The popping sounds of Ferrari engines, including one in a 2012 Ferrari FF, reverberate through my hotel window as morning breaks over Maranello, Italy. In the distance, an open-wheeled test mule howls around the track at full song.
I feel like Dorothy first setting foot in the Land of Oz There may be no place like home, but on this day, I am so taken aback by the visceral experience surrounding me it is impossible to think about anything other than bright red cars going fast. My ruby slippers are made of composite rubber and come in size 285/35 ZR20.
What is it that sets Ferrari apart from its competitors? To understand, it is important to grasp the significance racing plays in its history as well as the current technology. The passion for this brand is legendary, and there is no sign of its slowing down anytime soon.
Enzo Ferrari founded Scuderia Ferrari (Ferrari Stable) in Maranello in 1929. The goal of his new company was to sponsor race drivers and cars at a time when the sport was still young. Great names such as Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, Gilles Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher are synonymous with winning in Rosso Corsa red. Mr. Ferrari’s hunger was first to race, then build street cars to allow the company to continue racing.
Sitting in the dining hall of the infamous Il Cavallino Ristorante one evening with Stefano Lai, Communication Director of Ferrari S.p.A., we are surprised by a chance meeting with current Ferrari F1 driver and two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso. The exchange is extravagant but sincere, with big smiles, handshakes and boisterous laughter. Ferrari is Italy, the two are one, and you sense this every time you hear one drive past or sit behind the wheel and take control. The world around the car stops, and onlookers stand motionless to pay homage.
The 2012 Ferrari FF comes at a time when the likes of Porsche, Aston Martin and other rarefied brands are introducing four-door models designed to capitalize on baby boomers growing up and young, well-heeled couples with one or two kids wanting to have their cake and eat it, too. Unlike the others, however, the all-new Ferrari FF offers only two doors. There are no current plans to introduce a four-door or SUV model. The FF is as close as Ferrari will come to building four seats with four-wheel drive capability.
Fitted with a DOHC 48-valve 12-cylinder engine, performance numbers indicate 651 hp at 8,000 rpm and 504 lb.-ft. of torque at 6,000 rpm. Mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, zero to 100 km/h is achieved in 3.7 seconds; 0-200 km/h takes only 11 seconds. Top speed peaks at 335 km/h. All this and the 2012 Ferrari FF is fully capable of being driven throughout the year; rain, shine, sleet, snow, it’s good to go!
Outside styling cues remind me of the Ferrari 599 GTB in front and nothing that Ferrari has ever designed in back. Showcasing a bulbous rear quadrant, the FF nods in the direction of practicality and roominess, while at the same time achieving Milan model stylish proportions and incorporating enough DNA so as to leave no doubt this is a worthy Ferrari.
Inside, leather seats wrap four adults in complete comfort and over-the-top opulence. Everywhere I look, stitched tan leather intersects with carbon-fibre to form one of the world’s most spectacular passenger compartments found in any automobile. Leaving the inside, even after a long drive, is not something you do willingly.
Hotel Maranello Palace is not your typical four-star hotel. It features 57 rooms, eight suites, four superior suites and 43 small apartments. The exterior of the building is first-rate, the rooms extremely well kept and clean and the staff exceptional. Meals are served in the dining room or at the bar with indoor and outdoor seating. But you don’t stay here for the ambience. This is where you are welcomed should you happen to be picking up your new Ferrari or are one of the many guests of the factory. It is an honour you don’t want to pass up.
Walking through the factory, I see firsthand the passion and pride that goes into building each automobile. The call of a newly finished Ferrari startles me as I walk toward the front door and notice the small crowd starting to form. All it takes is that sound and the world stands transfixed.
2012 Ferrari FF
As tested (before tax): $300,000
Configuration: front engine, four-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 6.2L V12/seven-speed automatic with sequential shift
Power/torque: 651 hp/504 lb-ft
Fuel (capacity): premium (91L)
Fuel economy ratings: 15.4 L/100 km combined
Warranties: three years/ unlimited km (comprehensive)
Competitors: Aston Martin DBS, Bentley Continental GT, Maserati GranTurismo S, Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG, Porsche Panamera
Where to stay:
Hotel Maranello Palace
Via Grizzaga, 71
41053 Maranello, Italy
Hotel Maranello Palace