Let’s not debate the merits of Ferrari building an SUV, or, as the company would prefer you call it, simply a "four-door, four-seater." Not when the technical specifications are so fascinating.

The Purosangue—Italian for purebred—has a 6.5-liter V-12 mounted so far back in the chassis, you can only see the front six cylinders under the hood. It's paired with an eight-speed transaxle that drives the rear wheels, and a two-speed gearbox driven off the front of the engine enabling all-wheel drive. The mostly aluminum chassis is lighter and stiffer than that of the GTC4Lusso, the car this replaces, despite being much larger overall. Like a lot of big luxury-performance cars, it has four-wheel steering, but here, each rear wheel can steer independently of the other. It also has the most extraordinary suspension system, featuring Multimatic's new True Active Spool Valve (TASV) dampers. These dampers use motors to control the stroke independent of road surface. Add in the latest versions of Ferrari's various electronic chassis systems, and you have one of the most interesting cars on sale.

Ferrari says the suspension enables everything here. In the Purosangue, there are no anti-roll bars; the dampers control body roll on their own, while allowing each wheel to move independently of one another. Ride height is also controlled by the dampers, so the Purosangue forgoes the air springs typical of high-end luxury SUVs for traditional coils. Ferrari essentially uses the system–which it dubs Ferrari Active Suspension Technology (FAST)–to decouple ride quality from roll stiffness. Normally in a high-riding performance car, stiff springs and thick anti-roll bars are employed to ensure good handling, though this comes at the expense of ride quality. Active anti-roll bars and air springs can wrestle some fidelity back, but Ferrari engineers felt that this sort of system was too heavy and too slow to get the desired dynamics.

They're right. For the first time ever in an SUV, I momentarily forget I 'm in an SUV. On challenging switchbacks in the Italian Dolomites, it's only on occasion that you look around and think "oh yeah, I am sitting up pretty high." It's stunning.

All the more so when you consider the size of the Purosangue. It's about as long as a Toyota Highlander, a little wider, and sits a few inches lower. Ferrari also quotes a curb weight of 4784 pounds, about 550 pounds more than its predecessor, the GTC4Lusso. The chassis might weigh less, but the Purosangue is a larger car with a lot more luxury features.

The Purosangue is a continuation of a lineage of four-seat Ferraris that dates back to the 250 GT 2+2 of 1960. The details have changed a lot over the decades but the basics are a constant—V-12 up front, four-seat cabin, speed, comfort, and style in abundance. The Purosangue is, of course, the first with significant ground clearance, but also the first with truly comfortable back seats. There's two electronically adjustable buckets with a huge center console—there’s no bench available—all of which is accessed through rear-hinged doors that open automatically when you pull on a small electronic lever, and close via a button inside.

Up front, you're ensconced in the leather-lined cabin, helping create the illusion of a lower car. There's no center infotainment screen, rather, most functions are handled through the gauge cluster and controlled with haptic pads and buttons on the steering wheel, and mirrored for the passenger on a separate touchscreen. In the middle, there's a single rotary wheel with an integrated screen that rises out of the dashboard and controls HVAC and some seat controls. On first impression, it's all a little fiddly, taking significant concentration to make little changes. Ferrari also did away with an inbuilt navigation system as its customers use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is fine on its own, but pulling up the map means you have to do away with the tachometer. Switching between the two screens isn't hard, but it's hardly elegant.

That's just about all that's inelegant about the Purosangue. The seats are very comfortable, especially with the optional massage function (a Ferrari first), and a standard glass roof makes it feel spacious and airy, even in all black, as seen here. It's remarkably quiet, too, keeping the sounds of big tires and wind noise at bay, allowing the occupants to enjoy the excellent Burmester sound system. There is one noise that comes in, however—the V-12.

For the Purosangue, Ferrari tweaked its 6.5-liter V-12 to offer a broader torque curve at the expense of peak power. Whereas the V-12 in the 812 Superfast makes 789 hp at 8500 rpm and revs to 8900, the Purosangue's engine offers 715 hp at 7750 rpm and redlines at 8250. Not quite as wild, but by any other standard, this engine screams. It's still massively oversquare and has a sky-high 13.6:1 compression ratio. It couldn't be more different than the turbo V-8s used in other luxury high-performance SUVs, but Ferrari still notes that it makes above 480 pound-feet of torque between 4300 and 7750 rpm, peaking at 528 lb-ft at 6750 rpm.

This V-12 is one of the all-time greats. Smooth and cultured, yet always willing to rip past eight grand. There's not a ton of exhaust sound, but in the cabin, you get plenty of intake and combustion noise, with the aural signature constantly changing based on engine speed and throttle position. As it should be. It gives the engine an interactive quality that's amplified by the super-quick dual-clutch gearbox. Again, the shifts aren't quite as sharp as you get in an 812, but that better suits the character of a long-legged grand tourer. Being naturally aspirated, it's easy to manage the mighty power and torque available. You're also encouraged to rev the V-12 out because even though there is a nice broad torque curve, the engine does its best and sounds its best the higher you climb. It's a special thing.

