BRUNICO, Italy—You can count on one hand the cars that still offer a V12 engine, pure and unadulterated by turbos or hybrids or anything else.
Aston Martin makes one, but probably won’t for much longer. Lamborghini has the Aventador. Ferrari has the mighty F12 Berlinetta and this, the GTC4Lusso, successor to the FF. Rarefied company indeed.
There’s a good reason of course: climate change. Governments the world over are setting out ambitious fuel economy standards. It’s hard to justify a V12.
But if you’ve got any gasoline at all running through your veins, you will lament the slow extinction of the V12. It’s always been an engine reserved for the most exotic machines: race cars, big GTs, the pinnacle of luxury, supercars.
It’s about prestige and heritage as much as it’s about smoothness and torque and air-shredding noise.
In the late 1940s an engineer named Gioacchino Colombo designed the first V12 used by Enzo Ferrari in his first cars. Some of those motors were as small as 1.5 litres—a far cry from the 6.26-litre 680-horsepower V12 monster installed under the hood of the Lusso.
The Lusso bears a strong resemblance to its predecessor, the FF. It’s still a shooting brake, which means it’ll make your gearhead friends go weak in the knees. It’s still got all-wheel drive and a hatchback trunk.
Look more closely and you’ll see Ferrari has changed just about everything else: the roofline is more rakish; there’s a new integrated wing above the rear window; and the car is wider than before.
A crease starting behind the front wheels carves out a new side graphic, making the Lusso look more lithe.
The car appears as though it was carved from a solid block of marble, chiseled by a modern-day Michelangelo. Prudes will find it too risqué, but we love it. It is the coolest modern Ferrari, at once understated and spectacular.
Before the 2011 FF, there had never been a Ferrari shooting brake—not officially, anyway. There was the “breadvan” race car, as well a handful of coachbuilt monstrosities from Vignale and Panther Westwinds. There was even a wagon, custom-built for the Sultan of Brunei by Pininfarina, based on the Ferrari 456.
But if you wanted a practical Ferrari, something not just for weekends but for road trips and family ski holidays, you used to be out of luck.
Is the Lusso truly a practical car? Yes, there is really space for four adults. If they’re all packing only carry-on luggage, you’ll all fit.
The Lusso gives rear-seat passengers slightly more knee-room than the FF and there are more pockets and bins for “all the little stuff.” And that glass roof – nearly two square metres – is a magnificent sight.
The most terrifying thing about Ferrari ownership – I can only imagine – must be parking. Heaven forbid you curb one of those alloys on a sidewalk, on a busy street. What an embarrassing, expensive mistake.
The FF was a massive car, long and low. Not the kind of thing you’d want to wheel around an underground parking lot. The Lusso isn’t any smaller, but manages to solve the parking issue by introducing a four-wheel steering system.
The rear wheels turn slightly, artificially shortening the wheelbase and making the car more nimble. This is the best reason to upgrade from the FF. It will make living with the car much easier.
Passengers aren’t completely left out of the fun. Ferrari integrated a new “Co-Pilot” display, a secondary touchscreen, into the dashboard in front of the passenger seat. It’ll show speed and engine RPM, but it can also be genuinely useful.
Passengers can look up gas stations or parking lots along the current route and add them to the navigation. Why don’t SUVs and minivans have co-pilots displays of their own? It’s so useful.
Back to that V12. Will you notice the 30 horsepower increase over the old FF? I doubt it. Torque is also up across the board but that’s all icing on the cake. If you’re concerned with numbers, you’re missing the point.
Pressing your right foot to the floor and holding it there unleashes one of the great experiences in all of motoring. It’s like commanding the entire Roman Legion with your toes. The sound is the most shocking thing. The engine note just keeps rising and rising – surely we’re at the redline now? – but it’s spinning at 6,000 rpm and the redline doesn’t come until 8,250.
It sounds something like a kettle reaching the boiling point, that same crescendo, but deeper, more complex, more violent. The dual-clutch gearbox shifts with a whip-crack.
While your eardrums are being overloaded, this 1,920-kg machine barrels down the road with all the purpose of a missile; zero to 100 km/h takes 3.4 seconds. Top speed is 335 km/h. All-wheel drive means there’s always traction.
The steering is typical Ferrari: crazy-fast, feelsome, and eye-of-the-needle accurate. It’s heady stuff.
There’s nothing else even remotely like the Lusso, so, sure, $350,000 (estimated) is a reasonable price to pay, we guess.
Enjoy it while you can. Ferrari has said it won’t turbocharge or supercharge its V12 engines, but it will at some point add a hybrid unit, as it’s done with the LaFerrari. We like the Lusso just the way it is, thank you. This isn’t nostalgia. This is love.
Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.