By many accounts, Enzo Ferrari didn't see the point of the whole race-car-for-the-street thing, even though that's what his company built. His personal cars reflected this. Ferrari was famously fond of the Peugeot 404 and 504 sedans, and he even drove a Mini in winter.
The only Ferraris he was known to use personally were the company's 2+2 GTs, four-seat luxury cars perfect for getting you to the track—not setting laptimes when you arrived. A shows Ferrari and future F1 champ Phil Hill leaning against a 250 GT/E; a 1966 shot, below, sees him getting behind the wheel of a 330 GT 2+2. These were true grand tourers, designed for swiftly jaunting to the south of France—the sort of thing wealthy Italians did in the 1960s.
Despite the association with Il Commentadore himself, Ferrari's 2+2s have always carried a stigma. This is true today with the GTC4Lusso.
The successor to the FF, the GTC4Lusso is a front-engine V12 four-seater like all of Ferrari's grand tourers, but this one has four-wheel drive and shooting brake looks. If you view, say, the 488 GTB or the 812Superfast as quintessentially Ferrari, you'd likely dismiss the GTC4Lusso.
In truth, this car pushes what it means to be a Ferrari, embracing company traditions while subverting expectations. And after a brief spell behind the wheel, I can tell you that the GTC4Lusso never lets you forget it's a Ferrari.
Ferrari brought a group of journalists to Mont Tremblant, a ski resort town north of Montreal, to see how the GTC4Lusso handles winter. When the FF was launched, Ferrari was quick to emphasize it as a true four-season car, and the company still seems keen to make that point.
After my first few hours with the Lusso, a representative of the automaker asked me, "when did you realize it's a true Ferrari?" It was almost as if he was preemptively responding to the criticism that has dogged the company's 2+2s for years. To me, it seemed like a silly question.
Press the red starter button on the steering wheel, and you're greeted with a noise unlike any other car on the road. In response to customer complaints, the Italian automaker engineered the Lusso to be quieter on cold starts—apparently neighbors of Ferrari owners don't like loud V12s—but the sound is still distinct. A high-pitched whir followed quickly by a muted growl as its 12 cylinders fire.
This is the sound of one of just three naturally aspirated V12s left in production. Lamborghini and Aston Martin make the other two, though the British company will switch to a twin-turbo V12 shortly.
It's a pretty obvious reminder that you're not in a "normal" car.
The GTC4Lusso is a big car—six inches longer than a Toyota Highlander, a vehicle that seats twice as many people. You forget this immediately as soon as you move the steering wheel an inch off center. The Lusso features ultra-quick steering with a little over two turns lock-to-lock, a modern Ferrari trademark, aided here by rear-wheel steering. At lower speeds, the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction of the front, virtually shortening the car's wheelbase. It goes a long way toward making the car feel smaller than it is, giving the Lusso an up-on-its-toes demeanor.
The Lusso, despite weighing more than 4000 pounds, feels light and agile in a way that few modern cars do. And even on Pirelli Sottozero winter tires, the front end feels incredibly sharp, with light, Japanese-railway-accurate steering. There's no slack—just turn the wheel, and the Lusso dives for the apex.
This is how we describe cars like the 488 and the 812Superfast. The Lusso—its name means luxury in Italian—is tuned more for comfort and touring than Ferrari's hardcore offerings, but it still makes just about any other car on the road feel like an old truck.
On the move, the engine once again reinforces the Lusso's Ferrari-ness. This thing is special—a giant bore, tiny stroke motor that revs to 8250 rpm and can almost justify the Lusso's $300,000 base price by itself. We get so used to today's turbo motors with their ample low-end grunt that this, with its 5750-rpm torque peak, comes as a shock. Especially on cold tires. Ask me how I know.
You're in for a real treat as you crest 6000 and unlock all the Lusso's 680 hp at 8000 rpm. Then, the seven-speed dual-clutch rips off a full throttle upshift in a near-instant, and you get to do it all again. It's dramatic in a way that simply no turbocharged motor can match.
And in spite of all the theatre, the Lusso isn't high-strung. This engine is perfectly fine spending its time below 3000 rpm, with the dual-clutch doing its best approximation of a torque converter, making seamless part-throttle shifts.
The Lusso never calms down to Mercedes S-Class levels, but it's a great road-tripper. The ride is relatively calm considering the performance it offers, and its high-speed stability is unparalleled, as R&T editor-at-large Sam Smith found out driving one through the Nevada desert. I wouldn't go so far as to say the Lusso has a split personality—it's never more than three downshifts away from shouty Italian madness—but its breadth of ability is remarkable.
