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Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano F1

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Ferraris 599 GTB
  Fiorano F1 has
  it all:
famous
  pedigree steeped
  in motor racing
  glory; awesome
  power; passionate
  performance...
 
And alluring looks.
  The real surprise is
  that it is eminently
  civilised, extremely
  comfortable and
  can be driven any-
  where, every day of the year. No wonder buyers don’t think
  twice about handing over £216,000 to get behind the wheel
...”


YOU CAN'T GET AWAY FROM IT we all have a predisposition to worship glamorous things. And 'glamorous' doesn't come much finer than those magnificent machines from Maranello so aptly defined by Ferrari's evocative prancing horse.

Endowed with a mesmerising combination of speed, performance and presence, Ferraris have long trumped all-comers in the automotive buzzword stakes. They're undeniably exciting: exciting to look at; exciting to ride in; and even more exciting to drive.

Recently, we've driven — and, more importantly, lived with — a 'dream garage' of desirable Ferraris beginning with the 612 Scaglietti, followed by a F430 Spider and now, the
flagship 599 Gran Turismo Berlinetta we are reviewing here.

For those for whom a Ferrari is merely a machine to drive — albeit arguably a thoroughbred — the 599 GTB's six headline numbers will be what matters most. So, and in no particular order, here they are: 6.0-litre V12; 205+mph; 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds; 0-100mph in 7.5 seconds; 448lb ft; 612bhp. The 599 GTB Fiorano F1 is the hottest series-production model ever to drive out of Maranello's gates.

Blindingly fast, yes. Ferocious? Not by nature… Sure, act the fool and the 599 will bite although, even when you eschew its willingness to go with you rather than go against you, its electronic software will still do everything in its power to indulge. Unlike many spectacularly fast cars, the 599 is a team player, flattering its driver whenever it can.

But before you get behind the wheel and savour the driving experience that awaits you, you have to admire this beautiful work of art. At which point you can enjoy the first layer of the 599's siren-like appeal — a body to die for.

“Whenever you crave an
utterly involving,
adrenaline-rich drive,
the 599 will serve one
up — seasoned with
mighty grip and razor
sharp agility
...”
Crafted throughout in aluminium alloy — as, too, is the engine and chassis — the ultra-handsome Pininfarina-styled super-coupé bodywork is, more than anything, notable for its almost-magnetic presence. Full-on, wide-tracked attitude it has in spades. Drive me, it implores. Drive me NOW!

Much of what is impressive is hidden from sight. For example, look beneath a 599 and you'll find an under-floor that owes its flatness to the wind tunnel: its purpose is to increase downforce at very high speeds by channelling air back and out over the upswept rear diffuser. Inspect the 599's flying buttresses — close your eyes as you run your hand over the inner surface and you'll feel the smoothly sculpted contour where automotive art embraces function. Because these artfully-contrived 'wings' have been designed to contribute a quarter of the 599's 160kgs downforce at 186mph.

Lift the bonnet and there, evocatively finished in blood-red and silver, beats the dragon's heart. Front-mid-mounted, the 599's 6.0-litre V12 is essentially the same engine that powered the formidable Enzo. In the GTB it is a far more tractable unit; one perfectly suited to everyday driving that includes fuss-free, real-world, stop-start tractability — albeit with a genuine 205+mph top-end for the right time and the right place…

Pull open the driver's door and you can further justify the 599's price. Had we been writing a cheque for our test car, the figure we would have penned would have been £216,324. For that you do get a fully-kitted-out 599 GTB with aluminium brake callipers and carbon-ceramic brake system, F1 Superfast paddle-shift transmission, BOSE hi-fi system, one-shot up/down electric windows, a radio navigation system, rear parking sensors, 20-inch alloy wheels, electric Recaro seats, electrically-adjustable easy-exit steering wheel, climate control and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. For the record, on-the-road prices for the 599 GTB Fiorano start at £197,405.

The spacious and luxurious cockpit is a tasteful delight, with lashings of hide and carbon-fibre. Richly atmospheric, it's imbued with Italian flair and craftsmanship. Slide easily into the leather-skinned carbon-fibre seat — the easy manoeuvre is made even easier by the powered (height- and reach-adjustable) steering wheel left in its thigh-clearing easy-exit position from the last time the ignition was switched off. While not appearing excessively hip-hugging, the Recaro seats are deceptively well-bolstered and proved to be both superbly comfortable and very supportive on journeys of any distance. There's practical storage space, too, with flexible leather door pockets, a fair-sized glovebox and a large open rear luggage shelf behind the seats big enough to take a small golf bag.

You don’t need
to have the skills of an F1
pilot to drive the 599 —
or to get maximum
enjoyment
from driving it
...”
The instrumentation package is first-class — and beautifully executed — and comprises an easy-to-read mix of both analogue and digital displays. Directly ahead of the driver and red-lined at 8,400rpm, the flamboyant yellow rev-counter says it all.

