Cult Cars Road Tests

Cult Cars 11: Ferrari 599

Time 7:33 pm, February 11, 2009

ferrari_599HOW could you fail to be seduced by Ferrari’s most powerful road car? Driven by, of course, a howling V12 engine?

Sadly, if EU legislators have their way, the V12’s days are numbered – which could well make the 599 GTB Fiorano the last of a great line.

With a 6.0-litre V12 hurtling 612bhp to the rear wheels, short of grunt it is not. 0-60mph takes 3.7 seconds – and this is a big, 1,700kg car, remember – plus it will go on to top 200mph. It really is unbelievably fast. Where did Ferrari find this magnificent engine? Why, in the back of an Enzo. Here, barely modified, it’s dropped into the front of the 599.

Purists will take the six-speed manual, with its classic exposed chrome gate. This will allow them to mimic the cad in a 1960s action flick. Most, however, prefer to copy Massa and Raikkonen, by going for the paddle-shift F1 ‘box.

Either is mated to Ferrari’s blinding traction control system, called F1-Trac. No less than Michael Schumacher himself tuned this. How good is it? Well, it allows a half-decent driver to lap within a second of the meister himself.

And when we say lap, we mean lap Ferrari’s Fiorano test circuit. Hence the name of the car. The GTB bit refers to Grand Tourer Berlinetta. Yes, this is a luxury GT cruiser, with long legs and high miles as its forte.

Special suspension has trick dampers, which help supply a ride supple beyond its means. If you can afford the monstrous fuel bills (14mpg, anyone?), this really is a delectable high-speed tourer.


But Ferraris are Ferraris. And thus, most often seen on race tracks. Here’s the genius of the 599 – for, while it’s huge and heavy, it’s also unbelievably lithe through the bends. It boasts exceptional handling for one so mammoth, with turn-in, sensitivity and balance to die for.

You master it all from a cockpit that you could live in. Few countries do leather as well as the Italians; few carmakers have nailed it like Ferrari. It’s everywhere, and altogether decadent no matter what colour you choose.

And while there are electronic displays to monitor the health of the big V12, there are also enough chrome-ringed analogue dials to take you right back in time.

Speaking of going back in time, it’s worth pointing out that this car is probably as good as it is because its predecessor was such a disappointment. After the similarly sublime 550 (famously piloted by Martin Brundle on ITV F1), the 575M replacement was a bit of a dog’s dinner. We Press didn’t hesitate to ask what on earth was going on.

Clearly, the same thing happened back at Ferrari. Cue one multiple World Champion, putting in the hours around the test track with the engineers… well, if you’ve got him on your payroll, why not?

In short, the 599 GTB is a supercar you’ll never tire of. Technically, it’s not billed as a supercar, of course. But just you try to deny the magnificent Ferrari isn’t the equal of, say, a McLaren F1. The company truly did achieve miracles when it brought this to market in 2006. Question is, how long can it remain?



Ferrari 599

Price: £223,255

Engine: 6.0-litre, V12

Power: 612bhp, 608Nm

0-60mph: 3.7s

Max: 205mph

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James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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