Ferrari FF coupe: Exotica, high performance and . . . a back seat

Columnist November 16, 2013

Some people hate it, refuse to call it a Ferrari. Many of those people are my colleagues in the automotive media, men and women, who, like me, derive income from driving other people’s cars.

We are self-acclaimed experts in matters of the automobile — especially concerning expensive, exotic automobiles such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Aston Martin and Porsche.

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post. View Archive

What’s odd about that is that many of us can’t afford to buy much above a Ford Focus or Toyota Camry. Journalism, especially automotive journalism, doesn’t pay much.

But let’s get back to that often-scorned Ferrari, the hatchback Ferrari FF coupe, the subject of this week’s column. It actually is a 2012 model, which is of minor importance, because Ferrari is more artisan than manufacturer in turning out cars.

That means the company takes its time producing precious art pieces endowed with four wheels, clever and expensive chassis arrangements, and super-powerful engines. The FF, for example, comes with a 6.3-liter gasoline V-12 delivering a maximum 651 horsepower and 504 pound-feet of torque.

Like most Ferrari cars, it makes little sense as a daily driver. The thing moves from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds. Legally, there are few places to drive the FF in the world’s urban and suburban communities the way it is engineered to be driven.

But that is the romance and lore of Ferrari automobiles. They always have been the motorized definition of exclusivity, luxury, high-performance motoring and sheer impracticality — until now, with the emergence of the hatchback FF.

Hatchback cars are antithetical to all things Ferrari, all things exotic automobile. Hatchbacks are the essence of practicality. Most seat at least four adults, with two rear seats that can fold downward. In the case of the FF, folding those seats down provides 28.3 cubic feet of cargo space, effectively turning a sports car into a station wagon.

Ferraris are notoriously fast, sleek, sexy automobiles. They are, for those of you who remember her, Sophia Loren, and, for those of you who don’t remember the gloriously sensuous Ms. Loren, think: Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Padma Lakshmi, Janelle Monáe, Maggie Grace, Jordana Brewster or Azealia Banks.

In short, Ferraris are deliciously beautiful cars, even more so because of their expense and gross impracticality. They are best viewed as wheeled fantasy, mobile art.

But the real world intervenes. The gossip magazines note that beautiful women have sex and sometimes get pregnant. Paparazzi are all agog over “baby bumps,” as if, zounds, even stunningly beautiful women can have swollen bellies!

With the FF, sexism has morphed into Ferrari-ism. How dare that famed maker of Italian super-performance automobiles acknowledge that even rich people (in this case, the 5 percent of the U.S. population who can afford the FF’s base price of $295,000) often have families. And despite annual incomes of $300,000 or more, those people don’t want to spend $258,000 on a two-seat Ferrari Italia convertible or $229,000 on a two-seat Ferrari Italia coupe.

Times have changed. Hedonism, albeit stubbornly, is making room for practicality. Welcome the “baby bump” hatchback Ferrari FF (does that stand for Family Ferrari?) Coupe!

In service of the family, the FF coupe makes less sense than many cars, wagons and crossover-utility vehicles available for substantially less. But it conceivably could have a great deal of appeal for wealthy people in need of rationalizing the expenditure of big bucks in pursuit of unbridled power on the road.

To wit:

●A family of four can sit within the FF’s exotic-leather-and-wood-trimmed confines.

●The FF, equipped with all-wheel drive, can go in snow, ice, or rain.

●A pleasant long-distance ride can be had by adjusting the FF’s suspension to “Comfort.”

●The true Ferrari nature of the FF — tight handling, breathtaking acceleration — readily comes to life if you adjust the suspension to “Sport.” Alas, ride in that mode is less pleasant for passengers, particularly those in the two rear seats.

●Yes, the FF can and does outrun practically everything on U.S. highways. The problem is that too many other drivers know that. The less mature among them are always riding your tail, trying to goad you to go even faster. Warning: Do not oblige them. A traffic enforcement officer is almost always watching.

●Yes, the FF has a “baby bump,” which tends to destroy fantasy by indicating inescapable reality and a certain level of responsibility. The “bump,” in this case, is in the rear. It offers ample seating space for two adults and enough cargo space for their stuff.

Still, the FF is every bit a Ferrari — one designed and engineered to transport more than the driver’s ego.

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