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First Ferrari FF arrives Down Under – and then leaves

First local look at Ferrari's AWD four-seat FF super-coupe as Oz pricing confirmed

10 Jun 2011

FERRARI’S radical FF super-coupe will be priced at $625,000 (plus on-road and dealer costs) in Australia, making it $73,000 less expensive than the 612 Scaglietti grand tourer it supersedes.

The all-new V12 four-seater will also be one of the first Ferraris to come with the Italian supercar brand's seven-year free scheduled servicing program, meaning the first Australian FF customers will not have to pay for a service until 2020.

The first example of the latest Prancing Horse has landed Down Under for customer previews in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne during the first two weeks of June, but the car will be air-freighted out again for similar chores in Singapore and China.

Australian and New Zealand Ferrari distributor European Automotive Imports (EAI) held a media preview as part of the FF's flying visit in Sydney yesterday.

General manager Kevin Wall said that although Australia's first-year allocation of the 485kW four-wheel drive coupe has not been confirmed, EAI has received sufficient expressions of interest to confirm that all are spoken for – six months before the first customer cars arrive early next year.

Mr Wall could not provide specific numbers, offering only that he was hopeful of selling 12 to 15 FFs in Australia next year.

The FF’s lower pricing and free servicing deal makes it better value than the outgoing 612. In the UK, the FF is priced at £227,026 ($A349,136), £4639 higher than the 612.

The relative reduction in Australian pricing – which Mr Wall said is set by Maranello – can be attributed to the strong Australian dollar. Mr Wall added that EAI pays Australian dollars for the Ferraris it sells.

The fact remains, however, that Australian buyers of European premium and luxury cars are still asked to dig deeper than customers in other developed markets such as Europe and North America, and factored-in luxury car tax and import duties are not always sufficient to justify the difference.

Ferrari says its first-ever AWD car creates a new segment, although Bentley's $405,714 Continental GT similarly has four seats, a front-mounted 12-cylinder engine powering all four wheels and a big boot.

But the Bentley's 358-litre cargo capacity falls short of the Ferrari's 450 litres with the rear seats up (expanding to 800 litres with them folded) and the Prancing Horse weighs 440kg less while being 62kW more powerful – although with 683Nm of torque, it is 17Nm less muscular than the British car.

Mr Wall declined to make comparisons, simply saying that at a recent customer preview event for the FF, “there were a lot of Bentleys in the car park”.

The FF's unique and patented 4RM all-wheel drive set-up dispenses with the traditional layout of the transmission piggy-backed onto the engine with a centre differential and transfer box distributing drive to the front and rear wheels.

34 center imageInstead, power is fed from both ends of the engine's crankshaft, a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle gearbox with e-diff sending power to the rear wheels, while a two-speed (plus reverse) 'power transfer unit' bolted to the front of the V12 delivers power to the front wheels.

Ferrari claims its system to be 50 per cent lighter than conventional AWD layout and enables the FF to place the engine behind the front axle and retain a rear-mounted transaxle gearbox, contributing to the car's 47:53 front/rear weight distribution.

In addition, 4RM ensures that the FF behaves as a rear-wheel drive car unless driving conditions require the application of power to the front wheels – at speeds of up to 200km/h.

The power transfer unit (PTU) is compact (170mm long) and lightweight, tasked with managing the wheel speeds with the engine speed like a gearbox (the front and rear axles remain mechanically independent) while distributing drive between the two front wheels as required.

The PTU works in conjunction with the e-diff and the traction control system is controlled by the same electronic brain, which calculates – and even predicts – the maximum amount of power that can be delivered to each wheel according to the available grip.

The 4RM system can deal with various low-grip surfaces such as gravel, snow and ice and the ride height can be raised 40mm to help negotiate rough terrain – or urban speed humps.

Compared with two-wheel drive Ferraris, the FF's steering wheel-mounted Manettino has extra options for snow and ice driving. To avoid the driver feeling nannied by all the electronics, the various on-board systems allow some power oversteer.

