What is it?
It’s the first steer we’ve had of Ferrari’s 599 GTO in Britain, away from the continental roads and circuit on which Ferrari launched the car.
The 599 is only the third Ferrari to wear the GTO tag, and is the first where the ‘Omologato’ bit (homologated for racing) has been purely superficial. The 599 GTO isn’t built for circuit battling, but Ferrari would still – understandably from a marketing standpoint – rather you thought of it as a roadgoing version of the 599 XX customer track car, rather than a warmed version of the regular 599.
To that end, it wears plenty of the XX’s technologies, particularly in the engine bay, where the 6.0-litre V12 features ‘super polishing’ inside and ‘diamond-like carbon coating’ on the tappets. The result is 671bhp at 8250rpm. Which, let’s be honest, is pretty un-shabby for a naturally aspirated car that meets EU5 emissions regulations.
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. The GTO costs all but £300,000, and there’ll only be 599 of them. They’re all sold though, as I write, not all yet built.
What’s it like?
Suitably epic, but also surprisingly approachable if you’re used to other cars at this price point. They usually come with mid-mounted engines, extravagant forms of entry and limited visibility. The GTO is no less daunting than stepping aboard any other 599 – an ordinary pull on an ordinary door will see you inside.
Once you’re there, the 599’s normal cabin (‘very pleasant, thankyou’) has been turned more purposeful than extravagant. Carpets and leather have been ditched for non-slip mats, bare carbon-fibre and Alcantara, and snug-fitting seats garnished with four-point harnesses.
It’s a place to do serious driving business: visibility’s fine, there’s a conventional handbrake lever, two drilled foot pedals and big gearchange flappy-paddles. That the engine emits a louder growl than the regular car on start-up reinforces its menace.
So too does the firmer than usual ride. It’s not a disaster: the GTO, like the standard 599, has magnetic dampers so there’s a deftness underfoot that you won’t find in, say, a Lamborghini Aventador, though it’s some way short of McLaren MP4-12C standards though. The added O has affected the 599’s regular GT qualities; it’s still quite bearable, even over long distances, but the ride shimmies a little where the regular car would float across bad surfaces, with the lightly weighted steering tugging at your fingers. There’s a fair amount of tramlining on poor roads, especially under braking, too.
There’s a pay-off for that though, right? Right. The bodyshell itself feels exceptionally stiff, and body movements are fantastically well controlled.
In some ways it feels not unlike a bigger BMW M3 GTS. Both feel like they’ve got race-car levels of body stiffness, very pointy front ends and have a propensity to oversteer at will.
In the GTO, as you might imagine given it has 671bhp, it’s not hard to break traction. If it’s at all slippery, the GTO will keep you on your toes, keen to straighten its line on the way out of corners. But there’s amusement to be had at road speeds. There’s real feel to the light, direct, steering, the gearbox shifts quickly, brake feel is good and overtakes, as you might imagine, are a cinch.
On a circuit, where the GTO is best enjoyed though, it’s an absolute delight. There’s very, very minimal understeer, which the merest lift, trailed-brake or early application of throttle will power through. Allow it to and it’ll oversteer for Italy, supremely progressively, while its carbon-ceramic brakes stand up to punishment that its exceptional powertrain can deliver. The 599 GTO is one of the absolute finest track cars I’ve ever driven. That it delivers some tactile qualities on the road – plus it’s very habitable – make it a supreme all-rounder.
Should I buy one?
Ah, well, here’s the rub – afraid you can’t, unless you’ve had more than the odd Ferrari and have been invited to buy one.
Hence, as I write, the only ones on the open market are wanting a hefty premium over list price. Given how few will be made, and its astonishing depth of abilities, that’s par for the course. The GTO is that sort of car.
Ferrari 599 GTO
Price: £299,280; Top speed: 208mph; 0-62mph: 3.35sec; Economy: 16.1mpg (combined); Co2: 411g/km; Kerb weight: 1605kg; Engine type, cc: V12, petrol, 5999cc, front, longitudinal; Power: 661bhp at 8250rpm; Torque: 457lb ft at 6500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd automated manual