PH Fleet: Ferrari 599

The more exotic the motor car, the more likely we are to forgive its shortcomings. When of course we shouldn’t.

This is especially true in the world of the Italian supercar, most of which are built according to the first rule of Maranello: namely that you pay all the money for the glorious engine, and they throw the rest in for free. When you attempt to adjust a door mirror in a 612 Scaglietti and the knob completely detaches itself, you think this might be a believable explanation.

Peering at the small details of a car like the 599 can often be very disappointing. Take the key: a nasty lozenge of red plastic that has aged with all the grace of the Morris Ital’s centre console. The key is your first point of contact with a car. It should usher in the treats to follow. The 599’s key is horrid.

The car itself isn’t. Ferrari made enormous gains in trim quality and cabin durability in the Noughties. This car feels far sturdier than my 612 and, for the most part, the buttons actually deliver the function allotted to them – again, something you couldn't always say about the 612.

Chamois would be quicker (and quieter)
Chamois would be quicker (and quieter)
Because these are occasional cars, people rarely scrutinise boring stuff like ergonomics or the basic competence of menial things like windscreen wipers. If they did, they would conclude that the 599 has simply terrible wipers. They clank and rattle (just like the ones in the 612 did, before they broke) and it’s impossible to get them adjusted to a speed which will swish away a standard UK downpour.

What to make of this? Ignore it and simple enjoy that remarkable engine? Or look befuddled because Ferrari can make a massive V12 rev to 8500rpm, but cannot produce a functioning, quiet wiper system? In the rain, sadly it’s the latter.

Brooding on the wipers, it’s easy to conclude that Ferrari spends zero time actually sorting these cars for everyday use. You may even think that 200mph doesn't count for much if you can’t get the basics right. Well, one look in a 599’s side mirrors eradicates all thoughts of Italian laziness: they are simply the best mirrors I have used – no mean feat when your hips are as wide a 599's. The glass is massive, the blue tint somehow makes everything look crisp, and they’re heated. Someone spent a long time making them this good, and forgot about the wipers. I won’t mention the wipers again, honest.
Objects you see here may be less expensive
Objects you see here may be less expensive

The electric window switches are the last of the 456-style plastic hoops and they sometimes don’t work unless you nudge them from just the right angle. About right for a £90k motor? Quite. On the debit side, the seats are just fantastic: big, supportive, endlessly adjustable and heated.

I am still learning the Becker hi-fi unit’s controls. Sometimes it doesn’t like me docking my iPhone, but that’s small beer compared to the glove-box mounted connector which is way too short and old enough not to want to charge an iPhone 4. Such is life.

The headlights are plenty good enough, and I’ve only had one ‘Total Electrical Armageddon' warning on the dash. Having owed a few of these Fiats, I naturally completely ignored the message. It never returned.  

It’s a thrilling car to use for supposedly normal journeys. My only criticism of the motor is that above 50mph, you don’t get any real exhaust noise in the cabin. Drop the windows a little (when they feel like obeying orders) and you suddenly realise what sultry music you’re leaving behind. I don’t want the car to be any louder, I’d just like some more of its existing music filtered into the cockpit.

Thirst is a problem. Keeping an accurate record would be far too depressing, but in normal use I’m seeing 10-12mpg. Employing the heavier clog sees that drop into single figures. A Prius it is not – a fact I celebrate each time I drive it.

One unexpected bonus of running carbon ceramic discs is the lack of corrosion if you leave the car outside for a few days. The mild steel discs on a 575 used to oxidise in a few hours and get nasty after a few days. These are fur-free. Use them hard and the pedal gets long – they don’t fade badly, but require big pedal pressures and become hard to modulate.

So, 1500 miles in and I’ve discovered that the 599 is lacking in some minor details, pretty deficient in others and in possession of an outstanding engine. Everything changes and yet nothing changes.

Comments (87) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Gridl0k 28 Sep 2012

    GordonF430 said:
    The key looks like my F430 one, which my mate took great excitement in pointing out was the same as his Fiat Punto key.......

    Ferrari's Favourite Journalist EVAH said:
    I don’t want the car to be any louder, I’d just like some more of its existing music filtered into the cockpit.
    I'm with you on this, I feel like tearing out sound proofing in my V8 sometimes. Or maybe asking passersby for a donation, as I'm paying the music bill.

    Edited by Gridl0k on Thursday 27th September 11:46

    Edited by Gridl0k on Thursday 27th September 11:47

  • AndrewD 27 Sep 2012

    BaronVonVaderham said:
    Very interesting how faults become 'quirks' on desireable exotica.

    It saddens me somewhat though, I aspire to own/drive something Italian and ridiculous (either from Enzo's shed or that tractor manufacturer) before I shuffle off my mortal coil and having built up these iconic cars and brands to embody automotive perfection, is this what i've got to look forward to?

    Bad design I can forgive and even find amusing, but poor build quality on something so expensive is unacceptable.

    So, the question is: which italian supercars are actually made properly?
    Really don't worry about it. I've had 8 Lambos and Ferraris in the last 4 or 5 years, no particular build quality issues to speak of. Be mechanically savvy and look after them, and don't buy a lemon of course

  • AndrewD 27 Sep 2012

    Porkie said:
    AndrewD said:
    Porkie said:
    Ugly... but least that looks like it pops the boot.

    It drives me nuts that my F430 key doesnt have a boot release button on key.... have to go back into car. put key in ignition, flick boot release... PITA!
    On my 16M there is a little loop of cable under the dash you can pull instead of turning on the electrics and pressing the boot release button - still means you have to open the car door of course - doesn't your F430 have something like this?
    is it a red loop of string? I've always wondered what that does but didnt wanna pull it!

    THANKS! smile
    My pleasure (all usual caveats apply if you pull half your wiring loom out though smile )

    Reminds me of TVR days when you had to turn the ignition on to pop the boot too!

  • billzeebub 27 Sep 2012

    I love the Ferrari quirks. My next purchase will realistically be a Porker 993, which is an exceptional but idiosyncratic car. I love the fact the stereo is down by the passengers knees, and the dials are largely obscured by the steering wheel!.. A superbly engineered car with intrinsic packaging issues. I would rather a car company spends the cash on the chassis/ engine, as opposed to making it an ergonomic tour de force. But then I do have a fairly perverse attitude towards my cars!.. Corrado VR6 has notoriously candle-like headlights and windscreen wipers that lift off the screen at motorway speeds. I have replaced the wiring loom which I am very happy with as I can now actually see where I am going in the dark. The standard wipers have also been replaced with the Audi TT Aero set-up. Again they now actually wipe the screen at speed, but I kind of miss the original items, even though they may well have killed me one wet evening.

    The wing mirrors on the Fezza are a work of art, almost worth the admission price alone! The mirrors on my Corrado are a common part with several TVRs, and I like them muchly. The factthey are bolted to the door and do not protrude much further than the car footprint is a design plus. However when I looked at replacing the standard flat glass with Convex blue-tint items I was astounded at the cost. €120+!! ..TVR prices!..that effect can wait!..

    Edited by billzeebub on Wednesday 26th September 18:37

  • ES335 27 Sep 2012

    Ferrari should just licence the Mercedes W124 era wiper design and hide the mechanism needed to house the eccentric under the bonnet. Best wiper design ever.

    I know there's a romance attached to Ferraris but that level of build quality in a car of that price is really inexcusable. Mind you, it probably explains why Paganis cost what they do.

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