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2017 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T review

A V8 turbo is now available for Ferrari's GTC4 Lusso, making it ideal for blasting upcountry or on the daily school run

The massive onslaught of SUVs -- even from the most exotic of car brands -- hasn't really encouraged Ferrari to jump on the bandwagon, because the famous Italian supercar marque wants to preserve its reputation as a maker of exclusive sports cars.

However, the suits at Maranello knew they needed to offer a car for families, which was why they rolled out the four-seat FF -- with luggage space to match -- in 2011. Whether you're going to call the FF a three-door hatchback or a stylish estate Shooting Brake, it also had four-wheel-drive -- a first for Ferrari.

It almost appeared that Ferrari had somehow acknowledged the effectiveness of the SUV in bringing new customers to their showrooms; it was just that the FF was different from others by being a low-slung, four-seat family car with more advantageous driving dynamics (the California T is a convertible with way smaller rear accommodation).

After some four or five years on the market, the V12-powered FF had been given a midlife update and a new badge in the name of GTC4 Lusso (meaning luxury in Italian). And just several months into 2016, Ferrari has introduced a new turbocharged V8 with just rear-wheel drive for its family-oriented car. Such a multi-engine strategy for a single model for buyers to choose from is a first for Ferrari.

On the corporate side of things, the decision to offer a downsized 3.9-litre turbocharged V8 alongside the 6.3-litre, naturally aspirated V12 helps Ferrari reduce average fleet CO2 emissions -- just like how Aston Martin and many others are starting to embrace smaller engines with some kind of forced induction.

The upshot for buyers is more usable performance for real-world driving and, if it really matters to clients with fat wallets, reduced fuel consumption (see the accompanying graph for the benefits). To the inevitable question, then: Is turbocharged power making the GTC4 Lusso T (note the extra initial) less appealing than the V12-powered counterpart in terms of driving response and aural thrills?

Before we get into that, it must be noted that the GTC4 Lusso T's motor is shared with that of the California T -- but with some mods made to the engine's internal giblets -- and is closely related to the slightly smaller-displacing V8 used in the mid-engined 488 GTB. The automatic transmission in the GTC4 Lusso T is none other than the brand's sole seven-speed dual-clutch unit.

Fire the GTC4 Lusso T's V8 into life via the de rigueur starter button on the steering wheel and note the growl it makes, which shortly settles down with fewer decibels. Start rolling away in town areas around Tuscany in Italy -- the place where the international driving trials took place -- and the GTC4 Lusso T feels eerily refined.

The engine hardly feels like a V8 when tooling around with low revs. In fact, it almost sounds like a four-pot unit found in an ordinary family car. As well, the primary ride over speed bumps is so plush and the steering feels extra light but pleasantly direct. Yes, the GTC4 Lusso T can easily be used for the school run.

But as you start to open the throttle on country roads, the eight-pot beast awakens with a snarly note -- not in the Nascar-like V8 fashion but in a more animated manner. Ferrari admits this is all part of sound engineering.

Whatever kind of noise you're going to associate it with is up to you, but the GTC4 Lusso T certainly sounds loud when you start to take the rev needle to high levels. And it's here where you can feel how explosive the performance becomes. The 610hp power plant accelerates just as relentlessly as in Ferrari's other turbocharged models.

Hit the 7,500rpm limiter, and the gearbox -- whether in auto or manual mode -- snappily shifts a gear up. Sure, the V12 has a higher 8,250rpm cut-out point, but you don't necessarily feel shortchanged with the 750rpm difference. And to answer the question we posed earlier, the turbo V8 feels sufficiently responsive if not as musical as the V12. It's a slight give-and-take situation for turbocharged engines these days, although the merits do outweigh the flaws.

As in other Fezzas, you can sharpen the driving characteristics (and the exhaust sound) by switching the Manettino switch to Sport. Separately, there's a button to alter the damping rates, which can be useful in reducing body roll when slicing hard around the barren, curvy roads in the Tuscan hills.

Initially, you might think of being hampered by the long front end the GTC4 Lusso bears. But the steering feels quick enough to make the driving experience feel agile at virtually all times. Special thanks also go to the four-wheel steering that tightens the turning circle at low speeds and enhances handling precision elsewhere.

The decision by Ferrari to not install four-wheel drive into the GTC4 Lusso T isn't a bad thing at all because it makes driving more fun with a looser safety net, the latter being attributed to the brand's third-generation side-slip control. Sure, the V12-equipped GTC4 Lusso naturally has higher levels of adhesion and driving security with its four-wheeldrive system, but its two-wheel-drive V8 counterpart still generates plenty of grip in the dry. This has also made the GTC4 Lusso T some 50kg lighter on the scales and partly explains why -- despite its 90hp deficit it hands over to the V12-powered sibling -- its 0-100kph acceleration time is only a tenth-of-a-second slower. Yeah, the GTC4 Lusso T still feels massively quick in a straight line.

A Ferrari official says there are no plans to fit all-wheel-drive to the GTC4 Lusso T. Maybe they want to preserve sales of the V12 version, which is more likely to attract customers who need optimum traction in places with slippery road conditions.

The visual differences between the two GTC4 Lussos are restricted to just the different exhaust and wheel designs (rim and tyre sizes are the same in both). Two new colours have been conjured: white and blue, as tested here. The interior, meanwhile, has several colour combinations.

Just as a refresh, the cabin is quite practical. Six-footers can easily enter and exit to and from the rear seats, where they will find enough space and airiness, the latter attributed to the glass roof and narrow front chairs. The driver, meanwhile may find too many buttons scattered around, but eventually will find them quite ergonomically sound, while the front passenger gets the gimmicky instrument readouts to look at. Overall, the cabin looks sporty and well-made with nice materials.

Speaking of that, this particular four-seat Ferrari manages to feel reasonably racy and practical at the same time. And while we have mentioned many times that some sports cars manage to possess a dual personality on the move, the GTC4 Lusso T does it with even more distinction than, say, an Aston or a Bentley.

But truth be told, the GTC4 Lusso T doesn't drive as outright sporty or alert as in most other Fezzas, be it the mid-engined 488 GTB or front-engined F12 (which has just been updated this year as the 812 Superfast). On the other hand, the GTC4 Lusso T seems to be quite a necessary expansion for Ferrari's clientele.

And with roughly 5 million baht's savings over the 30 million-baht V12, this V8 model is certainly the one to go for. Once again, the engine-downsizing principle seemingly has made Ferrari another better car, if the least sporty of them all.

Turbo V8 sounds muted when tootling but alive when provoked.

Buttons are all over the place in the cockpit but are overcome shortly.

Six-footers will find comfort and airiness in the rear.

Wheel design in V8 is different from V12; carbon-ceramics are standard.

The ability to entertain the front passenger is gimmicky.

Rear-wheel drive hasn't taken away the GTC4's prodigious amount of grip in the dry.

Some other practical sports cars

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