The FF revolutionised the four-seat, V12 Ferrari in 2011 – now it's yours for little more than £80,000
By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, June 13, 2021 / Loading comments
- Available for £83,000
- 6.3 litre V12 petrol naturally aspirated, all-wheel drive
- Faster even than a mapped 335d, and holds more luggage
- Wonderful cabin will genuinely take four adults
- Infotainment is a bit disappointing though
- Early transmission woes should have been sorted by now
Search for a Ferrari FF here
There were plenty of Fs flying around when Ferrari’s replacement for the 612 smashed onto the public stage at 2011’s Geneva show, and not just because there were two of them in the car’s name. In a landscape that was increasingly being populated by madly powerful German four-seaters, you could easily see the range-broadening rationale of the FF. You could also have seen it as the sort of car that would quietly disappear from the range having found the square root of b-all buyers. After all, it wasn’t exactly a ‘normal’ Ferrari. It was, however, a shocking vehicle by one definition of that word, and for more than one reason too.
For a start, the FF’s 0-62 time of 3.7 seconds and the 208mph top speed validated Ferrari’s claim to have built the world’s fastest four-seater. Then there was the shape. Apart from one-offs like the Panther-built Daytona Shooting Brake or the 456 GT Venice, which in a dim light could have been mistaken for a Saab 9-5, Ferrari had no history in estate cars. And yet there the FF was, a beautifully judged blend of coupe and a wagon (a whoupe?), albeit with three doors instead of the estate’s usual five and a 6.3 litre V12 instead of a 2.0 diesel.
And then there was the drivetrain. The all-wheel drive FF’s ability to negotiate snowy Alpine passes courtesy of an intriguing transmission design that we’ll attempt to explain in the Powertrain section a bit later on was the kirsch-soaked maraschino cherry on top of an already exotic cake. Amazing considering the fact that Ferrari’s only previous experience with AWD had been a fiddle about with the 408 Integrale concept nearly a quarter of a century earlier.
In fact, the FF turned out to be not only a bold jump for Ferrari but a successful one. 2,291 cars were produced in its six-year lifespan, which might not sound like a lot in the general scheme of things, but after the closure of the FF programme in 2016 it was immediately succeeded by the GTC4Lusso. To all intents and purposes, it was the same car, a facelifted FF, but with the new option of a 610hp 3.9 twin turbo V8 engine in a 50kg lighter T model. The 6.3 V12 version strode gloriously on in 690hp form until the middle of last year (2020) when it finally stepped up to the gallows. So the FF was a goer in every sense.
But is it a goer now as a secondhand proposition? A low-mile final-year FF will typically cost you around £135,000, but if you’re more interested in enjoying an FF than you are in keeping the miles off it, this unique Ferrari experience can be yours for not much more than £80,000.
Would that be eighty-odd grand blown, though? ‘FF’ stood for four driven wheels and four seats, but could it also stand for something else in the darker moments of used Ferrari ownership? To find out, let’s take an 8,000rpm wander around the mightiest shooting brake of all time.
SPECIFICATION | FERRARI FF (2011-16)
Engine: 6,262cc V12
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 208mph
MPG: 17.3 (official combined)
Wheels (in): 8.5 x 20 (f), 10.5 x 20 (r)
Tyres: 245/45 (f), 295/35 (r)
On sale: 2011 – 2016
Price new: from £226,000
Price now: from £83,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Although the FF’s radical bodyshape made a powerful and worthy bid for public affection, it was always going to have to take second place in the attention-grabbing stakes to the engine. The FF’s direct injection V12 – a slightly detuned, slightly altered version of the F12 unit – was big enough in both power and sheer bloody-minded displacement to distract even the most ardent fan of Italian carrosserie. Despite its near-1,800kg weight the FF was fiercely fast.
