Okay, it's not a proper SUV. But you would not blush at calling it a crossover. That's crossover as in experimental mix of wagon, four-seater coupé, go-almost-anywhere sportscar, and of course Ferrari.
The FF was the brainchild of former CEO Luca di Montezemolo, who had remarried, fathered a daughter, and found his carpool lacking. It seated four grown-ups, carried 450 litres of cargo and had the world's most complicated four-wheel drive system, with two transmissions.
The mighty V12 engine collected plenty of street cred but pushed the car's price out of reach of mere millionaires. Worse, the FF looked like a Ferrari crossover gone wrong. Sales were not exactly buoyant.
A plan to offer the FF with a more keenly priced V8 option was dropped, but the design did receive the overdue Flavio Manzoni treatment, which has kicked it half a dozen steps up the prettiness scale. The rear end looks less clumsy now, the extra-cost full-length glassroof lets in plenty of light (but no fresh air), and the revised infotainment is at last better than a smartphone stuck on the windscreen.
The mildly modified, naturally aspirated, 6.3-litre V12 is redlined at an impressively vocal 8250rpm. For trips to the kindergarten, the bellowing exhausts can be numbed by keeping the revs below 3000rpm. Between 3000 and 5000rpm, the massive V12 plays cool jazz with an extra bass and a couple of saxophones.
Above 5000rpm, the soundmaster adds two electric guitars and a synthesizer – which mimic an increasingly grumpy bunch of grizzlies. Without a limiter, this amazing powerplant would spin enthusiastically to self-destruction.
Even though power and torque receive only a conservative boost to 507kW and 697Nm, Ferrari claims a 0-100km/h time of 3.4sec, which marks a substantial 0.3sec improvement. The maximum speed remains unchanged at 335km/h.
The most significant engineering update concerns the standard rear-wheel steering. Ferrari claims it effectively shortens the wheelbase around town while extending it on the open road. Manoeuvrability on the twisties that carve through the Dolomites has benefited from the rear countersteer, which also tightens the turning circle. The GTC4 turns in with more enthusiasm than the FF, its handling balance is sweeter, and lift-off at the limit has zero effect on the line. Having said that, the extra hardware contributes to a kerb weight for the Lusso that falls only 80kg short of two tonnes.
Systems integration forms a piece of art from the various driver aids.
Key protagonists are the rear-wheel steering, AWD, torque vectoring, damper adjustment and the ABS/DSC/ TC controls. A pivotal forte is active torque split, which works north-south and east-west, directing twist to the wheel that makes the most of it. The Lusso cruises along in rear-wheel drive, but as soon as slip threatens to deflect the flight path the front axle will pull the car out of trouble.
Dislikes? The GT steering owes more to the California than to the F12, advanced assistance systems are conspicuous by their absence, and the updated tyre compound feels somewhat edgier at the limit.
Like almost every Ferrari, this one rides very well on bumpy Italian tarmac, inviting you to press on when common sense would black-flag a Conti GT Speed or S63 AMG Coupe.
Again, it's that crucial fusion of compliance, control and confidence which makes the big Ferrari feel encouragingly nimble and responsive. Even on D-roads where only proper SUVs never lift, this very special Ferrari has enough ground clearance and wheel travel to stay on top of things.
Supporting this self-confidence are potent carbon-ceramic brakes which employ rotors the size of an old railway station clock.
Instead of the small in-dash monitor which made the FF feel old the day it was released, its successor sports a so-called dual cockpit. No, this is not the reinvention of the wheel, but the large touchscreen is a much better guide for the circling index finger, and the passenger may claim a portion of the screen to check email or watch a movie. Extra money buys a digital fear-o-meter which informs the co-driver of speed, revs and gear selection.
There is still no head-up display, but the analogue rev counter looms as large as ever. What started off well with the manettino has in the GTC4 Lusso been diluted again by a more complex multi-functional steering-wheel and an extended choice of touch controls.
Remember, Ferrari, we have only two eyes and five fingers per hand.
4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
LIKE: V12 sound and fury; broadly competent dynamics
DISLIKE: High weight; fussy control layout
Engine: 6262cc V12, DOHC, 48v
Power: 507kW @ 8000rpm
Torque: 697Nm @ 5750rpm
0-100km/h: 3.4sec (claimed)
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