By Wallace Wyss
This was one of the most controversial designs at the Geneva Auto Salon. The controversial part being something Ferrari calls an “Aero Bridge” which they claim uses the hood surface and a floating front fender to generate down force by channeling air away from the upper part of the car to its flanks where it interacts with the wake from the wheel wells to decrease drag.
Flavio Manzoni, design director, gave facts and figures such as saying Computational Fluid Dynamic (CDF) simulations and wind tunnel work helped them create a down force increase of 76 per cent (Ferrari quoted 123 kilograms while driving at 200 km/h) and reduced drag (for a Cd 0.299) presumably over the last GTO.
That is such an increase, the design world will have to wait until another factory puts one in the wind tunnel and measures the down force. If it works, there may be more cars coming up with similar devices. Whether it works or not, the interesting part is that the “air bridge” allows the side view to look conventional and acceptable whereas the arched fender without the air bridge would look suspiciously like that of the Mazda RX-8.
Less controversial are the air scoops for the brakes up front, called an “Active Brake Cooling system.” These scoops have vanes in front that lay flat at low speeds but at certain brake temperatures, the vanes open up and funnel cold air to the front brakes. They close because they are not needed, and when closed reduce drag.
Overall the front view reminds this writer more of the Lexus LF-1 with lots of sharp-edge surfaces. It is interesting that the FF’s “wide mouth” grille (where the grille teeth go beyond the actual opening) is continued, imagine a shark with a few more teeth going outside its mouth to see what is happening here. You would have to be a longtime observer to know that GM used the same idea on the 1955 Motorama Biscayne show car.
The rear view is an odd juxtaposition in that the upper half looks like a fairly prosaic GT car starting from the roof going downward, but at about mid-point, below the license plate area, the styling gets more exciting, as if a touring car body was set atop a body of something almost concept car like, or a car at least as exciting as the Enzo.
The choice of single circular taillights per side is a return to classic Ferrari designs going back to the Sixties, like the Lusso, and always welcome but the odd fog lamp centered at the rear looks like somebody’s stainless steel-cased cell phone glued onto the back was a poor choice. Maybe that can be dropped before mass production.
Overall, the design shows that Ferrari is trying to keep ahead of its lesser competitors -- with a front-engine design, not easy because a mid-engine design would offer more possibilities for lower drag. But the market (dare I say "fat cats") still has a number of fans of front-engine cars, particularly in regards to the advantages they have in luggage room.
Let’s hope that the Ferrari claims for down force check out to be verifiable and if they do, that will, reputation-wise, solidly Ferrari's role as a leader in sports car design. Now let’s see if an open version will emerge, and how much a soft top will hurt that enviable co-efficient of drag.
Wallace Wyss has authored eleven books, two of them on Ferrari. He is now searching for a literary agent for his mystery novel set in the world of collector Ferraris, "Ferrari Hunters".