Ferrari revives the classic Lusso name for its all-season grand tourer, the FF-replacing GTC4Lusso. It's a fabulous mix of performance and long-range comfort.
In the Metal:
I'm going to come right out and say it - I think that this is the best looking current Ferrari. It's almost all nose, thanks of course to that massive V12 engine and the extra, tiny gearbox stuck up the front that runs the front wheels, but even that metal runway seems rather nicely balanced by the intriguing shooting-brake-style body at the back. Combine that with new hollow-centre taillights and a tweaked grille and headlights and you have, to sum up, something of a looker. The lovely 'Tour De France' blue paint really helps too; so much nicer and more subtle than the predictable red. The changes to the body, although subtle, do mean that the car is significantly slicker through the air than the old Ferrari FF, helped by reshaped underbody aero, including a new rear diffuser.
The cabin has been more tweaked than massively changed. The steering wheel is the same small, leather-wrapped button-fest that's half high-end laptop, half directional aid. Some hate it, with the indicator buttons, the start button, the 'Manettino' driving mode switch, even the button for the wipers, but I love it. It means that as you drive, you reach for the middle of the wheel to adjust settings, giving yourself a small frisson of racing driver chic.
Elsewhere, there's a new, and rather impressive-looking, ten-inch infotainment screen that seems slick, but which is occasionally confusing, and a new display in front of the passenger, now in full colour, which shows various vehicle info, and which always baffles me slightly - why would your passenger want to know your F1-TRAC settings? Ah well...
The seats are great, and I mean all four of them. The driving position is a touch odd, as for me, when I was in a comfortable spot for my legs, the steering wheel wouldn't adjust out enough for a comfortable reach. I found a compromise, but it wasn't perfect. The sheer comfort and support of the front seats made up for that, though. The back seats are also brilliant - sculpted and supportive and with more than enough room for adult passengers. Also passing muster is the boot, which at 450 litres and with a big, electrically-powered lid, makes this surely the most practical supercar of all time?
Under the skin, the 6.3-litre V12 petrol engine has been upgraded to a whopping 690hp, and the four-wheel-drive system, which persists with that oddball extra gearbox up front for the 4WD system, has been made a touch smoother and it's now less obvious when torque is being shunted around the chassis. The steering has also been upgraded, and the Lusso now has four-wheel steering, which makes low speed manoeuvring easier, and high-speed cornering more stable.
You expect an engine such as this to dominate matters, and the V12 duly obliges. Select Sport mode and hammer the throttle and the Lusso leaps forward, apparently stung from behind by some malevolent, massive insect. The 4WD system finds instant maximum traction, so you bolt ahead in one deep-lunged rush, the red lights set into the top of the steering wheel rim flickering as the gearbox does its own thing and flings extra ratios at the effort. The sound is just astonishing. True, a much cheaper Porsche 911 Turbo S or even a Tesla Model S P100D can match this mighty Ferrari for acceleration, but neither will sound like an ACDC concert being carpet-bombed by Lucianno Pavarotti as they do so. The V12's sound is multi-layered, under laid by a turbine-engine whoosh, filled in with a Jurassic Park's worth of snarls, roars, and bellows. It's mechanical and animalistic at the same time. It's wonderful, it's unforgettable, it'll do 15mpg if you're lucky.
It also does refined, however. Lift a finger to flick the Manettino from Sport to Comfort, and the V12 turns all docile, purring away like a household cat that's found the Felix cupboard. Sure, it will still yelp and roar when you want it to, but the Lusso's party trick is that as well as the expected Ferrari ferocity, it will also do long-range comfort and refinement like a Range Rover. Road and tyre roar are well suppressed, and the adjustable dampers (which have a charming 'Bumpy Road' setting when in Sport mode) mean that the ride quality is nothing short of excellent. There are executive saloons that don't ride this well.
Does that mean that handling takes a back seat? Partially, yes. If you're expecting the sort of point-and-fire responses of a mid-engined Ferrari, you'll be left wanting. The Lusso is a proper GT car, with a big hefty engine in the front, so you have to recalibrate both your expectations and your inputs a little. Turn in too fast and, although the beautifully weighted steering seems to respond quickly, the nose takes a millisecond to consider its options before following. Partially, that's down to the four-wheel steering changing the way the car responds, but mostly it's just the physics of getting a 1,900kg GT car to go around tight corners.
So, settle back in the seat a little, stretch your arms out like Stirling Moss and take a classic slow-in, fast-out style. Then the Lusso responds like the thoroughbred on its badge - it finds devastating pace, one that even cars like that mighty 911 Turbo would struggle to match, and unlike other V12 Ferraris, an unexpected damp patch on the tarmac won't lead to similar on the seat... True, an endless Route Nationale, or an empty Autostrada are more the Lusso's natural habitat, but even on flowing, scarred Irish tarmac, it felt incredibly impressive, and far more agile and amenable to ham-fisted inputs than you'd think. Give it a boot full out of a tight corner or junction and, even with the 4WD, the rear will slither out, but the lengthy wheelbase (only just shy of that of a Mercedes S-Class) means that you've time to gather it all up and enjoy the experience, rather than panicking that you're about to cram a €500k Ferrari into the ditch. Ahem.
What you get for your Money:
There's no getting away from the GTC4Lusso's price. It's ridiculous, and really is aimed at the relatively tiny number of people worldwide who want a Ferrari, but like skiing and want to pull their Prancing Horse up in front of the ski lodge in the snow. An Audi RS 6 Avant has as much of the Lusso's raw performance as you could ever use on the road, plus its 4WD traction and even more practicality. Ditto a Porsche Panamera Turbo. A Bentley Continental GT Speed has the power and the V12 thunder, and still costs less. None of which really matters, does it? The Lusso (even saying that name is almost worth the price of admission) has the styling, the glamour, the sheer Steve-McQueen-James-Coburn-Audrey-Hepburn chutzpah to pull it all off. Worth it? Of course not. And yet, kind of, yes...
Bentley Continental GT Speed: massive power from a thundering W12 engine and a poised chassis, but not as roomy nor as pretty as the Lusso.
Mercedes-AMG S 65: staggering V12 turbo grunt, mixed with space, beauty, and practicality.
Porsche Panamera Turbo: much better looking now, more spacious, better quality and still with sledgehammer performance.
You can't judge a car such as the GTC4Lusso by regular criteria. it's a car that relies as much on the sprinkling of Ferrari pixie dust as on its own unquestionable abilities. Even so, it is remarkable, able to switch from luxurious comfort to staggering speed in the flick of a switch (literally), and yet it's almost as practical as a family saloon when it comes to space. It may not be, objectively, the best Ferrari right now, but it might just be our favourite.
Many thanks to Charles Hurst Ferrari, Belfast, for their help with this feature.