From Issue Six of Gear Patrol Magazine.
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“This shouldn’t be possible,” I thought to myself as I looked up at a cold, endless shock blue sky. I’m looking through the roof of a Ferrari.” Not through an open convertible top — through a massive, single piece of curvaceous panoramic glass. From the back seat, no less. It felt great, and it felt weird.
There have been many Ferraris with back seats before, of course. The first, the 250 GT/E, bowed in 1960; the next, the 330 GT 2+2, looked almost exactly like the iconic Aston Martin DB5 of the same mid-Sixties vintage. Various others (400 GT, Mondial) followed in intervening decades, including one of the most gorgeous Ferrari shapes ever produced, the chiseled 456 GT. After the millennium, the brand produced its Scaglietti grand tourer through 2011 (the California convertible technically had four seats, too). But it wasn’t until 2011 that Ferrari four-seaters took an unexpected turn: instead of just being not-two-seat-cars, the Ferrari FF that debuted that year was a seemingly blasphemous car for the prancing horse to produce. It was a hatchback with four-wheel drive.
The GTC4Lusso, which replaced the FF (“Ferrari Four”) in 2016, is the most recent three-door, four-seat, all-wheels-driven car from Maranello. Its name means “Grand Tourer Coupe Four (seat), and ‘Lusso’ means Luxury in Italian. There are no spaces in its name, which is weird, but there is so much space in back, which seems weirder. Philosophically, the car is a mind-bender, some sort of paradoxical mishmash of automotive archetypes. Physically, it is a wonder to behold. Dynamically, on the road and from either the front or back seat, is how it’s best experienced.
The panoramic roof is one of those automotive archetypes. It was available on the FF too, but what’s important about the optional glass is that it makes ‘sitting in the back seat of a Ferrari’ more than just a novel experience; it makes it a phenomenal one. I’m six feet tall and had very real legroom back there. I’m also distractible and normally somewhat claustrophobic. But not only did I want for nothing, I was instead captivated simply by how much I could see — and that I could so easily look out on the world from the back seat of a sporting machine made by the most storied of sporting machine brands. Surreal.
What’s up front is surreal too: a naturally-aspirated, 6.3-liter V12, but not just some truck-like, old chuffer. This sublime engine revs up to and over 8,000 rpm; it pushes out 680 horsepower and 514 lb-ft of torque. It is sumptuous and smooth, but slap the large left paddle a couple times to select a minor gear and two things happen. One, you are instantly 300 feet farther down the road; and two, the sound of angelic death metal is channeled through your entire body. The V12 is unreal in its duplicity, as it will both cruise like glass and give the finger to radar guns as it blasts to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds in a sprint to a 208 mph terminal velocity.
Its power meets the road through a very clever, complex system of mechanicals that work together so harmoniously I never once thought I was driving anything but a nimble supercar. In fact, this two-plus-ton grand tourer employs two separate gearboxes: one to push most of the thrust rearward, and another, smaller one to handle power to the front wheels. The small transmission has only two gears and is not active (neither are the front wheels driven) in fifth, sixth or seventh (of seven) gears. Furthermore, four-wheel steering — taken from the F12tdf — enhances maneuverability. The wheels under your rear passengers turn counter to steering inputs for sharper low-speed handling, but at higher speeds, they swivel lockstep with the front wheels to boost stability.
So is the GTC4Lusso actually a weird Ferrari? It does the things normal Ferraris are supposed to do: Ferraris must be fast, Ferraris must sound ethereally demonic and Ferraris must seem to endow the driver with superhuman abilities. But I did things with this car that Ferraris are not supposed to do: I did not attract much attention at all; I only lost traction when I tried very, very hard to and I put a lot of groceries from Costco in its hatchback. Overall, I’d say it nearly breaks even but nets out ever so slightly on the impeccably weird side of the spectrum.
It’s ultra good too. For a vehicle that is a sports car, a wagon, a luxury ride, a technological wonder, a wailing baritone and a striking centerfold all at once, it without question coheres into a singular, crazy-good sensation. The GTC4Lusso is all the grand tourer with none of the stuffiness, with a massive dollop of Italianate marvel. It’s phenomenally athletic and outrageously different. Which, for a Ferrari, isn’t weird at all.