The Ferrari GTC4Lusso and I did not get off to a good start. To begin with, a scheduling issue meant I had far less time with the car than originally planned. Then when it came to climbing into this striking three-door shooting brake, I sensed a feeling of…disappointment.
Sure, the view out over that vast bonnet is incredible and the overall cabin design is stunning, but the stuff that’s closer to you? That’s not so good. We have plasticy vents. The folding cubby hole between the front seats that looks and feels like it came from the homeware department of your local Asda. There are buttons all around me that seem as though they’re lifted from a cheap hatchback. And the final annoying touch? The Ferrari badge above the navigation screen doesn’t look like it’s quite lined up straight.
It might sound like I’m nitpicking, but don’t forget - this is a £231,000 car. Loaded up with tens of thousands of pounds of options. Yes, tens of thousands. All told, this car is £270,000, and if you’re paying that kind of money, you want an interior that blows you away, not one that’s riddled with admittedly small but nonetheless annoying faults.
However, there is one piece of interior trim that makes all of that stuff sink into the background: the carbonfibre-clad steering wheel’s big red starter button. It makes your inner child go all giddy just looking at it, and once you press it, that magnificent 6.3-litre V12 barks to life with a furious spike of revs.
But the Lusso wasn’t done trying to scupper our first date just yet. Engaging reverse, I found that the seven-speed automatic gearbox behaves like no other dual-clutch transmission I’ve ever used. It actually rolled forward a bit before clunkily edging backwards, like an old-school ‘robotised manual’ sequential ‘box.
Out on the road, the Ferrari continued to befuddle. The fitting of winter tyres to the press car didn’t help, giving an extra bit of flex that dulled the sense of what the GTC4 is really like to drive. Then there’s the all-wheel drive system, which has a baffling setup. It operates via a second gearbox at the front of the engine (with two speeds), distributing power to the front wheels only when it deems necessary, and leaving the rear wheels to it entirely from fifth gear and up.
The way it works means you can never quite predict what’s going to happen underneath you, and combined with things like the steering-wheel mounted indicator buttons plus the additional rev counter/speedometer display on the passenger side (yes, that’s actually a thing), it’s like Ferrari is trying to be as different as possible simply for the sake of it.
But, there’s something within this package that can cut through all the confusion and noise. And that is the noise. That flourish of revs on start-up is a mere warm-up act. Crank the big N/A 12-banger around to its 8000rpm redline, and you’re treated to a kind of engine noise unmatched in modern motoring. The ghost of Jimi Hendrix belting out a wicked guitar solo with a backing choir of angels wouldn’t make as good a noise as this. It’s a visceral, screaming treat for the ears.
The throttle response is borderline violent, with the V12 complying absolutely with every demand of your right foot, and the steering wheel-mounted shift lights blinking away before you’ve had a chance to comprehend how such an engine still exists in 2018.
The power delivery is so linear the GTC4 Lusso oddly doesn’t feel that fast, but with 680bhp on offer and a 0-62mph time of 3.4 seconds it quite clearly is, as is confirmed when you catch the speedo in the corner of your eye and realise you already have to back off. If not, your passenger will certainly let you know just how fast you’re going. Perhaps that additional display is an option best left unticked…
As you start to push the Lusso harder, the way it puts its power down starts to make more sense too. It still feels predominantly rear-wheel drive, and although the feeling of the V12’s torque being sent to the front wheels feels strange initially, you soon get into a good rhythm with it. It’s plenty capable too, even with all that flamboyant Italian rage being sent its way and the winter boots lowering grip and traction levels.
Although the car has been kept reasonably soft, the steering is still super-fast and super-sensitive. Yes, this is supposed to be a grand tourer, but did you really expect Maranello to follow the usual GT car mode?
It’s the simple fact that it is a Ferrari that’s the final ingredient in making this thing a special car to drive. The cynic in me wants the badge-factor to be over-romanticised nonsense, but it just isn’t. The pedigree, the philosophy, the Ferrari story - it does matter. It’s not enough on its own, of course. My first Ferrari experience was in a California T and the Prancing Horse emblem didn’t stop that being a little disappointing. But the GTC4 Lusso? It properly delivers on the promise of that most exotic of logos.