One of my favourite things in life is taking my six-year-old daughter for a drive in every car I test drive. I mean, as a little person her comments are certainly very honest and straight to the point, sometimes even opening my eyes to the practicalities I miss out on. For example, “this car is too loud dad” or “I can’t hear myself sing” and “the seats are not as comfy as...” if you get the drift? Now obviously, when I get a two-seater coupe our drive time is limited to just a few quick spins around the block with Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez blaring out of the stereo. And I don’t really like that... both of the latter and especially the former! I love sharing my experiences with her whether its the Ferrari, the Mclaren or the Porsche, but the front seat is no place for a child, hence cruise time gets limited, that is…

ENTER THE GTC4 LUSSO

I have been a sucker for hatchbacks...all my life. So to me, the whole “shooting brake” (aka station wagon, hatchback or estate) concept has always been a jaw-dropping proposition. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, when we start talking about Subarus, Toyota Yaris or some Chinese made obscenity that have flooded the market of late.

Point being, I have always in love with the Ferrari FF... since its launch. To me the FF (four seats, four wheel drive) is a gentleman’s steed. You get plenty of room, dapper interior and decent luggage space to keep all your boxes... just in case you get fired... or the missus finds out about your other squeeze. But besides the afore mentions, it offered a thumping Ferrari V12 engine up front, a Ferrari gearbox and a glorious Ferrari exhaust note. It was the ultimate Grand Tourer in my books and my personal favourite from the existing range. So imagine my surprise when people chose to bypass it either due to its looks or simply because they found it too large to track. Either way, Ferrari hit the refresh button earlier this year and came out with this updated, smarter looking and slick driving GTC4Lusso.

Alright, the name is a bit clunky but it’s been soaked in classic Ferrari heritage. The GTC4 was bagged from the roomier and spacious variant of the 1970’s Daytona, while Lusso was the designation given to the less flashy but super classy, drop-dead gorgeous (1963-64) 250GT. Yes! It is amazing how the Italians can just pick up the archives and splice off names/designs for all their new products. The only exception to the rule being La Ferrari (still hate that name!)

IS IT A FACELIFT?

The answer to that is no. Facelifts are the industry standard for adding shine to a product that has started softening up on sales. Ferrari doesn’t do that. Ferrari goes through a “modificato” process that ensures its road cars stay abreast with the fast-paced developments at the company’s R&D shop. And that’s exactly what the new Lusso is all about.

The GTC4 offers a plethora of improvements which not only make it faster, lighter and roomier but also adds for the first time ever...four-wheel steering. I guess this was done for specifically for those of you who questioned the FF’s handling prowess - being such a large car. But more on that a little bit later.

THAT INTERIOR

It’s awesome... that’s the only way I can describe it. There is a new dash design which incorporates a ten-inch screen and an upgraded LCD passenger display just above the glove box. This will not only keep your passenger fascinated with the speeds your driving at, but also allows them to fiddle around with extras such as making phone-calls, controlling music or adjusting the sat-nav. The new infotainment processor is about eight times faster than the last, which means displays switch over in micro-seconds and you certainly need that in this car, so you can look out for speed cams.

The quality of leather and metal used is peerless. The entire interior has been given a re-fit albeit with a smaller but grippier steering wheel. There are four new seats developed with partner Poltrona Frau which have got a retro 70s vibe to them. They are comfy in a very un-Ferrari-esque kind of way, and even if you’re not sitting in them, they are just amazing to look at.

The Lusso may be only millimetres bigger but the cabin feels a lot roomier than that. The panoramic glass roof option only further adds to the airy and luxurious ambience of the car. I was ecstatic as my daughter got into the rear seat and sat there comfortably enjoying the ride. No words spoken is always a great sign at that age. It would be safe to say that average sized adults can travel quite comfortably in the back of this car, no issues at all.

REDRAWN OR RESTYLED?

It looks big on the outside too, and sure enough the changes to the exterior have altered the proportions. The new gills or fins behind the front wheels help visually shorten the long nose, while the rear haunches are curvier, giving the car more width in terms of stance. Overall the rear end with its bracketed top and integrated spoiler with the round protruding lights looks really cool. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love the front end of this car... but in all honesty, this is probably the first car on the planet I would purchase based on its behind.

