As we roll closer to 2022, it will mark the 75th anniversary when the first Ferrari motor car rolled off the production line at Maranello, with the ‘Prancing Horse’ adorning the hood. In those intervening years, this most famous of all carmakers has produced some of the best, fastest and most exciting automobiles ever to have careened around a track or sped along a road.
With such renowned models as the F40, Enzo, 250 GTO, Testarossa, 308 GTB & the Daytona, they have filled motoring history with fine examples of automotive engineering and performance. So for any one model to stand out amongst such illustrious stablemates would be quite an achievement. But, as the millennium rolled over into the 21st Century, the Maranello carmaker produced one of the best cars they had ever made – the Ferrari 599.
This Italian grand tourer would break records for Ferrari. At the time, it was the most powerful series production vehicle they had ever made and one of the later editions would be their fastest ever car. Considering the legacy of high performance sports cars that Ferrari had already produced, this was a daunting prospect to their lineup.
This grand tourer would only be in production for six years (the last models rolling off production in 2012), but in that short time it would become a legend for Ferrari and for the motoring world, as a whole.
It is my pleasure to finally be reviewing the bigger brother of Maserati. After having already reviewed so many Maserati’s ranging from the Granturismo to even those created in association with Ferrari such as the Maserati MC12, it couldn’t get any better than this, starting the Ferrari content with my all time favorite Ferrari. Now, let us take a closer look at this electrifying vehicle in this Ferrari 599 review.
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Big Shoes to Fill
Its first unveiling occurred at the Geneva Motor Show, in February 2006, and it was scheduled to replace another grand tourer with a strong reputation – the 575M Maranello. When Ferrari name a vehicle after their own home town, it must come with a lot of expectation. This Ferrari GT had come out in 2002 and had been a revised version of the acclaimed 550 Maranello. Both were well respected cars in their own right and were lightning quick.
So, 2007 saw the release of the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. The name was made up of some specific references to highlight its pedigree. The number referred to its engine size of 6.0 liters (5,999 cc) and the letters standing for Grand Turismo Berlinetta. The last word, Fiorano is the Italian name of Ferrari’s private race track. While the previous GT referenced their factory, this new edition was named after the track where all Ferrari’s (F1 included) are tested for speed. It would seem the Maranello carmaker had bigger expectations for the 599 Ferrari.
Prancing Horse Power
Ferrari would look to the Ferrari Enzo for inspiration to power the new Ferrari 599. This 6.0 liter V12 drivetrain produced an enormous 612 bhp at 7,600 rpm (though its redline was marked at 8,400 rpm) and 448 lb-ft of torque at 5,600 rpm. This would make it the company’s most powerful series production car ever and this was one of the few cars to exceed 100 bhp per liter of displacement without the use of a turbocharger.
Its acceleration and speed was blistering as it made 0-60 mph in only 3.7 seconds (as well as 0-100 mph 11.1 seconds) and hitting a top speed of 205 mph.
From great power comes great noise. The sonorous engine note of the V12 is a deeply satisfying growl that sits under the hood and exploding through the back of the tailpipes.
Utilizing their expertise as well as research and development from their Scuderia Ferrari team, many of the “toys” they put in the racing cars would spill over to their road models. The Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano would have the ‘F1 Superfast’ six-speed automated manual transmission installed. The paddle shift only controls were up to their name, as gear changes were achieved in 100 milliseconds.
While most of the models produced had this system, they did produce 30 Ferrari 599 manual models that were fitted with a traditional 6-speed manual gearbox. But this would be the last V12 Ferrari that ever did have one. Other F1 refinements included the ‘F1 Trac’ traction control system that debuted on the 599 Ferrari.
Built for Speed
There would be other breakthrough technology that debuted on the car. For the first time for a Ferrari GT, they replaced the tubular steel chassis with one made from aluminum. Thus reducing the load and helping to keep the overall weight down to 3,700 lbs.
Aerodynamics were carefully designed above and below the Ferrari 599 GTB. An underbody spoiler and venturi tunnels were added to increase downforce. While the C pillars were hollowed out (and resembled flying buttresses) which enabled air to be funneled through them to aid in the downforce and to negate the use of a rear wing. These features were claimed to produce 353 lbs of downforce at 186 mph.
