Cruise & Control – Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

Words by Joe Guggenheim

I have always had a somewhat enigmatic draw to the 599. First—philosophically, the 599 has always conjured a glamorous, sophisticated, trans-European image – in my eyes somewhat akin to the romance and allure of a Daytona. In fact, in true Pininfarina fashion, the 599’s hood subtly gives a nod to the Daytona’s. While undeniably exotic, the 599 retains demure lines distinct to the flagship front engine V12 Berlinettas of its lineage— and the leather clad, gentlemanly-yet-racy interior would mean the car was right at home “on holiday” in the South of France (in reality, I’ve found it hard to replicate that in the Northeast United States). Aside from those musings of “what could be” in my dreams, what the car actually is on paper was also attractive.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-26Published statistics are great to tell people how fast you’ll never go. But for tifosi who are connected to the pedigree and history of Ferrari, they give meaning to a car. After all, with the right resources, anybody can make a top performing car; yet for some reason they’ll never capture the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that only Ferrari does. Knowing that the 599 predecessors are the unrivalled 275 GTB, 365 GTB/4 Daytona, and 550 Maranello (plus 575) means the 599 has some brilliant genes from design to performance, and the end product happens to carry overwhelmingly remarkable statistics to back them up. The piece de resistance is unquestionably the engine, Tipo F140. The dual overhead cam V12 that was originally developed for the revered Enzo and subsequently placed in the 599 in a slightly detuned state. Fitted with steel rods rather than titanium, different camshafts, and different ECUs, the 599 was powered by nearly the identical heart as the Enzo—with redline at 8400rpm rather than the Enzo’s 8200rpm (more on the engine later). Needless to say, the numbers and statistics prove compelling to even the most experiential drivers, and were definitely attractive to me, but for the most part they add up to say “the car is a mega performer.” In summary, generally knowing that it wouldn’t disappoint in any performance category, the lineage and engine attracted me most.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-17Finally, on a personal level, the 599 was a logical, and magical stablemate to the 550 Maranello it would join in the garage. Having lived with both for several months, I am happy to report that they are certainly related, but more than anything brilliantly complimentary (more on that later as well). The genes carry through without duplicity.

Admittedly, I had always been chasing a Challenge Stradale. Having come dangerously close to deal on a few Stradales, they never came to fruition. In a sense, the Stradale would have been a nice compliment to the 550 as well. Then they became $300,000 and frankly, a lot less interesting at that price. With unlimited resources, there would undoubtedly be a CS, short nose 275 GTB, F50, and 599 surrounding the 550 (which will always be my favourite)… but alas, that is not quite the case. I am not too sad about it though.

Having driven several Stradales, I’d fallen in love. A purposeful, gorgeous, light, mid-engine race car for the road with greatest sound known to man in contrast to the nearly classic 550 befitted with an outrageously good V12, spectacular looks, and gated manual. I think the 599 fills the role nearly as well, just from a different perspective—and while people say the Stradale is a derivative of the Enzo, at least the 599 has its engine. That being said, while a Stradale would break the V12 streak, it would make a great third. But so would a Daytona. Or about 10 other fabulous Ferraris.

Like my father, I’m obsessive. As a Ferrari guy, I’m always interested in all things Ferrari. As a finance and economics junky, I’m interested in markets. Combine the two and I’m constantly analysing and combing through the Ferrari market. Whether I like it or not, I synthesize the information gleaned from domestic and global equity, real estate, and geo-political climates and mentally pinpoint the best values in the one market that interests me most—Ferrari. There is a lot of noise in the Ferrari market these days, making it hard to separate speculation and fundamental value—but one thing is certain, I’d realised that 599’s have not enjoyed the appreciation of many other modern Ferraris during this bull run. I certainly wasn’t buying into a euphoric speculation. In fact, at current prices, I think the value proposition of the 599 is simply too great; it is too much car for the money.

Given my aforementioned thoughts around what attracted me to the 599, I hope it’s clear that the emotional and passionate side of me far outweighs my value-seeking side. But I like to feel good about both—and the yin & yang of the 599 made it a no-brainer.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-24While not actively searching, but very interested given my conclusion regarding value, when I happened upon this particular car it was too hard to say no. Given its irreplaceable spec and condition a deal had to be made. A 2008 599 GTB in Nero Daytona over Rosso with black upper dash, upper and lower driving zones in carbon fibre, black carpeting, black Daytona inserts, black stitching, black piping, leather rear shelf, leather roof, yellow tach, yellow callipers, Scuderia shields, ball-polished pentagram wheels, Ceramic brakes and F1, as standard in 2008 with 12,000 miles.