Aesthetically you can see it looks a lot more chiseled than its predecessor. Although I loved the FF, but it looked a lot more straightish. In my humble opinion there was something quite not right from the B-pillar on and the “modificato” process has rectified it. This here is the finished product and it resonates that sentiment through the driving dynamics of the Lusso. It feels more broad shouldered through the turns and stubbier when stationary. If you like cigars then consider this a ‘churchill’ that finishes off as a ‘robusto’.

THE PERFORMANCE

I know it might sound clichéd but there is nothing like the sound of a naturally aspirated V8 or V12. So when Maranello started toying with the twin-turboed V8s, I wasn’t too pleased, not from the aspect of output, but more so from the sound. A Ferrari high note should never end as a growl... it can start off with one but it must finish off with a scream! And that is exactly what the GTC4’s 6.3-litre V12 does when hammered.

Forced induction might have been introduced if the GTC4 had rivals from a performance aspect, but luckily it does not!  You might think Bentley, Aston, AMG S-Coupe or Wraith, but ever tried sitting in the back of one of those? Or say...doing a time-attack challenge in a Wraith? Nothing comes close to the driving ethos of the Lusso and there is literally nothing around the corner either. As a result, the GTC4 is not inclined to adhere to segment benchmarks or slap on turbochargers or blowers in the quest for more HP. However, improvements have been made to output but through the use of conventional machinery and tools. The old car made 651bhp, the new one makes 681bhp. Compression ratio has been raised, the piston design has changed, there’s now multi-spark ignition and as a result, power has climbed up by 30bhp. With further tweaks to the gearbox and traction software, the GTC4 knocks of 0.3 secs from the FF, delivering 62mph in just 3.4secs. Top speed is 208mph.

HORSE WITH CLAWS

In typical Ferrari fashion, the spec sheet handed to me was jam-packed with acronyms. But the one that really stuck out first was the 4RM-S, which controls the new four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering system. This is the same system that made its debut on the limited edition F12 TDF, making the Lusso an even more special proposition. 

Anyways, the aforementioned system works in tandem with the SSC4, SCM-E and E-Diff (in order: side slip control, adaptive damping and electronic differential), and I’m only bringing these up to show you the complexity and integration of the various systems that keep the GTC4 pointing in the desired direction.

The four-wheel steering really does make the Lusso feel agiler than the FF. It is a bit lighter (by about 60kg in total), which helps with direction changes, but this system, which is almost entirely unobtrusive, makes the GTC4 sharper into
corners (when the back wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts) and gives it a more attacking, willing demeanour. You feel more confident once you realise you can overtake or change directions mid-curve especially in a car that’s this big and heavy. Quite frankly the Lusso does a far better job of controlling its weight on bends and turns than I expected. On the open roads and larger sweeping curves it’s clearly in its element with the big engine howling and plenty of grip and power both on hand and foot. But the best part  is when you get the power on, feel all four wheels work the last part of a winding curve, and then the V12 propels you out and on to the straight. It is quite torquey at the bottom end (80 percent at 1750rpm Ferrari claims, although it doesn’t feel quite that strong), but forget about that, because it’s what happens higher up that counts.

ONE OF A KIND

Yes, it truly is. Because Ferrari’s usually tend to focus more on their front row occupants and performance rather than excess baggage...or any baggage for that matter. The FF was, therefore, a welcome break from routine and a proper car with all the mannerisms synonymous with the famed prancing horse insignia. Therefore the Lusso has turned out to be a step above its predecessor gaining a whole lot more while losing none of its original dynamism, especially that stratospheric V12.

It's an expensive car, but I can’t think of anything as exclusive, sophisticated, elegant and sporty to carry four people while staying true its brand values, like the GTC4 has. To put it simply, there is nothing quite like it out there... not at least until the next “modificato” on this offering is due.

Categories: IN-DEPTH REVIEWS