2009 Ferrari 599 Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
With its free-revving V12 and racecar-like cornering capabilities, the 2009 Ferrari 599 GTB can match the world's best exotics for performance. Yet it also boasts a luxurious cabin and a reasonably supple ride.
The V12-powered 2009 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano is the automotive equivalent of flying first class: It's astoundingly expensive, but it's so much better than the norm that it almost seems worth it. This sinuously styled two-seat supercar outperforms the legendary Ferrari F40, yet it also provides the compliant ride and rich appointments of a grand touring coupe. Yes, you could buy five BMW M3s for the same $300,000-plus price, but that's not the point. The 599 GTB is pure automotive excellence, and those privileged enough to experience its first-class virtues will have a very hard time going back to coach.
Styled by longtime Ferrari aesthetician Pininfarina, the 599 bears a clear resemblance to the four-seat 612 Scaglietti in front, but the rest of the car is a better-looking blend of rising haunches, flying-buttress roof pillars and purposeful air intakes and extractors. We still don't think the 599 deserves a place in Ferrari's pantheon of classically beautiful sports cars, but its aura is unmistakably exotic. Underneath, the 599 shares the 612 Scaglietti's platform architecture -- not a bad choice as organ donors go.
Thanks to its mellifluous 612-horsepower V12, the 3,722-pound 599 GTB Fiorano can sprint from zero to 62 mph in a claimed 3.7 seconds, en route to a top speed in excess of 200 mph. The sophisticated suspension features magnetic dampers that firm up in milliseconds in response to aggressive cornering, yet ease off for relaxed interstate cruising, allowing the 599 GTB to serve up thrills and comfort as needed. New for 2009 is the Handling Gran Turismo Evoluzione (HGTE) package, which tacks on a variety of suspension and other performance upgrades as well as some sporty aesthetic touches. We weren't aware that the 599 GTB Fiorano needed help in the handling department, but extremists who found last year's model soft should be pleased by this development.
Naturally, the 599 GTB Fiorano doesn't come cheap. And previously, it also didn't come easy, either, with waiting lists rumored to be months (if not years) long. The recent world recession has taken care of the waiting lists, we suspect, leaving the issue of having $300,000 or so to spend on an exotic as the sole barrier. Of course, there are other exotics one could consider, too, from the striking Aston Martin DBS to the thundering Lamborghini Murciélago. Yet, for those able to purchase such a car, you're not going to do any better than Ferrari's 599 GTB Fiorano.
2009 Ferrari 599 models
The 2009 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano is a two-seat coupe available in one trim level. Standard equipment includes xenon headlights, 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels wearing 245/40 front and 305/35 rear performance tires, an adaptive suspension system with magnetic dampers, leather upholstery and interior trim, automatic dual-zone climate control, power front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel and an eight-speaker Becker CD/MP3 audio system.
The optional Handling Gran Turismo Evoluzione (HGTE) package specifies stiffer springs and a beefed-up rear antiroll bar along with revised shock-absorber calibration, a lower ride height, a unique high-performance tire compound, quicker shifts from the F1 automated-clutch manual gearbox, more immediate throttle response and a throatier exhaust note. HGTE also adds unique exterior and interior styling cues.
Optional features include front and rear park assist, a six-CD changer, a navigation system, heated front seats, carbon-fiber interior accents, a space-saver spare tire kit, run-flat tires, carbon-ceramic racing brakes and a six-piece fitted leather luggage set. Those seeking further distinction may request special interior and exterior colors.
Performance & mpg
The 599 GTB Fiorano's 6.0-liter V12 sends a colossal 612 hp and 448 pound-feet of torque to the rear tires via either a traditional six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed "F1" transmission. The F1 is an automated-clutch manual transmission with a single clutch, allowing drivers to choose between automatic and manual modes, the latter being controlled by shift paddles mounted on the steering column. Ferrari claims the 599 Fiorano is capable of hitting 60 mph in less than 3.7 seconds and running up to a top speed of around 205 mph.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control and traction control are standard. Notably, side and side curtain airbags are not available.
