Drivers Anonymous
Ferrari GTC4Lusso T
TEXT | Frank Liew
photo | Kimio Ng
edit | Peter Kelly, Henry Lau
design | Answer Chui

Through the hallowed, perhaps even anointed lanes and roads of this small, industrial Italian town, where roads have been blessed with the names of the sport’s most legendary piloti, there is a strange cloak of anonymity afforded to those seated behind a steering wheel with a black cavallino affixed to the centre.

It’s like being at a costume party – whether by design or by sheer indifference to the cacophony of naturally aspirated V12 engines, as you prowl through the narrow roads and intersections, the residents seem more surprised seeing a purple diesel van than anything red with a shield on it.

Perhaps “prowl” isn’t the right word here. In the GTC4Lusso T (which, from here on in, I’m just going to call the GTC4 because I only have a four-syllable-limit memory recall), arguably the largest Ferrari ever produced, it’s more like you’re mammothing through the streets. With an almost three-metre (2,990mm) wheelbase, it really does feel at times like you’re steering the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile around town. These are the blacktop roads that have seen generations of SWBs, GTOs, the modern day Speciales and Enzo’s limited edition cars being driven in controlled anger to stake their mark on this sacred ground. Relatively speaking, the GTC4 feels like you’re piloting the Lusitania after winning the America’s Cup. But when you get it going though – well, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Before we get to that point, it pays to turn back the clock an hour or so to the front gate of the Ferrari factory, the car sparkling in the Italian sun taking up more than the usual mass in the allocated parking space outside. For a moment, you take a step back and appreciate the overall purpose of this car – its mens rea, so to speak. First impression: it has a bit more presence than its FF predecessor. The indent on the bonnet, the sleeker headlights, the bigger mouth and front air dams. The ‘waistline’ of the car, between the front and the rear arches, features a harder crease, making it more pronounced.

Without referring to the fine print on the specifications and reading purely from my in-built Archimedes sensor, it feels and looks wider, squatter. “Are you a purist?” is a question you should ask yourself. And if so, why on earth would this Ferrari Gran Turismo, the mightiest of Enzo’s configurations, seem to be missing four crucial components in the area north of the firewall? The idea of being presented a smaller capacity, V8 (gasp), turbo (clutch my pearls!) Ferrari GT car … I might as well have gifted my chef friends a set of Ginsu knives for Christmas.

“Try it,” they said. “You might really like it.”

Is this a car that fits in with the new, emissions-friendly age of il cavallino tranquillo? Sure.

Is this a car that’s almost an SUV, but not quite? Yeah.

Is this the business-case Ferrari for the yuccie generation who wants it all? I guess.

But it’s rear wheel drive, you say? OK, give me the keys.

As you begin to acclimatise, gingerly easing the Titanic out of its berth and hoping not to strike any icebergs on the way out of the revered gateway that Enzo drove his 125 S out of exactly seventy years ago, it’s not hard to appreciate the overall … existence of the GTC4. Let’s face it – it’s immediately apparent that this is not your typical Ferraristi experience.

In full automatic transmission and comfort drive mode, its Magnaride adaptive dampers roll across swells on the tarmac silently and efficiently, affording a very proper, estate-like driving experience. There’s ample room front, back and above, all resplendent in acres of the finest, lusso-like leather. It’s comfortable – disturbingly so for a sports car. The glass roof allows for ample bragging rights and more importantly, helps immensely with attention-span-deficient back-seat passengers. The engine note is notably quiet – almost a little too quiet. The automatic transmission shifts up to its seventh gear almost instantaneously, a little too quickly for my liking, and hasty downshifts are either incredibly well rev-matched or almost non-existent at all.

The steering feel is superbly light for a car of such girth and poise, perhaps due to the revised engine configuration that shifts more weight bias towards the rear. Before long, you find yourself quietly sailing out of Maranello’s town limits, in an even more anonymous Ferrari-à-la-Maranello mode and leaving just about nothing in your wake.

Now, let’s go forward to that moment at the bottom of the hill where you decide to give the GTC4 a little bit more avanti. Flip the right thumb across to sport, the left hand over to downshift, flip the radio over to the nineties’ greatest hits (conveniently, that’s every radio station in the Bologna/Parma area) and before the in-built GPS can protest, that anonymity disappears faster than a speck of dust stuck on the windscreen. With that familiar, deep-throated Ferrari induction sound, the T retains that torquey disposition of its V12 counterpart and almost arcanely, just about zero turbo lag as it hurtles up to the 60mph mark off a standing start. After the rather long first gear, the gear changes through the paddles coupled with the 600hp twin turbo motor remind you that underneath all of that Maranello-esque anonymity beats the heart of il cavallino rampante. I found myself leaving the car in manual mode for the rest of the time I had with it – far more reassuring than auto mode. It’s no small feat getting a machine of that size up to galloping speed, and the GTC4 provides that in ample, yet controlled amounts.

As you gain a little more confidence your right hand flicks the switch over to the dreaded ESC OFF mode (RACE, CT OFF both curiously omitted from the selection) – turning off all the aids and leaving your fate and insurance premiums in your hands. I thought the car was rear wheel drive, but really? Coupled with its 4WS steering and the suspension stiffening up, loading up the car into the corner and belting one out felt almost as instinctive as any dedicated full-time 4WD vehicle. There’s titanic amounts of front-end grip and the chassis always feels right on the money as the four-wheel steering pulls you back into your adult ego before the juvenile id takes over, offering tremendous corner exit traction. Breaking grip is not impossible, but requires a lot more effort and commitment to the cause. The steering remains light and precise, requiring only a flex of either wrist to point-and-shoot the massive front end. All of it is rather reassuring, if not a little frustrating for those times you find yourself alone in the narrow, two-lane switch-back hills past Puianello.

It’s only when you get to the top of the hill after engaging in a mandatory moment of thrills and spills, steadily rolling around in fifth gear overlooking the vast valleys and rolling hills of Emilia-Romagna that you finally ‘see’ the GTC4 eye to eye. It’s also at that moment that you have to take a cursory glance over your shoulder to remember if you’ve still got the kids in the back of the car.

The GTC4 is both parents wrapped into one, or, as Ferrari’s design head Flavio Manzoni puts it – “A Formula One car in an evening dress.” The feeling is still unmistakably Ferrari, and just like all of its counterparts in the range it deals in extremes, albeit on more contrasting ends of the spectrum. I’ve driven plenty of “dual-purpose” vehicles in my time out on the blacktop, but none so dramatically at each end of the scales as the GTC4. It’s a refined configuration based off the trial-and-error of the FF’s and Enzo’s fabled GT chassis, coupled with the engine technology and drive of the 488 lineage.

The GTC4 understands that it has a job to do but will be able to remind you of your other car, or another you. It’s at that point that it dawns on you why they decided to give the car such a phonetically endowed name – it really is more than a dual identity. It is a grand tourer, a four-seater, a luxury car and a turbocharged cavallino all rolled into one. If you’re like me, you’ll understand that there’s something magical about being able to return to anonymity once you’ve left it all in the ring. And if you can’t always be in Maranello with your Ferrari, you might as well take a little bit of that experience with you in this car wherever else you go.