The official international debut of a new Ferrari will give any motor show a spectacular kick-start, and that is what the four-wheel drive (4WD), four-seat FF will prove in Geneva.
The Geneva Motor Show traditionally comprises an extraordinary revelation of both elegant and sensible designs with an admixture of weird and wonderful concepts that may point the way to the future or just be the passing but indulged fantasies of determinedly off-beat stylists and engineers.
But the first production all-wheel-drive Ferrari is a very serious program indeed. Flavio Manzoni, Head of the Ferrari Styling Center, has overseen the project since joining the company in January 2010, working with Pininfarina, which had responsibility for creating a vehicle that is probably the most exotic crossover in the world. The Ferrari Styling Center has been coordinating Pininfarina’s design projects since 2003.
It links the Ferrari name not just with its long established values of advanced engineering and potentially timeless aesthetics but also with straightforward passenger- and load-carrying practicality. Exceptionally efficient packaging was both a challenge and an absolute necessity for the FF.
With its front-mounted 65° V12 engine producing 486 kW (652 hp) at 8000 rpm and complemented by maximum torque of 683 N·m (504 lb·ft) at 6000 rpm, the FF fulfills supercar criteria with performance figures that include a 335-km/h (208-mph) top speed and 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 3.7 s.
The engine of the FF is a new 6262-cm³ unit with direct injection. CO2 emissions are 360 g/km—110 g/km better than that of the Scaglietti—and combined fuel consumption with an optional stop-start system and Ferrari’s HELE (High Emotion Low Emissions) technology is 15.4 L/100 km.
The car has a seven-speed dual-clutch F1-derived gearbox. Power/weight ratio is 2.7 kg/CV.
It allies all this performance with an interior fully capable of accommodating four adults and 450 L (15.9 ft³) of luggage space, 800 L (28.3 ft³) with the divided rear seats folded.
Replacing the 612 Scaglietti, which was very much a 2+2, Ferrari describes the FF as representing “not so much an evolution as a true revolution.” It is the 4WD system that is as much a part of that revolution as the packaging.
Designated 4RM, its origins go back to a design fitted to two Ferrari 408/4RM study vehicles in 1987. Now, with 21st century electronics to support it, the system’s potential can be fully exploited—biased to provide the car with a purely rear-wheel drive effect in regular conditions, the 4WD only activating in low friction situations.
It was in 1969 that Ferrari race engineer Mauro Forghieri considered the advantages of 4WD to better utilize the both increasing power/weight ratio of current F1 cars and the advances being achieved in tire technology. He came up with a design (which he patented) to control the relative slippage of front and rear wheels of a 4WD system.
In 1987, the technology was installed in the V8 408/4RMs. The engine drove through a five-speed gearbox to a planetary differential that split torque on a bias of 29% front/71% rear.
Ferrari explained that Forghieri inserted a small diameter hydraulic coupling, the elements of which were connected to the shafts that drove the front and rear differentials. The greater the difference in rotating speeds between the front and rear pairs of wheels, the more the coupling would try to control that difference. This introduced a strong yet sophisticated limited-slip control that gave the concept car the responsive handling that a Ferrari driver would desire, revealed the company in its publication, “Ferrari’s 60 Years of Technological Innovation: 1947-2007.”
However, Ferrari eventually decided that 4WD did not match its fundamental design philosophy because it boosted mass by around 200 kg (440 lb). Adding mass was just as much anathema to the company’s designers then as it is today.
Fast forward to 2011 and the era of advanced electronics providing continuous and predictive torque-distribution controls, allied to lighter-weight materials, and the Ferrari 4WD and the 4RM system have become a reality.
Ferrari claims that the production 4RM has a mass some 50% less than a conventional 4WD system (it gives no specific figures) and facilitates a 53% mass bias over the rear axle, a balance that Ferrari regards as “perfect.” Dry mass (curb mass has not yet been released) of the European version of the FF is 1790 kg (3950 lb); the 612’s is 1760 kg (3880 lb).
The system is complemented by the latest generation magnetorheological damping technology (SCM3). Brembo carbon ceramic brakes are fitted.
Built on what Ferrari describes as an “all-new” chassis, overall vehicle length is 4907 mm (193.2 in), width is 1953 mm (76.9 in), and height is 1379 mm (54.3 in). Wheelbase has not yet been declared.
Production has started, with first European cars leaving the factory this summer.