Some cliches that are absolutely true about this car: It's a Ferrari you can use every day! A car you could cross continents with!
Where the Ferrari really impressed, though, was in the snow. The morning after my first night with the Lusso, Ferrari had us head to Mecaglisse, an ice-covered circuit about an hour west of Mont Tremblant. I decided to take what looked like a scenic, twisty route filled mostly with backroads. It proved to be a ill-considered choice.
You see, a lot of the roads up here aren't paved. And there's a lot of snow, so basically, most of my drive to the track was on roads that looked a hell of a lot like a rally stage. But seeing as this car costs around 15 times as much as a new base Miata, I decided tail-out WRC-esque antics would be a horrendous idea.
That's where the Lusso's Snow mode comes into play. Dial it up and the throttle mapping gets gentle, and Ferrari's excellent traction control system starts working its magic. The system keeps you out of danger—or at least away from expensive crash-induced body repairs—but it doesn't sap the fun from the Lusso. You can still enjoy what makes it great, even at reasonable speeds on a slippery surface.
These roads are probably the last place you'd expect to find a Ferrari—even with its subtle Grigio Ferro paint, I couldn't help but feel like I was sticking out quite a bit. And yet, the Lusso never feels out of its depth, even though the prancing horse badge on the steering wheel tells you it should. With the right tires, the GTC4Lusso is ready for winter. Maybe you wouldn't take it out in a blizzard on unplowed roads, but you could certainly use it the next day.
At Mecaglisse, unseasonable rain followed by freezing temperatures meant the track surface was incredibly slick and the snowbanks had turned into hard, unforgiving ice. The Lusso would've needed studded tires to really show what it could do out here, but since we only had studless Pirellis, our speed and sideways antics were limited significantly. The Lusso still impressed, its traction and stability control working wonders to make the most of its 680 hp.
Thinking I had some talent to show off, I just wanted to turn stability control off and pretend to be an exuberant Italian rally driver, but that wasn't to be. Ferrari kept us on a fairly tight leash, highlighting the different performance characteristics of the car as we worked through the modes.
Snow Mode, and the slightly less restrictive Wet Mode, impressed me the most, turning sloppy inputs into smooth, surprisingly quick progress on even the slickest surfaces. On sheet ice with the steering wheel at full lock, going full throttle results in nothing—no wheelspin, no rise in revs, nada. Once you're on grippier snow, the car applies the appropriate amount of throttle to maximize grip, even with your foot to the floor. It's all very clever—the traction control doesn't just throw a bunch of ABS at the wheelspin, instead managing the throttle, rear-wheel steering, magnetorheological dampers, and electronic rear differential to put the power down.
In my case, it was ego bruising, but Snow and Wet modes were much quicker around the circuit than any of the others. Not that they were as fun.
Sport and ESC Off modes let you really play with the Lusso's 680 hp, which typically translates to you spinning out. At least, that's what happened to me. Still, the Lusso's lovely balance and incredibly precise steering shone through. The ultra-sharp response of the V12 means you can meter out the precise amount of throttle needed to hold a slide, though this does take a delicate right foot. Just a millimeter too much, and you'll swap ends. It's a good exercise in restraint.
It's easy to imagine Enzo appreciating the Lusso. It's a car that offers gobs of performance in a wide variety of situations, and works brilliantly in the real world. It's civilized, which is crazy considering it makes about the same power as Ferrari's last V12 Formula 1 cars. On the road, Enzo didn't want to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced. The Lusso offers that comfort and usability, mixing it with performance that would seem impossible to a Peugeot 404 driver in the 1960s. Hell, a Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 owner in 1964 wouldn't believe what the Lusso can do.
It's instructive to imagine how Enzo would have seen the Lusso. Instead of considering it a poor relation to the more "pure" cars in the current Ferrari lineup, we can look at it as a modern embodiment of Enzo's ethos.
The Lusso challenges conventional wisdom about what it means to be a Ferrari. It demands reappraisal among sports-car enthusiasts. So what if it's not a 488? You can drive this one on ice with three friends riding along.
It's different from what people expect of a Ferrari, but that doesn't make it a worse Ferrari. In fact, it's this very quality that makes the Lusso a more interesting car. And knowing that Enzo would have dug it? That makes it all the better.