Thursday 17 December 2009

Ferrari 599

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2010 Ferrari 599XX
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Good, now that they’ve left, let’s get serious about a very, very serious sports car.

You know those super expensive kitchen knives that leave a scar if you just look at them? – The kind that are weighted, balanced and honed in ancient ways associated with ancient weaponry.

Strip away the simply stunning Pininfarina coachwork, the simply ridiculous top speed and 0 to 100km/h stats (330 km/h and 3.7 seconds respectively), and the simply rock star sticker price of at least $350 thousand, and the Ferrari 599 GTB is simply like one of those knives.

An instrument of uncompromised beauty and ability in steady, competent, experienced hands; a deadly implement that without utmost attention 100 per cent of the time will leave something more indelible (and expensive) than a mere flesh wound.

Where to begin.

For me, it began a couple of Thursdays ago when I accepted an invitation from Ferrari Maserati of Vancouver to take out a 599 GTB that was in town as part of a North American press tour. (Those now asking themselves what the point is of getting some West Coast daily newspaper to review a car that a tiny per cent of the population can afford, or want, please re-read the spoiler alert above.)

The first thing that strikes you about the 599 GTB when standing beside it is that unlike its stable mate, the Ferrari 430, the Grand Tourer Berlinetta seems much more like a civilized road car. No deep knee bends or hip contortions are required to fold yourself into the seat, and once you’re strapped in you don’t get the visual cues and low-slung sensation that with a push of the 430 steering-wheel mounted start button the ultimate video game ride is about to begin.

Sit in a 430 and you expect to be able to take it to the outer limits of earthbound travel, what with its mid-engine V8 booming mere inches from your ears and its laid-back driver position making a drive to the corner store for milk feel like a rip down the Muslanne straight.

Sit in the 599, and while it feels like a sports car — no rear seats and a driver-oriented cockpit — you don’t get the feeling you’re in one of the quickest production cars on the planet. But you are.

The 430’s top speed of 315 km/h is almost pedestrian compared to the 599’s, and the Gran Tourismo’s comfortable driving position and overall ergonomics make the prospect of a drive to Vegas for the weekend possible without a month of chiropractic appointments to follow. In the 430, a drive across town can be a strain. Plus you can fit luggage and a set of clubs in the 599’s trunk; in the 430, you’re lucky to find space for your laptop.

To be fair, the 599 has four more cylinders than the 430, and also an exterior skin that picks up many of the styling cues from the hands-down most desirable Gran Tourer ever built — the Ferrari 250GTO.

The 599 I drove was also equipped with a $30,000 option like none other. The Handling Gran Tourismo Evoluzione (HGTE) package, according to Ferrari press notes, “includes a modified set-up with stiffer springs and rear anti-roll bar as well as new calibration settings for the magnetorheological shock absorbers when the manettino is at its sportier settings.” (And here you though 30 grand didn’t buy anything anymore.)

Translated, that would be, “Holy %$&*, this thing can corner!”

To take that earlier cooking knife analogy to a final, perhaps overdue, point, mishandle the sharp end of the 599 and the expletives will fly.

One slipped — more like erupted — out of my mouth while exiting a switch back up Cypress Road in West Vancouver, though that magnetorheological thing saved me, and more importantly, the 599.

Forget TGIF. It’s HGTE for me now.

And Santa, if you’re reading this, I love it in red.


2009 Ferrari 599 GTB

Style: Grand Touring berlinetta, front engine, rear-wheel drive

Seats: Two

Engine: 6.0-litre V12 (620 hp)

Transmission: Six-speed manual or F1 sequential

Fuel economy (L/100km): Combined: 21.3

Price: US$320,000

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