Suspension system was also high grade as the Maranello carmaker used a magnetorheological semi-active damper as well as its suspension coils. This allowed the suspension to be instantly altered for varying driving modes. This was achieved by applying a magnetic field to the liquid inside the damper reservoir. This would change its viscosity and make the ride softer or firmer.
The Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano came with a standard option of cast iron brakes though the more advanced carbon-ceramic brakes pads were an option.
The Ferrari 599 interior is a fine balance of luxury cabin and racing preparedness. All surfaces are clothed in the finest leather and carbon fiber with some aluminum accents to offset the look.
The electrically adjustable bucket seats are perfectly designed to hold the body tight in the seat and there is a nice leather passenger grip, beside the center console (a subtle clue as to what lies ahead for the unwary). Driver’s seat is positioned a little to the center to enhance the driving experience. Controls and display are simple but elegantly portrayed. Two analogue dials for the speedometer and rev counter with a small computer screen displaying all the other attributes the driver needs to be aware of.
Located on the sports steering wheel were various controls and buttons. Similar to F1 setups, the start button is on one side of the wheel while the ‘Manettino’ dial, that controls the drive modes, is on the other.
Some simple and basic buttons and dials are laid across the dash and down the console. Climate control is functional by dials only and, under a discreet flap, the radio is located.
Anyone looking around the interior trying to find a big sat nav touch screen and media player system won’t find one here, there’s just a basic radio hidden neatly behind a flap in the center of the dash, directly above the climate control knobs. The Ferrari 599 interior is focused first and foremost on the driving experience.
Driving reviews, at the time, were clearly unanimous in their opinion: the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano was a scintillating piece of machinery. The power of the acceleration was breathtaking and only equaled by the V12 roar that accompanied it.
Handling and steering were instant and assured. Straight line speed or attacking corners were accomplished with precision and confidence. Shift changes at high speed were lightning quick and matched well with the revs while the braking was controlled.
Their only quibbles would be that, under slow conditions the automated manual transmission doesn’t adjust well and can be delayed and quite jerky. Depending on your road conditions, some of the drive modes may need to be avoided to ensure a smoother ride.
At the Geneva Motor Show, in March 2009, a revision of this Prancing Horse was unveiled, the Ferrari 599 HGTE. The new lettering stood for Handling Gran Turismo Evoluzione and that was what it was built for (at a significantly higher cost than the 599 Ferrari). This revised model was all about superior handling though this would be better realized on a private track than on open roads.
The vehicle’s height was lowered by 10 mm which improved its center of gravity. New compound tires were fitted to increase grip. While the chassis and suspension have been adjusted too, with redesigned anti-roll bar, stiffer springs and the magnetorheological suspension has been adapted more for the sportier settings on the Manettino dial.
Other revisions included faster shift changes at the sportier settings (down to just 85 milliseconds), newer engine software improved the drivetrain response. While the engine exhaust note was intensified during more aggressive motoring.
Interiors were upgraded with more attention to the quality and amount of trim in carbon fiber and leather while larger 20 inch alloy wheels finished off the package.
Race Track Demon
But this was not the only car that was shown in Geneva. The Maranello carmaker unveiled their racing edition of the same car known as the Ferrari 599XX. This was to take an extremely powerful and fast sports car and take it to the next level – like an F1 racing car with a glove compartment.
The engineers main focus was on improved weight and downforce. Every alteration to the exterior body shape, whether above or below, would enhance the level of downforce created. The results were stunning. At 124 mph the car generated 617 lbs of downforce and this jumped up to 1,389 lbs of downforce at 186 mph. Engine and crankshaft material were redesigned with lighter material to remove as much excess weight as possible.
The six-speed automated transmission was re-tuned to ensure gear changes occurred in a mere 60 milliseconds while the Manettino dial had nine different traction and stability modes. The same engine was used from the 599 Ferrari had its rev limit pushed up to 9,000 rpm where it achieved 720 bhp.
The speed of the Ferrari 599XX was daunting, as it made 0-62 mph in only 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 196 mph (315 km/h) (though the speed is limited to its redline). The interior was stripped down to its essential parts. The dashboard is all in LCD detail after the analogue dials had been replaced while the only creature comfort left was the climate control. For its racing requirements, a roll-cage and lexan sliding windows were fitted.
