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Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano HGTE review (2009 onwards model)
Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano HGTEWhere – Maranello, ItalyPrice - £207,194Available – now Key rivals – Aston Martin DBS, Bentley Continental GT Supersports, Mercedes-Benz 65 AMG, McLaren Mercedes SLR
Ferrari has freshened its 205mph 599 GTB with an optional £13,960 handling pack to woo the keener driver and given it some minor styling touches including race-style three-piece split rim wheels.
Likes: breath-taking performance, nimbler improve-as-you-drive handling, stunning looks, luxury cabin, sensational sound approaching full power Dislikes: I can’t afford one, no spare wheel despite country covering ability, complex engineering, still thirsty despite 16% improvement
Pedestrian-halting looks as you deserve for a £200,000 plus car with a 620bhp six-litre engine derived directly from the mighty Enzo under its long, sweeping bonnet. Big 20-inch diameter wheels, revealing dinner-plate size brakes, hint at the Formula One technology Ferrari has transferred into this car for a unique driving experience that actually looks something of a bargain compared to £325,000 for a Merc McLaren.Blistering oh-my-gosh straight-line acceleration with 0-125mph in 11 seconds unchanged apart from a faster (85 milliseconds) gear change via the steering column mounted paddles when in sport mode. The eagle-eyed may notice a different front grille, polished rather than chrome Ferrari badge and more carbon fibre in the cabin, though you can have more leather if you prefer.
The white face (instead of red or yellow) for the rev counter looks great and there's a lovely embroidered Prancing Horse logo on the seat back but the words 'Handling GTE' look a bit vulgar.Fiddly four-point seatbelts are optional. Exhaust pipes are now a two-tone colour and the rear under-bumper diffuser which uses air rushing under it to suck the car on to the road at high speed is now black. The handling pack lowers the car by 10mm and though they are the same pattern the Pirelli P Zero tyres are a new, stickier compound.
One thing is for sure, you won't get out of a 599 and think it needs more power. The V12 engine can rev to 8,400rpm but maximum thrust arrives long before that; max torque is 448 lb ft at 5,600rpm.Acceleration from rest to 62mph takes just 3.7 seconds using the stomach wrenching launch control system so the scenery starts to blur in moments such is the violence unleashed. New software has sharpened the engine response and at UK speed limits it would be like trying to hold back a Saturn 5 rocket.LEDs in the top of the steering wheel illuminate in rapid succession in F1 style when the next gear is needed. The accompanying sound, deeper than before, is like angry rolling thunder and even better from outside the car.
Ride and handling
Stiffer front (17%) and rear (15%) springs combined with thicker anti-roll bars and new settings for the ultra-fast responding magneto-rheological suspension make the 599 feel more responsive and agile despite a hefty kerb weight of 1,690kg.Turn into corners is noticeably sharper and you can create more g-force through corners. Braking also feels more stable. Even so, round Ferrari's Fiorano test track in the hands of a top race driver it's only 0.6 seconds quicker than the base car, so good is the original machine.Ferrari reckons the car can generate 8% more sideways force and with power going only to the rear wheels you can sense better if it starts to slide than usual with four-wheel drive which tends to suddenly let go.
Pulling on the down paddle the gearbox will now produce multiple changes, say from fourth to second gear, at one pull.You can build up quite a lot of body roll on the road but on the track the systems sense you are turning the steering wheel faster and stiffen the suspension more quickly.A Manettino switch on the steering wheel lets the driver select different degrees of driver assistance (and throttle response) depending on road conditions and driver skill level (hopefully improving). There is even one for ice! Sport is for dry, open roads while Race, meant for tracks, lets a skilled driver slide the car more and speeds up the gear change. CST turns off the stability and traction systems so you can test your Schumacher ability though the brakes still have anti-lock. Flicking from sport mode to race the car automatically now goes to the best gear for the road speed, usually one gear down. It's only in Race, and then on badly surfaced roads, that the ride gets too harsh.
Interior and equipment
Only when you drive a real thoroughbred car like a Ferrari do you realise how gimmicky and gadget laden modern cars have become and how far away from the sheer dynamic pleasure of driving.Yes, the car is luxuriously appointed and beautifully trimmed, the electrically adjustable seats in the handling GT evolution model in leather and Alcantara to hold the driver better, and there's a fabulous set of leather luggage for the price of a small hatchback to make the most of the reasonably sized boot and cabin load area underneath the rear window.True, a full-size satellite navigation screen, like in the new California, would be better than the dismal radio-based system even though there's also an instrument panel readout. But you don't get multiple gloveboxes for junk, noise generating sunroofs, trick folding seats, hideous 'Big Gulp' cupholders or instrument head-up displays you usually can't read in bright sunlight.Equally there's no radar cruise control for drivers who can't be bothered to concentrate, reversing cameras for people who can't park or the masses of proximity warning systems Volvo drivers need to keep them awake and alive.
Economy and safety
There had to be some bad news and this is it. Though overall fuel consumption has improved to 15.7mpg (from 13.2mpg) filling the 23-gallon tank is still going to hurt and 415g/km CO2 emissions means £400 a year road tax.Driven sensibly the 599 GTB is an incredibly safe car for avoiding a self-induced accident with amazing braking ability. Grip from the rear wheels is staggering but then before this car the F1-Trac system was only available to Ferrari Grand Prix drivers.There is a full complement of airbags. The car has not been Euro NCAP tested but there's a lot more solid engine between you and an impact than in a family hatch.
The MSN Cars verdict: 5/5
The Ferrari 599 is now even more of a driver's car with virtually no deterioration in ride comfort and the added bonus iof being more economical. Value for money is near impossible to equate at these prices but you are buying a masterpiece. It is amazing to think a front-engined car could be faster round Ferrari's track than the F40 - but it is.
Engine petrol6.0-litre V12Engines diesel612Power hp612Torque lb ft4480-62mph secs3.7Top speed mph205Mpg combined15.7CO2/Tax415/35
Performance*****Ride and handling*****Interior****Safety****Price**Practicality****Fuel economy**MSN Cars verdict*****
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