It also incorporates a digital gear/mode display with easy to read orangey-yellow graphics. The smaller — white on black — speedometer is calibrated to 220mph. To the left of the rev-counter is an absolutely crystal clear LCD display that can be switched between trip computer, coolant and oil 'gauges' or tyre pressure/tyre temperature readings. If you wish, it will even record your lap times on trackdays!

A band along the top of the screen displays the manettino setting currently active, each helpfully colour-coded to match the steering wheel switch: blue for Ice; green for Normal; white for Sport; red for Race; and dark red for CST. We especially liked the horn buttons integrated into the rim of the steering wheel — safe and practical and your hands never leave the wheel. And what a wheel it is: the leather-wrapped rim is comfortably hard with perforated 'work' areas and lovely cut-outs for your thumbs. Buttons for cycling though the digital display are located conveniently behind the horizontal spokes.

The driving position is spot-on, aided by the unexpectedly good visibility to the front and also to the sides. Although you sit low (when you first get in the 599 you're very aware of the high-ish waist), the view down the long nose and over the bonnet's power bulge is obligingly defined by the tops of the two crisply-contoured front wings, making judging the 599's width, and placing it accurately on the road, straightforward.

But enough of the superficial detailing that's alluring enough to get small boys and grown men alike peering through the windows when you leave the 599 parked. To business: Foot firmly on the brake, key in and turned 90-degrees to the first position, wait a second or two for all the safety lights to go out, press and hold the red START button on the lower left of the steering wheel boss — the V12 bursts into life with a wicked crackle; rises and falls with race-bred immediacy. The 599 is equipped with a F1 Superfast paddle-shift system. As its name infers, it's a very, very fast-shifter: in its fastest setting, the minimum total shift time (clutch disengaging and then fully re-engaging the next gear) is just one tenth of one second.

“Warning: ‘launch
control
should only be
used if the driver is
confident, the road
conditions are dry and
you are in a controlled
environment where
the performance
characteristics of the 599
can be evaluated
safely
...”
On start-up, the 599 defaults to Auto mode. At any other time, pressing the Auto button on the centre console selects automatic gear changing — confirmed by a yellow 'Auto' message showing in the dashboard display.

For the record, Auto can be overridden at any time with an up/down paddle-shift. At this point, most drivers will choose manual changing and lightly finger-tap the right-hand paddle to select first gear. The left-hand paddle takes you down the gearbox; the right goes up. It sounds confusing if you've not used a paddle-shift before but you adjust in no time, after which it feels totally logical.

More importantly, your fingertips can unerringly find and operate the paddles whatever the position of the steering wheel. As we cruised through the winding lanes of the Buckinghamshire country-side around Marlow we had great fun with this!

Completing the trio of control switches on the centre console, in the space once occupied by the manual gear lever, is the button for selecting reverse gear and, devilishly tempting, another marked 'LC'. Another 'carry-over' of F1 technology, it stands for Launch Control — and it does exactly that. As it warns in the official press pack: "The launch control function should only be used if the driver is confident, the road conditions are dry and you are in a controlled environment where the performance characteristics of the car can be evaluated safely." When activated, and with your foot on the brake, you rev the engine to approximately 5,000rpm — then release the brakes. Mamma Mia!

To help drivers exploit its considerable power, the 599 comes equipped with F1-Trac, an active differential traction and stability system developed specifically for the front-engined 599's dynamics and based on the experience built up over thousands of miles of Formula 1 testing and races by Ferrari's drivers.

F1-Trac's predictive software provides predictable handling even in extreme situations and improves grip out of bends — a 20 percent increase in exit speed compared to traditional systems. The F1-Trac's various modes are selected by the driver using the red manettino switch mounted on the lower right of the steering wheel boss. A digital readout in the instrument binnacle ensures the active mode can always been seen at a glance.

With Traction Stability
Control turned off,
only the ABS and EBD
are still active.
In this mode you really
are master
of your own fate...”
The five manettino settings comprise: Ice, for driving in low grip conditions with maximum intervention from the Traction Stability Control system (CST). Normal, which offers damping optimised for best comfort without affecting handling or performance.

The keen driver's default — Sport — is the setting for optimum road performance. Damper settings change to maximise performance, handling and stability at high speeds, and the CST allows the driver more freedom without excessively reducing engine performance. Race is only to be used on the track. Gearshifts are faster and damping is adjusted to maximise stability and performance for driving on a circuit. CST intervention is kept to a minimum. Finally, there's CST (shown with a strikethrough) to make it clear that Traction Stability Control is turned off; only the ABS and EBD are still active. In this mode you really are master of your own fate.

Another key high-tech component is the new magnetorheological suspension control system, known as SCM. This makes use of 'smart' dampers (the fluid viscosity is adjusted electromagnetically) to optimise the 599's suspension virtually instantaneously for the prevailing conditions — be it a pothole or over-exuberance on the part of the driver. In practice, this delivers greatly improved body control which in turn directly improves handling and roadholding thanks to optimal tyre grip. The result is a much safer and more enjoyable driving experience courtesy of reduced roll, squat and pitch and greater control when accelerating, braking and cornering.