The FF's 6262cc V12 is a development of the Enzo-based unit that powers the 612 and 599. Ferrari's first V12 to employ direct fuel-injection, it has a high compression ratio of 12.3:1 and a high specific output for a naturally aspirated engine of 77kW per litre.

The 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in a claimed 3.7 seconds on the way to a v-max of 335km/h.

But despite being a full four-seater and having room for a considerable amount of luggage, Ferrari's efforts to minimise weight (the FF is just 5kg heavier than the 612) combined with addition of direct-injection have resulted in a claimed 25 per cent reduction in fuel consumption (15.4 litres per 100km) and CO2 emissions (360 grams per kilometre) compared with previous Maranello V12s.

Journalists were given time to have a good look at the left-hand drive pre-production display car finished in deep metallic red with a black interior, which EAI claimed was the same car used in FF promotional videos that show the car being driven in all conditions including snow, sand and driving rain at locations across the globe.

Compared with photographs the FF’s controversial shape is easier on the eye when viewed in the metal and it certainly makes a statement.

Similar in name and in nature to the 1966 Jensen FF – which pioneered all-wheel drive – it is the first shooting brake-styled performance car since the BMW M Coupe of 1998.

The 11-piece tailored leather luggage set used to demonstrate the FF's carrying ability was removed, enabling journalists to test the sumptuously – if very black – leather-lined interior for four-up comfort.

The relatively flat roofline provided just enough rear headroom for your 186cm-tall correspondent to sit upright, but with the front seat set to a comfortable position for a person of similar height, kneeroom was not sufficient to settle into a slouch like you can in, say, the rear seat of a Porsche Panamera.

There was plenty of space to tuck feet into the gap between the front seat squab and the floor. We can report that the FF is as Ferrari claims a genuine four-seater rather than a 2+2 although the high position of the rear armrests did spoil things by forcing a slightly unnatural-feeling seating position.

At the business end of the interior, the driver is faced with a thoroughly modern dashboard with most visible surfaces swathed in leather, carbon-fibre and satin-finish metal.

The steering wheel, instruments and ventilation controls are similar to those in the 458. Indicator and wiper stalks are replaced by buttons on the steering wheel so that the paddle-shifters can be placed further forward and the tachometer – redlined at 8000rpm – is flanked by two multi-purpose colour screens offering selectable speed, infotainment and front/rear parking camera displays.

A slim horizontal display facing the passenger on the display car offered various data displays including average, highest and current speed, engine revs, selected gear, journey time, distance covered and the selected Manettino setting.

The jet engine-style air vents will look familiar to owners of the California convertible, as will the slightly aftermarket-looking central 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system.

The latter is Ferrari's latest, with improved graphic clarity, Bluetooth audio streaming, 3D satellite-navigation, voice control, USB with iPod/iPhone connectivity and alphanumeric telephone keypad function.

The standard 640-Watt nine-speaker entertainment system can be upgraded to 1280 Watts and surround-sound with 16 speakers.

For entertaining rear passengers not interested in enjoying the V12's symphonic exhortations – Ferrari has tuned the exhaust to transmit high-quality sound into the cabin – headset-mounted rear screens can be added along with cordless headphones, a six-DVD changer and digital TV tuner plus audio-visual input for external media devices.

Feeling comfortable and spacious while possessing a sense of sportiness and intimacy, the quality and ambience of the FF's interior befits an Italian supercar with a six-figure pricetag beginning with a six.

The only minor let-down, which can perhaps be forgiven on a pre-production car, was the flimsy-feeling hinged lids on the storage compartments located in the front and rear centre armrests.

And, if we were really fussy, we'd suggest the seat upholstery design – not the quality – seen in the preview car was a little reminiscent of a Mazda RX-8.

As we have to come to expect from Ferrari, its latest product showcases a litany of technical achievements.

The FF’s seating and luggage capacity coupled with its go (almost) anywhere abilities make it the most versatile Ferrari in history and one that Maranello hopes will appeal to a broad range of well-heeled customers and serve as an offering to those who had not previously considered a Ferrari.

Australian Ferrari sales are going well this year, with 58 sold so far this year against 40 for the corresponding period in 2010, representing an increase of 45 per cent.

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