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Ferrari balancing performance and comfort as it enters the SUV segment

In 2016, former Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne famously replied “you’d have to shoot me first” when asked about the possibility of entering the SUV segment. Times change, markets evolve, and the Italian supercar manufacturer has confirmed it’s busily developing its first high-riding model. It’s shaping up to be unlike any other off-roader on the market.

Make no mistake: The idea of a Ferrari-badged SUV is controversial, even deep inside the company’s headquarters, but making one is a guaranteed way to boost profits and reach new buyers. Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, and Rolls-Royce are already in the arena, and Aston Martin will jump in by the end of 2019. Ferrari’s model isn’t due out until 2022 at the earliest, so the firm will be fashionably late to the party. This approach has pros and cons. It will need to work extra hard to make its model stand out, but it’s in the ideal position to learn valuable lessons from its rivals.

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The Ferrari SUV doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s referred to internally as the Purosangue, a word which means thoroughbred in Italian. This speaks volumes about the project; it needs to be a Ferrari. Don’t expect a Moab-friendly, Jeep Wrangler-fighting off-roader. It will have some off-road capacity, but it’s not being developed with overlanding in mind. And, we already know it will be a Ferrari from the ground up, not a rebadged variant of an existing car.

British magazine Autocar learned the Purosangue will ride on a modular platform developed to underpin front-mid-engined cars, which is unusual for the SUV segment. It’s a layout more commonly associated with low-slung sports cars, so the high-riding Ferrari should handle better than its relatively tall ground clearance will suggest. Expect a full suite of electronic driving aids, too, including some that motorists hoping to occasionally hit the track will greatly appreciate.

Ferrari chief technical officer Michael Leiters stressed the model won’t resemble anything else on the market. “I’m convinced on this car and the technical concept. I think we’ve found a concept and a package which is on one side a real SUV and will convince SUV customers to buy it, but on the other side there’s a huge differentiation of concept to existing SUVs,” he told Autocar. What the Purosangue will look like — and whether it will be a two- or a four-door — is up in the air.

Technical specifications aren’t available either, and odds are they haven’t been finalized yet. Ferrari has an impressive stable of eight- and 12-cylinder engines to choose from, and unverified rumors also point to a plug-in hybrid powertrain built around an as-of-yet-unveiled V6 engine. Four-wheel drive will come standard, as will an automatic transmission.

The Purosangue won’t be Ferrari’s first four-seater, but it will be the most family-oriented model the company has ever released. Owners will be able to drive it every day year-round, even if they live in northern Michigan. It consequently needs to be comfortable, and user-friendly. Engineers are relying on electronic wizardry (like an electronically-adjustable suspension) to tick the first box, and they’re packing a ton of tech into the cabin to check the second one. The SUV will receive all of the features buyers expect in a modern luxury car, like a head-up display and a state-of-the-art infotainment system.

Ferrari’s first SUV will break cover in about 2022, meaning it might not land in America until the 2023 model year, and pricing will start in the vicinity of $350,000. The firm wants to remain exclusive as it chases volume. Additional details — and, hopefully, a concept car to preview the model — will emerge in 2020.

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