Ferrari adds V8 to sit alongside the V12 in the GTC4Lusso range
Dubbed 'T', it's down on power but offers improved economy. Darren Casey finds out if the shooting brake is still as thrilling as before
Call this the entry-level version of the GTC4Lusso and you'll upset some very proud Italian engineers. Ferrari's shooting brake might now come with the brand's turbocharged V8 - hence the 'T' in the name - and circa £30,000 lopped off the asking price, but there's a lot more to it than simply offering an alternative to the naturally aspirated V12.
I'm assured that so much love and attention goes into everything the Italian carmaker does that it considers this a wholly different car - the "sixth product" in its line-up, to be precise.
The engine, which we're familiar with from the 488 GTB supercar, has been given new pistons and a new intercooler design, while the exhaust system has been reworked to reduce pressure. On the face of it, the smaller engine is better suited than the V12 to GT car duties because it'll go about 30% longer between fuel stops.
The 10.25-inch high-definition touchscreen, introduced with the V12 model, works like a tablet and is excellent, while the passenger's screen gets new features such as the ability to add navigation waypoints and take control of the music
Looks and image
The GTC4Lusso is loosely based on its forebear, the FF. Only the chassis and some of the cabin shape has been retained - the rest is redesigned.
An engineer told us he would guess it's "about 70% new", with a lot of the changes to the exterior coming from improving aerodynamic performance and modernising the styling.
It works, as pronounced rear haunches make the car look wide and purposeful, while the stunning circular rear lights look like a concept car feature that wasn't meant to make production.
Inside, comfort is almost excellent. The seat design is clearly geared towards being sporty - a very good thing when you're going great guns, but mile-munching isn't quite as luxurious as it could be.
Space and practicality
Before the FF and then the GTC4Lusso, Ferrari owners who wanted to take a weekend away with the family would have had to buy a second car or send Jeeves ahead with the luggage.
Therefore, the idea of this car is to offer all the space most owners could need for everyday use. And for the most part, it succeeds. Boot space is plentiful and would easily fit numerous shopping bags or holdalls.
Perhaps the only negative space-wise is within the cabin. For front passengers there's more than enough room, but six-foot-plus passengers in the back will suffer slightly as legroom isn't brilliant, while the low roof could get a little claustrophobic.
What's under the bonnet?
Lift the imposing bonnet and a 3.9-litre V8 can be seen tucked deep within the engine bay - behind the front axle to aid weight distribution. It almost looks a little lost in a bay designed to hold the 6.3-litre V12, but it's far from lacking theatre.
Performance is suitably ballistic. Considering the GTC4Lusso T is designed with long-distance cruising in mind, with 602bhp and 760Nm of torque - less power than the V12, but more torque - there's more than enough performance to pin you to the back of your seat should you desire.
It feels a little perverse talking about fuel economy when there's a Prancing Horse on the bonnet, but in this segment miles per gallon is just as relevant as miles per hour - official figures of 24mpg and CO2 emissions of 265g/km are impressive for a car that offers such pace.
Behind the wheel
Thumb the wheel-mounted on/off button and the engine barks into life with a flurry of revs. The throttle pedal takes a moment to get used to as there are a few inches of travel before anything happens, but once you're on the move, the engine's responsiveness is otherworldly. There's no such thing as turbo lag here.
You'll also need a moment to adjust to the size of the GTC4Lusso, but once you find a fun road, it seems to shrink around you. The four-wheel steering makes the car super agile, particularly in tighter turns, and the hyper-alert steering helps the car dart across twisting Tarmac in a way that belies its 1.7-tonne heft.
The engine doesn't quite sing like Ferraris of old, but there's a deep, gravelly tone that gives the car an aggressive, purposeful demeanour. In Ferrari's 488 GTB supercar, the power delivery feels like a drop kick to the back, but here that monstrous torque comes in with a surge. That's because Ferrari manages the boost levels so that they increase as revs rise - it's more becoming of a car with everyday sensibilities in mind.
The roads heading south from Pisa on Italy's west coast were a true test of the GTC4Lusso T's ride - after an hour on cruise control I vowed never to complain about Britain's broken road network ever again.
However, it was useful because it tested the car's livability - there's no getting away from the fact it doesn't quite iron out crumbled tarmac like a Bentley can, though it performed well for the most part. It's the trade-off for being arrow-sharp in the corners, so choosing between rivals will come down to needs and wants.
Value for money
The GTC4Lusso T might cost a tank of fuel under £200,000, (£199,285 for the model I tested) but when you look at the performance figures compared with the £30,000-dearer V12 version, it does start to look like good value.
Admittedly though, the T makes more sense in other European countries where the lower emissions allow for huge tax breaks.
However, compared to rivals, it's by far the pricier option. Its closest rival is the Mercedes-AMG S 65 at £188,550, while the Bentley Continental GT Supersports starts at a little over £177,000. The Porsche Panamera Turbo seems like a bargain with a start price just below £100,0000.
None have the allure of a Ferrari badge though, nor can they handle a back road so impressively. However, all three do a slightly better job of serenely munching through miles
Who would buy one?
The GTC4Lusso T is aimed at a wider profile of buyers than the brand is used to. It's looking at 30 to-45-year-olds who live in the city and need a practical car to carry passengers regularly.
Because it has rear-wheel drive rather than the V12 version's all-wheel drive, it's also aimed at people who live in warmer climates.
In the GTC4Lusso T, Ferrari could easily have suffered at the hands of contradiction. Relaxing and practical for weekends away, but sharp and agile for your favourite backroads - not usually comfortable bedfellows.
There are compromises to be had - yes, the ride is cosseting with the wheel-mounted 'manettino' switch turned to 'comfort', but it's a little fussier than a Bentley Continental or Porsche Panamera when the roads get rough.
However, if one of those cars followed the Ferrari on to a B-road, the Prancing Horse would gallop off into the distance without hesitation. It really is sensational, logic-defying performance.
If money's no object, spending an extra £30k on the V12 version seems like a no-brainer. But if running costs are important, fear not - the GTC4Lusso T could hardly be considered a lesser car.