It didn’t have to be, however. Four-fifths of the maximum torque was on hand from 1,750rpm, so the FF was entirely up for being stroked around or continentally cruised for as many miles as you could squeeze out of the 91-litre tank. The official combined consumption was 17.3mpg, but 12mpg was more like it. Razzing it in the approved manner would dial up 599 GTB-trumping acceleration for the first 125mph, bookended at the 0mph end by an angry bark on startup and dropping the fuel consumption to single figures, giving you a hugely variabbetween 400 and 100 miles.
Stop-start felt peculiar in a V12 Ferrari, but the FF had it. It wasn’t the fastest restarting system on the planet. That delay plus the angry bark on re-fire could label you as a bit of a plonker in town. The V12 noise at all revs was predictably epic, but it was a special kind of epicness (?) that was never diluted or blunted by predictability, or indeed repeatability.
The engine was, and is, reliable and strong. Unfortunately, some FF owners have experienced trouble on the transmission side. Let’s look at that.
Not many people would have expected Ferrari to go to Land Rover for an off the shelf AWD solution for the FF, and they didn’t, but even fewer people expected the ‘4RM’ solution that Ferrari came up with. It was a nice piece of lateral thinking that would definitely be best expressed through the medium of film rather than the written word. In simple terms, the FF had two gearboxes. The default drive was to the rear wheels via a Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, but ahead of the front-mid engine, in line with the front axles, was a secondary two-speeds-plus-reverse transmission that could handle up to a fifth of the engine’s torque. This was a helical gearset box like a regular manual, but with two electronically-controlled clutches (one for each wheel) that ran in a constant state of slippage in order to speed-match the two front forward ratios with the (different) ratios of the seven-cogger at the back. The system didn’t function beyond fourth gear as the 295/35 tyres on the 20in rear wheels were more than able to take on the engine’s output by that point.
Like we say, a video is worth a thousand words, or probably ten thousand of these ones, but in essence the 4RM arrangement fulfilled the role of a front differential and added side-to-side torque vectoring to boot, providing not only all-wheel traction in poor conditions but also better acceleration off the line in good ones (Ferrari claiming that it was worth a couple of tenths on the 0-62 run) without the usual weight of a full-on 4WD setup, and also without the feel-corrupting potential of a physical front diff.
Sadly the PTU (Power Takeoff Unit) that channelled the power from the engine to the front axle and which was integral to the FF’s 4RM drive acquired a bit of a reputation for failure through fluid contamination, usually caused by a leaking seal between it and the crankcase. Happily, Ferrari specialists like Furlonger can now repair and rebuild the PTU for around £8,000, which is a bargain compared to the £30,000 or so it would cost to have the whole unit replaced.
The main Getrag DCT 7-speed transmission performed well and was demonstrably superior to the 599’s F1 box in either auto or (super-quick) paddle manual modes, but again it turned out to be less than perfect for a small percentage of owners. Hesitancy could manifest itself at low speeds if the transmission’s learning ECU was a bit behind on working out what sort of a driver you were. Some owners reported an occasional lag in re-engaging first after they’d been in reverse during slow speed parking manoeuvres. You might think you were back in first but in fact you were still in reverse, a potentially embarrassing scenario. Others noticed a reticence to change from 6th to 7th at high revs, which in fairness was not an area every owner would explore.
Some DCT issues were seal leakage-related, others sensor related. They mainly affected early cars and weren’t FF exclusive: F12s, 458s and Californias were also vulnerable. You’d like to think that most of these DCT quirks will have been sorted on used FFs. If not, it can be £5k to rebuild the box, which again was a hell of a lot cheaper than replacing it.
Leave your FF undriven for much more than a week or so and you might well find the battery has died, or at the very least is causing the diagnostic system to throw out some unusual messages. In that respect it’s a typical supercar. A lithium replacement or a trickle charger will fix that.
Like all UK Ferraris, the FF came with a four-year warranty (or a two-year approved used one) but it also had the seven-year Genuine Maintenance package which was launched in 2010 and which took care of labour, original parts, lubricants, engine oil and brake fluid – basically all costs bar tyres and fuel, the transmission fluid being the only notable exception. Service checks should happen at least once a year under the GM scheme and the package stays with the car rather than the owner, so FFs built in the last three or so years of production will still be covered by that.
