Ferrari Purosangue 2023 review
So here it is. Ferrari’s first-ever four-door passenger car. Or crossover. Or SUV. Call it what you want. Be intrigued or outraged or just a little bit disappointed. But this is the world in which we live. A world with a practical, four-wheel-drive Ferrari built for family life, skiing holidays and other such earthly concerns. The Purosangue is controversial but, perhaps, an inevitability. It costs from Rs 3.04 crores (excluding Indian taxes and duties) which puts it in a class of one, way above the likes of the Urus Performante or Aston Martin DBX707. However, it also has a naturally aspirated 6.5-litre V12 that revs to 8250rpm and produces 715bhp along the way. That cultured, characterful, savagely rev-hungry engine also puts it in a class of one.
You don’t quite climb into the Purosangue but it does feel slightly odd to be in such a distinctively Ferrari cabin but in an elevated driving position. It feels several floors below, say, a DBX707, but the sensation is still quite ‘commanding’. Imagine an M5 Touring Allroad and you’re about there. (I may have just invented quite a car, there.) The interior looks and feels expensive and the rear-hinged ‘welcome doors’ provide easy access to the beautifully trimmed and airy rear passenger compartment. There are two switchable screens either side of the virtual central speedometer and rev counter for the driver, a central rotary dial with embedded screens for the climate control and heated seat functions, plus a display for the passenger to choose music, or study the driver’s gear strategy and engine revs. The screen peels from one readout to the next like the pages of a book, which is an elegant solution.
The Purosangue is a strict four-seater and luggage room is good rather than great. An M3 Touring, for example, has a larger boot. This is not a car that will make a Range Rover Autobiography redundant within a family, or even an Audi RS6. However, as is always the way with Ferrari, the engineering within this car is deeply impressive and concerns performance and dynamics above all else. The V12 drives through an eight-speed DCT ’box and e-differential to the rear wheels, and the ratios are an exact match for the SF90 or 296 GTB’s. A crank-driven Power Transfer Unit (PTU), comprising a two-speed gearbox plus reverse and parallel wet-clutches, drives the front wheels, and Ferrari can manipulate those clutches for torque vectoring. Despite a hefty 2033kg dry weight (with lightweight options fitted) the Purosangue covers 0-100kmph in 3.3 seconds and will run to over 310.6kmph. The unusual 4RM-S Evo four-wheel-drive system allows the V12 to sit entirely behind the front axle and creates a 49:51 weight distribution.
There’s so much more technology here. From the latest Side Slip Control 8.0, Grip Estimation 2.0 (which works with SSC to estimate tyre grip more accurately by taking load information from the electric power steering), ABSevo, which better distributes braking force and was first seen on the 296 GTB, plus a four-wheel-steering system that can control the angle of each rear wheel independently and was introduced on the 812 Competizione. Perhaps the biggest revolution concerns the Ferrari Active Suspension Technology, which utilises a new Multimatic system that does away with anti-roll bars completely. Each damper is fitted with an electric motor, which can apply force to counteract body roll and speed or slow the wheel’s movement to ensure a stable contact patch. The battery to power (and cool) the dampers is located beneath the driver’s seat.
Typically, much of this technology is so well integrated that you’d barely know it’s there. The Purosangue is an intuitive, easy car to drive with the characteristic light, fast and very smooth steering feel. The engine lacks the huge mountains of torque found in twin-turbocharged V8-powered super-SUVs, but the throttle response is superb and the top end is a sparkling, life-affirming event every time you find the space to visit it. It really is a glorious engine and imbues the whole car with a sense of exotic sophistication. The eight-speed gearbox is fast but as you ratchet up from Ice through Wet, Comfort and even in to Sport on the manettino (there is no Race here) it lacks the incredible sharpness of the application in, say, the 812 Superfast. There’s more of a cushioned feel, which seems a shame to me.
Press the manettino and you can tweak the suspension independently of the drive mode, with Soft and Mid settings available with the lower drive modes but a choice of Soft, Mid and Hard in Sport mode. For me the ride and the tuning of the new dampers was a real surprise. I feared the sheer versatility and control they offered would lead Ferrari to eliminate roll completely and create an impressive but unnatural platform. Instead the Purosangue’s main trick is how it flows. Where a Urus might beat the road into submission, the Purosangue treads lightly and feels so much lighter, so much more naturally athletic.
The rear-steer does create, at times, an overtly contrived agility where the rear seems to always want to take on some yaw to give an impression of razor-sharp reactions, but overall it’s got balance, response and allows you to get into a real rhythm. Only the smell of hard-worked brakes cracks the illusion. Lots of people have made fast SUVs but I’m not sure anyone has built one that feels so inherently balanced. Some people have found the ride a little stiff but for me it’s well judged and even Hard isn’t unbearable by any means. This suspension has lots of potential and it’ll be interesting to see where Ferrari applies it next.
Dynamically it’s on the money, then. But for an everyday proposition the UI is still very difficult to operate and overly complex. Ferrari has fitted tactile indents and guides for the haptic controls on the steering wheel but trying to drive whilst, say, attempting to use Apple CarPlay functions is almost impossible. It would become deeply annoying on the school run, I imagine. The same is true of the lack of true utility. The ride height is fairly low (even with suspension raised we couldn’t get over an icy mound to get to a photo location that a DBX wouldn’t have even noticed), the four-wheel-drive system is fun in low-grip conditions but it’s not as capable as a more conventional set-up when in snow, and the boot is pretty tight for a family holiday.
Overall the Purosangue is a deeply impressive and intriguing car. I’m just not sure what it’s really for. It’s not practical enough to be a true Range Rover or Cayenne replacement but it’s too big and too compromised to be a true sports GT. It also lacks the sepia-toned glamour that drips from cars like the GTC4 Lusso with their direct link to the wonderful GTs from days past. It simply doesn’t feel as special. What an engine, though. They will, of course, sell every one they can make. That’s what it’s for, ultimately. The Purosangue is a happy car for Ferrari’s future but it’s a little sad that it’s had to go here at all.