Driven by the Ferrari FF
|Luca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News Europe|
When told I would have to journey to the top of a snowy mountain to drive the newest Ferrari model I wondered if this would be the craziest location I had ever traveled to test a new model. And believe me, I've been to some odd places to test a new car -- such as driving the Renault Laguna on Tanzania's gravel roads, taking a Fiat Uno around the high banks of Daytona International Speedway in Florida and climbing San Francisco's Twin Peaks in a Volvo wagon.
Reading the invitation I wondered: Do I really want to ascend to Plan de Corones, a 2275-meter-high ski resort on the Alps between Italy and Austria to drive the FF, Ferrari's first four-wheel-drive model ever?
"Trust me and come up!" Dario Benuzzi, Ferrari's legendary test driver, shouted at me when I asked him if the trip was worth it.
Benuzzi is someone I am happy to listen to because he is the only test driver in the global auto industry who has the power to stop a car's debut if it doesn't perform to his standards.
When I arrived at Plan de Corones I was happy to be dressed like an Antarctic explorer because it was -17 Celsius and windy, making it feel a lot colder.
Benuzzi took me around the fresh snow track that was prepared just to test the performance of the FF's 4wd system. Put simply, when a normal 4wd system detects a wheel is spinning, torque is sent to the wheel or wheels with more grip. If this doesn't solve the problem, the system cuts the throttle to reduce power.
The Ferrari system works the opposite way. Sensors continuously estimate the maximum possible grip for each wheel to determine the adequate amount of torque for each wheel.
"If you leave the car alone, it will react faster than you would yourself," Benuzzi said.
When I took the wheel, I ignored Benuzzi's advice at first and tried to "control" the FF by correcting oversteer and understeer as it happened. Everything worked properly so the 260,000 euro supercar was not damaged. Then I decided to trust Benuzzi's advice and let the FF do the hard work during my next laps.
Benuzzi was right!
Whenever I felt a second of doubt that the car was going out of control its huge brain had already applied the needed correction. Thus, it was really worth it to climb to the top of a mountain to be transformed from a very average driver into someone who felt ready to enter a professional rally car race – or at least that is how I felt after driving the FF around a snow track.
You can reach Luca Ciferri at email@example.com.