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Practicality, performance, and getting pulled over in the Ferrari GTC4Lusso T

The Peak puts the grand tourer - Ferrari's answer to luxe SUVs - to the test in Tuscany.

I cannot put a number as to how swiftly I was making progress, but considering the smudged landscape and my failure to spot the blue-andwhite patrol car with roof lights parked in plain sight, my speed must have not been that kosher.

Fortunately for me, neither could the upstanding member of the polizia on that stretch of strada provinciale; he did not carry a speed gun.

He speaks no English, and I, no Italian, but language barrier notwithstanding, the drill is the same wherever in the world you are: sheepishly hand over your driver’s licence and passport, and contemplate the prospect of spending the night on the cold, damp floor of a jail cell.

After many excruciating moments, he casts a sideways glance at the gleaming Ferrari I am piloting, hands back my papers and waves me off. I can almost swear he cracked half a smile.

Whether it is this light touch of the law, or the thumbs up I get from passers-by as I rev the engine in the GTC4Lusso T through the small, sun-drenched Tuscan towns that dot our test route, I cannot help but feel that the Italians truly celebrate their own.

DESIGNED TO WIN FANS

Which brings me back to this superb grand tourer. It is Maranello’s answer to the current trend towards “lifestyle”-oriented sport utility vehicles, but defined on its own terms – a practical two-door, four-seat car with just enough luggage and passenger space for a weekend getaway, but beautifully designed along contemporary Ferrari lines as an aggressive, low-slung shooting brake. It is all sinewy and athletic; no lardy wagons here.

This is as close to an SUV as you’ll get with Ferrari.

If the shape looks familiar, that is because it made its debut in last year’s GTC4Lusso. That car is powered by a 6.3-litre V12 that drives all four wheels and remains in production. As you may have guessed by the “T”, this one has the 3.9-litre twin turbo V8 (found also in the California T and the 488) installed in the pointy end. It is also rear-wheel driven.

Save for a couple of styling cues such as the scalloped exhaust tailpipe and forged alloy wheels with “younger appeal”, as product manager Marco Bai tells me, the duo have almost everything else in common, including the sensational four-wheel steering system that improves cornering stability and what has to be Ferrari’s finest interior yet.

It is addressed at a decidedly younger age group of urban 30-somethings who have made it big – think Internet entrepreneurs, management consultants and the lucky bankers who have managed to escape the financial sector’s right-sizing – with no need for the traction of four-wheel drive. And, although left unspoken, those who find the price tag of the T a more palatable entry into the Ferrari fold.

This is a new segment for Ferrari, which has been determined to acquire new customers in recent years, taking advantage of the rise of ultra-high net worth individuals, and also to lock in its clientele at an earlier stage of the purchasing cycle. A wise strategy, given that the Ferraristi are among the most loyal fans in the world.

Although this car is not a direct rival to the Bentley Continental or the Mercedes-AMG S-class coupe, it offers a driver-focused alternative in a space where no such option existed. If a customer prefers a softer ride, Bai admits, then the Ferrari probably is not the best choice. But the fact that it bears the Lusso – which means “luxury” in Italian – nameplate shows where its sights are aimed.

So, the question remains, how well does it compete?

THE RIDE

Squeezing the GTC4Lusso T through the archway out of the plaza at the walled medieval town of Monteriggioni with barely inches to spare, I immediately get a visceral sense of how wide this beast is. On the narrow B-roads – one lane in each direction on a single carriageway – I initially fear to take corners too quickly, lest I add a few unintended creases to the bodywork.

But the nervousness is on this driver, not on the car. After a few miles exploring the limits little by little, however, I find the car reassuringly tracking as if on rails. Part of this is due to the aforementioned fourwheel steering, which turns the rear wheels in the same direction as the front’s to improve stability. That the car is some 55kg lighter than the V12 – most of it thanks to the deletion of the complicated four-wheel drive system, and the resulting 46:54 weight distribution – helps in a more neutral, slight understeering response.

The engine, too, is a cracker. Despite losing four cylinders, enough grunt from the twin turbochargers makes the V8 practically as fast as the V12. Its 610bhp rings up 100kmh in 3.5 seconds, just 0.1 second slower, but the much more accessible torque in the early and middle rev ranges lends a punchier feel than its bigger brother’s. The 30 per cent reduction in your annual fuel bill is just the icing on the cake.

And, if there is any turbo lag, I can’t detect it. In the unstoppable move towards force-fed engines that are lighter on emissions, Ferrari has devised clever ways to make power delivery more linear; for instance, it deploys variable boost management, limiting the amount of torque – of which the V8 has a surfeit – in the third to sixth gears to mimic the response of a naturally aspirated engine. Only the top, seventh cog in the dual-clutch gearbox has access to all 760Nm of the glorious rotational force.

While not expansive like in a sedan, the interior is surprisingly roomy enough for four to ride in comfort for the average three- or four-hour road trip. Despite the sloping roofline, plenty of headroom exists at the rear for taller people. At 450 litres, the boot is sufficient for a couple of suitcases plus some soft bags to fit in the odd space left over. It does look like it can even accommodate a bicycle with the rear seats folded down. That is unheard of in a Ferrari.

Truth be told, people who can afford this kind of machine – in Singapore, at least, where taxes skew prices so much that it pushes the customer demographic to the stratosphere – would likely have at their disposal an entire fleet of cars, each for a specific purpose.

If, however, you choose to prudently consolidate your collection, the GTC4Lusso T is a brilliant car that offers a lot of practicality, hand in hand with unfettered performance. One-size-fits-all propositions, by definition, tend to result in compromises. The GTC4Lusso T is one of the rare examples that defy this truism.