Any new Ferrari, if done right, must be willing to be hated by some. And so here we have a fresh-look, chiseled alpha male for the 21st century, called 599 GTB Fiorano.
Don't even get me started on the long dry gulch where there should have been a river of decent front-mid V12 two-seater Ferraris. The last one that really cooked? The '73 365 GTB/4 Daytona.
1973?!But, look at dis muzzah. F137. She makes some purists at all levels whine and gripe, therefore I love her automatically. The 599's exterior designer at Pininfarina, Jason Castriota (an American, praise be!) confirms, "This is the type of Ferrari configuration that Enzo Ferrari always liked best. We think he'd appreciate the risks taken to move people's preconceptions a little more outside the box." I do. And I also like the slight Corvette-Viper overtones in the profile. Why not? I also appreciate the flying buttresses at the cabin rear corners as well as the side breathing holes.
I sat in the optional Daytona leather sport seats-get 'em-and felt very stimulated, immediately. The difference between the quality and appearance of this interior and that of the 575 M Maranello is birds and fishes. A brave and bright new world it is.
Press the Engine Start button on the left side of the steering wheel and it all jumps to life, growling. Select your suspension/transmission preference with the manettino evoluto switch on the right side of the wheel-Snow-Rain-Sport-Race-CST Off. Crappy roads, I advise the rain setting. Perfect roads, Race. Perfect track time-what else?
More than 90 percent of 599 GTBs-the "GTB" stands for Gran Turismo Berlinetta, by the by-will come with the optional F1 Superfast sequential paddle shifts and my Fiorano came thus. This is now a great paddle-manual up there with Audi's DSG and BMW's SMG III. Shifts get as fast as 100 milliseconds in Race, which approaches shift timings in the FXX and F1 cars, and twice as fast as the default shifts in the 612 Scaglietti. My only wonder here is that even when taking it to 8400 revs before changing up, the shifts from the Marelli box are a wee macho. Given especially that the 599 is a classic GT configuration for cruising, I was surprised by this. But this new hardcore crispness I personally like a lot.
Suffering GM-via its bankrupt Delphi division-has actually played a key role in bringing the 599 GTB to life. Not only does Delphi provide all electrical systems and climate control to the entire Ferrari lineup, but on the 599 it has also supplied a version of the electromagnetic MagneRide suspension system used on the C6 Corvette. Response times to changes in the manettino switch are lightning quick. An area where the 599 causes debate is on the feel at the steering wheel. It's feather light to the touch as though you're tip-toeing along the road, and I wish it felt more planted as I'm used to. Conversely, the actual steering action was at times heavier than I'd like. It's an overall uncharacteristic numb quality.
During my few laps of the Fiorano test track, I noticed in Race mode that the F1 Trac's traction control (called CST for Controllo Stabilit e Trazione) was intervening at the juicy limit of oversteer but still allowing a fairly fun drift parabola. All is at its best on a good track with the switch set at CST Off, however. Once you master the new steering action, the 599 in this state is one of the more righteous experiences I can imagine-good exhaust harmonics and wheels ready to burn when desired.