I’d go for the latter, as looking at the various telemetry read outs in Ferrari’s inner sanctum in Maranello it’s clear that engineers have been busy as hell tweaking the big 599’s suspension for the HGTE pack. There are stiffer springs front and back – by 17% and 15% respectively – a thicker rear anti-roll bar, a 10mm drop in ride height, altered front camber while the lighter split rim alloy wheels – which look a bit 80’s – are shod with the same tread patterned Pirelli rubber as the regular 599 but with a stickier compound.
There’s still very little in the way of real feel through the chunky rim, but turning the steering wheel results in the 599 changing direction like something with a quarter of its mass. It’s supremely quick, though not to the point of nervousness, the way the big 599 changes direction with seemingly utter impunity to the levels of grip suggesting that perhaps Ferrari has made some deal with the devil to allow its flagship 599 to defy the laws of physics. Despite its stiffer suspension there’s still enough roll and pitch to allow you to feel the 599 loading up as its weight transfers, the rear too remaining as playful as ever.
It’s not long until you find every hairpin exited with a quarter turn of opposite lock as the rear tyres loosen their grip and spin up under the force of the Enzo-derived 6.0-litre V12’s 611bhp and 448lb.ft of torque, those rear wheels aiding your chosen trajectory out of tighter bends. It’s hugely entertaining, the 599 feeling like something so much smaller, and far wieldier than anything as big and massively potent as the 599 should be.
With a modicum of talent 'though, the 599 HGTE is a remarkably rewarding, incisive and ridiculously capable car that’s able to carry speed where its obvious mid-engined rivals would be seriously out of their depth.
That the HGTE builds on the already lofty levels of handling poise offered by the standard car is only part of the package. There are some cosmetic changes too, the chrome tailpipes with their perforated finishers giving a reverential nod to GT racing Ferraris of old, the matte black diffuser also differentiating the HGTE equipped car around the rear. Around the front there’s a new lesser-slatted or mesh grille, the prancing horse badge on it (and on the bootlid) featuring a brushed rather than polished metal finish.
The engine and performance figures remain unchanged, though it’s difficult to argue that 611bhp, a 3.7 second 0-62mph time and 205+mph capability is lacking. Even so, it sounds faster. The HGTE’s revised silencers give out not more noise, but a different, more intensely sporting one; the usual Ferrari V12 bellow with its underlying metallic rasp more apparent more of the time. That’s good enough alone for me to recommend the surprisingly small £13,960.51 (inc VAT) that Ferrari asks for the HGTE pack. Fret not if you’ve already got a 599 in your garage and you’re yearning for a bit more poise and sound, as Ferrari will fit the HGTE pack retrospectively – with the exception of a few of the interior trim pieces.