The car is now lowered, with a painted rear diffuser (Nero Daytona), and fitted with Novitec reflectors, rear fog lights, and rear centre brake light—the exterior aesthetic is now fully integrated and consistent. Dare I say the look is toned down a bit, given the aggressive base?

Admittedly, I was never a fan of the standard pentagram wheels on a 599. After seeing them on this car, I became enamoured with them. Given the depth of the metallic in Nero Daytona paint, I found that the ball-polished wheel finish adds a deeply dimensional visual texture to the profile of the car. Furthermore, the open design frames the callipers and industrial beauty of the hub and rotor, unlike the GTB’s optional challenge wheels. Having 19” fronts and 20” rears allows almost zero caliper clearance on the front, which is a great detail and gives a raked optical illusion to the car. In terms of design, I love the simplicity and nod to the notable F50 style. I think the wheels are a key component to the visual appeal and should be celebrated.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-4The car is also fitted with a Tubi exhaust. It’s spectacular. Tubi on a 355 is heavenly, while Tubi on a 550 can be overly resonant and dull — I am happy to report that on a 599 it is superb. Attempting to explain how it sounds is a futile exercise, but if you have the opportunity to hear it in person, you’ll understand.

I purchased the 599 in December, it has been roughly six winter months and about 800 miles. Most of those miles were put on in South Florida, where the car stayed until February. Then it was brought up North and religiously detailed in the garage until the weather and roads recently cleared up.

The 599 has a presence that is hard to articulate. It is low, and wide, and aggressive, but in some ways gracious and polite. To the naked eye, as you approach, the spirit of the 599 whispers that it is meant to please but must be respected. Compared to a 911 or even an 8-cylinder, which can easily be “toys,” the 599 is on another level of presence that screams everlasting flagship. I’ll add that that I don’t get the same feeling from the F12, however.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-7Hit the unlock button on the fob and the chime, exterior lights, and audible unlocking of the doors cycle simultaneously and urgently. The small, elegant door handle is angled upward, which makes the triviality of opening the door a slightly exotic experience. Once opened, the F1 pump begins to cycle. The door is large but light and acts as the gateway to a cockpit full of theatre — it is entertaining simply being there.

Once inside, the door pull is set forward, suddenly making the door heavier as you pull it shut since there is little leverage. Oddly, that gives a feeling of structural strength, which validates the visual cues as you approach, and is enhanced by the extreme angle of window frame from back to front that only becomes evident once inside.

The 599 racing seat is ideal— finally a seat that I sit in rather than on. Before even starting the car, you can tell that lateral support is tremendous. The steering wheel is art, small and thick with a neatly sculpted airbag cover, carbon upper portion, and LED shift lights (which actually do come n handy!) Looking around the rest of the cabin once again confirms the mission to balance sport with gran turismo. The Rosso leather is opulent, rich, and generously fitted. I’m certain there is a Birkin somewhere on this Earth cut with that exact leather. Fit and finish is unlike any preceding Ferrari.

Key in the ignition, turn on, foot on brake, pull both paddles to neutral if not already selected, let the system cycle, briefly press-and-hold start button, and prepare.

After a short high pitched whistle from the starter, cold starts are loud as the 599 barks to life with a small rev. The first minute or so of choppy idle through the Tubi exhaust is loud, guttural, and metallic—not synthesized. It has an authentic, high-strung, mechanical character. Up front, the click-clack of the lifters subsides as the engine warms up. Once it is up to temperature, the harmony is smoother but still robust— as though the song is bred from the engine rather than the muffler, just as it should be.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-8The throttle is a medium weight and allows you to communicate with the F1 clutch easily through your right foot. The clutch uptake in small technical manoeuvring is not progressive; it is binary, so you’re either being propelled by the engine or not. It is easy to manipulate, but the first few times take a bit of learning. Once the feel for the point of initial slip is learned, it becomes involuntary.

