Four Blissful Hours With One Of Ferrari's Finest

​Understanding The New Vista

While the world is still swallowing the reality of Ferrari's latest humdinger, the 812Superfast, Singapore's veteran motoring journalist, Andre Lam, divulges his take and experience with the GTC4Lusso T against the bright radiance of Florence, Italy.

The Ferrari FF may have had us deeply divided about its styling but we were in total agreement that the FF was just about the best four-seat Ferrari they ever made. Just last year Ferrari introduced the FF's replacement, the V12 equipped GTC4Lusso with its revamped styling that gave us what we thought could be the perfect Ferrari. Now a couple of months later, we are staring at the GTC4Lusso T. The question though, is this- What gives? By now, we aware what "T" means and that inevitably turbocharging will completely infiltrate the hallowed stables of the Prancing Horse. The GTC4Lusso T is more than just a variant with a turbocharged V8 engine as Ferrari removes the 4WD system and reverts to RWD which gives this car an interesting twist.

Still, while Ferrari has given the GTC4Lusso T significant mechanical changes, there are barely any visual clues that indicate this is a newer model. The two styling changes would completely escape notice unless pointed out as the entire exterior is identical right down to the tips of the front spoiler. First, there is a new set of wheels with a different spoke pattern and secondly, they have replaced the exhaust pipe tips with a new design that is less ornate. On the move, you would not even see the difference unless you are following closely behind and have a fetish of staring down at exhaust pipes. 

Even the interior is identical and thankfully still offers the impressive 10.25-inch LCD screen in the centre console. The interior as you know has been designed along the Dual Cockpit concept with the enhanced passenger side cockpit offering an LCD display that mirrors some of the information of the driver's instrument panel like engine rpm, speed, Manettino settings, gear position and even g-force. Only the graphic displays for the 4RM system is missing. The good news is all the customising options for the bigger V12 are available for customers of the GTC4Lusso T. Beneath all the identical aesthetics, the GTC4Lusso T gets the award-winning bi-turbo V8 first seen in the California T, only thing is, it has but tuned for 610 hp, an increase from the 560 hp outputs of the Cali T. However, it is still significantly lower than the 690 hp of the V12 version, and I suppose it is so to maintain team orders.

In all fairness, throughout my drive in Italy with the GTC4Lusso T, I couldn't help but notice how Ferrari has taken turbocharging to new heights with this V8, and not to mention its clever Variable Boost Management system. To turbocharge a 4.0-litre V8 engine sounds a bit like overkill which is precisely why it works so well in my opinion. It allows Ferrari to tailor the boost to create a rising torque curve that mimics a naturally aspirated engine instead of the usual plateau of torque starting from 1500 rpm. As one shifts the 7-speed DCT gearbox sequentially from 3rd to 7th the torque curve is allowed to rise a bit more with each gear change until the full plateau of 760 Nm is reached in top gear.

While they have removed the 4RM system altogether, they have thankfully retained the services of the 4-Wheel-Steer system that reduces the turning circle and it resolves the often-conflicting parameters of stability and agility. Also carried over is the MagnaRide SCM-E damper control system that gives it very similar levels of ride control but with more roll stiffness. It is integrated by the SSC 3.0 (Side Slip Control) which now has the tricky task of distributing power through just the rear wheels instead of all four. With the sophisticated F1-Trac stability control system and E-Diff (electronically controlled differential) able to harness up to 770 hp in the F12 TdF managing 610 hp should be a breeze.

These technical refinements can be felt in the performance and handling when you actually get behind this Ferrari. Even without the aid of the 4RM, the GTC4Lusso T sprints to 100 km/h in just 3.5 seconds, which is an insignificant 0.1 second gap behind the V12 GTC4Lusso. At 200 km/h, the GTC4Lusso T is 0.3 seconds adrift at 10.8 seconds and its top speed of 320 km/h is 15 km/h slower than the V12. Despite the differences, it is still towering performance in anyone's books and most definitely in mine.

