First Drive: 2011 Ferrari 599GTO

Ever notice how anyone driving slower than you is a moron and everyone passing you is a maniac? Funny, me too. That same logic tends to show up in car reviews - any easy-to-tame car is brandished as boring. Worse, if the driver runs out of talent before the car runs out of grip, it's an evil bastard. The Ferrari 599GTO solves this by being one of the fastest, most perfectly balanced, and most capable cars in the world - and at the same time, its absurdly high limits are totally approachable. It makes good drivers very fast; it makes great drivers set world records.

One particularly impressive record is the GTO's lap time at Ferrari's Fiorano racetrack: a full second faster than the Enzo. The GTO is a big, heavy, comfortable grand tourer with a big trunk, automatic climate control, and a dash full of Bose speakers. And it's faster than an Enzo - a purpose-built supercar?! Wow.

The GTO is the fourth variant of the 599-series V-12 sports car. The first was the base 599GTB Fiorano, which appeared in 2006 with a 5999-cc V-12 engine producing 612 hp. Last year, Ferrari launched an expanded sport package called the 599HGTE - handling gran turismo evolutione. It didn't offer any more thrust, but dramatic revisions to the suspension gave it perfectly balanced handling with no compromise to comfort or luxury.

Earlier this year, Ferrari announced the 599XX, a track-only monster that was the result of research on aerodynamics and computer-assisted handling systems. The 599XX has crazy things like fans where the trunk once was and alien-looking winglets on the C-pillars to create downforce.

The 599GTO is, in effect, a street-legal version of the XX. Although it doesn't share the track car's active aero tricks, it does feature fully revised aerodynamics - wider bumpers and side skirts, new spoilers, diffusers, and underbody channels - all to create significant downforce. It's about 220 pounds lighter than other 599 models, thanks to aluminum body panels that are twenty percent thinner and dozens of other weight-saving measures.

The GTO's quad-cam V-12 produces 661 hp thanks to reduced friction, a higher compression ratio, and improved breathing. Whereas the regular 599's engine feels like it's running out of breath after its 7600-rpm power peak, the GTO doesn't. In fact, it makes full power right at the 8400-rpm limiter.

And it makes some pretty beautiful music, too. The regular V-12 has six catalytic converters in a 6-into-2-into-1 exhaust system; the GTO's uses instead a 6-into-1 setup with only two cats. Combined with dual intake resonance tubes, the engine is eight decibels louder inside the car - the difference between, say, Eartha Kitt whispering at you from across the room and one of those Jersey Shore broads screaming at you inside an elevator. Except the Ferrari sounds glorious - more like a Maranello flat-crank V-8 than the other V-12s, with a smooth, sweet tenor wail at part throttle that becomes a ferocious scream when you put your foot down.

1 of 3

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles