There's no such thing as global warming. The ice caps are melting because of the obscene heat emitted by the Enzo engine inside the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano HGTE. We kid you not. Two days into our test period with the car, the ludicrous heat radiating from this bonkers V12 engine caused the licence plate to melt off. Seriously.
That extreme heat is a consequence of extreme power. The engine, named after the company's founder, produces a mammoth 620bhp. This helps the 599 accelerate from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds, and rampage all the way up to a maximum speed of 205mph. Numbers don't do it justice -- the car is so fast that we got the feeling it could speed around the circumference of the planet and crash into the back of itself.
It's not all brute force though. The 599 also utilises some technological wizardry that, on the surface, sounds like something out of a science-fiction novel. Its suspension system isn't made of springs, for a start. It's constructed of magnetorheological fluid -- a liquid that becomes a solid when subjected to a magnetic field.
That allows the 599's suspension characteristics to change in real-time. Drive Miss Daisy along a bumpy road and the suspension material maintains a liquid-like viscosity, softening the ride. Throw the car into a fast corner and an electric current is applied to the fluid. This solidifies the material in an instant, firming up the suspension so the 599 corners with increased stability. It works rather like the liquid-metal T-1000 Terminator, except it
can't won't is less likely to kill you.
Despite its fabulous straight-line speed, the 599's forte is its ability to navigate twisty roads, particularly if it has the HGTE (Handling Gran Turismo Evoluzione) upgrade. This package, which can be specified with a new 599 or retrofitted to older models, costs an extra £13,960. It lowers the car by 10mm, stiffens its springs by 17 per cent at the front and 15 per cent at the rear, reduces the time it takes to change gear from 100ms to 85ms, and remaps the magnetorheological damping system to more aggressively reduce roll. It makes the engine note more aggressive, too. It's no exaggeration to say the exhaust note is filthier than a box of smashed kittens. Actually, that is an exaggeration, but it really does sound murderously good.
Nearly £14,000 for zero extra power and a few, apparently minor, tweaks smacks of greed on Ferrari's part, but believe us when we say it's worth every penny. Sure, you could use that money to buy, say, an entire Ford Fiesta, but you'd be missing out on the fun. The HGTE-equipped package makes the car feel so planted to the ground that you'd really have to be a rubbish driver or Cristiano Ronaldo to wreck it.
The 599 is a big, heavy car, but it doesn't act like one because there's not a jot of understeer -- point it at a corner and it'll find its way to the exit like a heat-seeking missile finds a fat man jogging in leather. Anyone who wants to experiment with Top Gear-style power sliding is catered for, too. The steering wheel contains a manettino ('little lever' in Italian) which allows the driver to gradually reduce the level of traction control.
Enter a corner too quickly in normal mode, and the power will be reduced before you enter a spin. Enter the same corner at the same speed in the sport or race modes, and the tail will kick out slightly, giving you a taste of what it feels like to go sideways before the computer reduces the power and applies the brakes to whichever wheel needs it, safely getting you back in line.
Once the 599 has taught you when and how it'll lose traction, you'll want to go it alone by switching the traction control off completely. Without the electronic aids, you'll need to apply just the right amount of opposite lock and throttle to keep the car from spinning. Get it wrong, and it'll kill you, but get it right and the 599 goes from fabulous teacher to wonderful student.
Ferrari is very good at using technology to help its cars defy the laws of physics, but it's not so great at providing the simple things, like a decent sat-nav, a half-decent stereo system or a speedometer that you can see and read.
The 599's speedometer, located on the far right of the instrument binnacle, is barely legible, giving you a great excuse when the police inevitably catch you doing 195mph in a 20mph zone. Its stereo, supplied by Bose, delivers very unbalanced audio. There's just the right amount of bass, but so much treble that your ears will bleed if you crank it up to 11. Listening to it is like standing next to a subwoofer at a Prodigy gig with Mariah Carey screaming directly in your left ear.
Neither of these flaws is quite as annoying as the sat-nav system squeezed into a 89mm (3.5-inch) multi-function display on the instrument binnacle. It doesn't have any maps installed for starters -- it offers turn-based guidance that merely tells you when next to make a left, right or 'half right' -- whatever that is. Luckily, the 599 has a rather large windscreen onto which you can attach a TomTom, and there's space -- just -- behind the seats for a paper map.
Minor cabin-tech gripes aside, the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano HGTE is a wonderful car. It's not perfect: petrol costs about a fiver for every 500 yards driven, and the £230,000 price tag on our test car might be better spent on something like a house or putting the kids through university. But none of these reasons is sufficient to stop us wanting to buy one, because the 599 really is a biblically wonderful piece of automotive engineering. We love it, and so will you.
Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano HGTE stats
- Model tested: Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano HGTE
- Top speed: 205mph
- Acceleration: 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds
- Max power: 620bhp
- Economy: 15.7mpg (combined cycle)
- Price: £207,000 (starting price)