It’s time to cue that iconic Olympic theme song. The Winter Olympics are set to begin on Friday in the mountainous region of Pyeongchang in South Korea, where athletes from 92 countries will be converging to the host city for some icy Alpine action.
Pyeongchang now joins a long list of illustrious snowcapped host cities. Think Nagano, Lillehammer, Salt Lake City. But did you know bucolic upstate New York has its own storied Olympic history? Lake Placid hosted not one, but two Winter Olympic Games, joining only St. Moritz and Innsbruck as the only cities to host the winter games twice.
With the 2018 games finally here, I knew it was time to visit upstate and engage in some winter sports revelry. Specifically the Catskill Mountains range, which is just south of the Adirondacks.
Of course an SUV or some wagon seemed in order, but then a funny thought creeped into my head: What about a Ferrari?
The Lusso name
When one thinks of Ferrari (RACE), one thinks of driving a 488 Spider down sun-drenched roads in the Italian Riviera. But with an all-new GTC4Lusso in showrooms, you can take a Ferrari farther north, say the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy.
Let me explain. The Lusso, or ‘luxury,’ label has a long history for Ferrari. Cars like the 250 GT Lusso were more luxurious and larger than other Ferrari road cars and were meant for grand touring. Steve McQueen owned one.
I was at Pebble Beach in 2016 when Ferrari debuted the GTC4Lusso. At the time, Ferrari’s Enrico Galliera told me the GTC4Lusso was also a homage to the 330 GTC, another grand tourer, and apparently one of Enzo Ferrari’s favorites.
The GTC4Lusso is stunning to look at too, but different than other Ferraris. A beautiful front end, reminiscent of the 812 Superfast, and flowing curves give it a svelte, yet aggressive figure.
Now the controversial part. Like the FF before it, this all-wheel drive Ferrari includes a hatch. Not everyone likes the look, but Maranello makes the back end work as much as any designer can for a car with a shooting brake design. The proportions look right, and I’m a fan of the big flowing lines on the rear-three-quarter panel swooshing over the real wheels.
It’s an impressive car with exceptional DNA, basically a luxury sports car for enthusiasts. But how would this more ‘practical,’ if you will, supercar do in inclement, snowy conditions? We were curious. So when Ferrari offered up the chance to test the new GTC4Lusso in upstate New York, only a few days before winter Olympic athletes suit up halfway across the globe, we had to give it a try.
The drive up
As a GT cruiser, the GTC4Lusso is tough to beat. The cabin was roomy and comfortable (at least for the front two passengers), the ride surprisingly forgiving, and the power, well, the power was abundant.
The 690-horsepower V12 gobbled up miles on our way up to the Catksill area. And the power is quite prodigious: 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds for a car that weighs over 4,000 pounds. That’s a lot of mass moving at a high speed.
Motoring off the highway and on the backroads around towns like Hunter, N.Y., the GTC4Lusso was well-mannered and easily controlled. Rev that engine high though, above 4000 RPM, and you’ll hear that wonderful, glorious sound that makes grown men cry. The power comes on like a rush right after that.
On the windy roads on Route 23A leading to Kaaterskills Falls, a majestic two-stage waterfall accessible via a short hike, the GTC4Lusso handled the long curves — and the short ones — with aplomb. The big car felt light and sprightly in the windy two lane roads leading up to the trailhead.
Although it wasn’t a snowy or frigid day, the roads were muddy and slick. Even in the sport setting the GTC4Lusso felt planted, with no real jittery moments. I must note that our tester was outfitted with all-season tires and not summer, high-performance rubber.
And the ride was worth it to get to our first destination. It was a crisp, enjoyable hike around the base of Kaaterskills Falls, where we saw plenty of massive icicles clinging to the ledges as the cold water rushed by. There were ice climbers making their way up the sides of the falls, just like the speed climbers that would be going for Olympic glory in Pyeongchang.
On our way back, we drove through 23A and onto our base of operations, Scribner’s Catksill Lodge. Scribner’s is a rustic, all-black lodge that takes you back in time through the Catskills, via a pitstop in modern day Brooklyn. Think mountain lodge by way of Architectural Digest.
After dinner and a restful night, it was back in the car and up to Hunter Mountain, only a short drive away. Pulling into to the resort’s parking lot with gear in store (in this case a snowboard and ski boots in the back with the 50:50 split fold rear seats down), it was a muddy, sleet-like mess. But with all-wheel drive and and 4-wheel steering, it was no trouble at all.
It was wet snow, but not all that bad on Hunter that day, with me in my skis going for an aggressive slalom time and my girlfriend on her snowboard doing her best Shaun White impression.
Heading home (and back to reality)
The trip back home was uneventful, or as uneventful as a road trip in Ferrari can be. Yes the engine was powerful, throaty, and revs for days. The brakes are wonderful, and the steering precise. But i did have a few minor complaints.
Let’s face it, it is a big car. And it feels big. It may not be for everyone. As a grand tourer the car does have cruise control. But it’s not smart — no radar or adaptive cruise here. Ferrari may say this is a driver’s car, and therefore this feature is non necessario, as they would say in Maranello. But the Porsche Panamera Turbo has it, and that was one of the best GT cars I tested all year.
And that finicky parking brake — ugh. Please give me an old-school parking brake. We also had issues with bluetooth connectivity, which was spotty for connecting our phones to the JBL-powered audio system. I also found the electric trunk-assist a little creaky, not up to Ferrari snuff given the standard set by the rest of the car.
But these are small prices to pay for a Ferrari. But in terms of large prices, did I forget to mention our car, as equipped, came in at $390,000?
So what did our trip up to the Catskills prove? The GTC4Lusso is an extremely livable, practical car. So livable it could be your daily driver or simply a vehicle you use for winter road trips that would have been unthinkable for a supercar only a few years back.
Now would anyone do this — use this car as a daily driver or family SUV? It seems somewhat unthinkable — but it’s possible, and it makes me think this is one of the reasons Maranello wanted to make this car. Because it can.