We're always impressed when a manufacturer can keep a secret. And managed to keep a big one—the FF, a car we've seen disguised in spy photos for the past year and assumed was a new version of the 2+2 . Thankfully, FF does not stand for "front-engine, front-wheel drive." Rather, it stands for "four seats, four-wheel drive."
The new FF is powered by a 6.3-liter direct injected V-12 that sends about 650 bhp (at 8000 rpm) to all four wheels via Ferrari's 4RM all-wheel-drive technology. More intriguing, this is the first production Ferrari with a Pininfarina-designed 3-door body style. Although the ugly black cladding of the prototype hid a station wagon/shooting brake design, the FF is more of a conventional hatch with 15.9 cu ft of storage space. With rear seats folded flat, that expands to 28.3 cu ft. Is the new FF the most practical Ferrari ever? Maybe.
An early all-wheel drive Ferrari prototype.
Back in 1988, an aluminum-intensive prototype Ferrari, the 408, featured all-wheel drive; it was actually the Road & Track cover car from our December 1988 issue. It's uncanny how similar it was in style to the Acura NSX, the aluminum supercar that came out a year later. For whatever reason, the only bit of technology that seemed to carry forward from the 408 prototype was its aluminum structure—that was until now at least.
In typical Ferrari fashion, the FF will include technology gleaned from its other models. It will feature the latest carbon ceramic brakes, magnetorheological dampers, a dual-clutch transmission and the HELE (high emotion-low emission) start-stop technology borrowed from the California. There's no talk of a hybrid FF, but we expect this Ferrari technology—first unveiled at Geneva last year—to appear soon. HELE has elements of it—its smart electronics focus on fuel conservation by economically managing electric motors and pumps that drive various systems such as the air conditioning, steering assist, fans and pumps. It's similar to what's employed with today's microhybrids. Ferrari claims a 23 percent reduction in emissions during urban driving, which sounds a bit optimistic.
Performance or practical all-wheel drive?
Before getting your hopes up that this all-wheel-drive Ferrari is ready to go rallying (imagine that!), it's not known at this time how much torque can be transferred to the various wheels via the new lightweight 4RM system. From the Ferrari video of the FF drifting through the snow it can be seen that the front wheels aren't throwing as much snow as the rears. Therefore, we'll hypothesize that Ferraris' new 4RM all-wheel drive system is similar to that used by , which only transfers about 15 percent of peak torque to the front axle. This will help put the power down while exiting corners, and also add some stability in adverse weather.
Even with the new awd system, Ferrari says it has managed to give the FF a 47/53 weight balance. As with the 408 prototype from years ago, the awd system of the new FF—which will be unveiled to the public at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show—will be tuned to avoid disrupting the rear-drive balance of the car. With the 408, Ferrari engineers worked on a parallel hydraulic coupling so that "it won't interfere with control of a car that's being held in a delicate oversteering stance. Precisely what you'd want from a high-performance all-wheel-drive layout." From the video Ferrari has released, this appears to be the case with the new FF.
Of note, news of this new Ferrari comes at the same time has journalists driving it's new in Spain. Is Ferrari trying to steal some of McLaren's thunder?
It appears to be working, as the FF may well be the most important Ferrari ever produced. This is a car that could change our perception of Ferrari. Yes, Ferrari knows how to build race cars for the street. Now Maranello has added a practical sport coupe to its mix.