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.