The Ferrari 599 GTO is ultimate incarnation of the Ferrari flagship. It is one of the finest hypercars ever made

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The days of the Ferrari 599 GTO being the fastest and most powerful road car Ferrari has ever built are numbered. The Ferrari F12 Berlinetta will see to that. But it'd be a shock if the F12 can unseat the GTO as being the most iconic and able hypercar the marque has built in its recent history.

The 599 GTO is, after all, a GTO and only the third Ferrari to do so. Those were the 250 GTO and the 288 GTO. The 599 GTO is in good company.

Just 599 GTOs will be built

However, those cars were built for the racetrack. Cynics might argue the 599 GTO is purely superficial - the third digit in GTO stands for 'Omologato', or homologated. 

That's the glass half empty state of events. Ferrari sees the 599 GTO as a road legal version of the 599 XX track car, rather than a hotted-up version of the standard car.

No surprise then that the GTO carries much of the XX's kit. The 6.0-litre V12 has 'diamond-like carbon coating' on the tappets and there's plenty of 'super polishing' too. These modifications, among others, increase efficiency by 12 per cent. There's a six-into-one exhaust manifold and a re-engineered intake for more noise and, incredibly, still conforming to Euro 5 and LEV2 homologation standards.

The headline power and torque figures make impressive enough reading on their own; the GTO’s 5999cc V12 produces a whopping 671bhp at 8250rpm and 457lb ft at 6500rpm, up from 612bhp and 448lb ft in the GTB. Combine this with a full 100kg weight reduction and you begin to realise how potent a machine the 1605kg GTO really is.

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For all that, the GTO’s price is closer to the regular 599’s than the XX’s and it can be looked after by a Ferrari dealer rather than the factory. There’ll only be 599 of them and they're all sold.

Climbing into the cabin is no more intimidating then any other 599, but there is much more of a racecar feel. The interior garnish is more purposeful than extravagent, carpets have bene replaced by rubber mats, naked carbonfibre and Alcantara. The snug seats have four-point harnesses. The rev counter reads to 10,000rpm.

Fire it up and you'll find a conventional handbrake, two drilled pedals and large gearshift paddles. The engine growls with menace. The noise made by the GTO’s 6.0-litre V12 is so complex, and so rich, you could sit there and listen to it at idle all day long. But it sounds even better on the move, under load, screaming up its vast rev range through second, then third, then fourth – almost as quickly as you can read this sentence.

This is a car that can lap Ferrari's Fiorano test track faster than an Enzo. It can summon uncomfortable levels of accerlation. Ferrari claims 3.35sec on the 0-62mph run. What it also evident is the GTO pulls as hard in fifth as a 911 does in third.

The ride is firmer than usual. It, like the standard car, as magnetic dampers so it is more deft of foot than a Lamborghini Aventador, if falling short of the McLaren MP4-12C. Changing the GTB to GTO has brought a degree of shimmy over poor surfaces, leaving the lightly-weighted steering tugging. It tramlines on these roads too, especially under braking.

To a certain extent, that's expected. The car is developed to conquer the world's racetracks. The bodyshell is exceptionally stiff and in some ways the GTO feels like a much bigger BMW M3 GTS. Both feel like they’ve got race-car levels of body stiffness, pointy front ends and have a propensity to oversteer at will.

It's not hard to break traction. Any moisture underfoot and you'll be working hard to straighten it when exiting corners. It's fun to use at road speeds too. The light, direct steering has real feel and the gearbox shifts are strobelight quick. There's reassuring brake feel through the carbon ceramics and if you're struggling to overtake in this, you may has well give up.

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This power. This grip. This performance is best enjoyed on track, of course. There's a tiny amount of understeer, but the tiniest lift, whiff of trail braking or early prod of the throttle and it'll power through. Will it oversteer? Yes, for Italy. But when it does it is progressive.

The 599 GTO is one of the absolute finest track cars ever made. That it delivers some tactile qualities on the road – plus it’s very habitable – make it a supreme all-rounder.

Ferrari has priced the 599 GTO into a whole new league over the the 599 GTB. But then it is a completely different car. Yes, £300,000 is an awful lot of money, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper than the £1.2m XX. A car, which don't forget, can't be used on the road.

But here’s the rub. Even if you have the cash in the bank, you can't just hand it over in exchange for a GTO. Not unless you’ve had more than the odd Ferrari and have been invited to buy one. Or you've dug very deep indeed for a cherished one on the used market.

This is a genuine landmark car for Ferrari, and deserves the success it has already achieved. It’s also a bona fide addition to the GTO family, make no mistake.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Ferrari 599 GTO 2010-2011 First drives