In 2011 Ferrari launched the FF, a shooting brake-styled grand tourer aimed at the more practical end of the luxury market – think upmarket SUVs, although Ferrari has long said that it would not build an SUV.
It was a lot more than that, but barely five years later came the GTC4Lusso which was essentially a restyled FF. Much less awkward looking, it had the same V12 engine and four-wheel drive via a brace of shafts to the front wheels that came into action when the engine’s prodigious torque was deemed to be about to overwhelm the traction of the rear tyres.
Now we have the GTC4Lusso T, the T denoting a twin-turbocharged V8 in the nose based on the power unit in the California T (also front-engined) and the mid-engined 488 GTB Coupé and Spider. It’s the first V8-engined four-seater Ferrari (rather than a 2+2).
As ever with Ferrari it’s pitched as an all-new car and the sixth model in the line-up, although it’s essentially the same as the V12 version minus four cylinders and the front-drive hardware. It is marketed at younger customers than V12 buyers, those who want a Ferrari for daily use and weekend trips but value the four-seat capability and greater practicality than the company’s mid-engined sports cars.
From the outside it’s identical to the V12-engined version apart from the wheels and four exhaust outlets poking out of the diffuser. It’s long and low (wide, too, but that’s not immediately obvious). The restyle has transformed the GTC4Lusso, which looks purposeful and sleek rather than slightly ungainly. Not one body panel is shared with the old FF.
The interior is swathed in the finest hides and features Ferrari’s new infotainment system with a Delphi-supplied 10.25in HD touchscreen in the centre, which fits in well with the interior’s simple but luxurious ambience. It’s also much easier to use than previous Ferrari fare.
Pretty much everything that isn’t controlled via the touchscreen is operated from the steering wheel, as we’ve become accustomed to from Ferrari.
Early versions with the indicators, wipers and lights on the steering wheel could be a hit and miss until you became familiar with them, but the latest versions require a firmer push to activate and are all the more user-friendly for that.
There’s clearly plenty of space in the cosseting but comfortable front seats but this is a genuine four-seater, with sufficient space in the rear for a couple of six-footers in individual, sculpted seats. The optional panoramic glass roof makes it feel even more spacious. It’s not difficult to get in and out of the rear seats either, as the front seats slide fully forward and the doors are long. Mind those doors in the average multi-storey car park though, as they open very wide.
We don’t often say this about Ferraris, but there’s even some useful boot space. Although the rear suspension and seven-speed transaxle eat into a lot of the potential volume, there’s about the same load space as you’d get in a Ford Focus.
The rear seats and centre section fold separately, too. Ferrari quotes 800 litres with everything folded. I didn’t get a chance to try, but I reckon it would easily accommodate my racing bicycle with the front wheel removed.
The V8 is mounted way back in the engine bay for optimum weight distribution, which helps with agility. I was surprised to discover that this car is only 50kg lighter than the V12, despite the smaller engine and deletion of the extra gearbox and driveshafts to the front wheels. However, when you look at all the plumbing and cooling for the pair of twin-scroll turbochargers the weight difference starts to make sense.
More important is the distribution of that weight. The V8 has a slightly more rearward bias than the larger-engined version, at 46% front and 54% rear (pub bores will already know that the V12 is 48F and 52R).
You could probably write a book about the changes to the engine from its most recent application in the 488 Spider, but suffice to say efficiency and responsiveness have been improved with new pistons and connecting rods, revised equal-length intake and wider bore exhaust systems and redesigned intercoolers, along with reduced lag before the twin-scroll turbochargers start to make themselves felt.
Which they certainly do. Any twin-turbo V8 is going to be pretty rapid but the way the Ferrari gathers - and maintains - pace is compelling. Maximum power of 602bhp is produced right near the redline at 7,500rpm but more relevant is the huge swell of torque, with the peak of 560lb ft available from 3,000-5,250rpm.
