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Ferrari’s $375,000 FF Hauls Christmas Trees at 208 MPH

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Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- So you say that all you want for the holidays is a Ferrari?

The first snowfall may change your mind, because few presents are as impractical as a Prancing Horse, especially when bad weather grounds it to the back of the garage. (Sadly, the insurance payments continue.)

And yet every rule has an exception, and I recently drove Ferrari’s: the FF coupe. On a weeklong test in late November, I braved snowstorms and gravel roads while carting around Thanksgiving groceries, a Christmas tree and even a baby.

This Ferrari isn’t like the others: The FF is as close to a minivan as the company is likely to get, albeit one with a claimed top speed of 208 miles per hour. Shaped like a futuristic hatchback, it has a long, slinky hood and slung-back cabin. It’s got two doors and four seats that comfortably fit adults, plus a highly usable trunk.

The FF even has all-wheel-drive, a first for the Maranello, Italy-based maker. Of course, practicality only goes so far: The base price of $302,450 rose to $375,087 with options. See? Still a Ferrari.

The car was first released as a 2012 model to mixed reviews. Some find it ugly, others odd. I first drove it in 2011 in the Italian Dolomites, but it’s the kind of vehicle best experienced at home, doing the stuff you regularly do, especially as the holidays approach. Run errands, ferry family, negotiate lousy weather.

Here’s how the week shook out.

Day 1: Late evening, we’re heading out of Manhattan to a family house in the country. Discover that an infant car seat does indeed fit in the back of the FF, and with front seat electronically folded forward, you can actually step fully inside the rear footwell while bent over -- making the baby belt-in process easier.

My 15-month-old son is soon staring up through the massive sheath of perfect curved glass that makes up the roof, affording a great view of the New York City skyline. The panoramic roof is a brand new option to the 2014 model.

Some 100 easy miles later, we arrive. The suspension is forgiving over potholes, and the bucket leather seat seems like it was built to the specifications of my lower back. Refreshing. Glance at gas gauge. Need to refuel soon.

Day 2: Going grocery shopping. Drive down our half-mile-long gravel road; the front nose easily clears rocks and debris. At end of road, turn around to retrieve forgotten grocery list. Leave the steering-wheel’s “Manettino” controls, which manipulate the rigidity of the suspension and general level of aggression, in comfort mode.

Shopping done, pack two frozen Butterballs and a dozen grocery bags into back hatch. A man approaches and asks, “How much?” When I tell him almost $400,000, he shakes his head. “Trust fund kid, huh?”

Take the long way back. Frozen turkeys clatter around under hard braking.

Day 3: Our neighbor’s 13-year-old son and his best friend ask for a ride. Who am I to say no? They’re entranced by the sound of the engine: The 6.3-liter V-12 makes a distinctive Ferrari howl as I needlessly rev the engine to 8,000 rpm while in neutral. Fun fact: Stand behind the tailpipes and it will actually blow your hair back.

Day 4: The snowstorm. By all rights this should stop the Ferrari, but the car was built for this kind of weather. (The trunk has a pass-through between the back seats, so you can fit skis.) I put it into cold-weather mode, which keeps torque and wheel spin to a minimum, and we head out for a Sunday drive. The incredible power -- 651 horsepower and 504 pound-feet of torque -- is completely tamped down.

The car is stable, braking surely even in slush and patches of ice. The car has 20-inch wheels and all-season Pirelli tires. The heater also works well, something you might not have counted on years ago.

Day 5: Cabin fever. The sun is out, and it’s time to play. Car goes into sport mode, back roads are found. It’s brittle cold out, but the sound of the V-12 warms my ears. The majority of the power is sent to the rear wheels, and I can only feel the AWD when I whip out of deep corners.

This isn’t the best handling Ferrari on the market -- those are the mid-engine cars like the 458 Italia -- but it is unquestionably still a Ferrari. It corners flatly, and you can blast through gear shifts. Need to refuel again.

Day 6: The “practicality” of the Ferrari has gone to my head. We pass a place selling Christmas trees and I think we should buy one for our Manhattan apartment. The purchase, a small, potted August spruce, goes into the right rear seat, with its top bending against the glass roof. The salesperson looks at me like I’ve arrived from a different planet.

Day 7: The end of this week’s good cheer. Up early for drive back into city, and temps are barely in the teens. I warm up the car, and load it up with tree, leftovers, and baby. We blast off, back to reality.

Christmas, with all the attendant family and errands, is coming. I could really use another Ferrari.

The 2014 Ferrari FF at a Glance

Engine: 6.3-liter V-12 with 651 horsepower and 504 pound-feet of torque.

Transmission: Seven-speed double-clutch automated manual.

Speed: 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.

Gas mileage per gallon: 11 city, 17 highway.

Price as tested: $375,087.

Best feature: Comfort with the Ferrari sound.

Worst feature: It always seems to need refueling.

Target buyer: The wealthy family man.

(Jason H. Harper writes about autos for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Jason H. Harper at Jason@JasonHharper.com or follow on Twitter @JasonHarperSpin.

To contact the editor responsible for this column: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net

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