The Good: Everything.
The Bad: Eleven miles per gallon. Oh, and you can’t have one.
The Verdict: It will be mine. Oh, yes – it will be mine.
You have to be a certain age to appreciate a car like the Ferrari 599. Oh, not just because even the smartest, most dedicated of us will have to work decades before our salaries approach the realm necessary to afford this car. There’s another reason.
You have to know what sex feels like.
You don’t drive this car. You dance with it. You love it, romance it along the roads, building to a crechendo in each gear. You merge together, man and machine combining into something bold, beautiful and heroic. It makes you feel like a god.
The Ferrari flows along mountain roads like liquid mercury, blasting along at speeds that astoundingly fast and incredibly controlled at the same time. Colors seem brighter, sounds seem sharper as the Ferrari’s V-12 races through its range with orgasmic fury. This isn’t a car, you realize. This is a state of mind.
Of course, when you’re paying at least $318,045 for a car, you’d hope for a pretty transcendent experience – and not just in terms of how it handles the road. You want that baby to be perfect, inside and out. Thankfully for Ferrari (and for humankind), the 599 pulls it off. Inside, anything not covered in contrasting cowskin is made out of carbon fiber. If you’re worried about damaging the leather, you may want to invest in some gloves, because the urge to touch everything in sight is hard to fight. You’ll be hard-pressed to find leather smoother or softer in any wallet.
But it’s more than just the quality of the interior that makes this car a gleeful place to wile away the miles – it’s the styling, too. Vents jut out of the center console like afterburner nozzles on an F-15. Every control falls directly to hand, importance dictating proximity to where the driver’s hands should be. Shift paddles? Right at 9 and 3, an inch away from your index finger. The button which drops the car’s sequential manual gearbox into automatic mode lies down where the cupholders would be in a lesser automobile, far enough away to make you think twice about pushing it. And the radio lies concealed beneath a retractable plate, out of sight and mind. Press the plate, and it slides up like Iron Man’s mask – but like that mask, any millionaires planning on on taking their new toy out for a spin would be better served keeping it closed.
Of course, no review of the 599 could be complete without mention of the marvelous manettino, the small red switch on the lower right of the steering wheel. While it might look like the sort of device used to launch missiles against Tupolev Tu-160 bombers, it in fact controls an arsenal of on-board electronic systems, from how fast the transmission swaps gears to the stiffness of the suspension. Five settings are available (although Nigel Tufnel’s car goes up to 11); turn it all the way to the left, and your Ferrari is ready for driving on icy roads (ha!), whereas turning it all the way to the right disengages everything traction control, stability control and everything short of the power steering to give you the full Han Solo experience. I kept the dial in the middle position – “sport” – the whole time, and I expect most people will do the same.
As for the car’s exterior, there’s been plenty of discussion in the automotive world as to whether the 599 is as pretty as it could be, with some going as far as to call it “ugly.” While it may not be the prettiest car on the road, it certainly has presence, and anyone who’s seen it in the flesh and still calls it “ugly” could probably use a vision check or a whack upside the head.
Then again, it’s probably wise to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the car’s appearance – they’ll have to be pretty quick to catch a good look at it, given its performance figures. In their September 2008 issue, Car and Driver ran a Ferrari 599 GTB from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds, and blazed the car through the quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at 131 mph. (Interestingly, C/D mentioned in the article they thought Ferrari might have slipped the 650-horsepower engine from the Ferrari Enzo under the hood of the test car in place of the 599’s specified 612-horsepower V-12, but considering every other test of the 599 – including an earlier one by C/D – displayed similar acceleration figures, it seems more likely to me that the folks at Maranello are simply understating the power figures on the 599’s 6.0 liter engine out of respect for the Enzo.)
Of course, power corrupts, and in the Ferrari’s case, the atmosphere ends up getting the bad end of the stick; the EPA rates the 599 at 11 miles per gallon in the city and 15 on the highway. This may be a little optimistic; Car and Driver managed to eke out only 9 miles per gallon in their comparison, and a recent test by British TV show Top Gear found the Ferrari capable of only 1.7 miles per gallon during a five-car track race. (You can see footage of the latter here.)
But in the end, it doesn’t matter whether the 599’s engine makes 612, 620 or 650 horsepower. Even for the folks who forked over enough money to buy a nice house and waited two years for their car, the numbers are, in the end, beside the point. The point of the Ferrari 599 is that it is, right here and now, the evolutionary peak of the automobile. No other car synthesizes state-of-the art technology with raw emotion to such magnificent effect. Should you ever find yourself tripping over a thirty-pound gold nugget and wondering what to do with it, I’ve got a damn good suggestion for you.