Ferrari FF test drive: “At my signal unleash hell”

The opening words to Ridley’s Scott epic blockbuster Gladiator echo in my mind as I prepare myself for what is about to happen, writes Scott Armstrong.

As noise explodes around me I focus on what is ahead, surging forward I leave everyone else in my wake as the desert flashes past.

My battleground is the Sheikh Zayed highway in the UAE, my warhorse is the Ferrari FF, and what a ride it is.

Just one look and you know this is no normal Ferrari, if indeed you can apply the term normal to this iconic brand.

The FF is Ferrari’s 612 replacement, the first Ferrari to get four-wheel drive, and while it might bear the logo of the Prancing Horse, this is no nervous, flighty racehorse.

Instead, this is a battle-hardened steed that knights rode into combat.

Returning to Gladiator think rugged Russell Crowe rather than the pretty-boy pin-up looks that come out of Hollywood.

In fact, the FF is Ferrari’s Roman gladiator, striking to look at, fast on its feet, street smart and tough, with real presence on the roads.

In some ways it feels less like a sports car and more like a muscle car, just with explosive acceleration added.

That speed is born inside the V12 engine with the FF turning out 0 to 100kph in just 3.7 seconds.

To put that into perspective, the FF gets to 100kph in half the time it took you to read the last sentence … go ahead time yourself.

Driving along the beauty pageant of expensive SUVs and ten-a-penny supercars that is the Sheikh Zayed highway, behind the wheel of the FF you feel a sense of pride that you are different from the pack (even such an elite pack).

The FF is a choice for discerning drivers who love football’s Messi and who think Ronaldo is an over-preened poser.  Yes the latter has pace and talent, like many supercars and superstars, but when the going gets tough the FF doesn’tfall to the ground with all the drama of a ballet dancer performing Swan Lake.

The FF has Messi’s pace and agility, but it also has that solid determination, which is exactly how you feel, in control and assured.

That sense of reassurance flows from the FF’s innovative four-wheel drive system (4RM) combined with its seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.

Essentially for most of the time you think you are driving a rear-wheel car, because in reality you are, until you need the extra power, such as on uphill corner or in less clement conditions. It is then, and only then, that power is routed into the front wheels too, and instantly you have four-wheel stability, grip and control.

The result irons out much of the under-steer and over-steer that can throw drivers, giving real confidence in the vehicle’s ability to cope under pressure.

Its sturdiness however doesn’t detract from its good looks, though this is handsome in the unconventional sense.

Just pull up at Dubai’s The Address Downtown behind the wheel of the FF and you’ll feel the heads turn in your direction.

For a brief moment you’ll tell yourself they are looking at you, but they are not, they are clocking the logo and then their eyes sweep up the bonnet and across to the Pininfarina-designed ‘shooting brake’ rear.

But those admiring glances are partly aimed your way, because choosing the FF sets you apart, you are different, you are in some ways a Russell Crowe-esque rebel.

While emotion plays a big part in the Ferrari FF experience it is also the work of an army of engineers and technicians for whom speed and performance is almost a religion.

The FF brings a wealth of technology to the mix, starting with a completely new mid-front-mounted 6,262 cc GDI V12 engine that delivers performance and responsiveness at all engine speeds, including the lower range.

For you die-hard motoring maths junkies here’s some more stats.

It sports 660 CV at 8,000 rpm, a specific output of 105 CV/l (77 kW/ cu in), a weight-power ratio of 2.7 Kg/CV. The torque is also blistering: 683 Nm at 6, 000 rpm, 500 Nm available from 1,000 rpm up to 8,000 rpm.

Oh and to round it off, the FF has a top speed of 335 kph.

And stepping away from the romance for a second, every relationship needs practicalities to survive so let’s talk about the boot. Yes we are talking about boot space in a Ferrari.

You get 450 litres of storage in normal conditions, however as both rear seats can fold down separately, upping the size to more than 800 litres.

This means, for example, that four occupants can take four standard side trolley cases, two golf bags or two children’s strollers with them.

The central section of the rear seat can also be folded down to accommodate particularly bulky items such as a large golf bag or two pairs of skis.

Ferrari have tried, and largely succeeded, to be all things to all drivers with this ambitious outing in the FF, it is fast yet firm, beautiful yet bold, commanding yet comfortable.

To quote Gladiator one last time: “My name is Maximus DecimusMeridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius.

“Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

In the next life I bet you he’ll be driving an FF.