NETRALNEWS.COM - IN 1515, THE GERMAN artist Albrecht Dürer made a famously bad depiction of a rhinoceros, based on reports of an animal that had been brought to Lisbon.
Dürer’s woodcut demonstrates what psychologists call “schema,” the natural tendency to impose patterns of the familiar on the unfamiliar. Having never seen a rhino, but moved by the description of its armor-like skin, Dürer girdled his animal in steel, complete with rivets.
What if you were to ask Americans what a Ferrari is supposed to look like: Red? Sleek? Pointy? Raging egomaniac at the wheel? Like Dürer’s rhinoceros, that’s close enough.
What they don’t imagine, if I may gauge from the vox pop, is this car: the new GTC4Lusso ($298,000), a graceful, comparatively understated four-seat grand tourer with all-wheel-drive, all-wheel steering, all-knowing stability control and a stupendous, glory-chortling 6.3-liter, 680-hp V12 engine under a hood that leaves little room for doubt, by way of Freudian analysis.
The Lusso is the model successor to the Ferrari FF, which made its debut in 2011 to a polite smattering of enthusiast applause. The alien design is called a “shooting brake”—that is, a three-door variant of a 2+2 coupe, with a long roof and a squared-off hatch.
You may think of the Lusso as Ferrari’s counterprogramming to a luxury SUV or crossover, which the company simply and existentially cannot offer. You may also discern a bit of old European tastemaking in the design.
This car is rich-funky, poshly weird, contrarian and high concept. Park a Lusso next to a Porsche Panamera and watch the latter disappear in a vacuum of conventionally met expectations.
- Base price $298,000
- Price, as tested $330,000
- Powertrain Mid-front mounted, naturally aspirated, direct-injected 65-degree V12 with variable valve timing and stop/start; seven-speed, dual-clutch rear transaxle with torque vectoring and automatic/manual shift modes; front two-speed mechatronic power takeoff with lateral torque vectoring; part-time all-wheel drive.
- Power/torque 680 hp at 8,000 rpm/516 pound-feet at 5,750 rpm
- Length/weight 193.8 inches/4,233 pounds
- Wheelbase 117.7 inches
- 0-60 mph <3.4 seconds
- Top speed 208 mph
- EPA fuel economy 10/16 mpg, city/highway (est)
- Cargo capacity 15.9/28 cubic feet, rear seat back up/down
And there was precedent. It all started with Enzo Ferrari’s wife, Laura, a woman who had every bit the common touch as Il Commendatore. Laura’s involvement in the company provoked the Palace Revolt of 1961, a board meeting in which Enzo fired his chief engineer, Carlo Chiti, and development designer, Giotto Bizzarrini.
These men promptly joined forces with one of Ferrari’s racing rivals and, with panel-pounder Piero Drogo, modified an existing Ferrari with a roofline shaped like a flower box, nearly horizontal, ending in a chopped-off rear end. Thus was born the Ferrari 250 GT SWB “Breadvan,” with its Kammback designed to reduce aero drag and instability. More vino?
The recent history involves another managerial spouse. The FF project was approved about the same time that former president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and his wife were expecting. When I asked Mr. Montezemolo in 2011 about the coincidence of Ferrari building a family tourer right at the moment he happened to be needing one, he only smiled.
The Lusso is available with special Ferrari baby seats. In terms of family planning, giving one of these to your wife would be better than Clomid.
The irony is that Ferrari’s most effortless, auto-mode car is also the one most defined by prodigious underpinnings. And in the first giddy minutes behind the button-encrusted wheel, what comes through is not the perfumed Poltrona Frau saddlery, nor sunbeams from the remarkable glass roof, nor the dank beats from the high-def audio, but the irresistible presence of a walloping chassis, what lies beneath.
Start with the wheels and tires—resplendent, effulgent and huge: 245/35 ZR20s in front, and 295/35s in the rear. Behind them are the vast carbon-ceramic disc brakes, the hubs, CV joints, half-shafts and steering links (four-wheel steering). A respectable amount of unsprung mass, in any case.
The trembling sense-data from these huge rubber rollers never leaves you, flanking you like motorcycle escorts. And this sensation is getting past the Lusso’s abundant soundproofing, mechanical isolation and acoustic glass.
The V12 is an aluminum fire god: 680 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque out of a naturally aspirated 6.3 liters, with a sky-high compression ratio of 13.5:1 and a shimmering redline at 8,250 rpm. Here the equal-length, six-into-one stainless-steel exhaust runners are alive with harmonics, thrilling over-notes that are part of the Ferrari atman—the plash of seared air, the rum-tum-tum of power.
But the Lusso’s brand soundtrack has been turned down. The cold-start is 17% quieter than that of the FF’s. Yes, there are exhaust bypass valves, and they do dump to mortar-diameter straight pipes.
But you have to goose the throttle pretty good or otherwise wind up past 4,250 rpm before it sounds like much. Usually, the engine note is just a low drumming, like Washington Square Park heard from a block away.
I can imagine a lot of guys riding around in 1st gear, briefly coaxing out the full song between red lights—WELLLPPPTTT! WELLLPPPTTT!—tears rolling down their cheeks. It’s so…beautiful.