What's New for 2011
A higher-performance GTO version dawns for 2011.
The 2011 Ferrari 599 seats only two people, achieves only 11 mpg in the city, has a dinky trunk and is stuck with woefully behind-the-times in-car electronics. Plus -- brace yourself for this one -- there's not even a cupholder. And with that we conclude the practicality-minded portion of our consumer advice program. If you care about any of the above, the Ferrari 599 clearly isn't the best way to spend your $300,000.
If, however, the above reads like a series of "blahs" upon "yada yadas," then you'll be interested to know that the 599 remains the pinnacle of the Ferrari lineup. It starts with the engine. Be it in GTB Fiorano guise or the new-for-2011 GTO, the 599's 6.0-liter V12 still blares its way to an 8,400 rpm redline with an intoxicating scream that must be heard in all its glory to be fully appreciated. The acceleration that accompanies that scream punches you into your seat with a fitting amount of brutality.
Around corners, the 599's superb handling belies its near-2-ton curb weight. Credit for this impressive talent goes to the sophisticated suspension with its Magna Ride active dampers that firm up in milliseconds in response to aggressive cornering, yet ease off for relaxed interstate cruising. It's this dual-natured performance that's a bit surprising, as Ferraris have seldom been considered comfortable enough for a good road trip (that's what an Aston Martin or Bentley is for).
If we were to nitpick, the GTB's steering could be sharper, especially at higher speeds. That's taken care of, however, in the 2011 Ferrari 599 GTO. Not only is the steering quicker and more communicative, but also the general handling balance has been improved and the entire car sharpened to be a more hard-core driving machine thanks to increased horsepower and reduced weight. Plus, since it, too, has Magna Ride dampers, the GTO maintains a reasonably civilized ride. Sure, it costs $90,000 more than the GTB Fiorano, but we suspect that will matter little to the prospective buyer.
Of course, there are other grand ways to spend one's portfolio. The Ferrari 458 Italia is utterly brilliant even if it doesn't come with the cachet of being Ferrari's most expensive, V12-powered GT halo car. Should you actually care about those practical gripes we mentioned above, Ferrari's new FF takes care of some of them -- just don't hold your breath about fuel economy.
Beyond those supercars wearing the prancing horse emblem, the Lamborghini Aventador brings an entirely different degree of drama -- both in terms of visuals and driving experience. The Aston Martin DBS and Lexus LFA are similar to the 599 in a number of (admittedly divergent) ways, but go about their business in manners more indicative of their native lands. For that quintessentially Italian passion, however, no GT car can top the 2011 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and 2011 Ferrari 599 GTO.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Ferrari 599 is a two-seat coupe available in two trim levels: GTB Fiorano and the higher-performance GTO. Standard equipment on the GTB includes 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels shod in performance tires, xenon headlights, an adaptive suspension system, carbon-ceramic brakes, rear parking sensors, automatic dual-zone climate control, power seats, leather upholstery and interior trim, a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a navigation system and an eight-speaker Becker sound system with a CD player.
The optional HGTE package (Handling Gran Turismo Evoluzione) specifies stiffer springs and a stiffer rear antiroll bar along with revised damper calibration, a lower ride height, a unique high-performance tire compound, quicker shifts from the single-clutch automated manual transmission, more immediate throttle response and a throatier exhaust note. HGTE also adds unique exterior and interior styling cues.
The GTO gains more power, enhanced suspension and steering, 20-inch wheels all around, a different transmission calibration, different exterior details, a carbon-fiber racing wheel with integrated LED shift lights (optional on GTB) and manually adjustable carbon-fiber racing seats. It lacks the standard rear parking sensors and navigation system, but both are optional. The standard full leather interior is swapped out for a lighter-weight combination of leather, faux suede and tech fabric.
Options on both models include different wheel designs, a space-saver spare tire, run-flat tires, front and rear parking sensors, tinted rear windows, fully powered Recaro sport seats, an iPod interface, a six-CD changer and a premium audio system. There is also a wealth of customization options, including innumerable exterior paint and interior leather color choices, extended interior leather trim, different leather seat finishes (GTB only), cross-stitching and two carbon-fiber interior trim packages. The GTO gets two-tone exterior paint schemes, additional sport seat choices and optional interior surfaces in multiple color choices of faux suede and/or leather.
Powertrains and Performance
Both 2011 Ferrari 599 models are rear-wheel drive and powered by a 6.0-liter V12. The GTB Fiorano version produces 612 horsepower and 448 pound-feet of torque. A traditional six-speed manual transmission is standard and a single-clutch six-speed automated manual transmission is an optional. Ferrari says the GTB Fiorano will go from zero to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 3.7 seconds. Fuel economy (as if you could possibly care) is 11 mpg city/15 mpg highway and 12 mpg combined.
The 599 GTO produces 671 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. The automated manual is standard, but upgraded for improved performance. Ferrari says it'll hit 62 mph in 3.4 seconds.
Carbon-ceramic antilock disc brakes, stability control and traction control are standard. Notably, side and side curtain airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special Features
Unlike supercars of old, the 2011 Ferrari 599 offers much more than a cramped cockpit with minimal accoutrements. The well-shaped seats are finished in premium hides, or in the case of the GTO, a rich combination of leather, faux suede and a specially designed tech fabric. Aluminum and available carbon-fiber accents enrich the ambience further, while buyers can customize their 599 with two-tone color choices, contrasting stitching and different seat designs.
The car's many interactive systems (such as stability control, suspension settings and F1 gearbox response) can be adjusted via a knob on the steering wheel called the manettino -- Italian for "little manager." If you're looking for the latest infotainment electronics features, however, the 599 is behind the times. The navigation system offers a tiny, antiquated screen and there's no HD or satellite radio available. Still, do you really need 180 commercial-free channels when you have 612 raging horses screaming just a few feet in front of you?
In addition to predictably brutal acceleration, the 2011 Ferrari 599 provides a soundtrack to savor. The unmistakable shriek of the V12 under hard acceleration changes to a guttural hum at part throttle and nearly disappears at high cruising speeds, where wind noise is practically the only indication of pace. The F1 gearbox provides instantaneous gearchanges that no human could hope to match with the standard six-speed manual (GTB only), but its single-clutch design prevents it from being as tractable in low-speed traffic as the dual-clutch unit found in the Ferrari 458 Italia. A lack of a hill holder feature could also make the clutch awfully smelly and smoky when repeatedly starting from a stop on a hill. (We wouldn't recommend driving around San Francisco.)
In tight corners, the Ferrari 599 GTB remains composed and poised, without a hint of body roll or squealing tires. The adaptive suspension damping works miracles on nearly any surface, swallowing bumps without drama while keeping the car planted in all situations. It's hard to imagine improvement here, but the Ferrari 599 GTO is indeed an even more incredible driver's car. The steering is quicker and provides more immediate feedback, the transmission is even more reactive and the car is even more balanced and less likely to understeer than the GTB. This is a car that excels on a racetrack, yet thanks to those adaptive dampers, its on-road ride is surprisingly comfortable. If there is to be a major detractor, it would be the 599's size. This is a larger car than the brilliant Ferrari 458 Italia, and it feels it.