Lamborghini is doing it, Bentley and Maserati have already done it (even Rolls-Royce will be getting in on the act) — surely it is only a matter of time before Ferrari follows suit. I’m talking, of course, about building an SUV. I’ve always had a nagging feeling that the boys at Maranello will cave in eventually and offer a high-riding family hauler since this is the fastest growing and, might I add, most profitable segment in the automotive industry. It begs the question then — why has Ferrari steered clear of it? The Italians will tell you that such a model isn’t in the brand’s DNA and that Enzo would turn in his grave if such a vehicle was ever built. So, it probably isn’t coming. Except that it is already here, sort of…

Six years ago the FF was launched and the shooting brake-styled grand tourer that could seat four adults in total comfort sure went down well with those shopping in the luxury market but wanting extra space. It gave the storied marque a model with real practicality and utility, words hardly associated with the Prancing Horse and the very same characteristics that most SUV’s are designed in mind with. And having driven the successor, the GTC4 Lusso (far less awkward-looking and packing the same V12 and four-wheel drive configuration) and sampling not only its electric pace but exceptionally roomy interior, it’s blindingly obvious that Ferrari doesn’t need an actual SUV to appeal to those who demand added sensibleness when the four-seater does the job brilliantly. Credit to the guys at Maranello for sticking to their guns and doing what they do best — building incredible supercars — and the GTC4 Lusso sure is that. But what about this new Turbo, the first four-seater to be powered by a V8 engine?

Was there a need to go down the downsized blown route when the big V12 proved such a hit? There was if you care about fuel economy and the environment, and when you throw in the current trend, that being the culling of large displacement motors, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But is it any good or has it lost the mystique that surrounds the regular GT? Put it this way — there will be no tears shed for those four lost cylinders (as you can still buy the V12…) because this blown V8 is fantastic.

With the V8 mounted way back aiding weight distribution and weighing 50kg less overall than the V12, this most certainly is one rapid Ferrari...

There are a number of differences between the two cars aside from the engines. First of all, the V8 ditches the all-wheel drive of the V12 and by eliminating the hardware it sheds 55kg of weight too and this has helped to boost the new car’s agility. The weight distribution has been altered with the Turbo putting 2 per cent more bias to the rear (46 front 54 rear) and this has made the handling even livelier and improved the steering feel. And with the lighter load and potent motor up front, it still accelerates like the big V12, hitting 100kph from rest in just 3.5 seconds. That is just a tenth of a second slower than the naturally aspirated variant. The turbos boost low-end torque (and improve fuel economy; Ferrari claims it is 30 per cent more efficient) and another reason why it feels as quick as the V12 is because of the shorter first and second gears. I know what you’re thinking; the force-fed V8 probably doesn’t sound as good as the V12. Well, you’re not wrong, nothing beats that, but under full throttle, the 3.9-litre from the California T (it has lots of new oily bits such as new pistons and connecting rods, twin-cooling oil jets, an optimised exhaust system with reduced pressure losses, and a new intercooler) sounds fabulous. It is assisted by the flat-crank configuration and equal length headers so when you put your foot down it erupts into life and screams all the way to the redline. It send shivers down your spine; you could say that the new car has the performance of a turbo and the emotion of a naturally aspirated engine. Win-win.

Marketed to a younger clientele than V12 buyers, who want a Ferrari that they can use daily, and which has more practicality than the other mid-engined sportscars, it doesn’t look at all different to the V12; the exterior is identical, it’s just as long, low and wide (far better-looking than the FF ever was; it doesn’t share a single body panel to it either) and is ever so purposeful and sleek. Designed by Ferrari’s Styling Centre, the extremely streamlined, tapered GTC4 Lusso T has almost a fastback-like silhouette.

...when the torque waves hit the fat rear 295/35 ZR20 PirelliS, all hell breaks loose. No question,
this one in rear-wheel guise is a different animal...

The interior is sophisticated and classy, not to mention very elegant. Packing prestigious hides and carbon fibre trim, it has loads of space and is a genuine four-seater designed for four large adults. You don’t need to be a gymnast to get into the back either; the front seats slide forward and create plenty of room for you to enter with grace and there’s ample headroom too. Our tester came fitted with the optional panoramic glass roof, which seemed to make the cabin even bigger than it actually is by bathing it with light. And with the Dual Cockpit architecture allowing the driving experience to be shared by both the driver and front seat passenger (it also incorporates the latest iteration of the infotainment system complete with a Delphi-supplied 10.0in HD capacitive touchscreen) the interior sure has a lot going for it. And how often would the boot of a Ferrari crop up in conversation? Yes, not too often but here it’s another of the car’s highlights with ample room to swallow a couple of big bags packed for weekend getaways. If you fold the rear seats over, you get 800 litres of space — that would be impressive for a regular saloon let alone a supercar.

The V8 loses out on horsepower compared to the V12 but it has an extra 63Nm of torque

But in spite of its practicality (and it really is) the only thing that ultimately matters about this Italian is performance. With the V8 mounted way back aiding weight distribution and weighing less than the V12, this most certainly is one rapid Ferrari and those twin-scroll turbos sure do make themselves known when you muster up those horses. The GTC4 Lusso T shoots for the horizon with real intent; the way it gathers and maintains pace is eye-widening. Producing 602bhp at 7,500rpm and 760Nm of torque from 3,000rpm, when the torque waves hit the fat rear 295/35 ZR20 Pirellis, all hell breaks loose. No question, this one in rear-wheel guise is a different animal and sure moves in a hurry, and there isn’t a hint of lag either. But it isn’t just about pace — it is easy to drive at any speed; around town the V8 isn’t straining at the leash, it’s docile but when provoked it has the power to literally pin you back in the seat. You really could drive this one daily, while the V12 would be ideal for crossing continents in. Floor the throttle in Comfort and the GTC4 Lusso T pulls away ever so smoothly and it’ll swap cogs without a fuss — but switch it to Sport via the manettino and take control of the seven-speed gearbox and you’ll soon be savouring the motor’s high-rev frenzy; flicking the paddles at every chance you get becomes the norm but you need to prepare yourself for the brutal gear changes that follow. It grips like a vice and is notably more light-footed and unless you’re really trying to unsettle it, it’s hard to tell that this one is just rear-wheel drive. It’s ever so sharp and just like its larger-engined sibling it features four-wheel steering, which improves agility no end. The third generation Slide Slip Control (SSC) will make you appear a far better driver than you actually are by improving traction, and best of all the system is totally unobtrusive. It’s a very complicated piece of software and you can barely sense it working away when you hit a corner too fast, but it keeps you on the road rather than heading nose-first into a dune, that’s the main thing you need to know. This T also packs the same Magnaride dampers as the V12, optimising the tyres’ contact with the road and overall with a chassis as good as this, a direct steering, enormous power and a pretty good soundtrack to boot the GTC4 Lusso T isn’t just ever so thrilling to drive, but it’s ever so practical too.

Nobody bothers to start a debate about turbocharged Ferraris anymore and that is because the cars have proven just how incredible they are to drive, however I would say that this GTC4 Lusso T goes one better; it’s not just a thrill a minute behind the wheel, it has also nullified the threat of there ever being an SUV from the brand and enthusiasts everywhere will be pleased about that.

Hmm, but I wonder if things might change when the Urus starts grabbing all of the headlines...