A toast, ideally with Maranello's fizzy Lambrusco, to a four-seat Ferrari. Namely, the GTC4Lusso.
I’m usually a slave to Ferrari’s mid-engine, fighter-jock coupes and convertibles, from the 458 Speciale to the current 488 Spyder. But the GTC4Lusso lets drivers show a backseat couple what this Italian V12 thing is all about. Call it a hatchback, call it a shooting brake. Either way, there’s a lot to be said for an AWD Ferrari that adds all-season practicality without sacrificing a whit of beauty or brawn. There may be no spaces in the GTC4Lusso name, but there’s space for two adults in back.
Ferrari GTC4Lusso Digs Foursomes
I had previously driven the GTC4’s controversial predecessor, the FF, on an active ski mountain in the Dolomites in northern Italy. Pulling out all the stops, Ferrari loaded a few FF’s in the belly of Italian army Chinook helicopters, flew the cars up the mountain, and then let us perform in a sort of automotive halfpipe in front of boggled, photo-snapping skiers. National Geographic visuals aside, a snowy K-Mart parking lot would have served just as well. But the point was to demonstrate the FF’s mile-wide spectrum of performance, managed through its steering-wheel manettino lever. As in the GTC4Lusso, that ranged from nearly failsafe, no-slip operation in its Snow mode, to feats of drifting and rooster-tailing as we gained confidence and toggled through Wet, Comfort, Sport, and ESC Off modes.
Two Tons of Italian Hero, Freshly Sliced
The GTC4Lusso ups the FF’s already potent game, not least with its tastefully redrawn body. A 16-foot-long, 4,224-pound Ferrari is going to be an odd duck to some eyes no matter what. But Ferrari has birthed a swan in the GTC4, prettying up the lines and rendering the fat. Those new quad tail lamps, the alluring fender gills; bellissima. Anyone who thrills to the practical beauty of a hot hatch or wagon will pretty much keel over at Ferrari’s sexy fantasia on the genre.
With big, naturally aspirated engines being strangled out of existence, Ferrari’s V12 is still breathing, still bowling us over all the way to its 8,250-rpm redline. Just press the red engine start button on the steering wheel, which is flanked by curling aluminum paddles for the seven-speed, dual-clutch F1 gearbox. The 681-horsepower, 6.3-liter V12 coughs like a waking lothario, settles into a mellow rumble, and awaits your next move, whether that’s a sophisticated jaunt to the Metropolitan Opera or a heedless assault on speed limits and social mores. (My colleague Ben Preston naturally chose the latter, screaming down the Red Hook pier in Brooklyn and mashing the ceramic composite brakes just in time to avoid looming speed bumps.)
Four-Wheel Steering Makes Move From F12tdf
The GTC4Lusso further ups the FF with a key feature with its F12tdf cousin: Four-wheel steering pivots rear wheels opposite the fronts to help the car dive into corners and boost lateral grip at lower speeds. Dial up the pace, and the rear wheels turn in tandem to aid stability.
Ferrari Fixes Interior Bugs, Adds Modern Infotainment
With big issues addressed—that includes styling, stiffer chassis attachment points and a quieter, better-insulated interior—Ferrari turned to the little things. Ferrari eliminated turn signal (and wiper) stalks from its cars a few years ago in favor of steering-wheel-mounted turn signals that tended to stay locked on, embarrassing a driver. The redesigned buttons now have a firm two-position detent to differentiate between a lane-change flash and a full turn signal. And the old steering wheel’s awkward horn buttons, nearly impossible to locate when a runamok SUV threatened your precious Ferrari, are relocated to a center hub that you can mash with the heel of your hand. That flat-bottom wheel is scaled down from the FF, with a smaller air bag that makes it easier to view the big central tachometer (here in optional aluminum finish; I’ll take traditional yellow).
That cabin was done up in mouth-watering caramel leather, the dash studded with arty cylindrical vents. An optional, fixed panoramic roof seems a must-have, its cabin-spanning glass mitigating any back-seat claustrophobia. Specially treated glass banishes solar rays when the thermometer soars, but reflects heat inwards in cold temperatures, helping warm the cabin and reduce air-conditioner use.
GTC4Lusso Priced From $304,750. Plus Extras.
I hadn’t seen this in another Ferrari: A metal plate on the underside of the hatch lid that listed personalized options. As ever, they ranged from practical and performance-focused—a suspension lifter to clear steep driveways, a sport exhaust—to superfluous and skin-deep. I always imagine I'd skip the Cavallino Rampante, the famed prancing horse logo, stitched onto headrests. But I definitely wanted the subtle, enameled Italian flag mounted below the hatch glass. In a Ferrari that starts from $304,750 and served up for $347,500, actual buyers won't mind some extras—or godawful fuel economy of 12/17 mpg. Even with its huge, 24-gallon tank, I found myself dropping $70 of premium into this greedy beast after just 200 miles.
