As a piece of automotive engineering, the Ferrari 599 is biblically, stratospherically, crushingly brilliant.
Even at normal speeds on normal roads you know that you’re in a thoroughbred. You can hear it working. You know that if by some miracle you are presented with a piece of road which is wide and open and free from Rovers and speed cameras, it would deliver a hammer blow big enough to knock down the doors of Fort Knox.
The interior is a typically beautiful blend of hide and style; as classically Italian as Sophia Loren’s sunglasses.
Ferrari has designed the 599 to be a comfortable long-distance cruiser. They have thought hard about making it a usable everyday car, It’s also got all sorts of Formula One-style buttons on the bottom and then, along the top, a series of red lights that come on to tell you when to change gear.
It accelerates with a savagery and rides on its tall tyres with composure that’s almost diplomatic in its smoothness. And believe me on this: it looks a trillion times better in the flesh than it does in the pictures.
Hugely fast with sensational acceleration; enormous grip with foolproof, friendly handling and fine feedback; looks terrific and sounds even better; good ride and great usability.
With lowered suspension, 21″ rear and 20″ front wheels and super sound exhaust system; be amazed by its desire to leap off the dyno, and the extra power demonstrably extracted from fresh rubber.
Let some numbers set the scene. Maximum speed over 205mph. 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds, 0-124mph in 11 seconds, standing-start kilometre in under 20 seconds. The V12 engine, derived from the Enzo Ferrari’s, delivers 620bhp – 40bhp down on the Enzo’s figure but who’s complaining? – and can rev to a manic 8,400rpm.
Oh, and CO2 emissions are 490g/km – so no cheap road tax for the 599 GTB Fiorano, then.
The 599 replaces the 575 Maranello. It weighs 50kg less thanks to its aluminium chassis and body (made by Scaglietti, like those of the F430 and 612) and it features terrific new technology, some of which has filtered down from Formula One.
Specifically, it has F1-Trac (a new traction and stability system), F1-Superfast (a yet-quicker gearshift system in the F1 paddle-shift gearbox) and magneto-rheological suspension dampers. These contain a fluid which becomes more viscous if a magnetic field is applied around the damper. Result: near-instantly-reacting adaptive dampers with no moving parts. Taken together, these three technologies make for a stunningly satisfying drive.
Other technical stuff? That drive experience is helped by placing 53% of the weight over the rear wheels, achieved by setting the engine well back in the chassis with the gearbox, in usual Ferrari front-engine style, mounted at the back and linked to the engine by a rigid tube. A twin-plate clutch reduces rotational inertia which helps those ultra-speedy gearshifts, and a dry-sump engine lubrication system lets the engine sit very low in the chassis. All four camshafts have variable valve timing and are driven by a single chain instead of the belt used in the 575 Maranello engine.