IntroductionThe 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.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and OptionsThe 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.
Powertrains and PerformanceThe 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.
SafetyAntilock disc brakes, stability control and traction control are standard. Notably, side and side curtain airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special FeaturesUnlike 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."
Driving ImpressionsIn 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.