The Ferrari FF is a glorious insight into Ferrari's future -- and a joy to drive in the snow

Ferrari. All about very fast, very sexy, very Italian, and very red cars, right? Of course, but for its entire history, Ferrari has been devoted to a single, very pure idea: We create race cars for the road. Sure, there have been some offbeat experiments and cars designed to appeal to a broader audience. But of late the track has guided the brand.

However, in the luxury car business these days, you need to build something other than two-door sports cars with giant engines. You need to build an SUV. And in the Ferrari FF, we get a sneak preview of what the good people in Maranello think a Ferrari SUV should be. I spent a few days with Ferrari’s first all-wheel drive car, a $US375,000 example in silverstone grey. Let just say I’m not sure why you would want an upscale truck if you could have one of these. But read on …

Ferrari is known for gorgeous road cars ripped from the track, like the 458 …

… whose DNA is derived from Ferrari's spiritual home, Formula One.

In fact, there's a whole racing series devoted to the 458 and the gentlemen and women who want to make them go fast: Ferrari Challenge.

For decades, Ferrari was run by a guy who had Formula One in his blood: Luca di Montezemolo. His highest values were beauty and speed.

He carefully cultivated an image of Ferrari as an exclusive experience forged in velocity and style …

… and by running Ferrari's F1 team, he added track cred to street cred.

Meanwhile, the rest of the luxury auto world has become more practical. Brands like longtime Ferrari rival Porsche have jumped into the SUV game.

Ferrari isn't completely dogmatic. It created the FF, which debuted in 2011. It's Ferrari's current interpretation of what its 'SUV' should be.

The car is actually a 'shooting brake' -- a sort of 2-door station wagon.

The design goes back to the hunting parties of the European aristocracy: room for passengers and guns …

… and dogs.

Ferrari adopted the shooting-brake design and Ferrari-ized it.

You don't really want to be driving a 458 in snow or even rain. Far too much power being piped into the rear wheels. You want conditions like this. Ahhh ....

The FF, with its innovative all-wheel-drive system, is the answer. It's also the only car of its type on Earth right now.

I drove it around the East End of Long Island for a few days. There was a fair amount of snow, but nothing crazy. The FF handled the conditions with extreme capability.

But it also didn't let me forget that it was a Ferrari. For example: 0-60 mph happens in 3.7 seconds, enabled by the mighty 6.3-liter V12 engine.

The car is marvellous in the curves and marvellous on the highway. Cruising along was an impeccable pleasure.

So the FF is a Ferrari -- all the time, every day. But what's important is how it makes you feel. It makes you feel simultaneously soothed and empowered. It elevates you. It makes you want to drive forever.

The interior is a cocoon of exquisite leather, making this one of the few cars I felt comfortable driving with -- driving gloves!

The FF reminds you of its Ferrari-ness via its F1-derived steering wheel -- something that all Ferraris have. The idea is that your hands never have to wander.

This is the manettino -- it can switch the car into different driving modes. On the FF, you have settings for both wet and snowy conditions.

Obviously, with AWD and a reasonable back seat, the FF is intended for weekend jaunts rather than a few joyful hours carving up canyon roads. That means its needs room for stuff, and room for stuff if has. Not a huge amount of room, but enough for an excursion of a few days.

And it's OK if those excursions get the FF a bit dirty. It looks good in snow! In fact, it just looks GOOD.

Maybe not for the true Ferrari purists, who want their Ferraris clean and red.

But for me, the Ferrari FF made for splendid motoring. I don't think I've ever felt this comfortable in a car that's this powerful. If this is a glimpse of what Ferrari can do with all-wheel-drive and cargo space, the Ferrari SUV, if it comes, could be magnificent.

Now check out another luxury car that we drove in some snow ...

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