MARANELLO, Italy – Giving up your cell phone is hard enough under all circumstances, let alone when you are about to lay your eyes on the long-awaited, Ferrari’s first ever SUV – which, incidentally, Ferrari absolutely refuses to call an SUV. Welcome to the world of so-called black box previews, where a journalist’s impressions are limited by his or her first-hand observation powers.
In the curious case of the Ferrari Purosangue, we’re looking back over 75 years of flirting and resisting the possibilities that would eventually become the brand’s first four-door, four-seater car. Although the prancing horse has long been associated with relentlessly focused racing cars, supercars and hypercars, Ferrari has also been riding the line with a smaller 2 + 2 more GT-like selection. Enzo himself enjoyed driving a four-seater of his own creation, and in fact in the 1980s Pininfarina considered a four-door concept car before it was finally shelved.
Enter the present day, and the Purosangue ahead of us marks an important turning point for the Maranello brand. Freed from its red satin cover, the new model looks like nothing before it, despite the vaguely 296 GTB front and slightly Roman taillights. It’s a fragrant styled car that according to Ferrari brass was designed with a keen eye on the wind tunnel, although the company does not release drag data for their GT models. Regardless, the Purosangue comes across as more subtle and distinctive than spy shots might have you believe, with flowing lines combined with new features like an airlift on the hood similar to that of the F12Berlinetta. In this case, however, the feature is designed to reduce drag, not to create downforce. Some might argue that it resembles the layout of the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, with its long, arched roofline, large wheel arches, narrow rocker panels and tapered rear deck. But there’s a lot more to do here from a design standpoint, from the delicately tapered nose to the clever “floating” wheel arches to the intricate curves of the rear hips. The shape feels deceptively compact, until you consider that those seemingly small wheels are actually 22 and 23-inch rims tucked away inside those fenders.
Interior volume is maximized thanks to relatively short overhangs, as well as ease of access thanks to suicide-style rear doors that open 79 degrees via an electrically operated mechanism. Easy access is important, especially as there is not much legroom for the two rear occupants: I’m 5’11 “tall, and after getting comfortable in the driver’s seat and then moving to the rear perch, I found there was some space, but not much, to straighten the legs. However, there’s generous headroom that helps make the interior feel more airy and roomy vertically.
The cabin is a combination of well-appointed, high-tech and modern, with individual rear bucket seats echoing the form factor of the front seats. While the leather upholstery has a high-end feel, there are also contemporary touches like a more technical Alcantara carpet trim that also appears to be bulletproof. Symmetry rules the interior design, with a mirror-like dashboard sculpting its shape around the driver’s digital instrument cluster and a larger passenger screen than you’ll find in Ferrari sports cars. Although the power-operated rear doors look fancy (and minimalist, thanks to their bezel-less design), there’s also an impression of functionality in the whole effort, but not also functional, as the sportiness of the seats is backed up by the relatively compact 16.7 cubic foot trunk. At least the rear seats fold down for additional storage space. Discreetly hidden between the rear seats is a foldable leather cover for two cup holders; other unusual touches include a small multimedia control dial with grooved edges that raise or recess at the touch of a button and numerous shallow storage compartments that taper along long sections of the interior.
Rather than incorporating a hybrid or full-EV drivetrain, the Purosangue features a delightfully old-fashioned propulsion system: a 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V12 that produces 715 horsepower and 528 foot-pounds of torque. The revised valve, induction and exhaust system allows the powertrain to realize 80% of its torque starting at 2,100 rpm. A dry sump system allows it to sit lower than the ground, and its front-to-center engine configuration and rear gearbox achieve an impressive 49/51 front / rear weight distribution. A completely new platform uses a stiffer and lighter structure that allows for 30% more torsional stiffness than the recent, outstanding GTC4Lusso, achieving a dry weight of 4,482 lbs. Coupled to an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the engine drives all four wheels and should go like a stink, with a claimed 0-100km / h time of 3.3 seconds and a top speed in excess of 300km / h. Like the now defunct GTC4Lusso, an all-wheel drive system works up to fourth gear at 125 mph before disengagement.
Subtly elegant, sinuous and delicately proportioned, the Ferrari Purosangue exceeds expectations in the flesh. In a way it should, with a starting price of € 390,000, or around $ 400,000. More importantly, this hard-to-class four-door breaks a new mold for Ferrari, which we’re told is the product of many customer requests. No doubt there will be enemies, in much the same way Porsche fanatics distrusted the Cayenne when it debuted. As it turns out, the people of Zuffenhausen could not have orchestrated an even better one for the company, as sports companies now control over half of the company’s sales, a phenomenon that has been encountered by countless other luxury automakers.
In the here and now, the Purosangue sets a good example for itself thanks to its rigorous design philosophy and respect for the brand’s principles. It’s so focused on performance that it only offers two rear seats, and buyers couldn’t get a tow bar attached to the tail if they wanted one. While it might be tempting to say that Enzo Ferrari wouldn’t approve of a Ferrari SUV or crossover, it’s hard to argue with running the Purosangue. If this high-waisted four-seater drives half as much as we suspect, Ferrari should be a winner.