Once on the move, it becomes clear that the frenetic sound of the engine at idle is a representation of how it performs across the board. Preconceived notions of the car being heavy dissipate immediately because the instantaneous motor response makes the car feel weightless. The car has long gears and a limiter a good bit over 8000rpm, so there is a lot of room to play in each gear. Once on the move, moving from 1st to 2nd gear is another reminder that the car is feverishly apt at doing things expediently. The transmission is fast and efficient, and doesn’t diminish the feeling of control of the car. While my transmission preference is manual, I can feel the integration of F1 into the 599 design through my interactions with the throttle, engine, steering, and transmission and believe the F1 is perfectly suited to the car. I often think that a manual would interrupt the experience, unlike the 550 Maranello where it is the experience.

As you squeeze the throttle under load, the monotone exhaust bellow becomes louder and more intense—from a far it sounds ghostly. At higher revs, it’s concentrated and unrestrained—and as you bang into the next gear, the same tone quickly deepens once again and starts resolutely working back up the tonal range.

The level of engagement in the 599 at low speeds is very high. The exhaust pops and burbles; the shifts are mechanical, fast, and dramatic; the steering is firm and planted; there’s a constant feeling of mysterious, devastating power lurking under your right foot, per my point about wanting to please but demanding respect. That sentiment is immediately communicated as you begin to press on.

As you move through the paces, you’ll find that the personality shift from manageable to senselessly brutal is actually progressive. The elasticity of the motor is mind boggling—it is completely unrelenting. The rate with which you move across the spectrum is dependent only on your right foot and preparedness to control a machine that simply doesn’t want to be controlled. The sense of having long gears is applicable to speed, but not to time because the acceleration at full throttle is criminal. It’s barely usable to anyone with any legal conscience. The exhaust turns into a metallic scream, the acceleration pins you back, and the car remains flat and composed while the tires are on the limit of adhesion. It is sensory overload and truly addicting. The limits are so high that the car is comfortable cruising well above normal sports car speeds.

At more mature, yet still enthusiastic speeds, the car is never unsettled and constantly fluid. It works as one unit, and the driver is the brain. Only dipping into 20-25% of the performance at punishable speeds keeps you absorbed in the drama, while occasionally exploring the upper echelons of the capacity validates that this car is other-worldly.

I think the key to the satiating experience is that the car retains engagement all the time. From looking at it, to starting it, to driving slowly, to driving enthusiastically, it is always satisfying. The seating position and ergonomics are perfect for me. Most importantly, from the first drive, it felt like I’d been driving the car my entire life; it was instantly familiar. The steering is instant and communicable across the board and the suspension keeps the car firmly planted in all Manettino settings, although Race is particularly firm. The ceramic brakes are clearly built to shed speed – and when warmed up, they do that better than any car I’ve experienced with great pedal feel. The immense stopping power is a safety necessity on the 599. All those things are consistent and predictable. The variable features, on the other hand, are throttle and the transmission.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-2The throttle ultimately controls the intimidation factor; with progressive input, the car is incredibly confidence inspiring. However, the intimidation can grab quickly if the throttle is not respected. The superfluous power and torque guarantee that a driver never needs the full throttle, let alone half—so the amount available at any given time can be incorrectly measured. If you want to scare yourself, it’s easy to do so by discovering what is currently unused, which is often a surprising amount. As revs build the F1 shifts are crisp and quick, and never a background action. When you pull a paddle, you know you’re initiating a bolt-action sequence that gives you kick in the back, unlike the double-clutches that seamlessly switch cogs. My personal feeling is that the latest F1 transmissions are more enjoyable than double clutches that replaced them. I still prefer manual, but the experience afforded by the whole 599 package doesn’t ever make me think twice about having two paddles instead of a third pedal.

In terms of design features, I need to thank Frank Stephenson for his work on the 599. Compared to the timeless elegance of the 550, the 599 is a fire breathing animal. But without gratuitous over-styling like many modern supercars, the 599 is still a Pininfarina homerun that is aging beautifully in my eyes. Walking around the car, it’s hard to find an angle that isn’t arresting. There are subtle nods to important historic design cues, like the Daytona hood vents and F50 style wheels I mentioned. The bodywork is awash in muscular, dramatic lines. The lowered stance gives a squat, athletic, carved appeal. But most of all, the flying buttresses are a design cue that only a sophisticated design house could execute so beautifully. The body work looks like it has been pulled taught over the chassis from front to back, and the buttresses expand on that cue with their long, swooping, and sculpted design Inside, the design is cohesive, and as mentioned, perfectly balances racing circuit and social circuit. It’s Monaco in a car (again, in my dreams). The seats combine those sentiments perfectly— carbon clad in glowing Rosso leather with black Daytona inserts. They are modern yet classic with a dash of historic gesture.

