2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso: Targa Tasmania Review

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso main

Keep it to yourself, but some of the best roads in the world are on a wild, windswept, deserted-feeling island at the bottom of the earth.

The only way you can get there, by car, is by vessel, a voyage across one of the most perilous straits of all the seas, beyond the southern, roaring 40-degree latitude so many sailors fear.

And when you get there, it's inhabited by inquisitive, suspicious creatures, to whom you're advised not to respond in the affirmative to any enquiries that you're from some "mainland". Unless you wish to be watched from the corner of eyes as you roam shops and eat meals.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso frontDerr, it's Tasmania. It was once connected to the even bigger island just over its northern horizon as recently as 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last great glacial period (that's right, Tasmanian readers, we were all joined together at one point! And much more recently than Gondwanaland).

But when the earth warmed and the waters rose, Tasmania was isolated again, a rocky outcrop sculpted by volcanoes that once spewed great landscape-forming magmas, now extinct.

Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Bugattis off-roading in mud

This meant that, a geological nanosecond ago, when the white man sailed down on his ships and did unspeakable wrongs to the people already living here, but started building roads between settlements, the only way over all these great undulations was left, then right, then left again.

Fast forward 200 years to a time when you're wondering about completely abstract things like steering feel and ESP calibration, and these old roads are Nirvana.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso groupWe are in Tasmania to experience this. Everybody knows about Targa Tasmania, the annual romp around the island where man, or woman, and machine, are unleashed on public roads with no speed limit, provided they've fitted the appropriate interior scaffolding and are wearing a helmet and five seatbelts at once.

But what you might not know is that you can experience Tasmania's sublime roads for yourself as part of the Targa Tour, as it's known – sans roll cage, helmet and cops. But not sans speed limit.

It works like this. You get up before the sun does, get inside your car as it rubs its eyes and spews great plumes of steam out its exhausts, drive to the stage with your group, and then cut sick on the closed roads (before the competition cars) with an official car at the front setting the pace.

It cannot exceed 130km/h. In theory. And there are punishments for the official drivers if they are caught speeding. But you can imagine what 130km/h feels like in some corners, and what it feels like in others.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso drivingMOTOR is joining the Tour with Ferrari in – we're thankful to report – a new GTC4Lusso. Not just thankful for the fact it has a screaming 507kW 6.3-litre atmo V12 – revving to 8250rpm, though there is that.

But thankful more for the fact that, while we'd love to be in a 488 or an F12, with the Tour taking place over 2000km, 38 stages and six days, you're glad for some extra seat padding. And more forgiving dampers. And seat heaters.

There is also the fact the GTC4Lusso is the only Ferrari with front-wheel drive. It mixes this with rear-drive, of course, and is psychologically a nice thing to have in the back pocket while traversing Tasmania and its notoriously capricious weather.

Like its FF predecessor, the GTC4Lusso has a very unique all-wheel drive system. There is no mechanical connection between the front and rear axles.

While power is sent to the rear wheels quite conventionally through a rear-mounted, seven-speed twin-clutch automatic, and then an electronically-locking limited slip diff, power reaches the front wheels via a two-speed gearbox slung off the front of the engine.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso engineBy slipping clutches, the computer is able to simulate four gears, equivalent to the first four ratios in the normal transmission, and in turn precisely matching front and rear wheel speeds – all using sensors and software. From fifth gear and up, the GTC4Lusso is exclusively rear-wheel drive.

Though it weighs 1920kg and has a wheelbase basically as long as a Holden Statesman (19mm less), the launch control-assisted GTC4Lusso rockets to 100km/h in just 3.4 seconds – or so says Ferrari. Two hundred flashes by in 10.5 seconds on to a bahn-burning top speed of 335km/h.

All while using just 15.3L/100km. (If you do one hard accelerator run and then spend the remainder of the fuel tank slipstreaming a B-double.)

Ferrari has comprehensively overhauled the FF in the evolution to GTC4Lusso, where a slight rebranding is hoped to improve sales of Maranello's most family-friendly car, one that didn't bolt off the sales floor quite like originally hoped.

The new name is supposed to be a throwback to cars like the 330 GTC and its two-plus-two sister model, the 330 GT; while also giving a nod to the luxurious 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso. While the big, burly V12 now powers up to 507kW and 697Nm, the interior is completely new, as is the fitment of all-wheel steering.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso drivingAnd, of course, a new, rear-drive turbo V8 model brings the range's entry price down – and should mean you see more GTC4Lussos on the road.

For now, though, in Tasmania, there is just one GTC4Lusso, and we're sitting in it. In front of us, we're staring at the gills over the rear haunches of an F12tdf, and behind us, there's the shark-like grin of a red 458 Speciale.

It's the first year Ferrari has officially brought an entourage to Targa Tasmania for the Tour, and full credit to them – and their customers – for getting the toys out and putting kilometres – and stone chips – on cars that, elsewhere in the world, are in humidity-controlled museums.

MOTOR is joining halfway through the Tour, taking over the reins to the GTC4Lusso from ex-editor and now Fairfax honcho Andrew MacLean, who had the privilege of not just staring at the aerodynamically-sculpted rears of F12tdfs and Speciales, but also a LaFerrari.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso steering wheelYep, in what was somewhat of a coup, Ferrari Australasia boss Herbert Appleroth managed to convince a black LaFerrari to inch on to the Spirit of Tasmania, cross the Strait and cut loose in the Apple Isle.

Although unsurprisingly, its owner, a very busy businessman, couldn't quite spare the six days out of office, and so all MOTOR saw of it was it parked outside a hotel. And all we heard of it was how the owner spun the car while drifting in a town stage, in front of locals, and heroically kept his foot in it as the car pirouetted around to keep going. Perhaps we'll next see him at Summernats.

