Ferrari never used to give you an each-way bet. Depending on which model you were buying (provided your bank balance ran to seven figures), you’d get either a V8 or V12 engine… or, delving a bit further back through the catalogue, a V6 (Dino 246) or flat-12 (512 Berlinetta Boxer). There’s never been a model that’s been offered with two entirely different powertrain formats.

But modern realities — and the ever-tightening emissions norms they bring — have prompted the bigwigs at Maranello to adopt a more flexible and diversified approach, and hence the reason I now find myself face-to-face with a GTC4 Lusso in the Tuscan commune of Monteriggioni, just eight months after I attended the original launch of the car in the northern Italian town of Brunico.

The difference this time is that nestled under the voluptuous coupé’s elongated snout isn’t the mighty V12 that’s been the hallmark of Ferrari’s range-topping, front-engined GT cars over the years. No, this is the GTC4 Lusso T… and that ‘T’ has real significance as it’s a reference to the twin-turbo V8 engine that’s the source of its propulsion.

But you’d be hard-pressed to glean the GTC4 Lusso T isn’t the V12 without popping open the XXL bonnet. There are no badges differentiating the newbie from the big daddy, but there are a couple of ever-so-subtle external clues to its identity. Look closely — really closely — and you’ll see the 20in rims are the same diameter as those on the full-fat model, but their 10-spoke design is different to that of the hoops worn by the V12. The shape of the four exhaust tips is also slightly altered, but you’d need to get down on your hands and knees (with GTC4 Lusso catalogue in hand) to notice the changes.

The biggest difference, apart from the loss of four cylinders and addition of two twin-scroll, variable-boost turbos, is the ditching of the innovative Power Transfer Unit (PTU) that channels a percentage of drive to the front wheels in the V12-powered Lusso. That’s right, the ‘T’ version is rear-drive-only, which brings both benefits and drawbacks, and I’ll elaborate on these shortly.

However, the Lusso T retains the SSC3 active rear-steer set-up of its sibling, whereby the back wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds (to effectively shorten the Lusso’s lengthy 2,990mm wheelbase for greater manoeuvrability and agility), and in the same direction as the fronts at high speeds for added directional stability.

But you want to know about that engine, right? It’s a familiar entity to Ferrari anoraks, as it’s derived from the motor that powers the California T and 488 GTB. Unlike its Merc-AMG and BMW M Haus contemporaries, the 3,855cc unit doesn’t employ a ‘Hot Vee’ layout (whereby the turbos are nestled within the Vee of the cylinders), but the pipe benders at Modena have worked overtime to ensure the elaborately sculpted exhaust runners are equal in length to eke maximum power and efficiency from the V8.

The twin-turbo V8 pumps out 610PS (602bhp) and 760Nm, placing it in a very similar ballpark to the flagship Lusso’s 6.3-litre V12, which ekes out 681bhp/697Nm. But don’t be misled by the on-paper similarity. These engines couldn’t be more different — in every respect.

Where the V12 is a wailing, free-spinning masterpiece that delivers its best in the top half of its rev range (peak torque doesn’t arrive until 5,750rpm), the blown V8 is all boosted muscle, with its barrel-chested quota of torque (all 760 Newtons of it) at your right loafer’s behest all the way from 3,000- to 5,250rpm.
The V12 begs you to wring its neck — singing like a banshee while you do so — but with the Lusso T you cover ground just as rapidly (even more so in some situations) by simply tapping into its Herculean mid-range. There’s no need to wind it out to its redline. It runs out of puff up high, in any case.

The blown V8 is all boosted muscle, with its barrel-chested quota of torque at your right loafer’s behest all the way from 3,000- to 5,250rpm.

And where the V12 is all Pavarotti and Caruso with its melodious soundtrack (once you give it some beans), the twin-turbo V8’s aural qualities are distinctly unremarkable. Sure, it has a nice hard-edged growl when you really put the boot in, but at gentle to medium throttle loads — which is the mostly the case in real-world conditions — it sounds a lot like a (gasp) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. There, I said it. Part of the reason for this is that the Lusso T’s exhaust system has active flaps that remain closed at pootling speeds to make it a quieter and more socially responsible inner-city commuter.

