Multimatic ‘Legs’ for Ferrari’s New Thoroughbred
Innovative 48V active suspension gives Ferrari’s new crossover exceptional chassis dynamics.
The Ferrari Purosangue scurries up the snowbound pitches of Italy’s Monte Bondone, the Alpine peak whose auto-hillclimb exploits date to 1925. Ferrari’s first “SUV” — really, more a genre-blurring crossover — slices through Bondone’s 38 devilish corners, gaining nearly 4,900 ft (1,494 m) of elevation over an 11.2-mile (18-km) workout. Its 715-hp (533-kW) V12 sings like the tragically-fated opera hero it is, to an 8,250-rpm height that’s as lofty as the surrounding Dolomites.
Emissions regulations may soon spell the end of that barrel-chested, 6.5-L engine, whose 12 naturally-aspirated cylinders describe every roadgoing Ferrari built between 1947 and 1973. But the rest is modern magic, the kind of prestidigitation that’s required to transform a 4,774-lb (2165-kg), AWD machine — the first Ferrari with four doors and four adult-sized seats — into a stunning performer that feels lighter and lither than any driver would ever expect.
One showstopper is a world’s-first active suspension that traces not to Maranello, Ferrari’s hometown in northern Italy, but to a quiet suburb north of Toronto, Canada. The Purosangue’s ingenious, electrically activated dampers are the work of Multimatic, the publicity-shy supplier that long has strived to stay under the radar. But that’s become impossible after a string of successes that includes hand-building the Ford GT; key development roles in the Aston Martin One-77 and Valkyrie supercars and building the bonkers, turnkey Ford Bronco DR Baja racer. And that’s when Multimatic isn’t cranking out parts for some of North America’s best-selling vehicle platforms, including more than 7 million ball joints annually.
For the Purosangue (pronounced “poor-oh-SANG-way:” thoroughbred) — Multimatic calls its technology TrueActive Spool Valve Dampers (TASV). The spool-valve part certainly isn’t new. From Formula 1 teams to the Mercedes AMG GT and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, the company’s spring-loaded fluid valves allow predictable control over force-velocity curves inside each damper. Ferrari and other demanding customers can digitally spec and tailor the dampers for extremely specific applications, from rock crawling to road racing, versus the trial-and-error of older shim-stack designs. These patented dampers even run cooler, because of lower internal pressures, according to engineers.
What’s new is the “TrueActive” component. On the Purosangue, each damper integrates a liquid-cooled, 48-volt brushless electric motor, co-developed with Ferrari, with the dual spool valves that independently manage rebound and compression. The power-dense electric motors apply direct force to the Ferrari’s chassis and the dampers’ piston rods through a ball-screw and worm-gear assembly. That reduces weight and packaging space and eliminates any need for anti-roll bars or air springs to dynamically adjust body height. A dedicated radiator dissipates heat from the multi-tasking system.
As explained by Jacopo Canestri, Ferrari vehicle dynamics engineer, everything is controlled inside the dampers on multiple axes: body roll, pitch, yaw and vertical motions. Ferrari says the system can adjust the body and dampers in 50-ms bursts, faster and with greater control than any adaptive or semi-active suspension.
“The dampers are the backbone of the Purosangue’s dynamics,” Canestri told SAE Media.
The dampers’ motor actuators take their commands from accelerometers at each corner that guide Ferrari’s six-way Chassis Dynamic Sensor, which made its debut on the 296 GTB Hybrid. That sensor is the brains of the operation, tied to F1–derived helpers such as Side Slip Control 8.0, the predictive stability program that takes action before the Ferrari loses grip, rather than merely reacting to an impending slide.
Ferrari and Multimatic say the TASV dampers keep wheels in optimal contact with the ground, even as they expertly filter road imperfections from the cabin. For the first time in a production vehicle, suspension stiffness essentially operates on an entirely independent circuit from body control. Ferrari engineers explained it this way: picture a traditional vehicle’s wheel dropping into a pothole (or in New York or Detroit, multiple potholes). What happens next? The body is forced to follow suit, as it does when a car chatters over a washboard surface. The new dampers apply a countervailing force to the body before the wheel even dips into the hole. The wheels follow the road surface, the body stays flat and passengers stay happy.
Below its dramatic clamshell hood, the Purosangue’s 65-degree V12 is tucked entirely behind the front axle. It routes those 715 prancing horses through a rear transaxle and eight-speed, dual-clutch automated-manual gearbox. Front wheels boost traction and ease understeer via a power take-off unit and separate two-speed gearbox. Rear-wheel steering further boosts agility and control. The physics-scoffing result is a 3.3-s launch to 62 mph (100 km/h), 10.6 s to 124 mph (200 km/h) and a claimed top speed beyond 193 mph (313 km/h).
Pushbutton ride control
Like the 812 Superfast that shares much of its engine and technology, the Purosangue has a decided Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. Increasingly aggressive behavior is spurred via the brand’s familiar “Manettino,” a red-metal toggle on a gorgeous carbon-fiber-rimmed steering wheel. But where the Manettino’s “Corsa” (Race) setting remains the route to full-blooded performance, the active suspension has one more trick up its sleeve. For the first time in a Ferrari, the Manettino adds a pushbutton function to let drivers select suspension stiffness.
Basically, the only reason it exists is to keep the Purosangue in its softest setting regardless of what the rest of the car is doing.
As revealed by Raffaele de Simone, Ferrari’s esteemed chief development driver, the Purosangue covers ground as quickly in its cushiest ride setting — whether on road or the company’s Fiorano test circuit — as it does in firmer modes. The only reason a driver might choose a rockier ride is to feel more jostles and pavement ripples through the steering wheel.
Naturally, we have to try Mr. Softee mode. On the slaloming backside of Monte Bondone, the Purosangue flirts with 130 mph (209 km/h) on salt-crusted tarmac, before it’s time to mash the sensitive by-wire brakes. That “self-learning” brake system constantly calculates grip and slip targets for hulking Michelin winter tires (22 in. front, 23 in. rear), even when we’re nowhere near the limit, to best exploit the tires’ longitudinal force when the limits are tested – a good thing in this nearly 2.5-ton 94482-lb/2033 kg) hunk of prime Italian beef. The Ferrari’s active suspension automatically drops the body as much as 2 in. (50 mm) as it storms into curves, putting the roll center closer to that of a typical GT car. The ride remains pliable, the body flatter than the snowboards cruising on adjacent hills.
For the world’s most-powerful SUV, it’s the definition of an unfair fight. For regular folks, so is the Purosangue’s price: $398,350 to start, easily soaring past $450,000 with options. At least the trick suspension comes standard.