This Ferrari FF was kindly provided to us by The Gilmour Collection for testing

Ask any kid today to draw a Ferrari and they are likely to draw some form of wedge design. The classic mid-engine supercar with the pointy front, cockpit in the middle and the engine just behind it. What few people realise though, is that Enzo Ferrari himself, never intended to build mid-engined cars for the road. In the late 50’s the the only Ferraris you would see on the road, would have had a V12 engine. And it would have been mounted in the front.

Ferrari FF

Enzo was under pressure to produce a car with a smaller engine mounted in the middle though. Ever the proud perfectionist, he was worried that a Ferrari without a V12 would detract from the brand. He was also convinced that the less forgiving nature of a mid-engine car, would be too much for the “average” driver to handle.

the Ferrari name did not appear anywhere on it

However, he did finally relent and Ferrari built a mid-engine car with a V6 engine. Enzo made sure that the Ferrari name did not appear anywhere on the car though. In stead the car was sold under a new brand, namely Dino. The popularity of the Dino cars led Ferrari to bring out more models under the brand. Eventually adding bigger engines and updating the design. Eventually, having proved the concept, Enzo agreed to put the Ferrari name on mid-engine sportscars. Today, mid-engine Ferraris are their most popular product line.

Ferrari FF

Ferrari never strayed from their roots however, and for some, the front engine V12 GT cars, are still the quintessential Ferrari. I must confess, I am one of that “some”.

perfect ratio of grace to aggression

The FF has therefore always been on my radar. I absolutely loved the idea of a shooting brake, practical Ferrari. In silhouette, not too different in concept to the BMW Z3 M-Coupe (aka. The Clownshoe). Where the BMW was quite strange and awkward looking though, the FF is simply sublime. There is not a bad angle on this car. The front end is fairly typical of Ferrari GT cars, low, long nose, short overhangs and generally sleek. It has beautiful detailing, muscular lines and of course, just the perfect ratio of grace to aggression.

The rear is even more impressive though. Unlike the BMW, the FF does not look like it was a coupe that was converted to a hatchback. The FF was clearly always intended to be a 3-door car. The back is beautifully executed, and the details and complexity of the lines mean that it doesn’t just look like a boring family hatchback either.

It really is an incredibly beautiful car.

the Ferrari FF really is a practical Ferrari

What makes the FF even more special though, is the fact that it is a full 4-seater. I say 4-seater, because unlike a 2+2, you can REALLY use the rear seats. Getting in and out of the rear is not as easy as with a 4-door car, and it’s not massively spacious back there, but it is certainly comfortable for someone my size to spend considerable time in the rear seat. Couple this with a reasonably sized, useable boot and the FF really is a practical Ferrari you could actually use.

Inside is a sculpture of some of the softest and most beautifully stitched leather to ever find its way into a car. The seats are very supportive, but still manage to be superbly comfortable. Finding a comfortable driving position is very easy and visibility is excellent in all directions. With no column mounted stalks, all driving controls such as lights, indicators and windscreen wipers, are mounted on the steering wheel.

Although this means the driver never has to take his hands off the wheel, it does not always feel instinctive to use. I suspect it would take a little bit more time for it to become second nature, but the trade-off is worth it. The lack of stalks behind the steering wheel, mean that the gear paddles can be mounted on the column. This means that the paddles are big, solid, and most importantly, stay in the correct position regardless of where the steering wheel is pointing.

smoother than the much-lauded PDK

On the move, the dual clutch gearbox feels very similar to the ‘box in the California we featured a little while ago. A little lazy in auto mode, but perfectly smooth – dare I say possibly smoother than the much-lauded PDK. Again, auto mode is simply not up to spirited driving however, and to really have fun with the car, it should be switched to Manual.

Ferrari FF

The 6.3L, V12 engine is a perfect reminder of just how much emphasis Ferrari place on their engines. With well over 600 Horsepower, the FF was fitted with the most powerful engine ever fitted to a production Ferrari at the time. So there is certainly no want for performance. Such is the incredible surge from the power and torque of this thing, you may not even have the time to appreciate just how smooth it is. And of course, there is the noise. A gorgeous mix of metallic rasp and deep humming. Once warmed up, the sound settles down and the inside of the car becomes a very civilised place to be.

As if all of this was not enough to make the FF a unique driving experience, Ferrari decided to make the FF, their first experiment in the world of 4-wheel drive. I have never been a fan of all wheel drive cars, simply because they do not feel good to drive. Their steering tends to be numb and they simply understeer endlessly thanks to the reduced lateral grip availability on the front wheels, and of course the added weight.

Ferrari’s solution to these problems is the PTU

Ferrari’s solution to these problems is the Power Take-Off Unit or PTU. A secondary, 2 speed gearbox taking its power from the front of the engine. Using a complex system of Haldex clutches, the front drive clutches are constantly in slip, meaning only 20% of the engine’s power ever goes to the front. In most situations 100% of the power goes to the rear and the front drive is ONLY engaged when traction is being lost at the rear, and even then only if the car is in comfort or snow mode and only up to 4th gear.

Crucially though, the four wheel drive system in the FF may be unconventional and slightly more complex, but it is around 50% lighter than the AWD systems in other sportscars. This means that it never feels like a four wheel drive car. It feels and drives like it is rear driven only… and that’s a good thing. But at the same time you get the benefit and absolute sure-footed traction of all wheel drive. With it’s excellent steering feel, incredible Carbon Ceramic brakes and clever drivetrain, the FF is a very easy car to drive quickly, and thanks to that engine, very quickly. It gives you confidence to turn in and accelerate through the corners, because it is solidly planted.

feels great through the steering

The Ferrari FF breaks all the stereotypes and preconceived ideas, by completely contradicting traditional thinking. It is a practical Ferrari. The FF is beautiful and a hatchback. It has four wheel drive that not only feels great through the steering, but also handles properly, without understeer. And despite its rarity and obvious appeal, it represents excellent value as far as V12 Ferrari GT cars are concerned.

The FF is just an incredibly special car that is exciting, practical, beautiful, comfortable, refined and racy. It is proof that on rare occasions, you can have your cake and eat it too.

This car is currently for sale through the Gilmour Collection.