In addition to predictably brutal acceleration -- that's what 612 hp will do for you -- the 599 GTB 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, but its single-clutch design prevents it from being as smooth as the newer dual-clutch units.
In tight corners, the 599 GTB remains so flat and composed that the usual indicators of fast-approaching limits, such as body roll and tire squeal, are absent. It's hard to imagine improvement here, but the HGTE package does sharpen the 599's character a touch. On the downside, the 599's steering leaves a bit to be desired -- it's too light at higher speeds, where reassuring heft is desirable. The steering ratio also seems a touch slow for an exotic sports car, as tight cornering requires more hand movement than we'd expect. The adaptive suspension damping works miracles on nearly any surface, swallowing bumps without drama while keeping the car planted in all situations.
Unlike supercars of old, the 2009 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano offers much more than a cramped cockpit with minimal accoutrements. The well-shaped seats are finished in premium hides, while aluminum accents enrich the ambience. Buyers can even choose a carbon-fiber steering wheel with integrated LEDs that move in lockstep with engine revs. 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."
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Ferrari guys are an intensely loyal lot, but fickle, too. They're intensely loyal to the brand, but their current car is soon forgotten when a newer, faster, redder model appears. So while the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano is arguably the best GT car you can buy, there is a certain amount of enthusiasm for something new.
The 2009 Ferrari 599 HGTE is meant to remind us that Ferrari invented red. It's a car with the sports car toughness that has set these cars apart since Enzo first set up shop on a little hill outside Modena, where he had long had an Alfa Romeo dealership.
So while the 2009 Ferrari 599 HGTE is a little bit like one of those special option packages meant to hype sales, it actually has a bit more red in its character than we've seen from Ferrari of late.
Only Pennies More per Month!
Let's start with the name. This is the 2009 Ferrari 599 HGTE, where "H" stands for handling, "GT" stands for Gran Turismo (grand touring) and "E" stands for Evoluzione (evolution). So what we have here is an evolutionary version of the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano that represents a handling improvement.
Ferrari is keen to point out that the HGTE package isn't a hard-core, track-focused makeover like the 430 Scuderia. It's also not much more expensive than the standard 599 GTB for a start, some $23,500, which is far less than the price premium that you pay for a 430 Scuderia over an F430.
The 599's magnificent 5,999cc DOHC V12, derived from the Ferrari Enzo's V12 designed by former Formula 1 engine guru Jean-Jacques His, is largely unchanged, rated at 612 horsepower at 7,600 rpm and 448 pound-feet of torque at 5,600 rpm. This engine received some useful yet largely unsung changes in 2008, featuring reduced frictional losses and improved engine management that have cut fuel consumption by 15 percent and reduced carbon-dioxide emissions on the European driving cycle by 15 percent.
So what do you get with the awkwardly named Handling Grand Turismo Evoluzione? It's mainly a suspension package, with a few driveline and styling tweaks thrown in. Ferrari wants the 599 to feel a little sharper, only without compromising its credentials as a GT.
To someone who doesn't own a supercar, the idea of handing over the price of a new Mustang for a slightly different suspension setup and some new trim will seem absurd. But since the average buyer of a V12-powered Ferrari typically spends almost exactly the same amount personalizing the color and trim of his car, the HGTE package makes a lot of sense, since it ought to make the 2009 Ferrari 599 better to drive.
You'll notice the new, five-spoke 20-inch wheels, which save a total of 11 pounds. The front wheels are a half inch wider to improve steering response and grip from the front tires. The Pirelli P Zero tires remain the same size as before, 245/45ZR20s in front and 305/35ZR20s in the rear, but the rubber compound is slightly stickier for more cornering grip. To work the tires a little harder in the corners, there's an extra half degree of negative camber as well.
