How the Ferrari FF Works


Image Gallery: Sports Cars Close up of a Ferrari logo during the opening of The Ferrari Store of New York on June 23, 2010 in New York City. See more pictures of sports cars.
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The Ferrari FF created a great deal of controversy when it was announced in January 2011, in part because it represents a break from Ferrari's sports car tradition. The FF (an abbreviation for "Ferrari Four") is as much a family car as a sports model, with a comfortable four-seat interior and a spacious luggage compartment. Perhaps the most radical thing about it is that it's Ferrari first car with four-wheel drive. (Note all those "fours" -- four seats and four-wheel drive. It's not hard to figure out what the "four" in Ferrari Four refers to.)

So does the introduction of a four-wheel drive family car to their line mean that Ferrari is planning to shed its reputation for speed, acceleration and sporty handling? Not at all. In an ingenious bit of engineering, Ferrari has managed to create what is quite possibly the fastest accelerating four-wheel drive car on the road. They've done this by giving the FF the largest engine of any Ferrari, along with a four-wheel drive system that weighs half as much as similar systems usually do. According to its manufacturer, the FF can accelerate from 0 to 62 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour) in just 3.7 seconds, with an impressive 651 horsepower giving it a top speed of 208 miles per hour (334.7 kilometers per liter).

The design of the FF, with its hefty rear end, hasn't pleased all Ferrari fans, but the fact the FF sacrifices surprisingly little performance in the name of family friendliness makes it a notable addition to the Ferrari line. How have Ferrari's engineers managed to combine a four-wheel drive system and a spacious interior with sporty handling? The answer lies in the design of the drive train, which uses Ferrari's innovative gearing system and a clever method of distributing torque to the front and rear wheels to milk the maximum performance out of a four-wheel drive. In fact, they've managed to create a four-wheel drive car that feels to the driver almost exactly like a car with rear-wheel drive.

How have they done that? We'll look at the details on the following pages.

Ferrari FF Design

Picture of a Ferrari Logo taken during a press day at the Paris Motor Show at Parc des expositions Porte de Versailles on Sept. 30, 2010 in Paris, France.
Picture of a Ferrari Logo taken during a press day at the Paris Motor Show at Parc des expositions Porte de Versailles on Sept. 30, 2010 in Paris, France.
Francois Durand/Getty Images

Ferrari's aim in designing the FF was to build a successor to its previous four-seater, the 612 Scaglietti fastback coupé. In fact, four-seater vehicles are nothing new for Ferrari, but it's clear that the FF's designers wanted to create something more comfortable and spacious than previous models, something that a family of four can use on long cross-country trips. The 15 cubic feet (.42 cubic meters) of luggage space (double that if the rear seats are folded) make a much better option for weekend outings than anything else in the Ferrari line.

Externally, the design is what's sometimes called a "shooting brake" -- it's too sporty to call a hatchback -- with two doors on the sides plus a third that opens on the rear. The rooflines are designed to channel air in a way that prevents a vacuum from forming behind the chopped-off hatchback rear and producing drag. Similarly, the side grilles lets air escape from the front wheel wells so that the car won't liftoff like an airplane at high speeds.

The part of the FF's exterior that Ferrari fans either love or hate is the large, sliced-off rear end, which is built large to allow a fair amount of space in the trunk. It clearly says hatchback when the car is viewed in profile, but vacationing Ferrari owners probably won't mind when they discover how much luggage the rear holds.

Inside, the FF's upholstery is aniline leather. Six different colors of interior are available. Two electronic displays on the dashboard provide real-time information about the car's status while as many controls as possible are located on the steering column. Legroom is vast and conducive to comfortable seating, with space for 6-foot (1.8- meter) tall passengers to stretch out without feeling cramped.

All this spaciousness suggests that the FF must be too large and too heavy to handle well, yet Ferrari insists, rather convincingly, that this is not so. How did Ferrari's engineers give the FF this much interior space, plus all-wheel drive, yet maintain the sporty handling that was expected of them? We'll get to that on the next page.

