Ferrari’s first-ever SUV offers a unique combination of design, engineering, a naturally aspirated V12 engine, and the appeal of the vaunted Prancing Horse brand. We got a sneak peek of the latest Ferrari sports car (their words, not mine) at Maranello.
The fact that Ferrari has been working on an SUV – or a four-door, four-seater as they like to call it – is probably the worst kept secret in the world of the past few years. After the company officially announced that they are looking at what they refer to as a four-door model, various test mules were been photographed by the paparazzi around Maranello and Nürburgring. So, when I got the invite to personally attend the world premiere of the Purosangue in Maranello, it was too good an opportunity to pass up to get a close look at the latest prancing horse.
Italian Design, but Focus on Aerodynamics
Of course, there has been much debate in the car and enthusiast circles about whether Ferrari should even bother building such a product. But the business case for a high-riding four-door, four-seater Ferrari is simply too good to be ignored, even when you’re a brand like Ferrari. Second, as the Ferrari officials mentioned, there was simply too much demand from their existing customer base for a more practical Ferrari, which they could use to travel with their families and friends without worrying about interior space, luggage space, or bad roads.
At first sight, the Purosangue is everything that you would expect a modern Ferrari to be. With a sharp nose and a smart stance, along with large 22-inch wheels at the front and 23-inch ones at the back, the Purosangue exudes road presence in abundance. The sharply cut-off tail also showcases some of the aerodynamic trickery that has become commonplace in modern Ferraris. For example, despite its sharply angled rear windscreen, the Purosangue does not offer a rear wiper, instead, there are vortices built into the underside of the rear roof-mounted spoiler, which enable the airflow – above a certain speed, of course – to clean the windshield effectively – something I would very much like to experience in person.
Cleverly hiding in the two-tone bodywork, though, are a plethora of aerodynamic touches – slats, vents, spoilers, and more – which showcase how much of Ferrari’s race car experience continues to guide their road cars. For instance, above and below the front DRLs are vents that channel air into different parts of the car – the ones above channel the air towards the edge of the bonnet to build downforce, while the ones below channel it into the braking system. Of course, the two-tone finish of the bodywork – aerodynamic parts in carbon fibre and the rest of the body in a different colour – also serves a purpose, as the dark colour of the aero disguises its presence to a large degree, which makes you focus more on the clean lines of the Purosangue. If I were to give it a name, I would say that the front of the Purosangue looks almost like a Star Wars villain with its aggressive helmet and a smallish grille, attracting attention toward the lower part of the bumper. Of course, the clamshell-style front tilting bonnet provides great theatrics when open, given that you can see the front mid-mounted V12.
But, perhaps, the biggest design party trick of the Purosangue is the 'Welcome Doors', as Ferrari calls them, where the rear doors open in suicide fashion, providing a great view of the four-seat interior. Not only do the rearward opening doors are very practical in terms of getting in and out of the rear seat but also look very good, letting you eye a great deal of the avant-garde cabin. Of course, to save weight, the roof of the Purosangue is carbon fibre but can also be had as a glass panoramic sunroof that changes colour at the press of a button.
Of course, the idea of a four-seat Ferrari has been around for decades, and we’ve seen many models to that end – from the 330GT and the Mondial to the 456 or even the GTC4 Lusso – which were successful in varying degrees, but none got the success of the more ‘regular’ Ferrari product range. Part of the reason was that entering and exiting the rear seats in a two-door low slung sports car wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The Purosangue solves that by incorporating two main changes. One, the full-sized rear doors with a 79-degree opening make accessing the rear seats as easy as any sedan or SUV. Two, the relatively high height of the car makes it much more practical. The 185mm ground clearance, which makes the Purosangue a lot more practical than most cars from the brand, also helps.
Another highlight of the rear doors – I really do think they add massively to the appeal of the car – is that, unlike other suicide door systems, they can be opened even with the front doors closed. That’s a first in recent memory. Also, the rear doors are electrically powered, which means that not only can you close them with the touch of a button but also open them in the same way. And a particularly favourite design feature of the mine is the way a small portion of the rear tyre is naked and visible between the door and the wheel arch with the rear doors open. It sounds a bit odd to write this, but it truly adds a sporty touch to the design, and the 315mm of the rear tyre also helps here.
Inside the cabin, even if you’re familiar with the Ferrari range of cars, you get a feeling that everything is very high-tech. Each of the four occupants of the car – the Purosangue will be offered as a four-seater only, with no plans to offer a five-seater variant – get their own individual digital screens, which give you all the data you need to see about the car and other multimedia features and controls. The centre of the dash is kept clean, as a result of not needing a central multimedia screen, and features minimum controls.