The springs are somewhat stiffer, 17 percent at the front and 15 percent at the rear, and the magnetorheological dampers (American-developed technology, it's worth remembering) have been tuned to reduce roll and pitch. The ride height has been reduced fractionally by 0.4 inch and the rear antiroll bar is fractionally stiffer to maintain the same overall handling balance even with the increased grip from the front tires.
It's not all about the tires, though, as the F1-SuperFast automated manual transmission incorporates a few changes. This unit with its single clutch disc can now change gear in 85 milliseconds instead of 100 milliseconds. It will downshift automatically when you select Sport or Race mode on the manettino control knob mounted on the steering wheel, and it will perform multiple downshifts if you pull and hang onto the left-hand shift paddle on the steering wheel. The V12 sings with a little louder voice as well, thanks to some fiddling with the volume of the exhaust system.
Just so you know that you've spent some money on a very special version of the 2009 Ferrari 599, the cavallino rampante (prancing horse) on the bodywork is made from brushed aluminum, the rear aero diffuser is black and the brake calipers can be had in any of five colors. You're also alerted to the HGTE's identity by the white face of the tachometer, carbon-fiber interior trim and carbon-fiber sport seats with a "Handling HGTE" logo stitched into the suede upholstery. You can also tell people that a new three-layer process is responsible for the radiance of the red paint.
Driving a Red Car
Ferrari claims that the changes to the 599 HGTE produce an 8 percent increase in cornering grip, which translates to a lap time at the Fiorano test track that's 0.6 second quicker. But unless you're a test-driver, you might struggle to tell the difference.
On the road, turn-in and front-end grip both seem slightly improved, but there isn't much wrong with the way the standard 599 slices into bends anyway. That wide, flat, aluminum hood stretched out in front of you and the knowledge that there's a big V12 beneath it both tell you to expect understeer, but the 599 corners like a Lotus Elise and the HGTE package just raises the threshold a little higher. Really, you would need to be driving like a complete moron to find the limits of the HGTE's front-end adhesion on a public road.
When the car is set in Sport mode -- the default setting -- the 599's ride remains unruffled despite the stiffer springs, and there's still a noticeable amount of body roll, although it seems more progressive and controlled than before. In Race mode, the body roll is more tightly contained but it's just too stiff over poor surfaces, jolting the occupants and disrupting the flow of torque to tarmac; save it for the circuit. And when you're in Race mode the gearchanges border on the savage, while the hard, metallic howl of the Ferrari V12 is perhaps 10 percent angrier without being entirely antisocial.
A Real Ferrari
The abilities of the standard 2009 Ferrari 599 GTB are so great that it's hard to approach its limits on the public road, and so -- other than the greater immediacy of the turn-in and slight deterioration in ride quality -- it's even harder to discern the impact of the HGTE package.
The difference is more noticeable on the track. You spend more time around the redline at 8,400 rpm where you can enjoy that new exhaust note. Also you can make more full-throttle gearchanges with all five redline-warning lights illuminated; the novelty of changing gear in less than a tenth of a second never seems to wear off. Moreover, the luxury of disengaging the stability control without fearing for your life lets you exploit the greater composure of the 2009 Ferrari 599 HGTE. It now feels far less like a slightly out-of-place GT car, turning in with impassive directness, cornering flatter and pushing into controlled oversteer without an awkward lurch.
But how many prospective 599 owners will really drive this way? Not many, we suspect, but that won't stop at least 40 percent of them (Ferrari's estimate) from ticking the box on the order sheet and paying the money for the ultimate version of Ferrari's best-ever GT car.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2009 Ferrari 599 Overview
The Used 2009 Ferrari 599 is offered in the following submodels: 599 Coupe. Available styles include GTB Fiorano F1 2dr Coupe (6.0L 12cyl 6AM), and GTB Fiorano 2dr Coupe (6.0L 12cyl 6M). The Used 2009 Ferrari 599 comes with rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed automated manual, 6-speed manual.
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Should I lease or buy a 2009 Ferrari 599?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.