2011 Ferrari 599 GTO

Three years ago, I would’ve told you it would be near impossible to improve upon the 2007 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. After all, the V-12 berlinetta proved quicker to 60 mph than even the vaunted Enzo, taking just 3.2 seconds. But that was before Ferrari invited us to test out the new 2011 599 GTO at Autodromo del Mugello, a 3.3-mile ribbon of undulating asphalt located in a lush green valley not far from Florence, Italy.

In producing the 599 GTO—the fastest-ever Ferrari road car, at least in terms of lap times around Ferrari’s home track (Fiorano)—the engineers in Maranello, Italy, focused on four key areas: increasing power, decreasing weight, reducing understeer and improving downforce. Tall orders, yes, but Ferrari learned great lessons with its track-only 599XX, and the 599 GTO you see here is the result of a marriage between the 599XX and the 599 GTB Fiorano.

Ferrari says the GTO’s 6.0-liter V-12 is “about 90 percent of the 599XX’s engine.” Internal friction was reduced by 12 percent compared to the GTB. Besides adopting the 599XX’s crankshaft and intake system, the GTO V-12 has new connecting rods and pistons, raised 11.9:1 compression (up from the GTB’s 11.2: 1 ratio) and the 599XX’s lighter (and 8-decibel louder) exhaust—with catalytic converters, of course. The result is 661 bhp at 8250 rpm and 458 lb.-ft. of torque at 6500 rpm, which make the 599 GTO the most powerful road-going Ferrari ever.

Compare those figures to the GTB (611 bhp at 7600 rpm and 448 lb.-ft. at 5600) and you’ll note the power has moved up the tachometer. In other words, you need to rev the GTO, but this certainly isn’t a problem; as with all Ferraris, the 599 GTO is designed to be wound out high and hard, allowing you to bask in a glorious, hair-raising cacophony that’s accompanied by the most wondrous snap, crackle and pop from its exhaust with each shift. Ferrari says upshifts from the 6-speed single-clutch F1 gearbox have been reduced to just 60 milliseconds and downshifts take just 120 milliseconds. The 599 GTO can also perform multiple downshifts by simply holding in the left carbon-fiber paddle shifter (just as on the 599XX). The downshifts are always perfectly timed, accompanied by soul-stirring throttle blips.

Besides being more powerful, the 599 GTO is 220 lb. lighter than the GTB (which weighed 3865 lb. on our scales). But the GTO is no stripper—the interior remains as fantastic and exotic as ever (a notable change being the exposed aluminum floor) and still retains creature comforts such as air conditioning and power windows—it probably has a stereo, too, but why would you listen to that when you have a wondrous V-12 soundtrack?

Nearly every area of the car was put on the chopping block in an effort to shave pounds. The transmission is 18 lb. lighter, and the exhaust has been trimmed of 29 lb. thanks to hydroforming technology that allows thinner tubing and fewer welds. Brembo also managed to take almost 7 lb. out of its carbon-ceramic brake system, adding ceramic pads for the first time on a road car. Ferrari says these brakes were absolutely required to cope with the 599 GTO’s increased performance level.

Items such as thinner windows, an aluminum trunklid and a lighter aero underbody contributed to a further 68 lb. savings, while the interior is some 73 lb. lighter due to highly bolstered, carbon-fiber-backed seats with grippy (but very un-Ferrari-like) fabric inserts, lots of matte-finish carbon-fiber trim and a lightweight suede material in place of what would usually be leather.


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