DRIVEN: FERRARI 599 XX
Want to play with Ferrari's £1m track toy? Well you probably can't, but Steve Sutcliffe has...
There's a certain element of doubt surrounding the purpose and, indeed, the justification behind the extraordinary new Ferrari 599 XX. Over the next two years fewer than 30 examples will be built by Ferrari, and remember; this is also a car that will never be raced, must never be driven on the road, and which will cost an incredible 1.1m euros plus local taxes.
So what, exactly, is the point of the 599 XX? Well, according to Ferrari this car is a real life test-bed for the various technology that's under development at Maranello. It is, if you like, a very red, very loud, reasonably profitable research development programme that's taking place in public, for all of us to observe and marvel over. Which is nice.
Yet to the owners of this extraordinary machine, such accusations won't matter one iota, because, in their minds, what they will be buying into is a priceless opportunity to experience one of the most advanced cars ever produced outside of a Formula One paddock. For the owners of the 599 XX, those few lucky sods, this in itself will be enough to justify the car's existence.
What actually is a 599 XX, then, and how does it differ from your humble 599 GTB? At the heart of the XX is, as ever, a V12 engine which, in this case, has been 'super-polished' inside and fitted with a new titanium exhaust on the outside to increase its power to a rousing 720bhp at 9000rpm. Torque has also risen to 505lb ft at 6500rpm while the weight has tumbled to a mere 1430kg - some 260kg less than the GTB.
Yet what distinguishes the XX version of the 599 is not its quasi-racing car cabin, or its more powerful V12 engine, or even its uprated carbon ceramic braking system. Nor is it its reprogrammed six-speed paddle shift gearbox, which can shed gears during downshifts with quite incredible precision - with just one single pull on the paddle being all that's required, even when going from sixth to second gear.
Hence the reason there are now two separate Manettino switches, both of which sit in the centre of the dash (ie not on the steering wheel as per Ferrari's road cars). One has nine different settings and is effectively a traction control switch that can be wound up or down, depending on how tasty you're feeling. The other has three different settings and is for the suspension, which you can set to comfort, normal or sport.
Everything about the 599 XX is, to begin with, just impossibly intimidating. You sit so low behind the wheel that the end of the bonnet is nowhere in sight, and the wheel itself is festooned with switches, some of which allow you to scroll through the screen menu of the car's Virtual Race Engineer system, thereby adding to the sense of confusion.
I take it very easily indeed to begin with, but almost the moment it starts moving the 599 XX feels the exact opposite to what I was expecting. In a straight line it is, of course, absolutely bonkers fast. In third gear it picks up so rapidly, you need to concentrate hard not to just run the thing into its rev limiter.
I guess that's the aero package doing its stuff, as well as the TC. Either way, what Ferrari has managed to do is make a very fast car that feels all but idiot-proof to drive, without also feeling in any way numb. As such, what you'd inevitably end up doing as an owner of a 599 XX is get to know the car, gradually, in all of its various settings - hopefully not to the point where you end up in the tyres, wondering why you set the TC to number one...
And the TC system really does aid your speed once you get used to the way it works. On number five, you can open up the throttle 100 per cent at the apex and then just wait for the system to decide when there's enough traction to actually deliver full throttle.
Get really used to the way it works and, no doubt, you could dial down the level of assistance and perform digitally perfected drifts, all day, every day. It's a kind of 22nd century driving experience with a large dose of reality thrown in for good measure, a point at which the computer world meets the real one under a very loud, very expensive, very lightweight red roof.
Ferrari 599 XX technical specifications
Price 1.1m euros plus local taxes
0-100kmh "under" 2.9sec
Top speed 315kmh (limited by gearing)
Economy n/a (not homologated so not available)
CO2 emissions n/a (ditto)
Kerb weight 1430kg
Engine layout V12, 5999cc, petrol
Installation Front, longitudinal, rear wheel-drive
Torque 505lb ft/6500rpm
Power to weight 510ps/tonne
Specific output 121ps/litre
Compression ratio 11.9:1
Gearbox 6-speed paddle shift
Fuel tank 86 litres
Front suspension double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, magnetic dampers
Rear suspension double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar, magnetic dampers
Brakes 398mm front, 360mm rear, carbon ceramic discs