2024 Ferrari Purosangue First Drive: The V-12 Super SUV To End All SUVs

If you want a luxury performance SUV, there are a ton to choose from. You get the all-new Purosangue because it’s the only one with a V-12.

On a twisting Italian alpine road seemingly no wider than your finger, I had just executed a U-turn in the 2024 Ferrari Purosangue SUV, pulling onto the shoulder to grab my camera, when a police officer parked on the same shoulder exited his car and held up a stern hand. My heart sank despite having just watched him perform the exact same maneuver. I assumed doing so was fine. But we know what happens when you assume.

He approached, and I rolled down the window, ready to show him my passport and whip out the only Italian sentence I’d bothered to teach myself ahead of this trip. (“Il vino rosso, per favore. “)

Posso fare una foto?” he asked, holding up his phone.

“Oh!” I said. “Uh, yeah, of course.”

He snapped a picture, flashed a giant smile, gave two thumbs up, and waved me on my way.

If that isn’t the most driving-a-Ferrari-in-Italy experience ever, then nothing is.

A Ferrari Inside And Out

Before arriving in the Dolomites for the 2024 Ferrari Purosangue’s media launch, I was curious if people would recognize it as a Ferrari. The Italian automaker has never done a four-door four-seater, after all. The public would be forgiven for not initially spotting it for what it is.

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I should have realized I needn’t have wondered at all.

The car drew onlookers everywhere it went, a variety of people whose moods ranged from curiosity to beaming joy. Among the excited Italian babble, you could easily pick out the words “Ferrari” and “Purosangue,” uttered with reverence you don’t often hear when people talk about cars. But the Ferrari was a hometown hero. Driving it was to feel just a little bit famous.

Let’s begin with the styling. Sleek where it counts and thick with the suggestion of tensed muscle where you expect it, the Purosangue is unmistakably something special. The spaces you think its headlights should occupy are instead aerodynamic cutouts like the 296 GTB’s. Its fastback design harks back to classic Ferrari GTs, and there’s something very Roma-ish about its taillights. Overall, it looks like a tall FF, giving off a very exotic shooting-brake silhouette, owing to the fact its back doors’ clean lines are uninterrupted by handles.

Underneath you find performance tech expected of vehicles of this caliber. The rear wheels help steer, the brakes bite down on carbon-ceramic discs, and a version of the GTC4Lusso’s all-wheel-drive system mounts a two-speed transaxle to the front of the engine. Ferrari’s new active suspension system can drive the wheels up and down with 48-volt motors in each damper, eliminating the need for anti-roll bars.

Notably, the Purosangue has a 49/51 percent front/rear weight distribution, thanks in part to a front-mid-mounted engine and a rear-mounted eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s why there are just two rear seats—independent and fully adjustable rear seats, but two nonetheless—instead of a three-seat bench, because the transmission tunnel has to go somewhere.

An engine is, of course, what truly makes a Ferrari. The Purosangue more than delivers in this department. Mounted so far back in the bay it’s practically sitting in your lap, the F140 IA 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V-12 is the crown jewel. With redesigned exhaust, intake, and timing systems and 812 Competizione-derived cylinder heads, the 715-hp bruiser is a dozen-strong ensemble that sings all the way up to its heavenly 8,250-rpm redline.

Twelve Cylinders To Love

Indeed, the roar erupting from the quad tailpipes is otherworldly. You might wish for a physical engine-start button in the shoutiest shade of red possible, but regardless, starting the Purosangue via a touch-sensitive spot on the bottom of its steering wheel is an event every time. The V-12 awakens with a sharp bark that settles immediately into a wonderfully gravelly purr. As it ascends the rev range, the purr evolves into an outright shriek, a tsunami of trebly howls. In the milliseconds between gear shifts, you hear the faintest noise of haters being torn to shreds.

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Power arrives in a wonderfully linear rush, with the Purosangue’s all-wheel-drive system ensuring none of it is squandered. The buzzing through the floor-hinged throttle pedal communicates that air and gas are being lit on fire to produce speed and noise. It is happiness incarnate. Everyone else in this automotive space uses twin-turbo V-8s, which are torquier and more efficient, but damn does this engine remind you of the sizzling satisfaction provided by such raw simplicity.

Cracking off shifts like it’s popping bubblegum, the dual-clutch is an ideal enabler of point-and-shoot attacks. The brakes bite precisely; there’s no weird deadness at the top of the pedal travel. A very noticeable difference exists in the changeable suspension settings, too. The default Comfort setting makes the Purosangue ride like a GT car, inspiring fantasies of a cross-continent sojourn, while Sport supplies you with a dose of constant road chatter to remind you you’re driving a visceral performance car.