‘New Power’ warranties allow Ferrari owners to extend warranty coverage up until the 15th year of a car’s life as long as it’s got less than 90,000km on the clock and passes a test to ensure that it meets the manufacturer’s service quality requirements. You should budget £5k a year for one of those. Some owners choose to give these a swerve and instead set aside a smaller annual amount as a war chest. Check the paperwork for evidence of PTU and trans work before making that decision.
Reflecting the car’s likely use – taking your fam to the chalet in Verbiers – the manettino switch offered a Snow mode at the bottom end of the range, with Wet, Comfort and Sport above that, and ESC Off at the top for the brave/daft. Having said that, brilliant electronics allowed a remarkable degree of control on proper snow and ice even if you ventured into those higher manettino options. Negotiating the type of muddy fields that you’d often find yourself shown into at a big motorsports event was ridiculously easy in an FF, ground clearance being the only real limitation. The level of off-road performance available would be quite a party piece from any car, but was especially whimsical in something wearing a Ferrari badge.
On tarmac, the FF’s turn into corners was sharp and so was the traction out of them, but with 660hp on tap it wasn’t foolproof. You couldn’t plant your right foot on the exit of a cold, slippery road and expect rally-car levels of bite. Somebody like Charles Leclerc might routinely drive it with the traction control switched off but less gifted mortals were best advised to leave it on. Run it in auto mode having pressed the damper button on the wheel to take the edge off the ride and you’ll have a well set-up car that you can enjoy without fear. The ride comfort was decent enough in isolation but the GTC4Lusso successor rather showed it up for being slightly nobbly.
Pirellis were normal rubberware, and their snow tyres for the FF were excellent. A full set should come in at around £1,000 and should last for at least 10,000 miles although this will vary according to usage. Tyre pressure monitoring sensors have been known to go a bit winky, triggering an annoying beep in the cabin even when you know damn well that the pressures are correct.
Brake discs were carbon ceramic as standard. Rusting brake disc bolts were a big problem on post-2009 CC-fitted Ferraris that were driven all year round in temperate or cold climates. Replacing all the discs and pads at the dealership could generate a bill of £20,000 or, in some cases you read about on the internet, up to twice that. Nowadays specialists can supply steel replacements for a fraction of the price.
The biggest obstacle to full FF enjoyment on UK roads wasn’t suspension but size. The wheelbase was freakishly long at nearly three metres and the overall length of just over 4.9 metres wasn’t that much less surreal because such a large proportion of the FF’s metal happened ahead of the windscreen. Cameras at both ends helped you with city shuffling chores but the 1.95m width – 6ft 5in in old lingo – was inescapable on the move and could leave you having to make awkward B-road choices between a paint-scraping thorn bush on the left and the mirror of a badly-driven motorhome on the right.
The FF’s big doors were great for cabin access but not so good for parking, or getting out after parking at least. Even after you’d done your best to keep it away from other cars in the multistorey, the potential for heartbreak was always going to be determined by the quality of the next idiot’s efforts. While we’re on this delicate subject, the FF’s front parking sensors sometimes invented phantom obstacles.
The lift system fitted to some FFs has been known to blow. The Ferrari fix was to replace the whole thing with an improved new one plus a section of wiring loom for a five-figure sum, but more resourceful owners discovered that it could be mended for a considerably smaller amount by fitting a new seal.
Colour choice? Well, the FF’s all-round differentness meant it was far less tied into Ferrari’s usual ‘red or dead’ guideline. It’s all a matter of personal taste of course, but the FF does come up well in sober colours like Grigio Ferro. Chris Harris reckoned his car in Tour de France blue with tan leather was the ultimate combo.
The driving position is superb: low and businesslike with plenty of adjustment in both seat and F12-style steering wheel. Dropping the back seats (not entirely flat) increased the already creditable 450 litres of cargo room to a very large and indeed bike-swallowing space.
