Rumour has it that the Ferrari FF was the brainchild of former company CEO Luca di Montezemolo, born of his desire to source a suitable grand tourer for his younger wife and child.
Despite its excellence at achieving the brief, its niche status meant it was the only model in the range not to sell like hot cakes. Ultimately it still is a bit of an oddball concoction for the Prancing Horse; aside from the brawny 6.3-litre naturally aspirated V12, ingredients like a four-seat, shooting brake body and all-wheel drive are alien to Maranello.
To spur demand for this least Ferrari-like Ferrari, the powers-that-be decided to add a cheaper V8 version alongside the updated V12, which revived the GTC4 Lusso moniker, referencing iconic four-seat Ferraris from decades past. The V8 is also rear-wheel instead of all-wheel drive and has a pair of turbos to compensate for the reduction in engine displacement.
But while the price of the GTC4 Lusso 'T' has been cut by $75K to $503,888, it’s barely slower against the clock (0-100km/h in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 320km/h) and, as you’re about to find out, offers a very different experience to its big brother.
While it may not be quite as fast as the 507kW V12, the GTC4 T still receives a significant 449kW hit. Additionally, the 3.9-litre V8 does plot a more impressive torque curve, its 760Nm climax between 3000 and 5250rpm 63Nm more than the 6262cc engine can muster. Not surprisingly, the smaller powerplant also uses almost 25 per cent less fuel while in terms of intake growl and exhaust roar, the two tenors sound about as different as Caruso and Pavarotti.
What happens when the torque wave hits the rear wheels, I hear you ask? All hell breaks loose, that’s what. You have to brace yourself for sudden weight transfers as the rear end squats like a frog about to leap. There is no doubt about it, in rear-wheel guise, the GTC4 Lusso is a different animal. Even with ESC on deck, the rear axle must cope with latent forces that can send minor shockwaves all the way to the driver’s palms. A mix of uneven surfaces and an erratic torque feed will, even on straight roads, induce a fair amount of shadow boxing. As soon as any kind of radius enters the equation, things can get interesting along the car’s vertical axis.
Even though the last Ferraris fitted with a manual transmission are fetching prices akin to telephone numbers, every GTC4 comes with the now traditional seven-speed DCT. Even in auto mode, the adaptive ’box rarely puts a cog wrong, though new-age purists will always select Sport mode and reach for the carbon fibre shift paddles when truly on it. What’s not to like? Well, we would love to have Race mode, be able to disengage the electronic nannies in stages and be able to countersteer the stability-enhancing Rear Wheel Steering.
On the credit side, praise goes to the 'Bumpy Road' button, which summons a softer setting for the shock absorbers, and the trademark LED rev counter. The multi-function tiller also features the must-have Manettino drive-mode selector and at long last indicator switches that snap in securely and feel somewhat normal.
The reality is, though, that it takes a few hours to befriend the new GTC4. You see, the T model is notably more light-footed and likes to corner in its sportier modes. It also hangs on reassuringly long, only to break away abruptly when the 245/35 ZR20 front tyres feel the heat or when the rear 295/35 ZR20 tyres feel like playing.
Switch off ESC and it’s likely nothing will change immediately. After all, the grip in RWD-guise is still phenomenal, and the armada of acronyms (E-Diff/SSC3/CST/F1 TRAC/ESP 9.0/SCM-E) does a fine job of supporting balance and composure. But as soon as the red mist descends, power oversteer is the name of the game, as this Ferrari also prefers sliding over carving, too.
While torque is fed gear by gear in progressive doses, there is almost always enough twist on tap to light up the rear Pirellis. The trouble is, one needs room to play with the hypo four-seater. While the Rear Wheel Steer attempts to curtail the slide, front-end grip is limited, so it takes a fairly hard stab on the throttle to push the GTC4 sideways. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.
One look at the data sheet is all it takes to confirm that the Lusso T is not a brand-new car. It contains a detailed description of the engine and chassis, plus a list of impressive performance figures, however there is no mention of such absent mod-cons like advanced assistance systems, partial electrification and adjustable sway bars.
What can tweak the character of the car is the aforementioned damper adjustment. The result is precious compliance, especially on the awful secondary Italian roads dotted with drastic camber changes, impromptu transverse ridges and frost-bitten shoulders. Pulling out all stops on an ancient Roman superstrada gives the term roadholding a very different meaning; by comparison, going fast on a smooth German autobahn is a piece of cake.
At the end of the day, I am exhausted and intrigued by the latest Prancing Horse. You see, this Ferrari is a loose cannon in more ways than one. The GTC4 T fuses emphatic body motions with obvious traction issues, despite the lighter front end resulting in a wheelspin-quelling 46:54 rearward weight bias. While there is now less mass resting on the correspondingly lighter steering, front-drive assistance has vanished – and with it, torque vectoring. And yet, this combination makes the Lusso T a more dynamic, defiant and razor-edged drive.
Aesthetically the somewhat Marmite design has received a significant overhaul by chief designer Flavio Manzoni. As well as the new styling now being less polarising, the ancient infotainment system has also been modernised.
So which variant gets the nod? Will it be 12 cylinders or eight? Thankfully the Lusso T doesn’t trade prestige and performance for efficiency and monetary benefits. While the luscious V12 version still makes for a better GT car, almost surprisingly, the boosted bent-eight has the edge in terms of agility and overt sportiness. However, if your wallet can support the starting price and if hardcore performance is your gig, the 488 GTB or the upcoming 812 Superfast will satiate that need far better. That said, those in the market for the bread-van-like shooting brake body style shouldn’t wait around as the GTC4 will almost certainly be replaced with a dramatically different four-seater in 2020.
Engine: 3855cc V8, DOHV, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 449kW @ 7500rpm
Torque: 760Nm @ 3000rpm
0-100km/h: 3.5sec (claimed)
Star Rating: 4.5/5
LIKE: More entertaining chassis; lower entry price
DISLIKE: No V12 soundtrack; on-limit handling can be tricky