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Ferrari talks turning a corner with the GTC4Lusso, its four-wheel path forward

Ferrari has reached a major turning point in its existence.

It has recently been spun off from long-time parent company Fiat, and it’s increasingly weaving new features like downsized engines, advanced four-wheel steering systems, and state-of-the-art infotainment systems into its lineup of exhilarating super sports car. Putting a massive engine in a sexy body no longer cuts it in this industry.

Ferrari is evolving, but it’s not completely reinventing itself. Executives have flat-out refused to follow rivals by building popular but highly controversial models like SUVs and electric vehicles. Instead, Ferrari prefers to stay true to its roots by focusing on how to make its cars sharper to drive, faster, and more enjoyable.

A good example of the company’s philosophy is the new 2017 GTC4Lusso, which was presented to the public during the Geneva Auto Show. It’s undeniably the versatility-focused member of the Ferrari lineup, but it remains a pure, ultra-exclusive sports car with an immensely potent V12 and relatively compact dimensions. Digital Trends sat down with Nicola Boari, Ferrari’s head of product marketing, to find out what makes GTC4Lusso better than the FF it replaces, and why it’s such an important model in the Prancing Horse’s lineup.

Digital Trends: Tell us what makes the new GTC4Lusso different from the outgoing FF. Specifically, what did you focus on during the redesign, and what challenges did you face?

Nicola Boari: The biggest challenge we faced while designing the GTC4Lusso was actually not simply giving the FF a facelift, because that would be a waste of our resources. We kept the naturally-aspirated V12 engine, but we bumped its power output to 680 horsepower and its torque output to 515 pound-feet. These aren’t just numbers; we’ve created the most powerful V12-powered Ferrari grand turismo (GT) car ever. We also ensured that the GTC4Lusso’s performance remains accessible so that our customers – especially those who buy our GT cars – don’t have to be more skilled behind the wheel just because we’ve built a more powerful car.

From a vehicle dynamics point of view, we’ve upgraded the four-wheel drive system that we launched with the FF. It sends power to all four wheels only when extra traction is needed; otherwise, the GTC4Lusso drives like a regular rear-wheel drive Ferrari. We’ve also added four-wheel steering. Again, our goal is that drivers need to feel like they’re in control. We don’t want them to be scared, we want them to push the car, to enjoy themselves, and to use all of the power that’s available.

We made aerodynamic modifications, too. We didn’t want a simple facelift, so we asked ourselves if we needed to keep the shooting brake body style or if we should change it. Ultimately, we stuck with a shooting brake body not because it’s art but because it allowed us to offer seating for four passengers and a spacious trunk without building a car that’s longer than five meters (196 inches). Handling suffers beyond that point.

We’ve redesigned the back end of the car, but we’ve stayed loyal to the shooting brake design. It’s won over many customers. The average FF buyer is ten years younger than the typical Ferrari coupe buyer. This shift is attributed to the design, the versatility, and the four-wheel drive system, so we didn’t want to stray too far from what made the FF a hit.

This is the Ferrari that owners put the most miles on; no other model comes close.

The longer roof line allowed us to make the GTC4Lusso more aerodynamic, but it also enabled us to re-balance the front and the back of the car. It looks much bigger than the FF even though it’s only a few sixteenths of an inch longer. Also, the new spoiler decreases drag. This is the Ferrari that owners put the most miles on; no other model comes close. Keeping fuel consumption in check is consequently important, so reducing drag was an instrumental part of the redesign.

How about the cabin?

Buyers will spend a lot of time behind the wheel of the GTC4Lusso, so we completely redesigned the interior. Additionally, owners travel with a passenger at least 60 percent of the time so we developed a dual-cockpit dashboard, and we updated the passenger display that we launched for the first time on the FF in order to make it more user-friendly. For example, if a navigation destination has already been set, the passenger can add a point of interest without interfering with what the driver is doing. It’s co-piloting, in a way. We also fitted new front seat backs so that the occupants riding in the back have more leg room.

How important is in-car tech to Ferrari buyers?

Our priorities lie in the three areas I mentioned before: engine, dynamics, and aerodynamics. However, for a GT car like the GTC4Lusso I think infotainment becomes key. That’s why we introduced a large screen with a split-view function, and why we continue to offer Apple CarPlay compatibility.

I know you can find more advanced systems on the market today. Our priority wasn’t to have the most high-tech infotainment system, but we undeniably wanted to improve upon the software we had in the FF. It’s not just a matter of how shiny the screen is, either, we also needed to improve the actual software. We’ve increased the performance of the CPU for faster reaction times, and added a pinch-to-zoom function.

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Did you choose to launch the GTC4Lusso with four-wheel drive for the sake of versatility, or was it because the system makes the car easier to control?

It wasn’t for the power, no. We don’t believe we need four-wheel drive to keep the power in check even in our more powerful models because it adds weight. The F12tdf has 780 horsepower, about 100 more than the GTC4Lusso, and it’s rear-wheel drive.

With the FF and the GTC4Lusso, we wanted to increase the amount of time buyers spend behind the wheel. That meant making both models more versatile by adopting a shooting brake body style, adding spacious rear seats, and launching them with four-wheel drive.

The GTC4Lusso boasts a couple of retro-inspired styling cues; the limited-edition F12tdf does too. Moving forward, will Ferrari’s design department put a bigger focus on its heritage?

The three values of the brand are tradition, performance, and innovation, and we try to always keep them in mind when we create a new car. The three vents on the GTC4Lusso’s fender are inspired by the 330 GTC, but they’ve been redesigned in a way that they’re more functional, they draw more air out of the wheel arches. They look more modern, too, but they still create a visual link between the GTC4Lusso and the 330 GTC. The point isn’t simply to copy the past, but to highlight the Ferrari DNA.

Tradition, performance, and innovation. When we combine all three of those elements we know we’ve nailed it.