However, a word of caution though, the rear seat space is not the largest in the Purosangue despite its 5-metre length. Blame that on Ferrari’s insistence on mounting the V12 engine front-mid – Gianmaria Fulgenzi, Ferrari’s Chief Product Development Officer, said that placing the engine behind the front axle is the only way to make the Purosangue dynamically capable enough to be considered a true Ferrari sports car. Of course, this eats into the interior space. And while tall people will fit easily in the rear, the seat squab is rather short, which means that it might not be the most comfortable place to be when cruising across continents. Sure, kids will do fine there though.
Old-School Fist in Velvet Glove
The feedback Ferrari claims to have been receiving from clients about a four-door car seems to insist that it has to be a V12. As a result, the Purosangue, with its cutting-edge carbon, steel, composite and other construction, is powered by a good old-fashioned naturally aspirated V12, which is based on the same family as Ferrari’s 65-degree line-up but is all new. In this form, the 6.5-litre V12 produces 715bhp and 716Nm, making it the most powerful engine in a Ferrari GT, while the engine revs up to 8,250rpm. Paired to the engine is a PTU – power transmission unit – which drives the front wheels, giving the Purosangue all-wheel drive ability. The gearbox of the Purosangue is also new, now an 8-speed DCT that has been designed keeping the Purosangue’s demand and use in mind. The new engine, as well as the gearbox feature dry sump technology for superior oil circulation and helps with a lower centre of gravity.
Despite the all-wheel drive ability, the Purosangue is not an off-roader – Ferrari clearly stressed this fact. In fact, according to them the main function of this system is to help people drive on rough roads or in icy and snowy conditions. Similarly, the Purosangue cannot be fitted with a tow hook, as Ferrari said that it would spoil the dynamic standards of the car, which is sacrosanct for the brand. Interestingly, despite the big V12 and big size, the Purosangue doesn’t weigh too much – it has a dry weight of 2,033kgs with the lightweight package, which means that loaded with some optional features, you might be able to spec your car around the 2,200kgs mark, which is no mean feat.
Another new feature on the Purosangue is the rear-wheel steering – the car has four-wheel steering to aid manageability both in town and on the highway – which can now move the rear wheels independently of each other, whereas in the older system both rear wheels could only be moved together in the same direction. This naturally will have a big impact on taking turns through tight sections of the road and improve the performance of the Purosangue.
The other party trick up Ferrari’s sleeve has been their work in terms of active suspension technology. As their Chief Product Development Officer remarked, they eschewed the idea of equipping the Purosangue with air suspension, as they found the response time of the system to be too slow. As a result, the Purosangue features active suspension at each end, which is equipped with four smart 48V actuators, accelerometers, and other sensors to adjust damping, suspension height, and other factors in real-time, making sure that the Purosangue not just offers excellent ride and handling at all times but also adjustments of the ride height to ensure the centre of gravity is kept as low as possible even while cornering. In fact, such is the adjustability of the system that there is no need for separate anti-roll bars, which are managed by the system itself.
So, is it an SUV?
It's the million-dollar question, isn’t it? But Ferrari insists that they aren’t building an SUV, but a four-door sports car, which is ‘born without compromise’, ‘a true sports car’ and ‘not an off-roader’. Make what you can of the word salad, but the truth is, I think the Purosangue is going to be another roaring success for the brand. With the brilliant styling, suicide doors, the angry V12 tuned specially to make sure it sounds more Ferrari-like than another other Ferrari, the practicality of seating four people, and the ability to tackle bad or broken roads, it's a product unlike any other the brand has offered yet in its long and rich 75-year-old history.
Of course, it’s not going to be mass-produced – it’s a Ferrari, after all – and the production of the Purosangue is not aimed to ever be more than 20% of Ferrari’s yearly production numbers, so we’re going to see the familiar business plan at play – produce less than demand, keep exclusivity high, and, as a result, order books with long waiting times. Ferrari started speaking about the Purosangue to existing clients three months ago, and despite offering no specific details about it, the production list is already sold out – in fact, the brand claims that it is the first time this has happened for a non-limited-edition car for them.
Amongst many things the Purosangue claims to be, one thing it won’t be is cheap. In Italy, the Purosangue will be priced at 390,000 euros, which means you can expect a price tag of around Rs 7 crores in India, before options and registration, of course. But, given the overall product, the practicality it offers and the appeal of the prancing horse, I think the dealers in India will have a hard time keeping up with demand. A Ferrari that you could drive every day even in India? Yup, the Purosangue promises to be all that and much more. Better start saving up.