Ferrari big hitter is hard to ignore

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I’M TRYING to think of another car that has generated such a vehement love it or loathe it response when first announced than Ferrari’s FF, and nothing comes to mind.

A thoroughly modern front-engined Ferrari with all-wheel drive and four seats, it’s like no vehicle ever to wear the Prancing Horse. One thing’s for sure – it’s hard to ignore.

With so much focus on its styling and its interior accommodation, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the Ferrari FF is a genuine big hitter.

Its 6.3-litre V12 features direct fuel injection and cranks out 651bhp at a screaming 8,000rpm.

Using a double-clutch F1 seven-speed gearbox, it can get from 0-62mph in 3.7sec and run on to 208mph. Don’t for a moment think Ferrari has gone soft with the FF.

It’s not Ferrari’s first four-wheel drive car, that distinction going to the 408 prototype of 1987, but it is the first such car to make series production.

In the 408, a clever hydraulic coupling directed drive to the front wheels when traction was lost at the back.

The FF’s 4RM transmission uses a similar system but instead of a huge propshaft running from front axle to rear, the FF features a hydraulic coupling running from the front of the engine to direct the drive to the front wheels via half shafts.

The payoff is a four-wheel drive system that weighs 50 per cent less than conventional systems.

The rear wheels are driven via a lightweight propshaft that only needs to run from the very back of the rear-slung gearbox.

The Ferrari FF (which stands for Ferrari Four, thus generating all sorts of brain-numbing tautologies) isn’t a car that rests easily on the eye. Unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Show, it has challenging angles and is very colour sensitive.

Almost universal opinion cited that the white display car at the Geneva Show worked a whole lot better than the red one. I was able to lever myself into the back of one and can confirm that space is indeed reasonably good.

I’m 6’4” and could fit into the rear seats without the front seat being wrenched forward on its runner, though headroom was a little tight. Seeing video entertainment screens in the headrests of a Ferrari was certainly a new one on me.

The Ferrari FF is always going to be an acquired taste. Its extreme styling and rarefied price tag (£227,026 – on the road) will always see to that.

What’s not up for debate is the ingenuity of its engineering, nor the unrelenting focus on making that engineering both effective and efficient.

The Italian company is plum in the middle of a rich vein of form at present and the FF continues that streak.

With room for four and plenty of luggage capacity in the back, Ferrari claims the FF is a car that opens Ferrari ownership to those looking for a more practical and robust type of vehicle.

If your wallet can stand it and the styling appeals, it’s a car that would be very hard to resist.