The following year, it was announced that, while racing around the circuit of the Nürburgring, they had broken the lap record which made it the fastest production-derived sports car to do that. As this was a very specialized edition to Ferrari, only 29 models were made of the high-speed racing car. Although, actually, there was a 30th model, but that was given to Michael Schumacher, the world renowned F1 racing driver.
Race Track Demon’s Big Brother
If the awesome power of the Ferrari 599xx wasn’t enough, they decided to take it one stage further. At the 2011 Bologna Motor Show, the Ferrari 599xx Evoluzione was unveiled. The Maranello engineers would take the original track monster and devise restyling and upgrades for the aerodynamics, electronics and the exhaust as well as putting Pirelli racing slicks on the wheels. Though the Ferrari 599xx Evo top speed was still set at 196 mph (315 km/h).
They managed to squeeze a little extra out of the Ferrari V12 engine to give it 740 bhp and 516 lb-ft of torque. But the real advantage to this Ferrari 599xx Evo racing car was the introduction of DRS to the rear wing. The Drag Reduction System controlled whether the wing was raised up or not (open or closed). This allowed the car to either boost its speed or downforce depending on race track conditions.
The Ferrari 599xx Evo is a fully fledged racing car and, if the lucky owner does not have his own pit crew to back it up, Ferrari will supply their own pit crew for support on the day the car is on the track.
The allure to transpose the ferocious racing machine into a road legal grand tourer was just too much for the Maranello factory. So, in 2010, the Ferrari 599 GTO was announced. For those who know the history of the Prancing Horse, this was a very special declaration. The letters stand for Gran Turismo Omologato, which directly translates to ‘approved’ in Italian and is the officially certified Gran Turismo Homologated version of the Ferrari 599.
This was a rare moniker for one of their cars. In the 60+ years of producing high performance cars, only two other vehicles have ever been given the GTO badge. In the 1960’s there was the 250 GTO and in the 1980’s there was the 288 GTO (based on the 308 GTB).
The 6.0 liter V12 engine produced 661 bhp at 8,250 rpm and 457 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm. All this extreme power would see the car make 0-62 mph in under 3.3 seconds and hitting a lightning quick top speed of 208 mph. At the time, this was the fastest ever road car.
Other aspects of the racing model that was incorporated here, was the same multiple shift program for the transmission and the exhaust system. As befitting the model, there were 599 units constructed of the Ferrari 599 GTO.
Such is the motoring opulence of Ferrari that they have the capacity to indulge their motoring dreams (and their drivers’ fantasies) that they could look at the Ferrari GTO and think, “Let’s make a convertible”. But this was also tied to celebrate a key partnership that had lasted for over half a century. The Ferrari 599 SA Aperta would be a very elite model.
The Italian word means open but the letters stood for the first names of two very important people, in the eyes of Ferrari. Sergio and Andrea Pininfarina were the father and son who represented the family run business of the most famous Italian automotive design house. Pininfarina had been in existence since 1930 and, to commemorate the 80th anniversary, Ferrari would produce 80 models of the Ferrari 599 SA Aperta.
The open top Ferrari used the same high performance engine and gearbox of the GTO and was given a sportier feel by lowering the ride height of the vehicle by 10 mm as well as the anti-roll bar was thickened and the magnetic dampers were recalibrated.
Specs of the engine’s performance were impressive: 661 bhp at 8,250 rpm and 457 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm that allowed it to complete 0-62 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 202 mph.
High Price to Pay
For such an elite and exclusive range of automobiles, the price of these collectors’ items would be just as rarified.
For the basic model, the Ferrari 599 price began at US$326,000 while the HGTE pushed the price up 30K to $356,000. If that is a bit too cheap then the Ferrari 599 GTO may be more to your liking at a price of $410,000.
To take this to the next level you’d need to get yourself into a Ferrari 599xx. The race track edition would be priced at $1,500,000 while the Ferrari 599xx Evo price would come in at a cool $2,000,000.
In six short years, the Ferrari 599 would turn the Maranello carmaker’s reputation on its head. An automobile that set new levels of performance for the Prancing Horse. With their most powerful and fastest vehicles, setup with some of their latest F1 technology, ensured this car would go down in Ferrari and motoring history.