Prancing horse to introduce front-engined, V8-powered two-plus-two coupe
25 September 2007

Ferrari is set to unveil a surprise new car early in 2008 – but it will not be the long-rumoured ‘new Dino’.According to sources at the company, the new model will be a front-engined coupe with a rear-mounted transaxle gearbox, a two-plus-two cabin layout, a new 450bhp direct injection V8 engine, and a price tag of just over £130,000; in other words, it’ll be a direct rival for the Aston Martin DB9 and Bentley Continental GT, and you can get an idea of what it could look like in our gallery.

The Italian DB9 in detail

Some sources say the new Ferrari – likely codename F149 – will be unveiled at the Detroit motor show in early January, and may get the iconic ‘California’ name tag when it arrives in the showroom. However, there’s no clear indication on how far away the car is from production.A 4.3-litre V8 engine will power the new car, which some sources think will be an updated version of the unit found in the current, mid-engined F430 coupe. It’s likely to be fitted with direct fuel injection and be good for around 450bhp; slightly less than the F430 two-seater, which suggests that the new car will have a more relaxed, GT-like character. It’ll also be a more usable prospect than the F430; the occasional rear seats should provide enough room for children and smaller adults, while a generous boot out back will swallow much more baggage than an F430.The firm’s F1 sequential paddleshift transmission is tipped to be fitted to the car as standard.

Scooped: an early prototype

Hard details about Ferrari’s new coupe are very sketchy even though it is said to be close to being made public. However, spy shots have been snatched in Germany of a front-engine coupe wearing fake ‘F599’ cladding (see gallery).Close examination of the pictures show a car that is notably smaller than an F599, with a rather smaller nose section and a narrower front track.Although the central section of the new car looks to be similar to that of the F599, both the front and rear sections look to have been re-worked and re-sized.One source suggests that ‘F149’ will actually be built around an updated, more rigid, aluminium spaceframe chassis engineered by Ferrari and Alcoa.This could indicate that the prototype caught by Autocar’s spies is actually a very early engineering mule using a new nose section carrying the new-generation direct-injection V8 engine. If so, the new F149 will be noticeably slimmer hipped than the 599.

A change in model philosophy

This unexpected move into a new market segment by the Italians is based on sound logic. One insider suggests the line of thinking is that Ferrari has a gaping hole in its line up which would be neatly filled by a lower-priced front-engined GT car.Both Ferrari’s existing GT cars – the 599 GTB Fiorano and 612 Scaglietti - are big bruisers powered by large V12 engines. They’re also priced at the top-end of the market, from £172k and £176k.Sources have suggested that potential Ferrari buyers are looking for a softer two-plus-two GT that’s an everyday driver, pitched at about the same price as the £130,000 F430.Ferrari sees its iconic brand as strong enough to carry off the smaller GT at a higher price point than cars similar in concept, but cheaper, like the Aston Martin DB9, Bentley Continental GT and Porsche 911 Turbo.All these models are relatively new to the market, and are selling strongly largely because they are practical everyday supercars more useable, and possibly less intimidating, than the mid-engined F430, the traditional entry point for Ferrari ownership.Ferrari particularly has to take heed of the runaway success of Aston Martin. The British car-maker is already selling more cars each year than Ferrari, and the Rapide four-door, due on sale in late 2009, will further widen the sales gap if Maranello doesn’t act soon.Those close to the company suggest that this new V8 GT model is the first part of a restructuring programme that will see the firm dumping its four-seater V12 model, currently the 612, and replacing its mid-engined V8 model with a more expensive, but no less economical mid-engined V10.But whatever Ferrari’s long term plan, with the global economy looking set to cool markedly over the next couple of years, it would also do well to rely less on its high-end models. There is currently an 18-month waiting list for the 599; in five years time, there may not be such demand for V12-engined exotica.In any case, shaving weight back, making its cars smaller and using a smaller displacement engine are the basic principles behind Ferrari’s new engineering direction, which was revealed at its 60th anniversary celebrations earlier this summer.The company has promised that the average CO2 output of its cars will be just 250g/km by 2015.

Hilton Holloway, with additional reporting by Greg Kable

Also this week:

Driven: the new Ferrari 430 ScuderiaWatch Chris Harris' video column on the new lightweight FerrariRead about Ferrari's new emissions-saving engine technology

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