Test Drive: Ferrari GTC4Lusso

The brand's “family car” (the FF) gets even better

by Marco Vermeulen

Holding a glass of prosecco, Luca Casarini explains that when he was a child, his family visited the Dolomites every summer and winter. Casarini is Ferrari’s Head of Interior Design, and discussing family—and mountains—is apt considering the car his company is introducing. So too is the setting: the Reinhold Messner Mountain Museum. It’s an extraordinarily modern venue with porthole-shaped hallways that cantilever out to decks; they poke directly over the cliffside to reveal views of the surrounding Dolomite peaks. At the front of the museum is Ferrari’s newest car: the GTC4Lusso, driven carefully up the dirt road to the summit of the 7,463 feet high Kronplatz ski area.

The point Casarini stresses is that the GTC4Lusso, like the Messner museum, balances very modern and very timeless shapes. The interior door panels of the car, he says, were crafted by carving clay to make a form; stitching was added later, as an accent, rather than a fixed structural point around which the designers would have to work. He wanted to echo the muscularity of the exterior of Ferrari’s latest four-seat shooting brake, the replacement for the five-year-old FF, but also the shell’s organic fluidity. Stare at interior and exterior shots of the GTC4Lusso and it’s clear Casarini got it right. The car’s name might not be mellifluous, but the shapes move your eye quite pleasingly, and this family car will undoubtedly move your soul.

Statistically speaking it’s more car in every way than the FF—with the 6.3 liter V-12 pushing through 680hp (up from 651 horsepower) and 514 ft-lbs of torque. A dual-clutch, seven-speed transmission drives power to all four wheels. Ferrari has added all-wheel steering too, the effect of which is to counter the tendency of the car to push wide of apexes, as well as to help with high-speed stability.

With all that extra grip as well as four-wheel steering, at first the $300,000 GTC4Lusso’s cornering feels too direct, as if it wants to react before you can think. But this sensation proves transient. The faster we drive, the more Dolomite mountain passes we slither up and down, the more this large car (for a Ferrari) shrink-wraps around us. For pace, there isn’t much competition: try finding another car that seats four that can chase zero to 124mph in 10.5 seconds.

Yet the car can feel large at times, especially in the context of narrow Italian roads. It’s grown 1.1 inches wider over the FF and at 4,232 pounds it’s more than 400 pounds heavier than the Porsche GT3 RS we found ourselves chasing for about 10 minutes of spirited driving. Soon the Ferrari was surrounded by a pack of circa 1990s-2016 Porsches (from a club based in Baden Baden, we later learned) and all the cars were frolicking through the landscape at breakneck pace.

Not that you’d really care, because once the V-12 gets up to crescendo at 8,000rpm the GTC4Lusso’s sound is unrivaled by any Porsche flat six. Handling at the limit is also exceptionally tractable. Instances of understeer evaporate instantly, and while in sport mode the suspension is stiff, you can drive hard for hours without feeling slightly fatigued. The transmission, too, is astonishing, allowing downshifts right up to redline, a massive aid to deceleration ahead of hairpins. All that said, it’s a joy to drive at slower speeds too.

There’s a large greenhouse, and a higher seating position make it less of a chore to see around you on the highway or in a supermarket parking lot, so you find yourself at home behind the wheel quickly. That’s an exceptionally refreshing switch. As is enough legroom in the backseats that two couples could comfortably fit in this Ferrari and head out to dinner without discomfort. Or you could flip down the rear seats and have plenty of room for skis and gear for a weekend of adventure in the mountains—don’t forget you have all-wheel drive. There’s also Apple CarPlay, reflecting your phone’s entertainment choices on a huge, 10-inch flat screen. And a second touchscreen mounted ahead of the front passenger in a thin, wide panel also lets anyone riding shotgun quickly adjust settings to navigation, audio, etc, without distracting the driver.

Some of what you get here feels Formula 1 fanboy: turn signals are unique, with thumb buttons mounted at three and nine positions on the frontside of the steering wheel—better to keep a firm grip, ready to pull a paddle shifter for down- or upshifts. But Ferrari turns the volume down for most of the “Ferrarista” notes—this is an adult’s Ferrari, a car targeted at a customer who might otherwise buy a Bentley for the extra space. That buyer might just leave the transmission in auto mode, the suspension softer, and be happy the exhaust note gets automatically muted when you drive into a city (based on GPS), so the bombast gets reduced. You can still hear the V-12’s song, but it’s not as loud. Ultimately, it’s as capable as nearly any supercar on the road, with a 208mph top speed, but it’s never punishing and never hard to drive fast or slow. Ferrari’s latest car is evidence that you can have luxury, performance and civility in a single package.

Interior images courtesy of Ferrari, all others by Marco Vermeulen