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Monday 27th April 2009


FERRARI 599 GTB FIORANO HGTE

New handling pack for 205mph coupe - PH joins the premier league


Zero point six seconds. That’s exactly how much faster the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano with the new HGTE - Handling Gran Turismo Evoluzione – pack laps its namesake test track than the standard 599. Which tells us one of two things; either Ferrari’s chassis engineers aren’t trying hard enough, or the 599 is already a seriously sorted and devastatingly quick machine in standard guise.

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.


A harder-core 599 then, not in the same vein as the near racecar 430 Scuderia is to the standard F430, but a more incisive, crisper handling 599 for those customers that like their big 200mph+ super GTs with a bit more edge. I don’t recall driving the 599 before and thinking it was in any way lacking in the ride and handling department though. Indeed, its ability to track straight and true on even the most brutally surfaced and cliff-face cambered roads is truly mesmerising. But despite my reservations that the HGTE’s stiffer springs and recalibrated magnetic dampers are going to turn out to be a disastrously firmer-riding compromise that destroys the 599’s almost other-worldly fluidity, the crashing and skipping I expect never materialises.


What is apparent is how much the changes Ferrari’s engineers have made have improved the steering response. Hardly slow or containing slack in the standard car the improvements are immediately obvious in the way that the 599 HGTE reacts to steering input.

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.


Switch the manettino dial on the chunky steering wheel to your preferred setting and you can have your 599 as mild to wild as you like. Sport is a great all-rounder, but Race ups the stakes, quickens the F1 Superfast gearshift and allows a hugely entertaining degree of power oversteer before the F1 derived traction and stability systems reign in your enthusiasm.

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.


Push too hard and the 599’s bewildering myriad of stability and traction control systems come into play; the electronic hand of Schumacher providing a helping hand when you run out of talent, grip or traction. Even with Schumacher in reserve some hapless footballers still manage to get it wrong. How?

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.


Inside there’s carbon backed sports seats covered in two-tone leather and Alcantara, the backrests featuring the embroidered legend ‘Handling GTE’ – just in case you’ve forgotten. Other changes are limited to some additional carbon-fibre trim parts, though if you spot the new HGTE-only piece under the Ferrari lettering on the centre console you ought to get out more.

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.


What pre-2009 cars won’t get is the 599’s improved economy and emissions, CO2 dropping to 415g/km (from 490) and economy raising to…actually who cares? This is a Ferrari, what’s more important is that the 0.15 millisecond drop in the F1 Superfast’s time to swap cogs should be part of the HGTE package thanks to a software update. It’s an odd thing the HGTE, which although brilliantly conceived won’t appeal to all 599 owners. Around 40-50% will option it in the UK and I can guarantee they won’t be disappointed. Unless, that is, they want to go more than 0.6 seconds quicker around Fiorano than before…













 

Author: Kyle Fortune