The 599 is a major car. It’s a flagship 12-cylinder Ferrari that was built to maximise the senses. Perhaps not to the degree of the 1960’s design imperatives, but when the 599 it was launched was the epitome of human expression through a car. Global regulations and quarterly earnings didn’t lead to compromise. There is no start/stop button. No emphasis on fuel economy. No cost-cutting material. Nothing but the limits of mechanical engineering, wrapped in a stunning PF design, and one of the most dramatic, exciting, and authentic experiences I’ve had in a car.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-15Furthermore, this particular car is, in my eyes, one of the best 599’s. Nero Daytona over Rosso, with black contrasting carpets, Daytona inserts, stitching, piping, and upper zone. Upper and lower carbon maintains the red/black contrast inside, and even takes on the depth and greys of Nero Daytona in sunlight. The Nero Daytona painted diffusor transforms the rear of the car into a seemingly small, jewel-like design—unlike painted diffusers on brighter colours that look heavier and sometimes cheap, or the OEM plastic finish that always seems cheap. The Novitec rear fogs and centre brake lights make the tail lights the only non-black colour on the rear and further enhance the lower/wider appeal. The Novitec reflectors visually shorten the side profile and maintain focus on the overall shape and design details. Add to that the unique ball-polished pentagram wheels, yellow callipers, shields, and Tubi—and I think this is a perfect 599. I’m typically not a fan of modifications, but those on this car enhance the car within its original image, rather than to serve as “personalisation.”

The combination of a significant car and my interpretation of the perfect example is euphoric. The additional layer is that the 599 sits next to one of the best 550 Maranellos in existence; the two add up to much more than the sum of the cars. The satisfaction that they both bring from an experiential and design perspective is inconceivable. Check back in 10, 20, 30 years. It’ll still be in the garage next to the 550. Stay tuned for Stradale, 275 GTB, and F50. Who needs a kidney?

So far, the car has been in Palm Beach, Florida for a couple months (mainly for Cavallino weekend) and in the Northeast US for the remainder. Having a Ferrari in Palm Beach during Cavallino is a wonderful time. It’s a full immersion into Ferrari and gives me a line-of-sight into the history and provenance of the marque through the vintage and modern cars on the island that January week. I’ve had the 550 there several times, even won Platinum/Best in Class a few years back, so I’m no stranger to having a car there. However, having a recently-purchased Ferrari of such caliber, that weekend, was nothing short of surreal. I got to know the car with friends and family and it was a memory I’ll never forget, especially given the blizzard we got hit with back home. Things worked out perfectly.

Looking forward, I’m excited to use it this summer and to compare and contrast against the 550 on some of the best back roads in the region.

People react to the car, period. It’s the part I dislike the most. Even though the 550 is red, it generally garners less attention than the 599, which is simply more modern and exotic — particularly now that it’s lowered a bit and a good amount louder. I’ve spent a lot of time in modern exotic cars and while reactions vary, it’s not all the same. Lamborghini garners attention for the sake attention for example. Vintage cars are whimsical and elicit nostalgia. In the case of the 599, I think people are paused by how striking it is on the highway or stopped at a light in town. It stands out because it’s different, not because it’s purpose to attract attention.

So far, maintenance has been non-existent. Prior to picking the car up in Florida, it received a major fluid service and new battery. It’s been driven without a hitch and put on a battery charger in between. That being said it’s only been 800 miles and it is a Ferrari – albeit the best built Ferrari I’ve seen. I’m cautiously optimistic that it will remain trouble free with regular maintenance. TPMS sensors are starting to fail, so they’ll be replaced when the car gets new tires in the next few months.

In terms of specialists I’d recommend Pompeo DiFranco at Prestige Auto Palm Beach in West Palm Beach, Florida who performed an intensive PPI and I would strongly recommend him to Southeast United States Ferrari owners. Now that the car is back up North, Anthony Sinnott at Scuderia Performante in Malvern, Pennsylvania will take it from there. “The Anthonys” at Scuderia Peformante are the best in the business. In fact, the 550 is with them right now for a belt service.