Ferrari has a long history of two-plus-two gran turismos: the 330 GT of the late Sixties; the much-loved 456; the unlovable 612 Scaglietti. But the GTC4 is simply the most occupant-friendly Ferrari yet, from its glorious dual-cockpit design to a livable ride and ski-tripping cargo space. The new 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, designed by former GM vassal Delphi, would be no big deal on a Hyundai Genesis. But its accessible operation represents a big leap for a Ferrari, including a processor that’s eight times more powerful than the FF’s. If a front passenger isn’t euphoric enough, the secondary Passenger Display, sandwiched atop the glovebox, expands with an 8.8-inch size and new touchscreen functions. Shotgun pals get their own digital tachometer and manettino status display, and can now select music or send navigation directions to the main screen.
A Family Tradition of V12's, Now Faster Than Ever
If you’re thinking this Ferrari has gone soft, a few trips through the gears will adjust that attitude along with your spine. The GTC4 clips 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and top speed is 208 mph, faster than many two-seat supercars. Sure, Ferrari is rolling out the GTC4Lusso T, with rear-drive and its 3.9-liter twin-turbo V8. That offshoot will cost $40,000 less, trim about 175 pounds, and deliver more peak torque (at 560 pound-feet vs. 514) with 80 fewer horses. But it won’t make the virtuoso music of this V12, or charge to rpm heights like a dozen avenging angels. That V12, in upgraded form, will power the 812 Superfast to the tune of 789 horsepower, in the successor to the F12berlinetta.
I got a more-devilish jolt from one feature: When I braked hard into corners, the instrument panel kept flashing a weird visual and audible warning. WTF? My colleague Will Sabel Courtney solved the mystery: The Euro-style safety system flashes the Ferrari’s outboard rear indicators to alert trailing cars that you’re braking aggressively. Considering the Ferrari’s superior stopping power versus a Prius, that might be an OK idea in everyday traffic. A Ferrari tech then informed me that you can switch off the warning so it doesn’t freak you out every time you give the brakes a workout. Gracie, Maranello.
A True Four-Season Ferrari
The 4RM system’s Power Takeoff Unit (PTU) takes twist from the front of the V12 and applies it to front wheels when needed. It weighs half as much as a typical AWD unit, helping the Ferrari keep 53 percent of its weight at the rear. That AWD only operates in Comfort and weather-centric modes anyway, so the Ferrari maintains that rear-drive attitude whenever you choose. In heightened Sport or ESC Off modes, the GTC4 is easily coaxed sideways under that rear-wheel power, yet it's a breeze to reel back in. Version 4.0 of Ferrari’s Side Slip Control (SSC4) churns the algorithms to maximize power to rear wheels, including yeoman duty on battered pavement. That SSC4, in tandem with the F1-derived electronic rear differential, allows surprisingly generous drift angles, as long as it senses that the driver isn’t losing his proverbial shit.
Unlike, say, an AWD Nissan GT-R, all this driving-by-digital-committee takes place largely behind the scenes, leaving the driver firmly in charge. I could tell some magic was taking place when Will and I wound this grande Ferrari through country twisties near Cold Spring, NY. The dynamic rear-wheel-steering boosts turn-in and lateral grip, but it also widens your no-go zone to a palpable degree. What you think is the handling limit is anything but. And while that lane-filling scale and mass is also palpable, the Ferrari still feels nimble, more sports car than the usual large-bore GT.
The GTC4Lusso played its four-suit trump card on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. By pure coincidence we ran across our own Aaron Brown, tooling around with his girlfriend in his Subaru WRX near the Appalachian Trail. I pulled over at glittering Canopus Lake and Aaron and Melissa hopped in back, then off we flew down Route 301, the Ferrari performing a balletic Rite of Spring. If this were a Ferrari F12berlinetta, a 488 GTB, or a Porsche 911, half of our well-entertained audience would have been left at the curb.
A buzzkill view might note that the typical Ferrari owner has ten other cars, from a Mercedes to a Range Rover, to fulfill any need for chauffeuring family and friends. Personally, I’d rather drive my pals in a Ferrari. Knowing them, they’d all agree.
Lawrence Ulrich,The Autance’s chief auto critic, is an award-winning auto journalist and former chief auto critic for The New York Times and Detroit Free Press. The Detroit native and Brooklyn gentrifier owns a troubled ’93 Mazda RX-7 R1, but may want to give it a good home.