599XX is awesome; electronic aids make it even faster
Sutcliffe samples the 599XX at Vallelunga
599XX can lap Fiorano 10 seconds faster than an Enzo
Unlike the FXX programme, 599XX owners can take their car home
Ferrari runs three official track days; owners can run their own sessions too
V12 has been "super polished" on the inside
Winglets channel air to rear wing
22nd aero package is evident
Hit go and it'll shove you from 0-62mph in less than 2.9sec
Aero package works with electronic aids in blissful harmony
599XX's road car base is still evident
Titanium exhaust boosts efficiency
Aerodynamic details abound
The Ferrari 599XX is for track use only
Gearbox is standard 599, but software is not
Power is up from 620bhp to 720bhp
Race cut off switch - 599XX is track-based only
599XX is a living test bed of future Ferrari tech
You need to pay £1.2m to get close to this
Lotos switches - and the electronics help you go faster
Stripped out interior shows car's race heritage
Everything you need to know, in an instant
The Ferrari 599 offers mind-blowing pace and handling. Quite possibly the best Ferrari of its generation
What is it?
On the surface, the new £1.2m Ferrari 599XX could be one of the greatest four-wheeled follies of all time.
This, after all, is a car that will never be raced, can never be driven on the road, and will be produced in such small numbers that you will almost certainly never see one in the flesh; Ferrari will make a maximum of 29 examples over the next two years.
Consider it a living, breathing test bed for the myriad technology that’s under development at Ferrari, an R&D programme that is taking place, refreshingly, not behind closed doors but in public, for all of us to observe and marvel over.
It's fast, too; this car can complete one lap of Ferrari’s beloved test track at Fiorano a full 10sec faster than an Enzo.
What’s it like?
Before I tell you what it’s like, let’s first establish what it’s got.
The obvious hard points include a V12 engine that’s been “super polished” on the inside and fitted with a brand new titanium exhaust on the outside to increase its efficiency – and power – from 611bhp to a thumping 720bhp at 9000rpm. Torque has also risen to 505lb ft at 6500rpm, and although the gearbox is the same, the software most certainly is not. Neither are the ratios (which are shorter and closer) nor the shift speeds.
Given that the weight has tumbled by 270kg to a scant 1430kg without fuel, it’s not surprising to find that performance is well beyond outrageous. Think 0-60mph in “less than 2.9sec” and a top speed restricted by the gearing to 196mph.
What defines the 599XX as something entirely separate from, and above, any regular production Ferrari is not its engine, however, or its savage performance.
Instead it is its package of electronic driver aids, and its 22nd-century aero package, both of which work in blissful harmony to make the car so very quick across the ground.
In the boot there are a pair of fans than suck air away from the rear diffuser when it isn’t needed, towards the small-ish rear wing. On the rear haunches there are winglets that also channel air towards the wing, thereby creating as much downforce as possible, without producing extra drag. Even the rear light sockets contain little air jet pumps that send pulses through the air as it flows away from the tail, again reducing drag and, somehow, increasing downforce.
And then there are the driver aids; the new twin Mannetino switches, one with nine different traction control settings, another with three different magnetic suspension settings, both of which are designed not to cocoon the 599XX driver in a safety net but to make them capable of driving their car as fast as possible, as often as possible.
Yes, the electronics in this car are specifically intended as performance parts, not safety features. Switch them off and you will not be able to lap a circuit as fast as you can with them on, not even if your name is Fernando Alonso. You might just be able to match the system for a couple of corners if you fluke the perfect sequence of brake, turn-in, balance power, apply throttle at the exit.
But over an entire lap, no; the electronics will win every time. This is not the case with any of the company’s production cars, all of which are quicker with their TC and stability systems switched off.
I drove the car at Vallelunga circuit, near Rome, and it was nowhere near long enough; you could drive this car all day, all week, and still want more. But it was sufficient time behind the wheel to realise that, for its audience, the 599XX has a very clear purpose in life. Not just as a development platform for future technology, some of which will appear on a new rumoured GTO version of the 599 later this year, but also as a means of providing unmatched thrills and driving dynamics for a front-engined GT car. For pretty much any car, come to think of it.
The way you can throw the thing at a corner and then let the electronics guide you through, without them ever feeling intrusive or irritating, is genuinely astonishing. Once you reach the middle of a corner you can, once you’re used to the way the system works, open up the throttle 100 per cent and simply wait for it to decide when there’s enough traction to actually deliver full throttle.
Get really used to the way it works and you dial down the level of assistance and perform perfect drifts, with none of the terror normally associated with throwing a 722bhp car sideways, just lots of excitement. And a very great deal of performance to go with it.
Should I buy one?
The 599XX is a very special project car from Ferrari, and whoever ends up owning one of these cars will obviously need to be very wealthy indeed. They will also be invited to take part in the project, and also to three free private test sessions per year, during which they will be asked to provide feedback on the car.
It’s a very rich man’s toy, the 599XX, but it’s some toy. They key thing about it, though, is that is so much as a quarter of the tech contained therein finds its way into future production Ferraris, we’re in for a absolute treat. And that may happen somewhat sooner than you think.