First Look: Ferrari LaFerrari

The newest Ferrari supercar is called simply the LaFerrari, an unusual name perhaps, but not one that would deter well-heeled customers from purchasing one of the 499 units offered. (All are rumored to have been spoken for already, despite an expected price tag of $1 million.) Introduced at the Geneva Motor Show, the LaFerrari is not only Ferrari’s first-ever hybrid, but also its fastest-ever road car.

The headlining news is that the mid-mounted 6.3-liter V-12 engine is augmented by a hybrid drivetrain. Two electric motors — one coupled to the seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle, another powering the engine accessories — draw power from a 132-pound battery pack mounted to the floor of the car’s chassis. The V-12 alone produces 789 hp and revs to a screaming 9250 rpm. The electric motor adds 161 hp, and in total the HY-KERS (for HYbrid Kinetic Energy Recovery System) cranks out 951 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque.

According to the manufacturer, the LaFerrari will reach 62 mph in less than three seconds and 124 mph in less than seven seconds. It turned a 1:20 lap time at Ferrari’s Fiorano test track, beating the Enzo supercar by five seconds and the current F12berlinetta by three seconds. While a top speed has yet to be announced, it will easily eclipse 200 mph. This is the quickest, fastest Ferrari road car ever.
The electric motor acts as a generator to recharge the battery pack under braking, or even when cornering if the V-12 is producing more power than is needed for acceleration. Ferrari tuned the gas engine for high-rpm power because the electric motor provides low-end grunt. The result, according to Ferrari, is consistent power delivery all the way to the sky-high redline.

Carbon-Fiber Chassis and Body

The LaFerrari’s entire chassis is constructed from carbon fiber, with four different types of the lightweight material that were prepared using the same methods as employed for Ferrari’s Formula 1 car. This allows for a lightweight design that is still extremely stiff. The mid-mounted powertrain and low battery pack allow for a 41/59 front-rear weight distribution and exceptionally low center of gravity.
The bodywork begins with an extremely aggressive pointed nose, with a single F1-inspired “pylon” bisecting the wide lower air intake. V-shaped contours with air intakes define the car’s hood, while the headlights sit atop tall protrusions that house the front wheels. The small two-seat cabin is essentially a teardrop shape that forms a smooth line toward the rear of the car and tapers behind the doors, which pivot upward to open. A deep scallop in each door leads to a big air intake for the engine, and another set of inlets sit atop the LaFerrari’s wide rear haunches. Inside, the driver’s seat does not move. Ferrari tailors it to each driver and moves the pedal box and steering wheel accordingly.

Hidden from view are active splitters, diffusers, a rear spoiler, and an underbody guide vane. They all move to create the best blend of downforce and aerodynamic efficiency, based on decisions made by the car’s computer. Pirelli P-Zero tires wrap the five-spoke wheels; lightweight brake calipers designed for better cooling grab carbon-ceramic brake discs.

Tech Tour de Force

The LaFerrari is essentially the successor to Ferrari’s Enzo supercar, and like that car the LaFerrari is a technological tour de force that demonstrates the brand’s engineering prowess. The electric drive motors are built by Fiat subsidiary Magneti Marelli, the battery pack is assembled alongside that of the KERS battery for the F138 Formula 1 racer, the bodywork was tuned in the company’s F1 wind tunnel, and drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipse Massa helped arrange the cockpit for the optimum driving position. Though only 499 people can buy one, the LaFerrari will serve as a halo model that adds prestige to the company’s entire lineup.

Despite its seriously limited production volume, technological lessons learned from the LaFerrari are intended to trickle down to other models in the range. That may mean more hybrid Ferraris in the future, but for now it simply means an insanely fast and advanced performance car.

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