Is A Ferrari Still A Ferrari If It Has Four Doors? We Investigate
Robb Report heads to Italy for a debut dance with the most talked-about Ferrari to ever roll out of Maranello: the high-riding, four-doored V12 Purosangue.
“Enzo would turn in his grave.” Denials don’t come much more emphatic than that in the hallowed halls of Maranello, where Ferrari’s legendary founder is rightly revered as a cross between a company-wide father figure and a bona fide Italian saint.
The speaker was Ferrari design chief Flavio Manzoni, who, in 2015, was fielding persistent questions about when the famed Prancing Horse would turn its attention to a debut SUV. To the media asking the questions, it was a future that seemed inevitable. SUVs had already begun their cannibalisation of every other body shape and vehicle type. So much so that three years earlier, archrival Lamborghini had confirmed a high-riding performance car that would eventually be named the Urus.
So, would Ferrari be following suit?
“Never. It’s not within our DNA, and it’s not something we’re ever going to look at,” Manzoni said. “Ferrari is not a follower. We can’t make something just because it’s the normal trend. It wouldn’t be a Ferrari.”Fast-forward to 2023, and the Urus is now responsible for more than half of all of Lamborghini’s sales, delivering incredible levels of profitability—and unlocking a new, much bigger customer pool—through an SUV that enraged and excited in equal measure. Ferrari wasn’t going to let an SUV-shaped cash cow like that escape, surely?
The answer, we now know, is of course not. But if not an SUV, just what is this all-new Purosangue?
It’s the first high-riding Ferrari, and it’s the first fitted with four doors and four proper seats. And, as far as we know, it’s the only family-focused vehicle in existence that’s powered by a screaming naturally aspirated petrol V12 engine. But what it’s definitely not, says Ferrari, is an SUV.“When you talk about ‘SUV’, you’re talking about a category with existing characteristics. But we didn’t want to start from a category that already exists, and then have to take those characteristics as a starting point,” says Andrea Militello, Ferrari’s lead exterior designer, whose fingerprints are all over the Purosangue.
“Instead, we sat down and tried to understand the properties we want this car to achieve. And those properties were good comfort, a decent ride height to make sure that you can get virtually anywhere, and a very high level of performance. That’s Ferrari high, not regular-car high. Properly high performance. And then you mix all these things together. And we end up with the object you see today. One which is not born from ‘we want to make a Ferrari SUV’.”
That’s about the only time you’ll ever hear someone with a Prancing Horse on their business card mention that term, by the way. The letters “S”, “U” and “V”—at least when said in that order—have almost certainly been banned at Maranello, with the brand instead referring to it as an “FUV” (“F” for Ferrari).
But they could have easily swapped that first “S” for “Super”, with Ferrari shoehorning its best and most operatic engine into the Purosangue. Add to that a screaming red line of 8,250 rpm, a snarling exhaust note that you don’t just hear but genuinely feel too, and the kind of pulse-igniting acceleration you expect from any Ferrari fitted with a 12-cylinder nuclear warhead, and you’ve got a drive experience that feels like a ticketed event every time you press the engine start button.
It’s impossible to argue that Ferrari has made the wrong decision in making the Purosangue. It was sold out long before the brand had even put a vehicle on the road—and before anyone knew what it would look like, what would be powering it, or what it would cost. Though, to be fair, that last point is largely academic. Yes, the Purosangue lists in Australia at $728,000, before all on-road costs, but Ferrari says every Purosangue will go through its personalisation, Atelier and Tailor Made programs, meaning no two will be exactly the same, also adding significant cost to the advertised sticker price.
Making that number even more irrelevant is the fact that you can’t actually get one. Global wait times now exceed 18 months on average, and while the brand won’t be called on specifics, we’d expect new customers to be waiting years to put one on an Australian driveway. Helping slow deliveries is Ferrari’s policy of placing a production cap on the Purosangue, with the, ahem, SUV not to exceed 20 percent of the brand’s total production capacity.
While Porsche could now rightfully be considered the Cayenne company, and the Urus consumes most of Lambo’s total sales volume, Ferrari says it won’t ever become the company that used to make supercars. The Purosangue will only ever add to the brand’s sales total, not dominate it. Ferrari is holding triple-figure orders and expressions of interest in Australia, and though it’s not sure how many cars we’ll actually get, a lucky few should see their vehicle arriving before the end of the year.
Seeing the Purosangue in the metal in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains adds weight to Ferrari’s insistence that this isn’t a regular SUV; it looks more like a very expensive hot-hatch. It seems shorter in real life, more swollen, with an almost non-existent rear overhang emphasised by the big alloy wheel pushed deep into each corner.
Seating is for four only, and access to the back is through a pair of rear-hinged doors that open automatically with a gentle pull on the handle. The back pews are surprisingly comfy, and the area spacious, but there’s no doubting that the best seat in the house is the one that puts the naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12—producing a massive 533 kW and 716 Nm—at your disposal.
That power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, thanks to a compact and front-mounted power transfer unit that only calls the front tyres into action at slower speeds.
Engaging launch control is a joyously physical experience, as the Purosangue jolts down over its wheels, readying for maximum attack. Flatten your right foot, and 100 km/h arrives in 3.3 seconds, with 200 km/h flashing by in just over 10.
So far, so Ferrari. Same with the soundtrack which, when you’re dialled into the Purosangue’s angriest settings, sounds even better when you take over the gear shifts yourself, the machine-gun pop of the rev limiter (which only arrives at almost 9,000 rpm) filling the cabin as if you’ve driven through an active war zone.
Is it the sharpest Ferrari ever built? It can’t be, of course, and even its carbon-fibre roof can’t compensate for the two-tonne-plus weight here, but I promise you that the grip, the confidence-inspiring turn-in and the nifty rear-wheel steering, which helps tuck you neatly into corners, are constant reminders that there’s a tiny horse on the front of the bonnet, and a tonne of horsepower under it.
There are more clever things at play here, too. Like a new suspension system that replaces the need for anti-roll bars with adaptive dampers. Each corner has an electric actuator that can then individually stiffen or soften the suspension as required to keep the Purosangue flat through bends.
The Purosangue is a Ferrari that will be driven for longer spells, and with more people on board, than any other model before it, and that clever Active Suspension setup has been designed to stop you pulling your hair out when you’re commuting, or on less-than-ideal roads. It allows each drive mode to offer up two suspension settings—medium or soft—which transforms the Purosangue from roaring lion to gentle kitten on dodgier surfaces, or when you’re on a freeway.
Then there’s the insulation and inch-thick glass which do such a good job of removing not just road noise, but also the thrum from the engine and any whispers from the exhaust. As such, you can very easily forget you’re driving anything super at all. And that’s the point here, right? The Purosangue has to straddle two words—supercar and super comfy—and it does so with seriously impressive dexterity.
So, can an SUV-shaped vehicle—even one with a thumping V12 engine—be considered a real Ferrari? Some might say no. But they’re also the people Ferrari has very little interest in talking to.
“Those that are saying these kinds of things are those that will never buy one,” says Militello. “We’re not a big OEM, we don’t have millions of customers. We almost know ours by name. It’s very easy to understand their needs. They might not know what they want, but you can understand their needs. If you want to buy one, the best thing that can happen is that it will take two years. The worst is that they’ll tell you there’s no way. I think that shows that this works. Besides, how can you judge if something is a Ferrari or not? Only history will tell.”
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