Week With a Car is a recurring look into the garage and multiple outdoor parking spots of Sam Smith, R&T's globetrotting editor at large. Expect it to hold magazine test cars, vintage race cars, whatever he's driving that week. The form—everything from road diary to rambling brain dump—varies, but it's always interesting. It doesn't always make sense, but then, that's Smith. —The Editors
2017 FERRARI GTC4LUSSO
6.3-liter V-12, 680 hp, 514 lb-ft
7-speed dual-clutch automatic (rear wheels), 2-speed automatic (front wheels)
$300,000 base price (est.)
11/17 mpg EPA
I drove a Ferrari GTC4Lusso last week.
Perhaps you are wondering if that last sentence contains a typo. It does not. It does, however, contain Ferrari's preferred and idiotic style for naming its modern cars. Decades ago, Ferrari named its cars without spacing gimmicks. Who needs a gimmick when you look like a 355 Berlinetta, a 275 GTB/4, a 250 GT Lusso? If this were then and not now, the car you see here would be called a 2017 Ferrari GTC/4 Lusso and I could type it without feeling like a pated, bought-and-sold moron.
Don't ask me why all this happens. Maranello gave this car its name for the same reason that they saw fit to give us a car named after the most important man in the history of Italian motorsport. (The Ferrari Enzo Ferrari. Sure, pull that trigger. Just remember, you can only fire that gun once.) Or car whose moniker layout shares an awful lot with a censored version of the best four-letter word in the English language (Ferrari FXXK). Or a car simply called, in Italian, Ferrari The Ferrari (Ferrari LaFerrari). Or a certain 2016 F1 car, which had a forgettable name but really who needs a good name when your most expensive four-wheeled product is simply a red stack of carbon fiber and sadness and Kimi Räikkönen mumbles?
None of it makes sense. You watch this company long enough, you get the feeling that no one understands Ferrari as a brand, even the people at Ferrari. They just keep making distinctly Italian decisions and doing distinctly Italian things like churning out operatic engines and clown-faced, six-figure voodoo cars. And the mystique rolls on.
And that's the point. No one is immune from mistakes, but people tend to give these guys a pass, because too many of their cars are just too good. And the Lusso is extremely good. Last week, I took this thing to the Nevada desert for an upcoming R&T print story. I drove through desolate country for three days, and I brought R&T contributing editor Colin Comer with me. I ate terrible Mexican food while reveling in the nothingness of the American Southwest and committing acts of questionable legality.
It was a weird week, but then, this is a weird job. We put more than 800 miles on the Lusso over three days of driving and photography. We also found ourselves asking a lot of questions. (Examples: If a car triples the speed limit in the desert and there isn't a radar gun for three counties, does it make a sound? In a 208-mph Italian car, do you really need a digital speedometer factory-mounted in front of the passenger seat? Is there a single place in the Nevada desert that doesn't make you think of clandestine government nuclear tests? And while we're on the subject, which has a longer half-life: uranium-238, or the burritos built at Margarita's Mexican Restaurant, which is conveniently located in the lobby of the Prospector Hotel, Gambling Hall, and RV Park in Ely, Nevada?)
Most of the aforementioned questions came from inside my head. They will be answered in the aforementioned R&T print story. Some of those questions came from other people. Folks we met on the road, people I work with, that sort of thing. The latter brand of question is below, complete with answers.
If you want to read a straightforward review and technical summary of the Lusso, I suggest you check out my friend Josh Jacquot's . If you want to know what my three-year-old daughter thinks of the thing, well, this is me, answering prayers, just trying to help.
How was the trip? —David Zenlea, R&T Deputy Editor.
Good. Didn't get arrested. Had decent weather, that kind of crackly blue perfection that is a desert sky in spring. Drove across US-50, which Life once dubbed the Loneliest Road in America. We also put a silly amount of miles on a Ferrari press car, which is unique only because Ferrari press cars generally come with mileage limitations. (Low-mile exotics are generally easiest to sell; more important, they're generally more valuable than similar cars with greater mileage.) We asked Ferrari for special dispensation here, for a feature story.
The Loneliest Road in America goes from nowhere to nowhere. It stretches across the southern tip of Nevada in what amounts to a straight line, starting in Carson City and ending at the Utah border southwest of Salt Lake City. The road is almost entirely two lanes, and it doesn't really connect much—at least one stretch of road spans more than 80 miles between gas stations. At night, there's so little light pollution, you can almost smell the stars.
Should go without saying that a supercar works here.
Daddy, what it do? —Marion Smith, my three-year-old daughter, after I returned home and showed her a picture of the Lusso.
It goes fast, sweetheart. With two grown men in the back and satellite radio and a thousand little buttons on the steering wheel, like most Ferraris, because Formula 1 cars have controls on the steering wheel, and they want you to remember that Ferrari competes in Formula 1. (Even if last year was mostly failure and Räikkönen mumbles.)
It's also the replacement for the Ferrari FF. The Lusso is essentially a face-lifted and updated FF—a little more curve to the hips, a new face, a few technical updates. Twenty-nine more horsepower and 10 more pound-feet of torque, thanks to higher-compression pistons and a few other tweaks.
But Daddy, I know it fast. What it do? —Marion Smith, my three-year-old daughter, who is currently in the "Why" phase of development, which means she asks follow-up questions on every subject we discuss, from the color of the sky to the color of her pants. And, if this question is any guide, she is apparently capable of pondering deep existential matters while sitting at the dinner table and applying lukewarm macaroni and cheese directly to her forehead.
