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13/09/2012 10:13 | By Ian Dickson

The Ferrari FF: the supercar for the family

We head to Wales in Ferrari's four-seat, 4WD FF to discover if it is the perfect all-round supercar

For all the excitement and buzz that comes with driving a supercar, there is a fundamental drawback that limits their appeal. They are, by design, a selfish purchase.

With the majority featuring two seats and less luggage space than a field mouse's nest, it is not a car that you will use on a long weekend in the Cotswolds let alone a two-week holiday to Europe.

And that makes them spur-of-the-moment machines for short trips only. Just make sure the nanny doesn't have a day off because the kids will not be coming with you.

Or will they? There are a few four-seat supercars out there, Aston Martin's Rapide and Bentley's Continental GT being two of the most prominent, but they lean more towards the cruising end of the scale than burning up the B-roads.

Ferrari FF (© Microsoft)

Only flying is quicker

That's where the FF comes in, aiming to plug the gap between supercar and super-luxury GT. This is not the first four-seat Ferrari (it replaces the people-carrying 612 Scaglietti) but it is the first Ferrari to feature four-wheel drive. And with 651hp, we reckon this makes it one of the quickest point-to-point, all-weather cars on sale now.

But crucially, does Ferrari's sporting DNA still shine through or is the FF just another overweight supercar wannabe?

Call it what you will: hatchback, estate or shooting brake. The simple answer is the FF is one of the fastest, most comfortable ways to cover huge distances without wings.

The FF has a hidden side

Despite its sensible characteristics - four-wheel drive, four seats, a big boot - there is a hidden side to the FF and you can feel it even at relatively sedate speeds. The steering is incredibly sharp and responsive and is geared more towards providing an agile driving experience and hiding the FF's fairly hefty bulk than it is for effortless one-handed fast cruising.

The supercar credentials are also apparent to see: the engine is a 6.3-litre V12 with 651hp and 503 lb/ft of torque. According to Ferrari's figures, it should hit 62mph in 3.7 seconds and thunder on to a 208mph maximum. Most of the torque begins at 1,000rpm and doesn't relent until 8,000rpm. This is a very quick car indeed.

From the inside it doesn't sound menacing like a Ferrari 458 Italia does, but as a bystander watching it disappear up the road in a blaze of revs, the noise is an incredible howl that you can hear long after the car has evaporated from view.

Ferrari FF (© Microsoft)

What corners?

Ferrari calls it mid-engined because the V12 sits so far back in the chassis, but the power plant is still placed up front, with drive going to the rear wheels and a separate gearbox taking care of supplying the front wheels with power when a loss of grip is detected in the first four gears.

It's an amazing thing to witness from the main seat. Throw the FF into a corner, get on the power and just when you might expect the rear to come into play, the four-wheel-drive system kicks in and drags you round. Catapulted. Slingshot. Fired. Call the experience what you will, the result is that the FF flies through corners like they aren't even there.

Tech from Alonso's Formula One car

Initially, you might wonder where the 651hp has gone. The FF doesn't feel outrageous at first but stir the V12's revs up into the big numbers and be prepared to hold on tight because this thing flies. From third gear and beyond you need to keep a careful eye on the speedo: a court appearance isn't far away.

What's remarkable is just how smooth the FF pulls to its 8,000rpm limiter. The seven-speed double-clutch gearbox is the same as the one fitted to the 458 and a descendant of the type used in Alonso's weekend wheels. Our only grumble with it is a jerkiness at town speeds.

Ferrari FF (© Microsoft)

Seats that fit normal blokes

The Manettino switch on the steering wheel is the brain of the car and has five settings to choose from: COMFORT, which you'll use the majority of the time; SPORT, for when the mood takes you; and ESC OFF, which you will only ever want to use on the track. Then there's ICE-SNOW and WET, which bring the 4x4 systems to the fore in bad weather conditions.

In SPORT and ESC OFF the suspension defaults to its hardest setting, but pushing the dampers button on the steering wheel mounted controls softens it again.

£50k worth of optional extras

From the driver's seat, the FF's cabin is the best we've ever seen in a Ferrari, wrapped in appealing leather and feeling solid and well built. Granted, our test car has nigh on £50k worth of options, which does tend to make things a bit more habitable.

But it is genuinely comfortable. Rather than the traditional slim-fitting bucket seats normally fitted to supercars, the seats in the FF are accommodating and suit my wide frame. Plus they soak up the miles without a cramp, ache or phone call to the chiropractor.

Ferrari FF (© Microsoft)

More boot space than a Ford Focus

At speed, the big V12 engine quietens down to a whisper so your head won't be buzzing by the time you reach your destination, though the atmosphere isn't totally serene due to the optional £4,600 20-inch alloys that emit a lot of tyre roar.

Behind the driver, there is a surprising amount of space for adults - even six-footers won't have much to grumble about except perhaps the climb through the narrow gap into the rear seats. At least the front seats move forwards and backwards electrically every time you pull up the handle and they settle back into the position where they started.

As for boot space, Ferrari boasts that the FF has more room with the seats up than a Ford Focus (and an Aston Martin Rapide if we're comparing rivals). There is no denying it, the boot space is impressive and there is enough room to carry bags, golf clubs and shopping easily. You can even drop the rear seats to carry longer items like skis.

What Ferrari has done then is create the perfect all-round supercar. You want speed - you got it. You want space for the family - not a problem. And you want a toy that doesn't need to be locked away at the first sign of a moody cloud - yes again. Ferraris like the 458 Italia might be more exciting but for some people the flexibility of the FF might be just what they're looking for. And with Ferrari's seven-year maintenance programme for all new cars that promises free servicing, running a Prancing Horse has never been easier.

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