First Drive:  2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano luxury cars first drives ferrari
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Review and photos by Laurance Yap

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Maranello, Italy – The new Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano has parking sensors and a navigation system with a big colour screen. It has as many speakers (11) for its Bose sound system as it does air intakes. It has headlight washers and power seats that not only have heat, but also power-adjustable side bolsters and lumbar supports.

The 599 is bigger than its predecessor, the 575 Maranello, with more trunk space (240 litres) and more fuel capacity (105 litres) for greater range; its cabin is roomier, more comfortable and better equipped. And its suspension features magnetic ride control technology first used by Cadillac, of all companies.

Is this a Ferrari (a $300,000-plus Ferrari, no less) gone soft?

Not if you hear the engine. Displacing six litres, the front-mounted 65-degree V12 in the 599 shares more with the Ferrari Enzo hypercar than it does with the outgoing 575.

Its power peak is an astonishing 620 horsepower, and its 448 lb.-ft. torque figure is equally impressive. Thanks to its lightweight construction, using lessons learned from Ferrari’s successful F1 program, the engine revs to 8,400 r.p.m. and has a pure, aggressive sound – just like a Ferrari V12 should.

Powertrain chief Jean-Jacques His credits a combination of refinements made to the engine’s acoustical signature as well as work on the entire car to reduce mechanical noise for the 599′s sound. In any case, it’s spectacular.

It’s not soft in the performance department either. With a claimed 3.7-second 0-to-100 km/h time, the 599 is a blisteringly fast car, with slingshot acceleration pretty much no matter what gear you’re in, or how fast you’re already going. Top speed is more than 330 km/h.

First Drive:  2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano luxury cars first drives ferrari
Click image to enlarge

The hardcore attitude continues through to the fastest F1 paddle-shift gearbox that Ferrari’s ever offered in a series production car. Thanks to lower-weight components, including a twin-plate clutch and much more powerful computers governing the interaction between the V12 and the gearbox, the improved F1 system (called F1 Superfast, with typical subtlety) can execute and complete gearshifts in 100 milliseconds – half the time taken by the more-expensive 612 Scaglietti and only 50 milliseconds more than it takes a Formula 1 car to do the same.

The new transmission software actually allows the clutch and gearshift to operate simultaneously, whereas it would once push the clutch in, change gears and release the clutch one step at a time.

First Drive:  2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano luxury cars first drives ferrari
Click image to enlarge

Unlike other car manufacturers that often use their ties with F1 for marketing benefit more than anything else, Ferrari is determined that its road cars offer drivers a taste of the technology that Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa have in their race cars.

In fact, the 599′s traction control system, dubbed F1 Trac, uses the same operating logic and software as the F1 cars to manipulate the brakes and throttle in low-traction situations (which happen a lot, when you have 620 horses going to the rear wheels). The result is simply amazing: despite the two-seat Ferrari’s massive power and torque, you can barely feel the traction control working even when you’re fully on the gas out of a corner: there’s none of the stuttering or hesitation you feel with most traction or stability control systems and the car’s javelin-like forward motion seems barely impeded at all.

Indeed, Ferrari claims that around corners, F1 Trac is so sophisticated that it allows drivers to generate 20 per cent more lateral grip than they would have with a typical traction-control system – and only fractionally less than what an expert race driver would be able to achieve without help.

First Drive:  2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano luxury cars first drives ferrari
Click image to enlarge

In a car of the 599′s capability – it rolls on 19-inch Pirellis in front and 20-inchers in the rear and the all-independent suspension keeps it absolutely glued to the ground – this is a major leap and one that expands the car’s extensive performance envelope even further.

Ironically, it’s partly due to a technology partnership with Delphi – which supplies similar hardware to Cadillac and Chevrolet – that the 599 handles so well in corners. Its dampers are filled with fluid whose viscosity can be altered – in a mere 10 milliseconds – by an electromagnet mounted at each corner, allowing the car to constantly adjust and balance itself in a corner to minimize roll, dive and squat. When driving quickly, you can feel the car constantly adjusting its attitude in corners, levelling itself out and compensating for weight transfer.

