May 28, 2014 10:15 AM | By Chris Chilton for MSN Autos

2014 Ferrari LaFerrari first drive



2014 Ferrari LaFerrari (© Photo: Ferrari)
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  • 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari (© Photo: Ferrari)
  • 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari (© Photo: Ferrari)
  • 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari (© Photo: Ferrari)
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2014 Ferrari LaFerrari

Familiar surroundings

2014 Ferrari LaFerrari (© Photo: Ferrari)

Much of the LaFerrari’s cabin will feel familiar to anyone with experience of more humble Maranello products. There are no column stalks; instead the steering wheel houses buttons for the headlights lights, wipers, turn signals, the engine-start button and manettino toggle switch. At first glance the gauge cluster looks the same too; it’s not analogue, but a fully configurable TFT display. A graphic shows whether the electric motor is boosting, charging or filling in the throttle response for the V12 engine (not that you’ll have time to look), and you can choose to have engine speed displayed in a the style of a traditional circular rev counter, or an awesome 1980s-style graph.

Getting into LaFerrari is surprisingly easy, because the door sill is both low and narrow. To save height and weight, the driver’s seat is fixed to the floor, while a lever allows the pedal box to slide fore and after to suit your leg length. But that race car bubble canopy makes it a tight fit inside and, as for luggage, forget it. There’s a cargo cubby under the front trunk, but it’s so small that even a 458 feels as useful as a minivan in comparison.

Related link: Porsche 918 Spyder first drive

Forget about fuel economy

2014 Ferrari LaFerrari (© Photo: Ferrari)

Unlike other hybrids, from the Toyota Prius right up to McLaren’s P1, LaFerrari has no pure EV mode. As such, the V12 is running constantly, so it's no surprise that LaFerrari averages just 14 L/100 km on the Combined fuel cycle, compared with 8.3 L/100 km for the McLaren P1 and 3 L/100 km for the Porsche 918 plug-in hybrid (which Porsche’s engineers privately admit does nearer 10 L/100 km in reality).

In the context of the performance, 14 L/100 km is actually pretty reasonable. Not that it matters. No one who can afford to spend $1.35 million on a car is going to care two hoots about the fuel consumption.

The battery charges up through a combination of regenerative braking, and by redirecting excess power from the V12 at part throttle situations to a second motor, which acts as a giant charger. Ferrari says the battery will never run out of charge in normal driving.

As for safety, the carbon brakes are hugely powerful and the chassis is built from the same stuff that allows F1 drivers to walk away from accidents unscathed. But those striking insect antennae that pass for doors mirrors create an enormous blind spot at roundabouts, and rear visibility isn’t great.

The great one

2014 Ferrari LaFerrari (© Photo: Ferrari)

For all of these niggles and faults, this without a doubt a five-star car. But how can we award five stars to a car that costs more than many streets, has nowhere to put luggage, and, on paper at least, is nowhere near as environmentally friendly as its rivals? Because producing a car that offers this much performance, yet is also this easy to drive, is a staggering achievement.

As is integrating the two power plants so seamlessly. Where the Ferrari differs from its rivals is that the hybrid tech is so subtly integrated. Is this the most exciting hybrid car ever? Quite possibly, yes.

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