Driving Ferrari’s V12 GTC4Lusso on Ice
Of all the things you’d expect to see on an ice track in Northern Canada, an Italian supercar probably isn’t one of them.
But on a rare day in Quebec, V12 engines roared as a pack of Ferraris accelerated, drifted, and ran slalom on the Circuit Mecaglisse winter driving course.
That was Ferrari’s 2018 snow driving event, where I got a chance to test the 680 horsepower GTC4Lusso.
Starting at Mont Tremblant, I got two days with the luxury grand touring machine. I hadn’t so much as sat in a Ferrari prior.
Of course, my expectations were high—infused by more than a few Gen X cultural references. There was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where Cameron’s father loved his 1961 250 GT “more than life itself.” Then came Scent of a Woman, where driving a Ferrari was a bucket-list must.
Super performance rides have evolved by leaps since the years when comfort and daily drivability came second to speed and styling.
There’s an expectation of elite sports car makers to engineer a divine mix of performance and versatility. And across Ferrari’s line-up the GTC4Lusso appears most aimed at that perfect equation.
The company touts it as “powerful yet sophisticated, sporty yet luxurious.”
This begs the question of how optimum a balance of everything Ferrari can achieve in a GT. Is it possible to create something in which you can realistically drive to work, fetch the kids from school, take to black tie galas, and press toward 200 mph on Lime Rock’s straights? Add to that the ability to zip through Vail Pass comfortably on a snowy day, family in tote.
That’s my interpretation of Ferrari’s GTC4Lusso positioning—a fairly ambitious if not impossible bar.
After a briefing on the vehicle, I got some time with it before our track day. At first glance, and in true Italian form, the vehicle’s interior and exterior evoke elegance and speed.
On engineering and performance, the GTC4Lusso’s 680 horsepower V12 cranks out 514 foot pounds of torque to move the 4,233 pound machine from 0-60 in 3.4 seconds. The car’s an-all-wheel drive four-seater with four-wheel steering. Large vented ABS disc brakes bring it from 60-0 in 111 feet.
The Ferrari’s quite digitized, both onboard and throughout the drivetrain. Inside, it has a multi-sensor climate control system and a 10.25” touch infotainment and navigation screen.
The car incorporates Ferrari F1 technology: from the 7 speed gearbox and paddle shifters to the F-1 Trac traction control system. The GTC4Lusso’s digital brain synchronizes power output, braking, steering, suspension, and variates torque to each wheel in response to conditions.
One could do an engineering dissertation on all the sensors, processors, and functions that go into this. Luckily for drivers, Ferrari consolidated all that technology into one magic manettino red dial just under the steering wheel’s 3 o’clock.
A thumb flick at any speed instantaneously optimizes the car for four modes: Snow, Wet, Comfort, Sport, and ESC-Off. The last one deactivates the computer and electronic stability control, for those who opt for a little old school, electronics free rubber to road driving.
So beyond the tech and stats, what’s it like to drive the GTC4Lusso? The car’s V12 has a race car growl when you press the red start button. Still, when I peddled the Ferrari out onto the roads surrounding Mt. Tremblant, I was taken aback at the car’s refinement. At lower revs in Comfort mode, it rides a bit like a luxury sedan, albeit with stiffer suspension and much more responsive throttle and steering.
It wasn’t long before I tapped into the GTC4Lusso’s ever present alter-ego. Coming into a roundabout I switched the car from Comfort to Sport, paddled down a gear, cranked a right onto Canada’s Route 117 toward Montreal, and put peddle to floorboard. That was the moment my automotive world changed. All the GTC4Lusso’s power, torque, handling, and drivetrain tech kicked in like lightning. I was doing 100 mph plus in seconds, V12 screaming, with all four wheels pouring torque to the pavement. There’s a synchronized power and responsiveness across throttle, motor, tires, steering, traction, and handling I’d never felt before in a car.
It reminded me of the line from fast talking Freddie Bisco in Scent of a Woman—“This is a Ferrari, the finest machinery made in the automobile industry.” For the first time I actually felt what that means.
The next day I woke up to an email with GPS coordinates to the track. With that I had a 60 mile drive on a combination of highway, two lanes, and country roads to the snow track.
The journey built an impression of the GTC4Lusso as a car that goes from luxury tourer to its F1 technology in a millisecond. I was keen to see how that translated to ice and snow.
The program at Circuit Mecaglisse included a driver’s briefing before Ferrari paired me up with instructor Alessandro Balzan, a Grand Am race champion.
Under his tutelage, we ran the GTC4Lusso through a number drills: track laps, drifting, slalom cones, and brake drills.
The surface was a combination of snow and ice. Even with the non-studded Pirelli SottoZeros tires, the car handled remarkably well. It gripped through acceleration on the straights and corners, while darting through slalom cones, and stopped quickly on hard braking.
My instructor—who drives race cars for a living—was taken aback at the car’s winter prowess. “I keep reminding myself, we’re doing all this with a Ferrari on ice,” Balzan said between drills.
The role of digital tech in the car’s performance hit home when we switched the magic manettino dial to ESC-Off, disabling the electronic stability control. On my next pass on Mecaglisse’s drifting circle I broke traction and spun the machine around.
It became apparent that without all Ferrari’s processors and sensors, the things we were doing in a 4000 pound, 680 horsepower car on a winter driving course wouldn’t be feasible.
As we wrapped the track session, I plotted a more adventurous route back to Mt. Tremblant. Across the backroads of Quebec, I flew over a combination of mud, snow, ice, and two lane pavement—with snowmobiles, deer, and moose crossing signs in the periphery. The experience was part rally, commute, and Gumball 3000 combined. Passing slower traffic in the GTC4Lusso is a bit like entering light speed in the Millennium Falcon. A drop of the paddle with throttle makes the world blurry in a hurry, moving it from 60 to 100 in seconds, with the V12 howling for more.
After two days in rural Quebec on pavement, mud, snow, and ice, I’d say Ferrari’s GT machine definitely lived up to its versatile performance billing. The range of things I did with the car over 48 hours seemed like several different driving worlds.
Of course, to obtain the supercar that does everything you’ll have to pay a premium. Ferrari confirmed the Rosso colored GTC4Lusso I tested retails at $369,172.00.