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Putting the Ferrari FF Through Its Paces, High in the Italian Alps

• Lawrence Ulrich via PopSci.com
 

Brunico, Italy - A snowy K-Mart parking lot would have worked fine. But this being Ferrari, and the star its tradition-shredding FF – a $300,000 all-wheel-drive station wagon -- a little high-altitude showboating seemed in order. So with a boost from the Italian army’s Chinook helicopters, Ferrari flew a pair of FF’s to the windswept peak of Plan de Corones, a popular ski resort in its wondrous Dolomites, and told us to have at it. Ridiculous? Why, yes. But no more so than a 208-mph, 651-horsepower Italian pony that can carry four tall adults and cargo while galloping safely over snow, ice, dirt or puddles on the Pomona freeway.


Take a closer look at the Ferrari FF

At the 7,464-foot peak, with goggled skiers watching agog, I began acclimating to Ferrari’s first all-wheel-drive car.

A press of the red “start” button on the racing-style steering wheel and the FF’s 6.3-liter V-12 dramatically fills its lungs. With Raffaela de Simone -- just 30 years old, but already a 10-year veteran Ferrari test driver -- riding shotgun, I tiptoe around the carved-out snow course, leaving the steering wheel’s tiny manettino lever in its Snow/Ice setting. It’s the most vigilant of five performance envelopes, including Wet, Comfort, Sport and ESC Off, the latter disabling all traction and stability systems. I leave that setting for Raffaela’s expert hands, as he rips around this fantasy half-pipe with Olympian daring, casually explaining the car’s systems in Italian-spiced English.

“If we see that electronic systems may help the car, we develop them; if not, we don’t,” he says, demonstrating by hurtling sideways and blasting roostertails of snow from the 20-inch Pirelli Sottozero tires.

On this slippery surface, any help is appreciated: You’d expect this beast to be all white knuckles, but I quickly realize that an anxious grandmother could guide the FF, and quickly, through a howling snowstorm. Any clumsy throttle stab or steering-wheel jerk is instantly smoothed over, at nearly Lexus levels of protectiveness; spins and slides are electronically denied. The critical role of those optional winter tires can’t be overstated. For tearing it up in the dry, the peerless new Michelin Pilot Super Sports are standard.

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