The seats deserve an extra mention. Not only were they wonderfully supportive with three heat settings on the fronts, they looked great too, even (or especially) in the back, where adult passengers of normal size could fit without complaint, with plenty of head, leg and kneeroom and hopefully their choice of movie on the seatback screen ahead of them. They would definitely need to use their closed wireless headphones though because the level of tyre, exhaust and suspension noise in the back was not low. Unless the car was fitted with the optional (and expensive) data panel, the front passenger’s entertainment was limited to an aluminium footplate to brace against while they re-lived their past lives at the hands of a maniac driver.
The configurable three-cowl instrumentation ahead of that driver was a fine mix of traditional style and data-rich modernity. You would look in vain for a fuel consumption readout. Nobody wanted to see those numbers. Not everyone was a fan of the wheel-mounted controls as it was difficult to know what did what at night, but as an owner rather than a road tester you’d soon get used to the layout, unlike the My Little Pony sat-nav display which for many would be a constant niggle in such an expensive car. The Bluetooth and/or the iPod connection behind the flap on the passenger dash don’t always hook up either. The GTC4Lusso is much better in this respect with a larger central split-screen display. The FF’s JBL stereo was pretty average too (again much improved in the GTC4), but we can surely forgive a lot in a car whose cruise control goes under the name of Pit Limit.
Extras are not really extras on Ferraris. They’re normal. Standard Ferraris are all but non-existent. The UK demonstrator had about £50k’s worth of additional gear on it, including special leather, enhanced screens and the like, taking it up to around the £280k mark, a hefty six-figure uplift on rivals from Bentley, Porsche et al, but then again they weren’t Ferraris were they. The full-length glass roof was an amazing (and eyebrow-raisingly expensive) option.
Cabin materials delivered a mix of feelgoodness with an ability to take a beating without showing it, but even at FF prices trim pieces didn’t always stay in position, the rear-view mirror didn’t always stay fixed to the screen, and the seatbelt concierge wouldn’t always hand you your belt on door closure as it was supposed to (though that was more of a design flaw than a breakage). You simply had to grin and bear this sort of thing as Ferrari owners have been doing to a lesser or greater extent since these very special road cars first started coming through the factory gates in the late 1940s.
If you liked estate cars, coupes and Ferraris, no single car answered your prayers until the FF came along. Then suddenly you had all that together in one immensely capable and characterful vehicle. Allocate points to a car for both practicality and performance and you’d really struggle to come up with anything scoring a higher total than a Ferrari FF.
Unfortunately, unless you’re a stinking rich TV evangelist, prayers don’t pay invoices. Even if you’ve saved getting on for £200k (after extras) by buying secondhand, FF bills are always going to be large because they’ll always be intrinsically linked to large new-car prices. On the positive side, it’s fair to expect that most if not all the expensive major transmission issues will have been put right by a previous owner. As the next owner you should end up with a nicely fettled ‘maximum use’ Ferrari that you really can drive all year round, and in any weather conditions too thanks to the masterful chassis electronics. Just don’t expect low fuel bills.
What’s available on PH classifieds then? This is one of those cars where you’re as well going straight to that resource because, although you will find some FFs on the usual auction and classified sites, there’ll generally be a wider choice on PH. By Ferrari standards, FF mileages tend to be high, but Ferrari-high is still rarely going to be much over 40,000. This is where the ‘bargains’ are to be had.
The most affordable FF on PH is also the second leggiest one. It’s this 41,000-mile 2012 car in black. It has the passenger info display and has an £82,900 price tag. In the loftier price echelons we like this 2014, 28,000-miler in Grigio Ferro at £109,990. Getting back into five figures, a fiver under £90k gets you into this nicely understated first-year car in silver with 29,000 miles. Buy it and you’ll have a cracking Highlands drive down from the selling garage near Inverness.
Search for a Ferrari FF here
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