As per my aforementioned high-level analysis, my feeling is that 599’s are entirely too much car for the money, independent of current market dynamics. My categorization of the non-GTO 599 market has three buckets—2007 GTB, 2008-2009 GTB, and 2010-2011 HGTE (and some rare late non-HGTE). The 2007 cars are simply not desirable. While most have ceramic brakes, which were optional only in 2007, they receive the least love and are significantly cheaper than 2008 and later cars. I think they’ll remain within the $145-165,000 range for the next few years as there is limited demand.

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano Investment Car-11Next is the 2008-2009 tranche that represents the bulk of the supply. These cars are mileage and specification sensitive, and range from the $165-$190,000. I think this set has firmed up and bounced in the last few months. In December there were cars to be had in the $150-$160,000 range, but now it seems as though they’ve floated up $15-30,000.

Lastly, the late, generally very low mile and typically HGTE examples cover the $190-240,000 range. While I understand the asks, I can’t see the value in excessively low mile 599s—say sub 5,000 miles, but I can understand some buyers interested in paying for nearly new cars. The incremental value of HGTE cars also is somewhat perplexing. Having now spent quality time in HGTE, stock GTB, and lowered GTB with Tubi, I’ve experienced the gamut of the F1 non-GTO 599 range. The value proposition of HGTE doesn’t appeal to me at this point.

I could pick apart all the components to a degree—but my general feeling is that that package is superficial and doesn’t make the 599 much better. While the Fiorano Handling Package, or better yet, HGTC, on 575s was considered a requirement to even enjoy the car, I think HGTE on a 599 is a bit of marketing. Emperors clothing, if you will. It is undoubtedly more valuable, but not by the significant spread the market is currently exposing.

Having covered the three “normal” 599 segments, aside from outliers, we can say the core spread in asking prices is roughly $150-$210,000, with bids likely in the $135-$190,000 range. The distribution of supply leans toward the upper-mid range of those. Conservatively assume the average bid is $170,000 as our “599 price point.” For $170,000, there is no better value out there. Some people say 599’s will continue depreciating, but I disagree. $170,000 gets you’re a new 911 C4S with ceramic brakes, full leather, and a few other options. If you want a new flagship Ferrari, and have the “opportunity,” it will cost over $350,000. Even used, F12’s are over $300,000. I think the 599 was forgotten in the last year and overshot it’s equilibrium—which prompted a quick arbitrage opportunity as they seem to have bounced slightly already. In the next 3-5 years, I see good 599’s nudging $200,000 and the “bottom feeders” around $140,000. Essentially I’d predict a relatively sideways market for the foreseeable future.

Long-term, I see characteristics that could be enthralling to the market. The first are the engine’s merits—the same V12 as the Enzo; a low maintenance, high-revving, naturally aspirated DOHC V12. In a world where global emissions standards forces manufacturers to use supplementary power through electric and turbocharging and sound regulations to muffle the magic through additional engine modifications and restrictive exhausts, an engine like Tipo F140 could drive hysteria. Additionally, the 599 was one of the last Pininfarina designs before Ferrari took it in-house. While looks are subjective, I think it will prove to be iconic. Lastly, with Ferrari now publicly traded and ushering in new changes amongst top management, the Montezemolo era cars may represent worthy successors to the Enzo era in terms of desirability (to some degree). LDM era cars weren’t built to please shareholders, they were built to please customers. There is now significant uncertainty about the future of supercars and Ferrari supercars—it is possible that the 599 will benefit from those lusting after the last of the golden years, which it certainly represents. Even the single-clutch Superfast F1 is starting to hold ground against double clutch amid many conversations; I don’t think that will necessary drive demand, but it certainly won’t deter it like prior systems.

I wouldn’t invest in a 599 right now hoping for huge financial gain, but I would invest in one for Ferrari nirvana at the cost of incomparable (lesser) cars with little-to-no downside, and potentially some small medium-term upside.

The 599 sits next to a spectacular 2001 550 Maranello. The two cars represent a meaningful generational connection, yet have wildly different personalities. They are wildly satisfying and currently yield a level of contentedness that drives obsessive focus on them rather than the search for something else. New cars are losing their luster, and vintage cars are unobtainable. I think the 599 will endure, as the 550 already has, on its merits alone, not to mention the synergy that both cars deliver. I think a third would be a Stradale if prices reset somewhere closer to their prior range, but more likely a good 997 will be next. The 599 replaced a 996 Turbo cabriolet, which is missed. My feeling about modern Porsche aligns with my sentiment on Ferrari; I feel that the 997.1 is the 599 of 911’s.

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