What's surprising is the GTC4LussoT manages this level of performance without the fancy 4RM that takes its drive from the front of the V12 engine. Was the fuss about the additional traction from the all-wheel drive system just clever marketing? Of course, all-wheel-drive traction is still superior but by removing the 4RM system and four cylinders, the GTC4Lusso T tips the scales at 1865 kg which is about 55 kg lighter than the V12 GTC4Lusso. This gives the GTC4Lusso T a 46:54 rearward weight bias and it feels just nice on the road, especially out on the roads like in Italy.

This partly explains why the GTC4Lusso T possesses better agility without the help of the torque vectoring afforded by the 4RM system. Of course, the four-wheel steering augments its high levels of agility and stability but do not underestimate what the simple removal of weight does when it is taken from just the front tyres. The turn-in experience is so sharp and frisky that initially I had to reduce steering lock partway through a corner in order not to run over the apices. One has to get used to this before appreciating just how accurately this car steers with its massive grip.

That superb grip is also down to a new generation of Pirelli P-Zeros that remain eerily silent even when the limit is exceeded. In fact, one only knows the car is sliding by the steering going light and the furiously flashing yellow traction control warning lamp on the instrument cluster. Other than that, its smooth and nimble with its touch. There is not a whole lot of steering feel but the chassis is just so responsive and obedient to the helm it becomes a moot point. It could do with a bit more heft but obviously the engineers have arrived at this steering weight in order not to fatigue the driver when dealing with super-human levels of grip and traction afforded by the GTC4Lusso T.

As I coasted and raced along wherever I could out in Florence, I could feel how the power is no longer delivered in a frenzied, hair-raising charge to the red-line but in a muscular, sustained shove to one's back. The exhaust sound is muted compared to the V12 but Ferrari has certainly tried all their tricks to give it a decent soundtrack. One is not overawed by the piercing war-cry of the V8, rather, the excitement comes from other sensations like the neck-snapping acceleration and the view of distant corners approaching at a warp speed.

Selecting Sport mode puts the engine, gearbox and stability control in attack mode but the electronic nanny is not intrusive and attempts to prolong the neutral cornering stance as long as possible, rather than let you dabble in some oversteer. But to take her wide, you have to select 'CST-off', which is the last setting on the Mannettino and take charge of things as the electronic nanny will remain deactivated. With Sport mode engaged, the MagnaRide suspension was a little stiff for town driving but ride comfort is most impressive in Normal mode where not only is it comfortable in town, the chassis control is pretty decent up on the mountains as well. For hard driving, the engine and transmission is best kept primed in Sport mode and select the damper setting for "bumpy road" where the dampers are relaxed to allow for more suspension travel to soak up the bumps and not be thrown off course.

We had nearly five hours of driving over these glorious mountain roads between Florence and the west coast of Italy. Amazingly the fuel tank only ran into reserve as we got back to the hotel in the evening which affirms Ferrari's claim that the GTC4Lusso T has a 30 percent more range from its 91L tank than the V12. The GTC4Lusso T attains 8.62 km/L(11.6 l/100 km) against the 6.67 km/L (14.99 L/100km) of the V12 GTC4Lusso.

This leads me to believe that surprises seem to follow Ferrari's four-seat supercar. First, it was the use of four-wheel drive and now there is a choice of engines. Ferrari has up till now only provided one engine choice for each model line. This is the first time a turbocharged V8 is offered alongside the V12 version. Turbocharging undeniably mutes the lovely naturally aspirated soundtrack but Ferrari have also tried hard to recover the aural excitement that is part of it charm. But far from being negatives, these controversial features bring a new vista of useful performance to the Italian marque.

Thanks to the bountiful torque from the turbocharged engine, the GTC4Lusso T has more of a long-legged GT character but its new-found agility and friskiness suggests otherwise. The GTC4Lusso T is far more different in character than its identical exterior suggests and more crucially, Ferrarista have reason to rejoice now that this newer car has returned to its glorious roots.

Images: Lorenzo Marcinno