Inside, the Lusso has gone full Formula 1, with virtually every secondary control mounted on the steering wheel. That includes the ignition, the headlights, the turn signals, the windshield wipers, the manettino performance-mode dial, and the phone controls. There are roller switches on the back of the spokes controlling audio volume and instrument-panel configuration. And, in a nod to the reality of rough roads, there’s a button that temporarily softens the magnetorheological dampers without requiring the driver to switch out of Sport mode.
Just a Revised FF?
The GTC4Lusso will cost about $300,000 when it hits U.S. showrooms later this year. It’s likely the most usable and civilized road car the company has ever made. But has its decency made it less virile? Less of a Ferrari? The answer comes as we switch off stability control, open the throttle, and bathe the Dolomites with the V-12’s glory call. No, this is still a Ferrari. And it is a good one.
But forget Germanic stoicism; this four-seat, all-wheel-drive hatchback is dripping with Italian flourish. Yes, it has two fewer doors than a Panamera. So what? If you’re really concerned about hauling four people, buy a Mercedes-Benz S-class. All hips and haunches, the GTC4Lusso is also approximately 100 percent easier on the eyes. And, yes, it’s quiet, except at full throttle. Then it’s Monza in September. And it’s fast.
New Hardware Inside and Out
Ferraris, after all, are universally wedded to the expectation of noise: soul-scorching symphonic theater. A 680-horsepower V-12-powered Ferrari lacking such theater is as contradictory as a black fire truck. Should the Lusso’s double-pane windows, quieter exhaust, and extra sound deadening still wave the prancing-horse flag? Can an old man’s Ferrari still be a Ferrari? More philosophically, should it be? The collective heart of the tifosi just skipped a beat.
So it matters little when we find ourselves in a parade of tour buses, cyclists, and even sport bikes operating with a churlish disregard for velocity while climbing switchback roads in the Italian Alps. That a Ferrari should be so disrespected on its own turf is astonishing. That this indifference is demonstrated mostly by Germans on holiday is not. Possibly the drive route was chosen by Ferrari in a veiled attempt to highlight the Lusso’s greatest virtue: utter civility.
But the feckless flat-bottom steering wheel would seem out of place in any road car. The rear seats are usable if the fronts aren’t occupied by someone taller than six feet, but the back isn’t a place you’ll find adults volunteering to ride—at least, not those who’ve already experienced a V-12 Ferrari.
The interior impresses, but no more than that of a Porsche at half the price. Stitched leather is everywhere. The round air vents are an awesome marriage of function and style.
Drives Like a Ferrari
Although it’s made up largely of the same hardware as the FF, the GTC4Lusso’s crux move is its unusual all-wheel-drive system, which uses a two-speed gearbox driven directly by the nose of the crankshaft. The two-speed’s range is sufficient to cover the rear transaxle’s first four gears. In fifth through seventh gears, the Lusso is a rear-wheel-driver. Clutches on each front half-shaft allow torque vectoring to each front wheel. A more efficient heat exchanger with increased thermal capacity enables the delivery of more torque to the front wheels in dry conditions.
The Lusso’s V-12 gets a higher compression ratio from redesigned pistons. Coupled with equal-length six-into-one exhaust manifolds, the engine tweaks yield an additional 29 horsepower and 10 lb-ft of torque over the FF. The dual-clutch transaxle is unchanged and houses an electronically controlled clutch-type limited-slip differential.
But the Lusso is not perfect. Its transmission vacillates counterintuitively in low-speed maneuvers where precision is most required. The steering effort is so light that guiding it prudently can be challenging. And it’s quieter than the FF, especially at idle. Its exhaust is intentionally hushed, which Ferrari says is to better suit owners who will drive these cars daily.
The infotainment is upgraded with an all-new 10.3-inch touchscreen accompanied by a dedicated knob-and-button interface. Combined, these make quick work of audio, phone, and ventilation needs. The system is fast and intuitive and has usable controls—a rare trifecta, particularly among low-volume carmakers.
Rear-wheel steering is new to the Lusso. First introduced on the F12tdf, the system’s response depends on a number of variables, but most of the time it steers the rear tires in the same direction as the fronts. This strategy gives the driver more confidence by providing consistent feedback, according to Varisco. Out-of-phase rear steering, the kind that crabs the rear around corners, is reserved only for turn-in and limited to about 0.1 second per use to initiate car rotation.
The V-12 delivers. Although it doesn’t detonate the 2.1-ton Lusso out of slow corners the way that, say, a Nissan GT-R’s twin-turbo six does, it pays off in an 8250-rpm swell that makes engines with half the cylinders feel like playthings. Shifting the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic at speed is hampered only by an infrequent need to find the column-fixed shift paddles. It is a wildly flexible thing, this engine.
That the 2017 Ferrari GTC4Lusso is at least one second faster around Ferrari’s Fiorano test track than the wagonoid FF that it replaces is meaningless. Partly, this is because it’s essentially an update on the same car. But it’s also because, according to Stefano Varisco, the man responsible for the Lusso’s vehicle dynamics, improving lap times wasn’t a target for the Lusso development team. More to the point, the all-wheel-drive Lusso is clearly a GT car, a machine made for triple-digit sweepers and deserted highways more than for Alpine switchbacks. Hot laps? They’re in the Lusso’s purview but certainly not in its crosshairs.
Which brings us to the point: The GTC4Lusso is Ferrari’s replacement for its FF, a Ferrari whose identity was always in question, torn between pragmatism and passion. The Lusso fares better on style alone, with more aggressive rear fenders, sculpted sides, and a larger grille. Dimensionally, the two are virtually identical, both riding a 117.7-inch wheelbase, which is 1.6 inches longer than that of the recently revealed second-generation Porsche sedan.
2017 FERRARI GTC4LUSSO
Still, it works. The Lusso doesn’t make itself small on these roads. It just swallows them whole. There’s nothing subtle here, but there is a calm confidence about its abilities. Utterly stuck to the ground, the front tires follow every command from the lightly weighted steering wheel, and, in turn, the rest of the big coupe obeys. Don’t think you’re going to slide this car; it’s not that kind of machine. It almost never overburdens its front tires, but neither does it want to power out sideways. If there’s oversteer to be had, even at low speed, it demands the kind of inputs that often result in regret.
Still, three hours later, after showing its taillights to every Iveco truck in the Alps, we realize the truth about the Lusso is evident: Ferrari has created the world’s best answer to the Porsche Panamera.
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