Something spooky happens the first time you take a corner at speed, however. The sum of what you know about this car—how much it weighs, how tall it rides—ought to make it loll in turns. But like other super SUVs, it doesn’t. There’s an acknowledgment of mass and weight, yes, because even the planet’s smartest hardware will never be able to mask all of that, but there’s also an unwavering sensation of always being planted firmly. Even though the Purosangue boasts Snow and other various low-grip-surface driving modes, a Ferrari spokesperson said much of the car’s testing occurred on Maranello’s normal roads, as the company anticipates most owners will drive on the paved stuff most of the time.

Nose the 2024 Ferrari Purosangue around a tight hairpin, the four-wheel steering and excellent weight distribution contributing stability and balance, and there’s not so much lean as there is a sense of it pressing down on the vehicle’s outside corner. The steering, a touch on the lighter side, is direct and feels natural—it’s excellent for sussing out what business the front tires are up to. Not only that, but the front and rear ends never feel like they disagree about what’s coming next; this oneness eliminates midcorner chaos caused by abrupt braking or steering inputs while negotiating a turn. The result is a ruthlessly confidence-inspiring car that, despite its girth, is utterly bewitching.

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The steering wheel, in typical Ferrari fashion, handles the majority of the car’s controls. The interface that allows the driver to access infotainment menus functions largely like a smart TV’s remote, though it takes a few taps to reactivate after the system idles from disuse. Physical buttons are usually preferable over a touch system like this, and at least there are still buttons for the windshield wipers and lights. There’s also a physical volume scroll on the left side of the steering wheel, thankfully, and the climate settings are controlled via a large central dial that’s quite intuitive.

Rear visibility is pretty atrocious, though. Thick pillars and a steeply raked rear windscreen do not make for a clear sightline. You’ll need to rely pretty heavily on the side mirrors and backup camera to get a full grasp of your surroundings. Also, the trunk is on the small side—pack light if you’re bringing friends.

These are minor complaints; this is a well-considered and exceptionally comfortable car. Although it lacks the overall opulence of a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley, that isn’t really the point with the Purosangue. Sure, its leathers are soft and supple, and even the rear seats are agreeable and supportive, but Ferrari is perhaps the only marque in the world that usually doesn’t need to go above and beyond in justifying any of its decisions. You likely won’t walk away from buying a Ferrari because you were displeased with the leather quality, or the trunk space, or the visibility.

Defiantly A Real Ferrari

There is a defiance to the way Ferrari presents and talks about the Purosangue. It’s almost like the company is braced for hate for daring to build an SUV at all. Indeed, throughout the car’s media launch, its team went out of its way not to call it an SUV even though that’s precisely what it is. Even the name plays into this cat-and-mouse game: It translates to “thoroughbred,” implying the unquestionable purity and legitimacy of its—ahem—sports car lineage. Worth noting, however, is the fact that where the snaking Dolemite roads were perfect for trying out the Purosangue’s dynamic abilities, the model often felt too wide for narrow village streets. In fact, it’s the biggest car Ferrari has ever made, one more suited for places with space to spare, like the U.S. and China, than it is for its home country.

Further strengthening the idea that an SUV will not take over at Ferrari, as the vehicle type has at virtually all other carmakers, Maranello is holding firm in insisting it will cap Purosangue sales at 20 percent of total yearly volume. For now, management will not allow it to become Ferrari’s top-selling vehicle, because existing buying habits very much indicate that’s exactly what would happen without those restrictions.

At its core, a performance SUV from a luxury brand that’s never made one before is not new. The trend began with Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, and Lamborghini and has since taken over at Maserati, Bentley, Lotus, and Aston Martin. But no rule exists that says Ferrari can’t build one, too, except limitations it imposed on itself. Over the years, Ferraris have come in all shapes and sizes. Among them all, though, one thing’s held true, and that is the engine’s prominence.

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Ferrari knew its response to the SUV marketplace’s siren song must be different. It gave its creation coach doors, sure, but mostly the appeal is “because V-12.” It’s an engine type as inherent to the marque as the prancing horse logo. Ferrari has twin-turbo V-8s and hybrid setups it could have used; its representatives refuse to comment on whether those powertrains will eventually make it into future Purosangue models. For now, the naturally aspirated V-12 is all anyone will get. Twist our arms.

Like it or not, the Purosangue is here, but at least it’s armed with the best of what Ferrari has to offer. It’s a striking vehicle that’s fabulously athletic and comfortable to boot. There’s no shortage of super SUVs, but this one’s old school, where old school means 12 cylinders and a hell of a lot of noise. This is the Ferrari way.

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