I’ve never liked Dubai. I mean, if you’re not into twin-deck A380s, pointy buildings that disappear above the clouds and skiing down slopes within a mall in the desert, what really is there to fall in love with? The cars, perhaps, but every time I’ve driven in this cathedral of mine-isbigger-than-yours, there’s been an Englishman at the head of the convoy, possessed of a mortal fear of anything north of 120 kph and a religious passion for over-the-walkie commentary. Even on the occasional few laps round a racetrack, Johnny English is always out in front, one hand on the walkie, imploring us not to slide around instead of keeping both hands on the ’wheel and getting the fuck out of the way. Oh, and I once got ‘cupped’ at Dubai airport security – and nearly got handcuffed for making a scene about it.
You can understand, then, why I politely decline invitations to drive cars in Dubai. But there are only so many times one declines invitations to drive very fast cars, particularly when said invitation is to drive one with a prancing horse on it. And so it is that I find myself on a deserted road two hours from the Jumeirah Towers in Dubai. The drive here, under 120 kph to prevent incarceration in a Dubai prison, revealed something I’ve never experienced in a Ferrari. Isolation. Now, modern Ferraris, for the performance on tap, have rather incredible ride damping, but even by those standards the GTC4Lusso is really, really comfortable. It’s like the Rolls-Royce of Ferrari’s, however blasphemous that might sound. It’s also silent, and the interiors are beautiful – in the materials used, the craftsmanship and the overall design. Additionally, there’s more space at the back (an inch more to be precise), so your mates can come along without having to leave their legs at home.
Yes, you read that right – this is a four-seater; it also has all-wheel drive. It is as close to an SUV as Ferrari is ever going to make – thank the good lord for that! – but also the most left field of any supercar you can buy. Just look at the hind quarters. And then imagine this: you can strap on a pair of skis to the roof and actually drive it up to the Alps. I did just that, many years ago, in the FF that preceded the Lusso, even getting drifting lessons around a frozen lake in St Moritz. No ice today (except in Dubai Mall) but to compensate, we have a deserted road.
Manettino, that characteristic red knob on the steering wheel, is turned to Race mode; Launch Control is activated on the central spine; my left foot is on the brake; I wait for it to light up and L-A-U-N-C-H. The V12 in the nose (no turbo-charged downsizing business here) howls and screeches its way to 8250 rpm, while simultaneously exploding my nerve endings. For the Lusso, Ferrari have upped the 6.3-litre V12’s output to a ridiculous 680 bhp, while torque goes up to 514 lb ft, almost 80 per cent of it available from just 1750vrpm. It all makes for a 0-100 kph time of 3.3 seconds and a top speed of 332 kph. That’s mad quick, permanent incarceration without bail quick, but out here (I’m not going to tell you exactly where) the cops are yet to arrive; the speed guns haven’t been installed yet.
I do what’s only right, then, and let the V12 rip, in the process experiencing some of the highest cornering speeds I’ve done in my life. At 80 kph, this is a normal road, with barely any need to apply steering inputs, but when you’re doing 250 kph, even pushing 300 kph, oh boy is talent (and bravery) demanded. The Lusso might be calm and cosseting at legal speeds, but when the numbers become illegal, the tyres get loaded and the body groans from the liberal subjection of g forces, the four-seater Ferrari is nothing but a proper Ferrari. Apparently it is a full second faster around Ferrari’s test track at Fiorano, if such a thing matters to you (it should).
If somebody suggest that it is all-wheel drive that’s keeping the Lusso glued to the tarmac at these speeds, they’re plainly bullshitting. The Lusso does have all-wheel drive to haul it up the slopes of St Moritz, but it’s an unusual system in that the front wheels are driven by a small, twospeed gearbox that picks up drive from the nose of the crankshaft. This Power Transfer unit has two wet clutches for each of the front wheels (thus the ability to vector torque from side to side) and can transmit up to 20 per cent of the power, while the heavy lifting continues to be done by the 7-speed rear transaxle. The lower gear of the PTU works during first and second gear on the transaxle, while the higher gear works on third and fourth. From fifth onwards, the PTU disengages and the Lusso is rear-wheel driven. Can you feel it? Well, there is definitely less movement from the rear while firing out of third and fourth gear corners. There’s also even more advanced electronics, including the latest update to Slide Slip Control, which actually evaluates your wheelsmanship and allows for beautiful four-wheel drifts while still within the net of safety, should you run out of talent.
To the detail-oriented, the system is called 4RM-S, and it integrates all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, the e-diff electronic differential, F1-Trac traction control, SCM-E adjustable magnetorheological dampers and stability control. It sounds way too complicated to work in real life, filter upon filter between you and what’s actually going on with the tyres, but it just works. You don’t know and can’t pinpoint if it is AWD or 4-wheel steering or torque vectoring or e-diff or any one of the gazillion tricks at work; you only feel the Lusso coming alive at your fingertips, and you’re left in no doubt that the car has soul.
I also think it looks the part, though I leave you to draw your own conclusions. It’s certainly better looking that the bread van that was the FF, and this ‘shooting brake’ body style is absolutely distinctive in a world of sameness. It can even take your golf bags, there’s enough room under the tailgate, and enough golf courses around Dubai to drive it to.
And that’s when it dawns on me. I’ve enjoyed the GTC4Lusso so much that I’ve forgotten to hate on Dubai. I’ve tanked it up and laughed at how cheap a full tank of petrol is. I’ve had some delicious kebabs for lunch, and they haven’t come from a water buffalo. Hell, Dubai is one of the few cities left in the world where you can really use a car like the GTC4Lusso, really use its top end. The roads are without exception smooth and devoid of speed breakers, nobody looks down upon such ostentatious displays of wealth, and with construction neverending, you will always find a road where 300 kph can be experienced. Dubai, it appears, is no longer in the dog house.
What we like
Insane performance, four seats, practicality
What we don’t
Four seats? In a Ferrari?