Ferrari FF Specs

A man cleans a Ferrari logo during a press day at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on Oct. 1, 2010 in Paris, France.
A man cleans a Ferrari logo during a press day at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on Oct. 1, 2010 in Paris, France.
Franck Prevel/Getty Images

There are two reasons that the FF's four-wheel drive, dubbed 4RM by Ferrari, handles more like a rear-wheel drive. The first is that for much of the time that you'll be driving it, the FF is running with rear-wheel drive alone. The on-board computer in charge of the FF's predictive torque distribution detects when the front wheels are starting to slip and only then starts routing power to anywhere but the rear wheels. The second reason is that the drive train uses dual transmissions and dual driveshafts of a type developed by Ferrari for earlier models, with a two-gear transmission pulling power off the front end of the engine and transmitting power to the front wheels while a seven-gear transmission relays power to the rear wheels. The lower gear of the front transmission corresponds to the first two gears on the rear transmission, the second gear to the third and fourth gears of the rear transmission, with the rear transmission solely in charge at higher gears. This allows Ferrari to make the four-wheel drive system unusually light -- about half the weight of a typical four-wheel drive system. Superior weight distribution helps the FF to hug the road, with the huge motor in the front balanced out by the large trunk area.

The FF's 6.3-liter, direct-injection V-12 engine is up to the job of accelerating this surprisingly lightweight vehicle. It generates 504 pound-feet (683.3 newton-meters) of torque and 651 horsepower, which in some neighborhoods would qualify it for supercar status. The FF uses a magnetorheological damping system in its shock absorbers, allowing the damping characteristics of the shocks to be altered via a computer-controlled magnetic field, so that the shocks can respond to changing road conditions. Ferrari's HELE (high-emotion, low-emission) technology, borrowed from the Ferrari California, removes carbon dioxide emissions, helping the FF meet ever more stringent federal and local emissions regulations.

All in all, the Ferrari FF is an impressive piece of design and engineering. Ferrari fans need not worry that the Italian carmaker has sold out its sports car heritage in a campaign to attract the family market. In fact, it appears they've done a clever job of having their cake and eating it too.

For more information about the Ferrari FF and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.

Related Articles

Sources

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  • Bailey, Shaun. "Revealed! The 2012 Ferrari FF - First Look." Road and Track. Jan. 21, 2011. (Feb. 10, 2011) http://www.roadandtrack.com/future-cars/first/revealed!-the-2012-ferrari-ff
  • Motor Trend. "First Look: Ferrari FF." (Feb. 10, 2011) http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/exotic/1102_ferrari_ff_first_look/specs.html
  • Pattni, Vijay. "Four-wheel-drive Ferrari 'Four' shooting brake revealed." Top Gear. Jan. 21, 2011. (Feb. 10, 2011) http://www.topgear.com/uk/car-news/ferrari-four-shooting-brake-revealed-2011-01-21
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  • Schulz, Jonathan. "Ferrari FF, an All-Wheel-Drive Shooting Brake." The New York Times. Jan. 21, 2011. (Feb. 10, 2011) http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/ferrari-ff-an-all-wheel-drive-shooting-brake/
  • Welsh, Jonathan. "Ferrari Shows Off More of Its New FF Four-Seater." The Wall Street Journal. Jan. 25, 2011. (Feb. 10, 2011) http://blogs.wsj.com/drivers-seat/2011/01/25/ferrari-shows-more-of-its-new-ff-four-seater-slideshow/
  • Wert, Ray. "Ferrari FF: Four Wheel Drive, Four Seats, One Fantastic Rear End." Jalopnik. Jan. 21, 2011. (Feb. 10, 2011) http://jalopnik.com/#!5739585/ferrari-ff-four-wheel-drive-four-seats-one-fantastic-rear-end