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620 wild Italian stallions under our control. Image by Ferrari.

620 wild Italian stallions under our control
Twelve Ferrari 599 GTB Fioranos are parked in a horseshoe formation in the courtyard outside Enzo's house. And I've got the keys to one of them.

   



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Twelve Ferrari 599 GTB Fioranos are parked in a horseshoe formation in the courtyard outside Enzo's house. And I've got the keys to one of them. Anxious to get the most out of the limited time in the car I'm among the first to start the 6-litre 12-cylinder engine. After a momentary whir of the starter when pressing the steering wheel mounted start button, the engine fires, the revs rising before settling and idling with beguiling intent.

Aside from a few minor changes it's the very same engine that powers the Ferrari Enzo, and its evil, track-only FXX twin. It's slightly less powerful with 'only' 620bhp in comparison to the Enzo's 660bhp, but really, who's counting? Revving to a heady 8400rpm its peak torque of 448lb.ft is delivered at 5600rpm, making the 599 GTB an easy day-to-day proposition. Assuming, of course, you need a daily-driver that'll reach 62mph in just 3.7 seconds and double that in just 11... With a long road and a wanton disregard for legality it'll top 205mph.

The all-aluminium body's shape, like all recent Ferraris is a combination of stylist's pen and wind tunnel honing. It's a beautiful looking car; its low, long bonnet and wings punctured to release the heat of its mighty engine. The flying buttresses, which are a nice visual detail also help channel air over the rear to increase downforce, while the flat underside sucks the 599 GTB Fiorano onto the road. The result is that the 599 remains highly stable even well into three figure speeds, with wind noise only really becoming intrusive around double our legal motorway limit.

With its new flagship Ferrari's goals were simple: to build a car that thrills like its F40 did. That's messing with supercar royalty, the F40 still held in a dewy-eyed reverence that its successors, the Ferrari F50 and Enzo, will never be able to muster among enthusiasts. But it was a brute of a car, a limited-run special that was severely compromised in its pursuit of its bombastic performance. In comparison the 599 GTB replaces the hugely successful 550/575M Maranello series cars, Ferraris that brought real civility to the marque.

So in the new Ferrari 599 I'm sat in a beautifully finished interior of leather and carbon fibre; this is no pared-to-the-bones racer. The chunky leather wheel feels good in my hands, the sports seats supportive and nicely bolstered to hold the driver in place. And I need them, as I've just turned off the Autostrada and am heading for the hills.

Dialling up 'Race' on the Manettino I work the paddle shifts of the six-speed F1-SuperFast behind the wheel hard. The lights on the steering wheel register my need to shift, though the glorious metallic scream of the V12 (reminiscent of an '80s F1 car) and enormous pace give the game away more effectively. Pull that right paddle and 599's transmission needs only 100 milliseconds to slam in the next cog. You can smooth the shift easily by lifting momentarily, but there's something very satisfying about the way it thumps home your gearshifts with a jerk when you don't bother. Blipping the throttle on downshifts, it's Ferrari's fastest system outside F1. It's hugely effective, being the first paddle shift I've driven that I've not walked away from wishing for a conventional 'box and a clutch, though it could do with longer paddles. If you're not convinced, Ferrari will build your 599 with that famous open gate and a big alloy gearknob.

Now onto the SS62 from Fornovo di Taro to Bercet; fittingly it's the very same road that Enzo Ferrari competed in his first road race. It's a challenging, meandering ribbon of tarmac climbing upwards and punctuated by tiny villages, where houses precariously teeter on the edge of the narrow, badly surfaced road. A great hot hatch road then, but not perhaps the best environment for a 620bhp supercar - even one as obviously accomplished as the 599.

But the Fiorano easily shrugs off the challenge, with poise that's almost beyond comprehension. The road might be narrow, heavily cambered and lumpy, but the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano manages the challenging surface as if it's a smooth track surface. It'll cross cambers when shaving a corner at speed without the anticipated bucking and float you'd expect as its weight shifts, communicating to you its limits all the time. The main reason for this is Ferrari's new 'SCM' Magnetorheological dampers. They grace the big 599 with remarkable body control, constantly adjusting to keep everything in check. Roll, pitch and dive are virtually eliminated, amazingly without overly compromising the ride.

Like so much of the 599 GTB, the SCM dampers are controlled by the Manettino dial on the wheel. There are several modes to choose from: low grip for wet or wintery conditions, Sport, Race and ASR off. Every setting alters the F1-Trac and CST traction and stability systems, the SCM damping and F1-SuperFast transmission settings, resulting in differing levels of driver control. ASR off is for the brave or insanely talented, while Sport is suggested as the default setting on the road, balancing ride, gearshift speed and offering a relatively low threshold for slip from the electronics. But it's Race that I've currently got selected, as it allows you so much control but with a large safety net in the background.

This mode really lets me explore the Fiorano's talents. Lighter than its 575M predecessor, with more weight positioned between the axles and a 47:53 ratio weight split front to rear compared with the 575M's 50:50, the 599 is remarkably wieldy given its size. There's no slack in the steering; any movement made at the wheel resulting in instantaneous response at the wheels. For a front-engined car it's amazingly precise and communicative too, though a bit more weight at the wheel would improve it even more. The same criticism can be made of the brakes. Optionally specified with Ferrari's ceramic-carbon discs there's no doubting their enormous bite and resistance to fade, it's just the pedal feel is lacking in the first few millimetres of movement.

A few times those brakes catch me out, resulting in a firmer, lengthier prod than anticipated being necessary to scrub off the speed that the 599 so easily achieves. Even so unsettled on entry to a corner the 599 will turn in and take any corner on without any regard to its severity. It remains beautifully neutral through even the tightest of hairpin bends, though impressive as that is it's more fun to use its power to help steer it. In Race mode it's easy to break traction and upset its neutral stance, giving you the chance to complete corners with a degree of opposite lock on. But it's all so natural, so easy and progressive that it's easy to forget you're driving something so powerful and expensive.

Easy as it is to do so what's mighty impressive is that the Fiorano is so rounded at all speeds. It's a cinch in traffic, amazing on tortuous country roads, refined on the motorway and, as a few laps around its namesake circuit revealed, an incredibly able track car. Better than the F40? I'll settle on different, but if you want your performance in a package you can actually use, then absolutely. Indeed, consider it not a competitor for the F40 and instead as a cut-price Enzo at around 170,000. It really is that good.

Kyle Fortune - 16 May 2006



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2006 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano specifications:
Price: Approx. 170,000 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Top speed: 205mph
Combined economy: 13.3mpg
Emissions: 490g/km
Kerb weight: 1235kg

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.



2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 

2006 Ferrari 599 GTB. Image by Ferrari.
 






 

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