We have that horrible feeling we don't know what we're supposed to be doing. Rolling up to the first stage, photographer Cristian Brunelli in the passenger seat acting as navigator (so we're almost guaranteed to get lost), we turn the manettino into Sport, the transmission into manual and grab first gear.

There have been so many briefings, forms, and we have received so much information and so many warnings and stern talkings-to about safety, that we're not quite sure what's about to happen. Having been wound up like a spring, it's somewhat unnerving – are we about to spectacularly ignore the 130km/h thing, or what?

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso official start to the raceThe official at the start of the stage gives our group the go-ahead wave, led by the official pacecar in a MkVI Golf R, followed closely by Ferrari boss Appleroth in the battleship grey, PCOTY-competing 488 GTB, and then us. We leave a little gap, and then try to keep up. And then, on what is a shorter stage, it's over as quick as it began.

Now, anyone wondering if they should do the Targa Tour should make sure they know what they're getting themselves into (see breakout for costs, etc). Going as fast as you want on the best roads in Tasmania – closed – driving past Highway Patrol cops giving you the thumbs up?

Err, maybe in the regularity running (the next level up) or, of course, the full Targa Tasmania competition. But if you want to use your road car, without bolting in a cage, or wearing a helmet, it's the Tour only. Which means 130km/h.

Now, it's fantastic to experience these roads without your licence quaking in fear in your pocket. But if you're going to do the Targa Tour, we recommend considering a car that's going to feel quite fast at 130km/h, like a Subaru BRZ or Mazda MX-5. At 130km/h a GTC4Lusso feels like a Joint Strike Fighter taxiing down a runway.

This is a car that continues to be dominated by its engine. You could feasibly build an engine dyno, centre stage, at the Opera House and rev the GTC4Lusso's V12 creatively – and people would buy tickets to watch and listen. (This is why I run a magazine, and not an opera house.)

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso frontIt sounds glorious – rich, sonorous, menacing, a distinctive sound you just don't get anywhere else. It's free-revving, hungry for air, incredibly responsive and linear. And man does it have some grunt, hurtling the big GTC4Lusso down the road at incredible pace.

While its enormous, fantastic brakes arrest the GTC4Lusso effectively and without fuss; and while its incredible, potent engine gives your right foot effortless power and thrust; you always have in the back of your mind that the GTC4Lusso is a big car with a lot of mass moving very quickly.

It feels it in the slower corners, too, where the all-wheel steering lends it a little more agility. But ultimately the all-wheel steering is most appreciated at car park speeds.

The GTC4Lusso puts its power down in exactly the way you want. Open the taps from standstill, in Sport mode, and the rear tyres will light up, before the front axle steps in to tidy things up and get you rocketing toward the horizon.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso race competitorsThe rear-drive personality continues as you leave corners, letting you wag that big rump on the throttle enough to require some corrective lock, but only to temporarily encourage the car back into line as the front axle pulls the car straight. It's a fantastic feeling; and so is the big Fezza's rear getting light on the throttle over crests. And there are plenty of those in Tasmania.

If one thing distinguishes Tasmanian roads, it's the short straight, careering over a blind crest, where you'll immediately find a tightening corner and plunging escarpment. And very little sign-posting.

Tasmanian taxpayers should never have to worry that they're spending too much money on signs that tell you how tight a corner might be. Tasmania is a place that absolutely rewards road knowledge. And you can see how, in the main game competition, strong, accurate pacenotes and the ability to work off them effectively, is crucial to winning.

In Tasmania, you never know what's around the next corner, or over the next crest. Just ask all the people it's bitten.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso with other FerrarisTwo days into knocking over stages in the GTC4Lusso, we wonder how the bloke in the F12tdf is getting on. At the base of its appreciation hill, this car is surely worth at least AUD$1m. Just 799 were built, 574kW each, 0-200km/h in a claimed 7.9 seconds – Cup tyres, and rear-wheel drive.

MOTOR's international team of road testers voted it the most frightening car of 2016. As we are belting up an early morning stage, with lots of tight, first- and second-gear corners – where you don't notice the 130km/h limit much, if at all – I can't help but imagine the owner getting out at the end of the stage, hands trembling, lighting up a cigarette and whimpering for mummy. It's an adult nappy car.

And, with the morning coffee not yet kicked in, makes me glad to have two extra driveshafts. And even then, at Queenstown, where fog reduces visibility to about 50 metres, the GTC4Lusso's rear end is yawing into its electronics a little quicker than I'd like.

I absolutely cannot imagine belting up here as quick as I possibly can, like 2017 winners Jason and John White, in a car like their Dodge Viper ACR Extreme.

2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso side profileIt gives us a new respect for the competitors in the main event, particularly as Targa Tasmania is no two-day shebang. It's almost as much a test of endurance as it is skill.

We had two reasons for coming to Tasmania to do the Tour: our first Aussie drive of the GTC4Lusso, and to rate the Tour's suitability for the average MOTOR reader. The GTC4Lusso has an incredible engine and drivetrain, a nice, now-modernised interior, is spectacularly fast, and capable. But it does feel like a major facelift of the FF rather than a whole new car.

That's not a bad thing – it's what the FF needed. The Tour? Make up your own mind based on what you've read. Would you invite your partner to ride passenger with you at a track day? Probably not – but you'd have them join you on the Tour.

As part of your ongoing efforts to bring them around to the world of driving, Tasmanian roads alone will be effective. Just don't tell too many people, okay?

 

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