar as its radical Pininfarina styling (a "shooting brake," or three-door hatch GT) waves a contemptuous finger at conventional wisdom. This is a car that despises prettiness and mocks your bourgeois notions of sleek and rakish, which are stylistic sideshows of aerodynamics, anyway. Yes, I agree, the car looks like a toilet brush on wheels, but how monumentally gutsy it is for Ferrari to even think such a thing, much less commit hundreds of millions of euros to its execution. My God. Ferrari? The most self-satisfied car company on earth dares to put its weight on such a limb? It's downright epic.

I'm not saying I wouldn't change a thing. The front fender vents and fluting along the side (reminiscent of the Ferrari California) seem pointless and fussy; and the daft, leering view of the car head-on makes it look as if it's auditioning for "Pok?mon." But the shooting-brake conformation is so utterly right that it takes on the aspect of preordination. Ferrari just had to build it.

Oh yes, right, you're plunging to your death. I'll get back to you on that.

It's impossible to know what weight Ferrari lent to its competitors' offerings—execs would scoff, Ferrari has no competitors!—but it should be noted Porsche and Bentley each sell ballistic GTs with four seats, generous boots and all-wheel drive. These are cars that owners might use to drive to their homes in St. Moritz and Aspen. I know I would. The FF is a diabolically clever way to answer these market challenges without actually acknowledging them. No stooping to conquer.

Thanks to its bread-van shape, the FF is surprisingly spacious, with 16 cubic feet behind the upright rear seats (more than a BMW 7-series trunk) and nearly 29 cubic feet with seats down—enough, Ferrari assures us, to stow two sets of scuba gear. Or, may I mildly suggest, groceries. And while you wouldn't want to retire in them, the FF's back seats are actually pretty comfortable for a 6-footer like me. In addition to the golf-bag metric (the FF will hold two), Ferrari suggests two strollers can be put in the back, and you can even get Ferrari-red child safety seats. Interesting.

On the other side of the efficiency ledger, the FF has an electric air-conditioning pump; variable fuel pump and engine fan; and optional stop-start system as part of the HELE (High Emotions-Low Emissions) kit. With a Euro rating of 360 grams of carbon/kilometer, the FF will probably get about 11/18 mpg, city/highway, under the U.S. system.

She's a big monkey: 16.1 feet long and 6.5 feet wide, weighing about 4,144 pounds (weight distribution 47/53, front/rear). The rear transaxle consists of a seven-speed, dual-clutch sequential gearbox—no standard gearbox is available—abetted with Ferrari's E-Diff, the company's torque-vectoring system that channels twist to the outside rear wheel in corners to help pivot the car. Like the 599GTB, the FF uses magnetic suspension dampers behind the front wishbones and rear multilinks. Brakes? Forget it. Mortals' minds are too puny to comprehend their carbon-ceramic massiveness.

So far the car is pretty G.I. for a new Ferrari GT. Big, fast, upholstered by Croesus' saddle maker, and endowed with horsepower that would count as its own weather system. However, the FF's other bit of iconoclasm is its all-wheel-drive system (FF=Ferrari Four). A novel solution, it comprises a compact (6.7 inches deep) two-speed gearbox running off the front of the engine crank, driving the front wheels up to speeds of 124 mph (fourth gear). The so-called Power Transfer Unit is actuated by a multiplate clutch pack doing the bidding of the car's dynamic handling computers. Up to 20% of engine torque can be channeled through the PTU, which like the rear transaxle provides side-to-side torque vectoring to help the car maintain the desired line.

On dry pavement the PTU stays in the background and the FF handles like the run-of-the-mill, license-murdering, grand-touring Godzilla it is, which is to say, very much a rear-drive car. With the car's Manettino system in Sport mode, you can pitch the car into a hairpin, get it to over-rotate and then pin the tail down with the throttle. Here I'd love to lionize my driving talent, but the truth is, with Ferrari's current generation of dynamics software, Betty White could drift this car.
Base price: $300,000 (est.)
Price as tested: $325,000 (est.)
Powertrain: Naturally aspirated, direct-injection 6.3-liter, 48-valve DOHC V12 with variable valve timing, induction geometry and exhaust; seven-speed dual-clutch rear transaxle with two-speed multiclutch front power transfer unit; all-wheel drive.
Horsepower/torque: 651 hp at 8,000 rpm/504 pound-feet at 6,000 rpm
Length/weight: 193.2 inches/4,144 pounds
Wheelbase: 117.7 inches
0-62 mph: 3.7 seconds
0-124 mph: 11 seconds
Top speed: 208 mph
EPA fuel economy: 11/18 mpg, city/highway
Cargo capacity: 16 cubic feet (rear seats up); 29 cubic feet (seats down)
all-wheel-drive, 651-horsepower, 0,000 grand touring car-g_201.jpg 

I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
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