First Drive:  2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano luxury cars first drives ferrari
Click image to enlarge

Though the technical principles of the Ferrari system are the same as you’d find in, say, a Cadillac XLR, the software is completely different and calibrated for much more aggressive driving. It prioritizes stability and cornering posture far more than ride quality, though the smoothness with which it cruises the freeway is one of the 599′s major surprises.

If there’s one criticism that can be levelled against the 599, it’s that it is so capable it can feel a bit synthetic. The steering has video game-like speed and not that much feel. And the brakes – standard steel ones or optional carbon-ceramic units with eight-piston calipers – are hugely powerful, yet the pedal is curiously light and you only get feel through the pedal when you’re hard on them.

First Drive:  2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano luxury cars first drives ferrari
Click image to enlarge

The car is, however, incredibly balanced. Its weight distribution is actually 47 per cent front/53 per cent rear, giving it handling that’s more characteristic of a mid-engined sports car than one with a V12 in front of you.
The rear end will only step out if you explicitly ask it to and even then, only if you’ve dialled the F1-style manettino rotary selector on the steering wheel past its normal mode and into ‘sport’ or ‘race’ which progressively relaxes the traction control, speeds up gearshifts, alters the suspension’s reactions and makes the throttle response more aggressive.

First seen on the F430, the manettino is actually a useful piece of gadgetry and tames the 599 down enough in its least aggressive mode to the point where the 620-hp coupe would be easy to drive along a slick stretch of winding road.

Even though it’s outwardly bereft of wings, the 599 uses a lot of F1-inspired aerodynamic trickery to keep it firmly in contact with the road. Vents in the top of the hood actually channel air through the front intake and help hold the front end down. There are underbody venturi ducts that improve downforce the faster you go. And the flying buttresses – a styling element of many Ferraris of the past – are actually functional, channelling air at high speeds around the back window and over the small spoiler lip. At 300 km/h, the buttresses actually add 50 kg of downforce to what the rest of the car is already generating.

First Drive:  2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano luxury cars first drives ferrari
Click image to enlarge

Like all recent Ferraris, the 599′s styling is executed by Pininfarina in close co-operation with the engineering team, who carefully honed its shape in the wind tunnel. While I wasn’t very impressed with the shape when the first photos were released, it’s an interesting and dramatic shape on the road – one which has other road user’s heads spinning.

The body and structure are all-aluminum and despite its extra size, the 599 is actually 20 kg lighter than the 575. It also concentrates 85 per cent of its mass within its longer wheelbase. The aluminum structure is not only lighter but it’s stiffer than steel which improves both refinement and performance. ‘Refinement’ because a stiffer body is actually quieter and ‘performance’ because it allows engineers to more precisely tune the suspension – and that further improves refinement because the suspension doesn’t have to be overly stiff to compensate for a wobbly body.

Ferrari would like you to think of the 599 as two cars in one, which is not as ridiculous as it sounds. When not in ‘sport’, ‘race’, or ‘CST off’ (which shuts off all electronic assists), the 599 is actually quite comfortable, with wide leather seats that remain comfortable over long drives, great sightlines to the front, sides and even rear, and a fully-equipped cabin.

First Drive:  2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano luxury cars first drives ferrari
Click image to enlarge

The standard Bose stereo rocks, the driving position is widely and easily adjustable and the large-screen display built into the left side of the instrument cluster allows you to access everything from an easy-to-use navigation system to on-board data for tire pressures and temperatures, a lap timer and other electronic data logging features. Ferrari claims the 599 has the best ergonomics of any car it’s ever produced.

If any of that makes the 599 seem somehow watered-down and less extreme than a Ferrari should be, perish the thought. This is as extreme a front-engined, two-seat coupe as you can buy – a whole order of magnitude more focused as a driver’s car compared to the 575 that it replaces and more overtly sporting and faster than just about any other similarly-configured car on the market.

In other words, it’s still a Ferrari through and through – from its carbon-fibre dash trim to the gorgeous styling to the F1 technology that permeates every centimetre of its being. It just throws in a bunch of other stuff too. Which is helpful, given its impressive cost and likely even-more-impressive rarity.


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