Still, it's the chassis that makes this car what it is. The motors on the dampers can put in 5000 newtons of force at each corner, and Ferrari integrates the system within its central chassis brain. The car looks at signals from a six-way chassis dynamic sensor plus three body-position accelerometers, and accelerometers and wheel-position sensors for each wheel. All of this provides excellent data on what the car is doing at any given moment, and allows all of the Purosangue's systems to work together to provide optimal grip and chassis balance.

The effect is that on the road, the car feels lower than it is. There's still a fair amount of body roll and pitch/dive to give the driver a sense of load transfer, but it doesn't feel like more than in the GTC4Lusso. Ferrari says roll is reduced by up to 50 percent compared with a conventional suspension in cornering and, in addition, the center of gravity is lowered by up to 10 mm. Roll stiffness is also varied in different phases of the corner.

As with all modern Ferraris, the driver has to get keyed into how quick the car responds to inputs and the super sharp front end, but once you do, it feels intuitive. Exhilarating, too. The Purosangue has some of the manic and engrossing character of the 812 Superfast on a good road. Being February in the Italian Dolomites, winter tires were requisite, and while these Ferrari-spec Michelin Pilot Alpin 5s were impressive, the car does move around on the tread blocks. Not that it was ever an issue, as I wasn't trying to find the limit of grip and pitch a $400,000-plus car into a rock face. (More on the price later)

In other Ferraris, there's a great little button that activates "Bumpy Road" mode, slackening off the dampers. The extra flexibility unlocked by the dampers led Ferrari to give the Purosangue additional driver-selectable calibrations. To cycle between modes, press on the Manettino drive-mode selector In Ice, Wet, and Comfort modes, there are soft and medium damper settings, while for Sport and ESC Off, these are augmented by a hard setting. What's interesting is that the damper setting doesn't affect the performance of the car, just what the occupants feel. Within each of the three damper settings, there's a range of adjustments, and they all feel great. The Purosangue always feels a little firm, but with the edges rounded off. Especially impressive is the performance on lumpy, bumpy roads, where the car just never feels upset. One of the great things about these dampers is that they still use spool valves like all other Multimatic dampers, providing super precise control of damping force.

Steering is somewhat heavier and slower than we've come to expect from modern Ferraris, though this is a good thing. It suits the more relaxed character of the Purosangue well, and by any other standard, it's light, quick, and ultra-precise. The front axle uses a novel geometry with separate lower links replacing a traditional wishbone, which has the effect of moving the pivot point closer to the wheel center. This helps reduce the torque steer you would get in an all-wheel drive system like this.

To be frank, it's easy to forget the Purosangue is all-wheel drive, as most of the power goes to the rear axle and the steering is totally uncorrupted. Ferrari had us drive a Purosangue on a quick snow course that resembled an extremely short rally stage, and even in Sport mode, the grip is immense. Put it in Snow mode, and you can floor it on corner exit, with the car's various systems metering out power seamlessly, while Sport mode allows for a safe, but healthy amount of yaw.

This car tries to flatter the driver, while encouraging better technique and keeping a watchful eye on everything to avoid trouble. The brakes use an electronic booster, which allowed Ferrari to make the pedal travel very short and firm, with immediate bite at the top. It's a little strange at first, yet drive the car more and you realize it's helping you brake better. Apply lots of force for the initial slowdown, then bleed off the pressure before you turn in. The brakes themselves are very strong, though under hard braking you do get a sense of the Purosangue's weight. Which isn't a bad thing. ABS activation is seamless, too.

For all of its capabilities, the Purosangue never loses sight of the fact that it is a grand tourer. Around town and on the Autostrada, it's comfortable and easy to drive, with steering that can be controlled by fingertips and useful driver assist features available. In and around the Italian ski towns, it often feels big, though to an American, most cars feel big on European roads. The Purosangue feels like the sort of car that wants to eat up miles and tear up whatever good roads you may find along your journey. It's one of the most accomplished GT cars on sale today.

As well it should be with a base price of $398,350. It puts the Purosangue in a category of one, really. It's well more than double the base price of the Aston Martin DBX and nearly $170,000 more than the expected base price of the new Lamborghini Urus S. But neither of those cars have a V-12 or nearly such a clever suspension system. Hell, the Lamborghini shares underpinnings with the Audi Q7. The only other SUV in this price bracket is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, which incidentally, also has a V-12. These are very different machines, though, the Roller offering the ultimate in comfort and isolation, and the Ferrari superb driving dynamics. If you think that the Purosangue is too expensive, know that Ferrari has basically sold the entire production run already.

Really, this is the ultimate four-seat, four-door GT car, and one that comes in a bodystyle that's so beloved with customers around the globe. From a vehicle dynamics perspective, its achievement can't be overstated. You might not like the idea of a Ferrari SUV, but you can't call it a cynical cash grab with the depth of engineering on display here.

The inevitable debate around a Ferrari SUV seems trite. The Purosangue is a marvel, and one that uses its next-level technology in service of the driving experience. There's nothing else quite like it.

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2023-03-07T23:39:12Z dg43tfdfdgfd