Apart from being driven by draconian noise regulations in some markets, this is also to satisfy its target customers, many of whom will be driving their Lusso Ts on a daily basis, often with more than one passenger on board (according to Ferrari’s stats). These individuals desire to get around with a modicum of quietude and refinement Relatively non-sonorous it may be, but the Lusso T is nothing less than electrifying in terms of its outright pace, rocketing to 100kph in 3.5sec (only a tenth slower than the V12), and on to 200kph in 10.8sec. Top whack is a quite adequate 320kph. Ferrari claims the Lusso T also serves up a 30 per cent greater touring range than the V12, which means you could theoretically knock over the Dubai-Muscat schlep and still have some juice left in the tank — provided you don’t cane it like a hooligan all the way there.

But where the T really benefits over its V12 brother is in the light-footedness it gains via its rear-drive set-up and the fact that it carries less weight over the front axle (front/rear weight distribution is 46:54, versus 47:53 for the latter). We had the opportunity to fling it at some fantastic spaghetti-like roads through the lush Tuscan countryside, and one of the by-products of this was a rather large smile on my face, as well as that of my co-passenger (at least during the times when he wasn’t white as a sheet).

When fanging the V12 across the twisties you need to be smooth and patient, allowing the weight of the car to settle and the nose to turn in (there is some slight front-end push, as is almost inevitably the case with all-paw cars).
 The Lusso T, by comparison, is a much more playful thing. It’s super-quick to change direction, and you can adjust your line in an instant when corners tighten up unexpectedly on you.

It’s super-quick to change direction, and you can adjust your line in an instant when corners tighten up unexpectedly on you.

The only downside — if you view it as such — is that the traction control intervenes (albeit subtly so) with much greater regularity than is the case in the all-wheel-drive V12 when you’re going hell for leather. The car also has a tendency to tramline — ie follow the contours of the road — and squirm and hop around a little at the rear, although this was prompted to a large extent by the lumpy tarmac  we were traversing… and that, too, at a pretty brisk rate of knots.

For the most part, the GTC4 Lusso T feels composed and well tied down, and it would be no more taxing to pilot across a continent than, say, a Mercedes S-Class Coupé or Bentley Continental GT. Given how demanding Ferraris were to drive in years gone by, this is a significant step forward.

The Lusso’s steering wheel hub is rather busy, given that it houses a host of switches and knobs, and among these is the Manettino twist knob that enables you to select from Snow, Wet, Comfort, Sport and ESC Off modes. Sport mode proved agreeable for our Tuscan thrash, even though the road-surface quality was seriously patchy in parts, as alluded to earlier. Ride quality was occasionally busy, but it never deteriorated to the jarring end of the scale — and this was without resorting to the bumpy road setting that’s accessible by pressing the shock-absorber-logoed button on the steering wheel.

As with the V12 Lusso and brutal F12, the steering rack is ultra-quick, so you need to wind on less lock than you initially think you might need. A brief familiarisation period gets your fingertips dialled in, but I didn’t much care for Comfort mode, as in this setting the steering feels overly light and devoid of feel. It weights up nicely in Sport mode though. The Lusso T comes with mighty carbon-ceramic brakes, and these do a fine job of repeatedly hauling up the 1,865kg shooting brake even after a thrashing across the sinuous Tuscan tarmac. That said, the brake pedal does lacks initial bite, so you need to get past the first few millimetres of pedal travel to harness the car’s immense stopping power.

 So, twin-turbo V8 or atmo V12? Excuse the awful pun, but it’s largely a case of (prancing) horses for courses. The Lusso T’s greater affordability — relatively speaking, of course — means it’s expected to lure a younger target market (mainly in the 30-45 age bracket, according to Ferrari execs).

What these buyers will get is a cracking, genuine four-seater GT that’s more exhilarating to drive than any other competitor out there. Various German and British alternatives might fare better in certain facets, but they lack the character and sheer cross-country pace of the Ferrari. Yes, it misses out on the cachet and intoxicating wail of its V12 big brother, but the Lusso T’s Floyd Mayweather-esque reflexes and light-footedness — not to mention its formidable mid-range punch — are pretty decent trade-offs. The other point to note is we live in high-grip conditions — snow is non-existent and even wet roads are a rarity, the past few weeks notwithstanding — so the loss of AWD traction isn’t a major penalty.

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