Ferrari unveils first $420,000 SUV with a plea: 'Don't call it an SUV'

Ferrari's chief design officer Flavio Manzoni with the supercar maker's new Purosangue crossover. PHOTO: FERRARI

MARANELLO, Italy - Ferrari unveiled its long-awaited 390,000-euro (S$420,570) Purosangue crossover that will haul the supercar maker into a new era of broader appeal.

The company's most utilitarian model in its 75-year history - with four doors, four seats and a 473-litre trunk - will hit showrooms next year.

While heavily geared over four years of development to meet Ferrari's track-worthy credentials, the Purosangue represents a break from the manufacturer's low-slung racing machines and dispels doubts it would ever produce a versatile vehicle.

Ferrari exudes confidence about the Purosangue fitting that description, and is offering a surprise answer to one question: So, is it a sport-utility vehicle or not?

"Please don't call it an SUV, because it isn't," chief executive Benedetto Vigna told reporters in Maranello. "It's a Ferrari."

Mr Vigna's comment indicates the world's best-known maker of performance cars is still coming to terms with a segment some prancing-horse purists believe should be verboten for the brand.

When asked in 2016 whether Ferrari would ever consider producing a crossover, then-CEO Sergio Marchionne quipped: "You'd have to shoot me first."

Crossovers and SUVs tend to be less agile than what Ferrari drivers are used to, though the almost 225,000-euro Lamborghini Urus and 206,800-euro Bentley Bentayga have been well-received.

0-100 in 3.3 seconds

The Purosangue beats both on acceleration, racing to 100 kmh in 3.3 seconds.

While Ferrari offers the 296 GTB and the SF90 Stradale sports cars as plug-in hybrids, the Purosangue will only be powered by a combustion engine. The mid-front mounted, naturally aspirated, 715-horsepower V12 and automatic transmission will get the vehicle to a top speed of 310 kmh.

"We discussed for a long time which kind of powertrain to mount on the Purosangue," said Mr Enrico Galliera, Ferrari's chief marketing and commercial officer. "We finally decided on a full internal combustion one, since we weren't willing to compromise, and we got that this was what our most loyal customers wanted."

Giving people something SUV-like without upsetting idealists isn't the only tightrope Ferrari is walking. Transitioning to electric powertrains will be needed to comply with emissions regulations, but the manufacturer will also have to meet the expectations of select clientele who pay up for a piece of motoring glory.

Going full electric

After delivering just over 11,100 vehicles last year, Mr Vigna in June detailed Ferrari's battery strategy, which includes a first fully electric model about three years from now.

Battery-only and plug-in hybrid autos are slated to make up 60 per cent of Ferrari's portfolio by 2026 as part of a 4.4 billion-euro investment plan.

The company remains fully committed to making its vehicles carbon-neutral by the end of the decade, Mr Galliera said at the event.

Pre-orders for the Purosangue - which features a brand-new chassis with a single-shell, carbon-fibre roof to lower its centre of gravity - have likely exceeded more than 2,000 units already.

Ferrari is holding a four-day event this week for those who have placed a request to purchase.

To maintain exclusivity, Ferrari has said Purosangue deliveries will not exceed 20 per cent of the carmaker's total sales during the model's life cycle. BLOOMBERG

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