Well, sweetheart, it mostly exists so wealthy men can take their good-looking fourth or fifth wife from the Aspen jet center to a mountaintop nearby. A mountaintop that is probably very far from their second or third wife.
[Laughs.] Daddy, why you answers always so weird? —Marion Smith, my three-year-old daughter, who will probably grow up to be much smarter than her father.
My grades weren't good enough for med school, darlin'. Weird car answers are all I've got.
Is that car yours? —Random guy at a gas station in Ely, Nevada, where we stopped for beef jerky.
Somehow, when you are driving a $300,000 hatchback through the desert while dressed like an automotive journalist on the road (jeans, sneakers, fresh black T-shirt), people assume you do not own the thing.
I mean, they're right. So I did what I would do if I did own it: bought a bunch of beef jerky and high-test and drove toward the mountains. While listening to James Brown so loud it made my ears bleed.
How fast you had it? —Random bystander at a gas station in Eskdale, Utah, just over the Utah-Nevada border.
People of the Internet, a word of advice: It doesn't matter who's asking. Never answer this question.
But I will tell you that Nevada is a desolate place. And that the Lusso's seventh gear is strong like bull.
Wait, no, the bull is Lamborghini's totem. On the badge. Lamborghini is Ferrari's arch-rival. Strong like, um, horse? Strong like Räikkönen mumbles? Strong like autocratic Italian demigod who perpetually wears sunglasses and who, long after his death, becomes the namesake for a hypercar that looks like an anteater with a V12 up its rumpus?
I give up. The car's bat-guano fast. It reminds you of both symphonic brass and all those times in college where you were naked. After three days in the desert, on nowhere roads with no one in sight, I kind of wanted to hug it.
Is it any good? Do I need one? —My wife, Adrienne, who is not a car person.
Depends on your definition of good. The usual modern-Ferrari stuff—high-speed stability, ballsy noise, fun mid-corner balance—is there. But there are niggles. The car turns almost too aggressively; the steering is happily light, but the geometry and steering-rack ratio give weird results. It's like a variable ratio or crazy caster or I don't know what; either way, the car never seems to settle in slow corners. It's meant to feel sporting, but it usually just comes across as annoying.
This is traditionally how smaller, more nimble Ferraris have felt. It doesn't quite work on a four-seater weighing more than 4000 pounds.
The gearbox doesn't always downshift when you want. You occasionally get caught in a pass, foot down, wanting shove that isn't there. This should not be a problem with a 638-hp V12. I mostly just left the car in manual mode, shifting with the paddles. Which is more fun anyway. But at $300,000, when you nail the right pedal, shouldn't you get full-boat honk, no matter what?
I'm lucky enough to have driven most of the modern-era Ferraris, including the 430, the 458, the 488, the F12, and the LaFerrari. None of those cars had these issues. Also, most modern Ferraris have better steering feel. I have to assume it has something to do with the corrupting influence of the Lusso's front-axle drive system—all-wheel-drive spoiling steering feedback—and weight on the front tires. (Big, relatively heavy V12 a small, two-speed automatic transmission hung off the nose of the crankshaft.)
But even given all that, the Lusso is incredible. A GT car in the old-school sense: Not the liveliest thing in the world, but a ferocious mile-eater. A cross between involvement and legs that you don't much see these days. The Lusso absolutely inhales distance, it carries a sense of sustainable occasion—you're not going to get bored with it, if you use it like a normal car—and a six-foot adult can sit in the back seat for hours. The window glass is double-paned for noise reduction, like in an S-class.
When the FF launched, Ferrari said the car answered demand for an "everyday" Ferrari. Most Ferrari owners have multiple cars, and multiple Ferraris. This is meant to be the quiet, capable, low-drama one. (Fun fact: The Lusso's exhaust is quieter than that of the FF, supposedly because customers asked for the change.) Which makes sense if you have a lot of other, louder cars.
But that's not what I said to my wife, because she doesn't care about any of that. I mostly just asked her if she thought it was cute.
She said no. But then, she wants no car more than a Porsche 356. Which does not have a face like Heath Ledger's Joker. So take that with a grain of salt.
There's a patch of dirt on that side road. You think we can make it do slides for the camera? —Richard Pardon, crack R&T photographer and all-around excellent British goon. He was on the trip to shoot pictures for print. (All the images on this page are not Richard's. They came from either my iPhone or my 35-mm film camera. Because I am a huge nerd, I'm spending the year taking a film camera everywhere I go.)
Yes, Richard. I think we can. I think we did. I think those images will end up in the magazine.
[Five minutes later.] How does the front axle work, again? —Colin Comer, while sliding the car for photography. Which almost certainly most definitely I'm pretty sure did not happen in a patch of dirt.
A two-speed gearbox lives in front of the engine. It is driven by the front of the crankshaft. It powers the front wheels through clutched half shafts, allowing for torque vectoring. In fifth, sixth, and seventh gears, the Lusso is rear-drive only.
The end result of all this is that it takes a big ol' lift of throttle to get the nose to set, then a chuck of the wheel and more gas to get the car loose and sliding. It's only recommended if you have a lot of space in which to pull it off.
Slides don't fit the car's personality anyway.
Is that a cop? —Me, to Colin and Richard, in seventh gear, on a deserted highway that stretched to the horizon.
No, it was not.