The Ferrari 599 offers mind-blowing pace and handling. Quite possibly the best Ferrari of its generation
What is it?
Regular Ferrari 599 GTB not quite hardcore enough for you? This is the Ferrari 599 HGTE option package, comprising a raft of suspension changes aimed at making it a sharper and keener drive. The key letter in the package is H, for Handling. GT is for, er, GT, and E for Evoluzione.
The changes incorporate stiffer springs, 17 per cent at the front and 15 per cent at the rear, which also lower the ride height by 10mm, while there's a stiffer rear anti-roll bar and a softer compound for the Pirelli P Zero tyres. They run on marginally wider wheels at the front, though the tyres themselves are no wider. There's a tad extra camber, too, and revised calibration on the magnetic dampers.
An extra sprinkling of carbonfibre makes its way into the cabin, including for the shells of two brilliantly supportive new seats, but there's little inside you couldn't tick on the options list of a standard 599.
Power remains unchanged at 611bhp, which we've always found ample.
All in, the HGTE package adds around £14,000 to the 599's list price.
What's it like?
There's not a lot wrong with the way a regular Ferrari 599 goes down the road, but the thinking behind the HGTE pack is still sound. The idea is to reduce pitch and roll, increase grip and traction, and generally make the car more controllable and exploitable to drive fast. Some comfort will inevitably be lost, and likewise some tyre life, but Ferrari reckons the 599 has some of each to spare.
Mooch around town in the Ferrari 599 HGTE and it does feels mildly less supple than a regular 599, though it retains an ability to shrug off surface imperfections better than most high-powered GTs or supercars. This isn't a Scuderia or GT3 kind of job; it has a broader spectrum of ability that covers the UK's peculiar road conditions, too. Yes, on the worst B-roads that Surrey has to offer it jiggles you around in the (fabulously supportive) driver's seat a little more than ideal, but that's teh worst of it.
The HGTE's set-up is stiffer than a regular 599's, but it still doesn't skip or shimmy. I reckon the Ferrari 599 HGTE matches superior body control over the regular 599 with a deftness and delicacy that, say, faster Porsche 911s can't match.
Which you'd prefer – the 599 HGTE or a Porsche 911 GT2 – is partially a matter of personal preference, but while a GT2's pace and hardcore, nailed-down focus is compelling, the 599 blends just as much ground-covering ability with what feels like a more supple and composed chassis.
On a track the 599 HGTE is beautifully balanced, too. At times with a regular 599, the body movements under swift manoeuvres make you feel like you're hanging on a little while it dictates things. The HGTE package makes the 599 more approachable; it gives you more confidence get close to its exceptional limits and to push on the throttle harder, for longer.
Should I buy one?
The HGTE package adds an extra dose of keenness and controllability to the 599 at the expense of what seems like precious little. Up until we drove this car, we rated the regular 599 as the best GT/supercar you could buy. The HGTE package has done nothing to change that. Ferrari expects 40 percent of 599 buyers to take up the HGTE package, maybe more in the UK. On the basis of our drives in Europe, in the UK and on track, we don't think they'll regret it. It's a finely judged package, and a fabulous one even in the UK.