First Drive: 2011 Ferrari 599GTO

Only one foot is required to drive the GTO, of course, as it comes exclusively with the latest version of Ferrari's F1 automated transmission. Full-throttle upshifts are over and done in 60 milliseconds; and downshifts are now complete in only a quarter of the time they used to require. It's better than ever - and it's also history, as this, sadly, is the last evolution of Ferrari's single-clutch automated manual.

The GTO's suspension and chassis changes were made to further reduce understeer - although we felt exactly none of that when sliding the 599HGTE around Fiorano last year. Nevertheless, the GTO rides 0.4 inch lower than the HGTE (which itself is 0.4 inch lower than the 599GTB) and yet still doesn't scrape on driveways and speed bumps. It still manages to ride comfortably, thanks to second-generation magnetorheological dampers that mechanically adjust their stiffness every ten to fifteen milliseconds. That's equivalent to every foot traveled at 60 mph.

The 599's carbon-ceramic Brembo rotors are now gripped by ceramic-compound pads, an industry first. The carbon pads provide a more consistent coefficient of friction and even better fade resistance. Formula 1-derived "doughnuts" cover the leading half of the rotors, supplementing the complex brake-cooling ducts to channel even more air to the brakes. Since the HGTE experienced zero brake fade with the pads literally on fire last year, it's safe to say that the GTO's brakes are now unfadeable.

The final big change to the 599GTO concerns its electronics. Specifically, it benefits from the advancements made on the 599XX that integrate all the drive systems - stability control, ABS, traction control, and the dampers. The idea is that the car's computers should fully understand the complete picture of the vehicle's dynamics - and rather than just correct a problem, they react preemptively, and in concert, to stop it from happening in the first place. This all happens smoothly enough to be almost completely transparent to the driver.

To demonstrate this, Ferrari brought us to the very fast, very challenging - and very unfamiliar - Mugello circuit. With the manettino in Sport mode and our blood pressures in cardiopulmonary-embolism mode, we attacked the track - with no drama. In Sport, there is simply nothing you can do to upset the car - up to and including turning in like a madman and simultaneously summoning all 670 hp as you're cresting a hill in the middle of a camber change and running over a goat. The GTO reacts to your requests instantaneously, but only up to its limit. There's no sudden snap oversteer, corrected by a brutal stability control intervention. There's no sudden acceleration followed by a lurch or wheel spin, the engine cutting out, and a slow and gradual return to power. No, instead, this Ferrari knows in advance what's going to happen and makes subtle adjustments - or flat-out denies your power request - and the result is that the car is as smooth as if a pro were at the wheel when you're doing what amounts to having a grand mal seizure at the controls.

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