Throughout its long history Ferrari’s mission has largely been to win races, and then apply its technical expertise to building exotic sports cars for well-heeled clientele. Each car was a statement about Ferrari’s capability at the time.
The company made another emphatic statement at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show with the premiere of its flagship model, the 599GTB Fiorano. The front engine V12 sports car was intended to do nothing less than advance the state of the art in a manner that was unmistakably Ferrari.
Drawing on its lineage of classic front-engine V12 Ferrari Gran Turismos of the 1960s as well as its immediate predecessors, the 550 Maranello and 575M V12, the 599GTB did so on many fronts. The advancements are apparent in its aerodynamics, engine, transmission and drivetrain, engine, brakes and suspension.
Its design was based on an aluminum spaceframe derived from that of the four seat 612 Scaglietti. Ferrari had been developing aluminum forming and joining technologies for years, showing glimpses of what was to come with the 408 RM testbed of 1987, then gradually transitioning its volume production models to this type of construction.
The 599GTB’s chassis consists mostly of extrusions bonded, bolted or welded to cast nodules and body panels. Further, forged aluminum double wishbone suspension and wheels all around contributed to an overall weight of about 3,800 lbs., a reduction of some 88 lb. (40 kg) compared with the 575M. It came standard with 19” diameter wheels in front and 20” wheels at the rear.
The heart of the 599GTB is a DOHC 65 degree 6.0 liter V12 derived from the mill found in the Ferrari Enzo. At the time of its launch the 599GTB’s output of 611 hp and 448 lb-ft of torque made it the second most powerful Ferrari road car ever produced.
By placing the engine well back in the chassis and the transmission in the rear, weight distribution is a surprising 47/53 front/rear. Use of a dry sump lubrication system allowed it to be mounted lower in the chassis, while a twin disc clutch reduced the disc diameter, permitting lower placement of the transmission in the car as well.
Most left the factory with the F1-Superfast paddle shift system which, depending on mode, can change gear in six speed transmission in as little as 100 milliseconds – and function in fully automatic mode. The remaining cars were equipped with traditional manual transmissions with gated shifters.
Specially designed soft compound Pirelli P Zero tires with a tread wear rating of 60, about one eighth of that of regular tires were standard. The pairing of “super soft” tires with the “SuperFast” transmission and more than 600 hp through the rear wheels means there’s no telling which will need servicing first. But you can be sure that with frequent aggressive launches something soon will!
Vented and drilled cast iron brake discs (13.9” front, 12.9” rear) will rapidly bring things to a halt should the need arise any of the aforementioned items. An $18,000 package of larger ceramic disc brakes and 20” wheels all-around was also available, lest one needed to stop even faster. A standard monitoring system tracks both tire pressure and temperature.
Electronically controlled magneto rheological (MR) shocks allow rapid adjustment of suspension stiffness on the fly, improving stability, handling and ride. Delphi supplied these MagneRide shocks to both Ferrari and GM for the Corvette and some Cadillac models. But each company developed their own algorithms, Ferrari integrating them with its Formula One derived predictive stability control system, F1-Trac.
Inside the sense of occasion is heightened by the inclusion of a steering wheel featuring a start button, shift paddles, a strip of five shiftlights and a “Manettino” dial switch to adjust chassis and differential settings. A set of drilled aluminum pedals round out the leather and carbon fiber trimmed interior. For those still wondering, an on-board lap timer makes the purpose of the car abundantly clear.
Performance, of course, is several notches ahead of previous models. It even eclipses that of the seemingly more performance oriented F430. Ferrari claimed zero to 60 mph times of 3.7 seconds and top speed of 205 mph, with a drag coefficient of 0.336 and downforce of 420 lbs. at terminal velocity. Numerous road tests indicated skidpad cornering capability of about 0.95g and braking from 60 mph to a stop in about 110 feet.
Its 2007 EPA fuel economy is an I’ll-drink-for-two 10/14 city/highway mpg, somehow rising to 11/15 city/highway mpg in subsequent model years. But does it matter when the initial list price was about $255,000, climbing to well over $400,000 for special editions during its production cycle?
Consistent with Ferrari’s approach to specials, the company launched two variants for 2008, the 599GTE (Gran Turismo Evoluzione) and the track-only 599XX (why not 599XXX?).
The 599GTE was a $30,000 option package that included 20” wheels all around, stiffer shocks, springs and rear anti-roll bar, a slightly lower ride height and a host of software refinements. Those changes resulted in faster throttle and steering response, and gear changes in as little as 85 milliseconds. It takes about 300 to 400 milliseconds to blink.
A notable interior change was the installation of carbon fiber seat shells. List price for the 599GTE could top $350,000.
Meanwhile, the 599XX was designed only for track use. Revisions to the combustion chambers and an increase in redline from 8,400 to 9,000 rpm raised output to about 710 hp – nearly 100 hp more than stock.
Equipped with an “Actiflow” system featuring trunk mounted extraction fans and a special diffuser, its downforce and drag characteristics can be altered depending on how it’s cornering. Special brake disc shrouds enhance cooling and reduced drag on the carbon ceramic brake package, while carbon pads enable the use of smaller calipers.
Without the need for basic creature comforts and equipment for regulatory compliance with street use, the 599XX shed about 500 lbs. No word on price but it’s quite possible no one on the waiting list to buy one ever asked.
Later the 599GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato) was released. This was essentially a street going version of the 599XX, packing some 661 hp. It was by that point the most powerful roadgoing Ferrari ever. In addition to the extra 50 hp and, not unlike the Stradale treatment given to the F430, the 599GTO received lighter body panels, glass, seats, exhaust, transmission and brakes. Prices began at more than $425,000 and only 599 units were produced. Naturally they were all sold out.
Several other variants such as the 599XX EVO and 599 SA Aperta were also produced in very limited quantities before production ceased altogether in 2012 to make way for a replacement model: The Ferrari F12berlinetta.