On the move you're well aware of what's going on beneath your seat; the steering is tautly responsive but, if you want to be seen as the Master and Commander then you need
to be tidy with your inputs. Most of the time you really can (should you wish) leave the manettino driving mode control set to Normal with the gearbox left to manage itself in Auto. However, a truly memorable week spent behind the wheel of the 599 confirmed Sport as the most satisfying and rewarding choice.

Worth special mention is the 599's ride comfort. Don't forget, this is a 200+mph supercar running on 20-inch wheels with massive low-pro rubber: 245/35 at the front and 305/35 at the rear. Yet, without exception, everyone who rode in the 599 commented favourably on the ride quality. For a car with such high-speed handling credentials to ride so well is as unexpected as it is praiseworthy. Driving in heavy traffic around the M25 has never felt so good!

“Ferraris twelve-cylinder
engine is a fabulous
piece of engineering:
mechanically refined,
it pulls cleanly from idle
to the red line with
astonishing verve
When it comes to big numbers, it's not just the 599's price tag that has them. There's more beneath the bonnet — 612 wild horses waiting to be unleashed (and you will enjoy every single one of them!).

Peak power is at 7,600rpm although it revs to a furious 8,400rpm, with maximum torque of 448lb ft at 5,600rpm. Not surprising, then, that at close to double the UK's legal limit the 599 feels as though it's just getting into its stride.

Choose manual and paddle-shift your way through the F1-style electro-hydraulically operated, six-speed gearbox and you'll have found the 599 GTB's sweet spot. Ferrari's twelve-cylinder engine is a fabulous piece of engineering: mechanically refined, it pulls cleanly from idle to the red line with astonishing verve. Floor the throttle pedal and you'll experience its 612bhp war-cry — a gloriously raw battle-song evocative of mounted warriors charging to glory and beyond; the accompanying acceleration is shockingly, breathtakingly brutal.

In a car this rapid — it scorches to 125mph from standstill in 11 seconds — you need information and you need it immediately if you are going to drive it in the manner in which is was designed to be driven. Happily, the 599's excellent driving position, practical all-round visibility and cohesive controls do a lot to ensure the driver is always aware of what's going on around him.

Overtaking on everyday roads at normal speeds between 30mph and 70mph needs an iron will if you intend keeping your licence because you don't need to press very hard on the accelerator to get the 599 moving at twice the speed of the other traffic. Adding to the 599's rocket-like fluency are super-fast gear changes that scarcely interrupt the power delivery. Mostly you hear, rather than feel them; the change in the exhaust note marking the shift.

Reassuringly, when you need to shed speed, the brilliant carbon-ceramic discs have the power to — almost literally — take your breath away as they haul you down. Time after time. Forget 'no fear'; here you have no fade. Body control under hard braking is, as you'd expect, predictable, with no hint of weave, dip or dive. There's also good progressive weighting to the pedal, made better by Ferrari's attention to detail that even extends to positioning the substantial alloy brake pedal perfectly in line with the driver's right leg.

“The further — and
harder — you drive the
vice-free 599
the more you
keep coming back
to the realisation of just
how civilised this
explosively quick and
pliant supercar is
...”
The further — and harder — you drive the vice-free 599 the more you keep coming back to the realisation of just how civilised this explosively quick and pliant supercar is.
Drive amiably and it will indulge you, pottering along in 20mph zones without a hint of impatience.

Then, when you crave an utterly involving, adrenaline-rich drive, it will serve one up — seasoned with mighty grip and razor sharp agility. Back off, and it will cruise motorways at an easy 100mph [where legal, of course — Ed] quietly enough to allow relaxed conversation or unspoilt listening to whatever's playing on the Bose hi-fi — in our case, The Parlotones and Leonard Cohen. Cabin insulation is very good and, unless you're really going for it, engine and exhaust sounds are never intrusive.

Other likeable everyday features include easy three-point turns (even down country lanes); an accommodating boot with 320 litres of luggage space; and the fact that the 599 actually fits neatly into a standard Sainsbury's parking bay — with room to spare all round! Be prepared for the usual admiration society because Ferraris always enjoy basking in the glow of the attention they get — all positive and smile-inducing comments!

This Ferrari really is a supercar for the mere mortal. Admittedly, you do have to come up with getting on for a quarter of a million pounds to buy one in the first place; but you don't need to have the skills of an F1 pilot to drive the 599 — or to get maximum enjoyment from driving it. When a million dollars was actually worth something, you could have said that driving the 599 made you feel like a million dollars. A more accurate statement would be to say that, while it doesn't actually have magical powers, a Ferrari 599 GTB will certainly waft you away to Cloud Nine. —
MotorBar

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano F1
| £197,405
Maximum speed: 205+mph | 0-62mph: 3.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 13.5mpg
Power: 612bhp | Torque: 448lb ft | CO2 490g/km