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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

There are the quick cars – those that nip below 10 seconds to 100mph, such as the Lamborghini Gallardo. Then there are the very quick cars, which post 0-100mph times beginning with an eight. But anything under eight seconds belongs to an elite group, and in gaining such membership, the Ferrari 599 has shaken the establishment like nothing in the past 20 years. Its 7.4sec average matches the time we recorded for the Pagani Zonda S. Rest to 60mph takes just 3.7sec. 

The 599's overall statistics are most extraordinary in the context of its usability. Within this is an engine of staggering character and civility. It is as mechanically refined as the best luxury car V12 installations. It also pulls from idle to 8400rpm with no perceptible peaks or troughs. 

The 599's overall statistics are most extraordinary in the context of its usability

The transmission isn’t entirely successful, though. Full-speed upshifts in sport and race mode are impressive, but it doesn’t always match engine and gear speed perfectly on the way down. 

The fixed Manettino settings – which translate roughly into snow, winter, sport and race – hamper the car’s ability in the UK. It is suggested that sport mode is best for everyday driving; this gives the fastest gearshifts, the middle of three damper settings and allows some slip before the stability/traction control system shuts the throttle or brakes an individual wheel. 

Two years after the 599’s launch, Ferrari introduced a more hardcore ‘HGTE’ model, which stands for Handling Grand Tourer Evoluzione. The HGTE pack brought stiffer springs, lower ride, revised calibration on the magnetic dampers and added around £14k to the list price. 

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An even more rarefied example, the 599XX, joined the range in 2009. The £1.2m special was all but rebuilt into a project car, using F1 technology, to make it 10 seconds faster around the Italian maker’s famous Fiorano test track than an Enzo and was not road legal. Only 29 were made. 

Following the unveiling of the exclusive XX, Ferrari released the 671bhp 599 GTO. Exceptional as the rather more race-car-like GTO is, we’d opt for the HGTE as a happier medium between touring comfort and still epic performance.