PH Fleet


Tuesday 20th November 2012


Harris puts his Ferrari into the wrong type of paddock

ďCan someone just nudge the car forwards a bit to get a truck into the drive?Ē

ďNot a problem,Ē I said.

I was away, and had left the car outside overnight. When I came back, I found it a little too close to the edge of a light drop into a small paddock. The rear wheels were just about on the gravel, but an inch of forward movement would see them on wet grass, and then the 599 would become the thing we all hope doesnít happen in the near future: a Ferrari off-roader.

Predictably, the moment I attempted to move it, the car slithered straight into the paddock.

The 599 handles oddly on wet grass. The ride is pretty good at circa 7mph, but the steering is quite light and also doesnít affect the direction the vehicle decides to take. The brakes donít work because the ABS triggers immediately. Traction is best described as non-existent.†

An emergency call went in to fellow hack Andrew Frankel, who lives nearby, and he arrived in his trusty Series 2 Landie. This should have been the solution to the problem, but it didnít allow for the fact that finding the towing eye, and the hole it screws into, is more difficult than locating the g-spot on a lady gnat.

The reasons for this are: several weeks later, I still canít find the towing-eye, so have to assume the car wasnít supplied with one. I still canít be sure where the hole is (stop sniggering at the back); the handbook points vaguely to a spot on the left-hand side of the front grille, but I just ended up removing rubber bungs and not finding anything into which I could insert the towing eye Ė which I didnít have in my hand. In Ferrariís defence, I donít expect many 599 owners get them stuck on wet grass, and they would normally call Ferrari Assist to have the thing removed.

What we needed was more traction, and this was provided by A. Frankel sitting in the open boot, whereupon the 599 simply drove up the slope and all was well.

In the post-event euphoria of one of these rescue missions, who else struggles with the discipline of replacing everything youíve opened/dislodged/moved during the extrication? Me too.

According to the men at Glassís Guide, I am probably using the 599 too much Ė but so be it. The more I live with it, the more I like it and the more I have to tell myself that the privilege of driving it outweighs the shattering cost of fuelling it. I am averaging around 11mpg.

There are a few practical ways around this. I only use the car for medium length journeys, for example. Being a stickler for giving fast cars a proper heat cycle each time theyíre used, anything under 40 miles is avoided, just as long motorway trips over 300 miles are also largely pointless. Anything in the 100-200 mile window is perfect for the 599, and I always make a point of avoiding the motorway Ė not because the 599 is uncomfortable or noisy Ė but because it feels completely wasteful to just plod along in a straight line.

Golf is probably not high on the list of PHersí preferred activities, but on the odd occasion I have some free time, itís the perfect antidote to ragging fast cars, and the 599 is a good club carrier. Two squashy bags and shoes can be squeezed into the boot. Try that in a 458.

Come to mention it, I drove a 458 recently, and it highlighted a few things about my car. Firstly, whatever Ferrari does with its V8 engine Ė exhaust valves, scarcely believable torque, throttle response Ė the V12 will always make you feel better. The noise is less synthetic, the mid-range is staggering for a normally aspirated motor, and in the 599 thereís always this underlying feeling that a 5999cc V12 just shouldnít be able to rev to 8000rpm.

The 458ís steering is miles more pleasant than the 599ís. Iíve got used to the rack on my car now, but itís too light and artificial Ė the newer carís wheel wriggles like a 2.7RS next to it.

The 458ís DCT gearbox is in a different class for smoothness and in automatic mode, but (and I never thought Iíd say this) after the 599 you do slightly miss the odd thump in the back on an upshift. That is, until you experience another perfect downshift in the newer car and realise that the DCT is just better.

Otherwise, the 599 stacks up remarkably well. Itís just as fast, sounds better, and to my eyes, in this metallic graphite colour, it strikes a nice balance between looking obviously special but not too ostentatious.

Using the car as the weather worsens is, of course, a very good idea. This car does not belong in a garage. The fresh Pirellis deal with standing water well and some new wiper blades have slightly improved their performance.

How you use that 620hp when the grip level is marginal is quite interesting. In ĎSportí mode the traction controlís intervention isnít too harsh, so I tend to just use all the throttle I want and let the computer sort the rest. The other day I had a 120 mile drive in the wet and decided to leave the systems off to see how much of a handful the car was. Driven quickly, itís absolutely fine Ė but push harder and it does just what youíd expect. Catch a strange camber, surface or large change in grip as you push into the second half of the throttle travel and it will bite. Itís not hard to catch, but it reminds us how much power the electronics cut when grip is compromised.

In a 997 Turbo, under the same circumstances, you might just illuminate the traction warning light, but not really feel any intervention, even under full throttle. Just what youíd expect. For the avoidance of doubt, I prefer the 599, and in the wet, I leave the traction on.

Nothing has fallen off or stopped working. The dashboard began to squeak a few weeks back and I just couldnít locate the source Ė until I removed the security section of the hi-fi. Re-located and wiggled, the noise disappeared. How ironic that the noisiest squeak comes from a German-made Becker head-unit.

Road salt will probably force me to stop using the car as regularly as I have done this past month. Itís regrettable, but throwing wax on an aluminium chassis probably isnít the wisest thing to do. This is a shame for many reasons, one of them being that driving a car like this in winter means you are probably the only 599 on the road in the UK, and we all like to stand out from the crowd a little.

That means Iíll either sell it and try something different next spring, or do something I donít usually attempt: store it over the winter and carry on owning a 599. Right now, there isnít another car of its type Iíd rather have to own and use in this role. Of course there are others Iíd rather own, but could I do in them what I do in this?

†2007 Ferrari 599 GTB
Run by:†Chris Harris
Bought:†July 2012
Purchase price:†Move along...
Last month at a glance:†A chance to compare 599 with 458 on the road, and with Landie off it.

PH Fleet Ferrari 599 GTB: Man + maths = 599

Author: Chris Harris