Ferrari 599XX Evoluzione Review - Past Blast

By: Andy Enright, Photography by: Andy Enright

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John Bowe takes the only Ferrari 599XX Evoluzione in the country for some laps around Winton Raceway in Victoria

 

Ferrari 599XX Evoluzione

It’s easy to be cynical about Ferrari’s XX programme. You know, the scheme where hedge fund managers line up for a beauty contest to be ‘pre-selected’ by Maranello for the privilege of blowing millions on a vehicle that can’t be road registered, isn’t a racing car, and which Ferrari lets you use sporadically, your demented wallet-waving ensuring that you win at track days. For those of us who’ll never get near owning one of these unicorn beasts, scoffing is usually the first line of defence.

A bit of background first. The first XX-series car was the FXX, built on the Enzo platform and launched in 2005 with just 38 built during a two-year run culminating in the 2007 FXX Evoluzione which featured a more aggressive aero package. Two years later, Ferrari was at it again, launching an XX version of the front-engined 599, and in 2011, that too was followed by the 599XX Evoluzione package, with active aero, the six-litre V12 tweaked to 740hp and 35 kilos shaved off the kerb weight. I’m currently sitting in a pit garage at Winton looking at the one and only 599XX Evoluzione in Australia, purchased by a lucky collector for an undisclosed amount rumoured to be over $2m. John Bowe’s suiting up for a test session in the car and it might be the first time I’ve ever seen him look a bit apprehensive. "I’m not sure who pays for this if it goes pop," he mutters. Editor Guido’s careworn corporate Amex certainly isn’t going to foot that bill.

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The fastest front-engined Ferrari that’s ever rolled from Maranello looks utterly fantastic, even amid the lithe 458 GT3 racers along for the test. Initial cynicism soon gives way to a slightly giddy excitement. This really is a thing, isn’t it? A phalanx of techs from Maranello Motorsport swarm all over the thing and it erupts into life. I’ve made the mistake of standing right next to the exhaust, which exits just behind the rear wheel and it’s deafening. You’d certainly have to pick and choose which tracks you could run the car at, as it would peg the noise meters at a few.

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Bowe gets a final run-through of the test’s objectives and sets off on a lap to punch a few Kelvins into the Pirelli slicks (see the video here). It’s clearly a fine balancing act, the car’s nose skating wide through Kitome as JB rolls onto the throttle. There’s a huge mix of cars at this test, with everything from GT3-spec Ferraris and Lamborghinis to V8 Supercars and Radical lightweights but the 599XX’s engine dominates. It’s quite unlike the brittle purity of a flat-plane Ferrari V8, instead injecting a lot more bass into the mix. It sounds gutsy, characterful and symphonic. And after only a handful of laps the car is back in pit lane. Bowe’s wearing a big grin as he hauls himself out.

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"It’s a fabulous car. No mufflers, so the noise it makes inside the car is unbelievable. I was careful with it, knowing it’s $2m and that if I crashed it I don’t think I’d ever be able to show my face again, ever!" he laughs. "The balance of the car was good, initially it’s a bit overwhelming because it’s got so much grunt. It feels really good. It has a touch of road car about it compared to a GT3 car. It has a softer ride and a bit more roll, the brake pedal’s assisted. In a race car you clamp the brake pedal, really push it as hard as you can, but in this you just rest your foot on it. With those big ceramic brakes it stops really well. The most impressive thing about it is the engine. The response is just so linear – it has power from no revs and it keeps on going to 8000 when you see the shift lights go on and you pluck another gear. The yowl it makes is almost a scream when it gets up there in the rev range.

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"It’s a serious bit of kit. I’d love to take it somewhere where you can really wind it up because it’s mega mega fast on top speed, so I’d love to get it to Bathurst. It’d be lovely up and down that hill! It’s got a bit of aero but the rear wing doesn’t look as if it would do much until you got to 200mph, so I wasn’t too angry on the throttle. It’s got three settings for the dampers and I ran them on the medium, it’s got an eight-position traction control system which I didn’t action. It has some nice driver aids, a paddle shift and a readout on the dash to tell you what gear you’re in. Once the tyres are up to temperature, it’s actually quite benign. It’s not a beastly horrible thing or anything. Like I said, it’s got this crazy engine, so it not only goes quick, it sounds like its going quick too. The V12 sounds fantastic. Although I’ve raced V8s for years, I love the sound of a six-cylinder engine and this is just two sixes put together."

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It certainly seems to earn Bowe’s approval. What’s more, it’s clear that the XX programme has also informed a lot of the chassis tuning and electronics calibration of future Ferrari models. Yes, the factory has called upon Michael Schumacher or Fernando Alonso to pound its cars around Fiorano, but the XX cars have supplied terabytes of data on how mere mortals – albeit very wealthy ones – react to a hugely powerful car at the limit. Without this data and expertise a modern 488 GTB would be borderline undriveable to most. The 599XX Evoluzione is a mobile test bed, a collector’s dream and something that can cleanse the palate of even the most jaded cynic. We’d call that a win-win-win.

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