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Ferrari solved the problem of the tepid response to its conservatively styled 612 Scaglietti with the design of the car's successor, the FF. "A decisive break with the past," trumpets the Ferrari announcement, "the new car represents not so much an evolution as a true revolution."

Whether success will come from this revolution, the market will decide. Because the new Ferrari FF is … a hatchback! And no, it isn't one of those that looks like a coupe. Rather it's the kamm-backed wagon style in the manner of the BMW Z3 Coupe or, reaching further back, the MGB GT and Jensen GT of the 1970s.

Speaking of Jensen, a more telling parallel is to the Jensen FF of 1966, a powerful front-engine all-wheel-drive touring car skinned in hatchback bodywork. As with the Jensen, the Ferrari's FF designation refers to its four-wheel drive powertrain, and also to its four seats.

Ferrari aims to provide all-weather, four-passenger security and comfort with the FF, attributes not normally associated with the Scuderia Ferrari. That isn't to say performance is overlooked. Ferrari says that the car, even with its front-mounted V12 engine and front differential, keeps 53 percent of its weight on the rear wheels for the sporty response Ferrari drivers expect.

That all-new 6.26-liter engine produces a prodigious 660 horsepower which it sends to the pavement through a patented four-wheel-drive system that the company says weighs half as much as a conventional system. The F1 dual-clutch transmission lets enthusiasts paddle-shift through the gears like their Formula 1 heroes, or it can be left in station wagon-appropriate automatic model for seamless power transfer.

The combination produces 0-60 mph acceleration of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 209 mph, which could scramble the eggs in this apparent grocery-getter.

Continuous predictive torque distribution to all four wheels ensures optimum traction in all weather conditions, while updated magnetorheological shock technology from General Motors' Delphi spin-off (yes, Ferrari uses the same MagnaRide technology as Cadillac and Corvette) improves the car's ability to switch between comfort and sport in a split second.

Look for the FF to officially debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show with driving impressions from the lucky few enthusiast magazine journalists that are invited to sample the car someplace where slippery conditions can be expected. Ironically the launch of the rear-drive 612 was disturbed by snowfall that forced cancellation of a planned drive through the mountains outside Modena, perhaps sowing the seeds for the notion of an all-wheel-drive successor that would take such weather in stride.

author photo

Dan Carney is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for MSNBC.com, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award. Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, D.C.

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