That makes the Lusso V8 not only rapid but extremely easy to drive at any speed, which just adds to the feeling that you could drive it all day. It pulls smoothly from low revs in any of the seven gears, but of course you can always liven proceedings by dropping a couple of ratios and savouring the engine’s high-rev frenzy and concurrent blistering acceleration.
The grip is prodigious, too. The all-wheel-drive V12 is supposed to be the choice for low-grip situations but, ice and snow aside, I can’t imagine the need.
As with its larger-engined sibling, the Lusso V8 has four-wheel steering, in which the rear tyres turn in the same direction as the fronts at high speed to improve agility. It’ll never match a well-driven hot hatch along a seriously sinuous road but it can be hustled with the best of them, cornering speed limited more by the car’s width and bulk than any lack of responsiveness and traction. In a word, rewarding.
As ever with modern steering systems there’s precious little feedback but the steering is direct, accurate and linear.
The third generation of Ferrari’s Slide Slip Control (SSC), integrated with the F1-Trac traction control and E-Differential, electronics package takes information from the various sensors dotted around the car to improve traction and apportion torque to the inner or outer rear wheel according to grip and many other variables. It sounds complicated, and the processing power required to run it must be mighty, but the end result is that it flatters your driving as well as keeping you on the road. Not only that, it’s also unobtrusive.
The GTC4Lusso T also has the same Magnaride dampers as the larger-engined car, which optimise the tyres’ contact with the road. Again, it just works, so you can keep the car in Sport settings for the most responsive gearchanges and chassis settings but dial in an extra degree of compliance to the damping.
There has been much debate about the sound of recent turbocharged Ferraris. The GTC4Lusso T has a valve in the exhaust that opens if you select Sport on the steering wheel manettino switch for a more fruity exhaust note, which is more muted in the Comfort setting. It’s all rather more sedate than in the mid-engined cars but it still sounds good under load and especially at high revs - and suits this car’s grand touring role. And if you’re in the mood for some fun, the Sport setting provides faster, more brutal gearchanges to go with the extra aural stimulation.
Sure, the addictive, high-rev howl of previous, naturally-aspirated Ferraris is no more, but it’s still a Ferrari V8 and I’m certain that no one will turn down one of these cars just because it doesn’t sound quite as visceral as a five-year-old Ferrari. Turbocharging provides more than adequate performance in recompense - and it’s here to stay for reasons of emissions.
A lot of journalists have similarly complained about the lack of a manual gearchange option, but when an automated change is this well executed that is simply not an issue. Besides, when you’re pressing on along a winding road, there is so much steering to do that the paddle-shift gearbox is the only way to go.
I shall get off my soapbox now. The GTC4Lusso T is a thoroughly modern Ferrari and does what it sets out to do with aplomb. And yes, it can be raucous and fast, or as civilised as you like. Porsche may beg to differ, but it might well be the ultimate luxury grand tourer - and I reckon it’s the best car Ferrari makes.
Ferrari GTC4Lusso T
Tested: 3,855cc twin-turbo V8 petrol, seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Price/on sale: from £199,258/September (but available to order now)
Power/torque: 602bhp @ 7,500rpm/560lb ft @ 3,000-5,250rpm
Top speed: 199mph
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 3.5sec
Fuel economy: 24.4mpg (EU Combined)
CO2 emissions: 265g/km
VED: £2,000 first year, £450 next five years, then £140
Verdict: After the FF and GTC4 V12, Ferrari has finally got this car right. While there will always be those who want a V12 engine (and even a few who require four-wheel drive for low-grip situations) the twin-turbo V8 version is so capable that it’s difficult to imagine anyone wanting more. It’s fast, comfortable, stylish and highly desirable, more than rewarding enough on twisty roads but – the hallmark of a good performance car, this – it’s just as impressive at low to moderate speeds. Apart from the purchase price, what’s not to like?
Telegraph rating: Four out of five stars
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