The Ferrari Purosangue Is The Everyday Supercar We’ve Been Waiting For

There are Drives and then there are drives; the type involving a fleet of cars, a literal cross-country trip and hundreds of kilometres. But the Prancing Horse had an especially good reason to put on a grand production at the end of last year, to fully showcase the Purosangue, a monumental release for the marque that went beyond highlighting its four proper seats.

What it also is not is an SUV, despite the fact that everyone but Ferrari has heralded it as such for years. The Purosangue is higher off the ground, yes, but it is not that high. It has all-wheel drive, but no particular off-road capability. It has a tailgate, but so does a Fiat 500. It has a wide footprint and massive wheels, but it is not exactly what you would call ‘cavernous’.

So what is it? Well, it is a surprisingly usable and flexible five-door. You might even call it practical, but not necessarily in terms of fuel economy because it has a rip-roaring, naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12 in the front, and the organic, vibrant handling that makes Ferraris so addictive. And make no mistake—it might not be a sports car in the strictest sense of the term, but it is unquestionably sporty. A better comparison would be a super saloon.

Could you call it a grand tourer, which means many things but most heavily implies stylish, long-distance driving? It is a rather loaded term for Ferrari, which for generations has applied the term to its swooping, V12-equipped berlinettas. Something like the 812 Superfast may be an excellent racer, but spend six hours in one and see how you feel. And when you get there, you can’t stay long because you couldn’t fit much in the boot. And you had to leave the kids at home because the plus-two seats weren’t at all convincing.

The Purosangue media tour, which was definitely a grand tour, took place in New Zealand. It was a location that made a lot of sense, despite the country being right-hand drive (in Commonwealth tradition) and the carnet fleet being left-hand-drive (in continental tradition). For starters, it was November, which meant it was late spring. New Zealand is also a country where driving is the ideal way to get around, thanks to leagues of picturesque surroundings, varied and curious points of interest, and the lack of a decent rail network. A common road trip option is to rent a camper for a month and make your way across the two main islands, stopping for sights such as waterfalls, geysers, redwood forests, beachside towns and various The Lord of the Rings set locations. The Ferrari media tour was only a little less ambitious, taking place across several legs (with a different set of participants each time) and some two weeks, starting on North Island and crossing over by ferry to South Island. It was also more glamorous than a camper van, and included overnight stops at the likes of the ultra-exclusive luxury lodge Kinloch Manor & Villas, just outside the town of Taupo.

One issue was the national speed limit of 100km/h. The Purosangue hits that limit from a standstill in 3.3 seconds; it will make 200km/h in 10.6 seconds, courtesy of the 715bhp power plant. But if there was ever a Ferrari to experience in more relaxed manner, this is it. The seats are plusher than the standard racing bucket, and all four of them are electrically adjustable. A Burmester audio system is found in a Ferrari for the first time, to the tune of 21 speakers and 1,400W. It is still definitely a Ferrari—the engine is eager, responsive and just a bit wild, and of course sounds glorious if slightly more damped from the inside than we are used to. And the steering wheel is back with the manettino switch where it should be, along with the love-them-or-hate-them thumb-operated indicators.

The tailgate—electrically operated, naturally—opens to reveal a 473-litre boot space, a decent amount of storage that easily fits a pair of suitcases plus a rucksack or two. Aesthetically, the interior is a cross between sporty and lounge, and features a ‘dual cockpit’ design, which is a characterful decision. It features a passenger-side screen, allowing access to some settings and functions, and purportedly making the passenger feel more involved in the action. The trade-off is that there is no central screen, leaving the driver with just the instrument cluster for information and settings. Although everything can be controlled by the steering wheel, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it is not a lot of real estate especially when navigation is being used.

One thing that might at first seem gimmicky is the fact that the rear doors open backwards. It gives the Purosangue a distinctive visual flair when they are open, but they are much more than a ‘look at me’ moment. Rear-hinged doors make getting in and out of the car easier, as anyone who has been in a Rolls-Royce will attest. This is especially welcome because, to keep the wheelbase as short as possible for compactness and agility, the rear doorways are actually quite small. The doors are harder to reach and hence close when seated inside, but this is not an issue as they are electrically operated. From the outside, pulling the discrete tab on the B-pillar causes the rear doors glide noiselessly open. From the inside, a button press performs the same function. The front doors are not electrified, another example of Ferrari’s thought process when designing the Purosangue—the additional complexity and weight of electrifying the rear doors were deemed a necessary concession, but not for the front doors.

Getting off the highway meant navigating the endless pastoral tapestry of the New Zealand countryside. Here, roads wend their way through geographic obstacles where they must, or are otherwise as straight as the fields they border. They pass endless gated dirt roads leading to farmhouses and one American-style post-mounted mailbox after another. The funny thing about these narrow, rural, single-carriageway roads is that the speed limit is apparently also 100km/h—in this context, it seems entirely too high, considering some of the twists, blind-corner bends and chance encounters with wandering livestock, which would be cows on North Island and sheep on South Island.

It was, at least, a chance to get acquainted with some of the finer points of the Purosangue’s handling. In typical fashion, Ferrari made uncompromising design choices. The engine is mid-front-mounted while the eight-speed gearbox is at the rear for better weight distribution—49:51, to be precise. The gearbox also has longer top ratios for more efficiency on highways. The aluminium chassis is designed as a sports car would be, with the aim of high rigidity and lightness. The higher profile of the Purosangue is uncharted aerodynamic territory for Ferrari, but the front bumper and wheel arch trim work to create an ‘air curtain’ that shrouds the front wheels and helps prevent turbulence. Despite weight-saving measures such as the single-shell carbon fibre roof, the Purosangue is naturally heavier than its stablemates at over two tonnes. This, combined with the relatively higher centre of gravity, means that Ferrari has opted to introduce its new active suspension system that keeps body roll to a minimum.

The result is something that may not be a sports car in a technical sense, but it certainly performs like one and feels like one—and not just any sports car, but a Ferrari sports car. It feels like there is almost no compromise to the Purosangue, and yet here you have something roomy, easy to get in and out of, and generally pleasant to use for non-driving-centric activities. It will almost certainly spend much less time in the garage under a car cover and with a dead battery. Track enthusiasts looking to set lap times could give this one a skip, but the rest of us should take a very close look at the Purosangue. Then again, those track enthusiasts go on road trips too, right?


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