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The Ferrari Purosangue, the brand's first SUV, has 715 horsepower and the driving experience is more Ferrari and less SUV.Mark Hacking/The Globe and Mail

It would’ve been easy for Ferrari to just motor down the road more travelled. When word first arrived that the Italian carmaker was engineering its first “SUV” in history, everyone and their second cousin predicted something predictable.

The prognosticators called for the now-standard coupe-shaped SUV, the likes of which we’ve seen from most premium manufacturers (think BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, Porsche Cayenne Coupe or Lamborghini Urus). It has become a successful strategy for those luxury carmakers. Two-thirds of the vehicles Porsche sells in Canada are its SUVs and almost 60 per cent of the cars Lamborghini sells worldwide are its SUV.

If Ferrari had gone down this path, even the harshest of critics would have remained silent. The company sells everything they make, regardless of whether the model in question is unrivalled.

A coupe-shaped Ferrari SUV would have been no different. The order book would have been filled in the time it takes to say the words “order book.” This is the way things work in Maranello. But the design and engineering teams at Ferrari conspired to go in a completely unexpected direction.

As a result, the US$400,000 Ferrari Purosangue is unlike anything else on the road today. For starters, it’s the first four-door, four-seat Ferrari in history. The company has made other four-seaters, but these fall into the category of 2+2 vehicles – meaning, the back seats are reserved for the smallest of humans. Or pets. Or packages.

Interior of the Ferrari Purosangue.Courtesy of manufacturer

The rear seats fold flat for a surprisingly large cargo compartment.Mark Hacking/The Globe and Mail

But the back seats in the Purosangue are legitimate seats meaning people can actually sit in them. The seats are comfortable, legroom is decent, the seats recline and, to make matters better, they fold down flat to create a surprisingly large cargo compartment.

Here’s the other thing about the rear seat: It’s accessed by a pair of hinged back doors that open toward the front of the vehicle. Also known as coach doors or, more ominously, suicide doors, this is a solution that only a manufacturer at the level of Ferrari (or Rolls-Royce, to be fair) would attempt. And it’s not just a flight of fancy: The doors ease access to the passenger cabin without having to increase vehicle wheelbase or length, which in turn would negatively affect driving dynamics.

The Purosangue features the familiar 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine with 715 horsepower and 528 lb-ft of torque. (Yes, in an age where other manufacturers are announcing the abandonment of V12 engines, the latest Ferrari has one.)

Once this decision is made, the thinking must have gone, the challenge then shifts to making the engine work for a Ferrari with different proportions and a higher ground clearance. The solution is to slide the engine toward the middle of the vehicle, attached a two-speed gearbox at the front and an eight-speed dual-clutch transaxle at the back. This layout gives the Purosangue an all-wheel-drive system and a weight distribution of 49:51, front to back – completely unheard of in a traditional SUV. (But, again, this is not a traditional SUV.)

Courtesy of manufacturer

The Purosangue also sports technological advances engineered to make the driving experience more Ferrari and less SUV. The V12 is calibrated to deliver 80 per cent of its torque at just 2,100 revolutions pre minute – yet it still pulls strongly all the way up to its 8,250-rpm limit. The engine mapping derives from settings used by the Ferrari Formula One team.

The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic has short ratios for quick acceleration. The Purosangue can sprint to 100 kilometres per hour in 3.3 seconds, while cresting the 200-kilometre-per-hour threshold takes just 10.6 seconds. Eighth gear is reserved for cruising on the nearest unrestricted-speed thoroughfare; top speed rings in at an ungodly 310 kilometres per hour.

Behind the wheel, the Purosangue drives just like a modern Ferrari GT car, except it rides higher. During our test, the roads around the Northern Italian Alps are mostly dry. But even when light snow conspires to make the pavement slick, the car responds in stellar fashion.

The all-wheel-drive system is complemented by torque vectoring on the front axle, an electronic differential at the back and fully independent four-wheel steering. These systems are so technologically advanced, the Purosangue seems to know when you’re going to make an error in judgment before you’ve had the chance to consider the decision.

The braking system is derived from that of the Ferrari 296 GTB, but calibrated to be more responsive to winter driving conditions. There’s even a hill descent control system, which automatically controls the speed on steep inclines in low-grip situations.

For any ripples in the pavement, the Purosangue responds with a world first: Ferrari Active Suspension Technology. The system features active dampers developed by Canadian firm Multimatic, the same outfit that built the Ford GT. Active suspension responds faster to changes in the road surface and keeps the tires in perpetual contact with the road for optimum cornering and control.

Here’s where we need to pause and consider the design of the Purosangue. First, the approach taken by the team headed by Flavio Manzoni was submitted to the international patent office.

There are two distinct elements to the vehicle’s shape. The lower portion, all in black, incorporates sections of the front fascia, side sills, wheel arches and rear diffuser. It’s described as being the “technical underbody.” The upperbody is where the shape of the Purosangue is given more prominence with its flowing design appearing more GT than SUV.

Images of the car don’t do it justice: In person, the Purosangue appears to be floating above the black, the result of so much aerodynamic handiwork, the thing seems carved out of sandstone. There are air ducts above and below the daytime running lights, along the wheel arches, in the lower front fascia, under the taillights, in the rear fascia and around the rear hatch. The airflow is so precisely managed, the hatch doesn’t need a rear wiper.

On the Ferrari Purosangue there are air ducts above and below the daytime running lights to better precisely manage airflow.Mark Hacking/The Globe and Mail

The passenger cabin is replete with all sorts of technology. It would be a stretch to suggest there are more controls on this steering wheel than on the Ferrari Formula One car. But the average neophyte will find the situation baffling.

The wheel-mounted manettino dial is bit of an exception; its five drive modes, ranging from “ice” to “electronic stability control off,” are clearly marked. Yet even this toggle switch serves more than one purpose; pushing down on it allows you to select the active damping settings from soft to medium to hard.

Haptic controls set on the steering wheel operate the digital display – they’re borderline mystifying. The small dial and switches to control the windshield wiper are not as intuitive as might be hoped. There’s also a larger dial above the centre console that controls the power seat; it’s no mean feat to get it to respond as expected the first time around.

But the paragraph directly above means nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. This is a Ferrari, after all. More than that, though, it’s a Ferrari that showcases sheer brilliance in terms of design and engineering. The Ferrari Purosangue starts at US $393,350 and the aforementioned order book is filled for at least the next 18 months.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

Courtesy of manufacturer

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