Brave New World

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Rather than being a simple tub as used on the F50, Ferrari’s first all-composite car, the LaFerrari’s core was designed as a complete cell, including the roof structure. It is 20-percent lighter and around 25-percent stiffer than the Enzo’s cell, which allowed the engineers to create a surprisingly low and narrow rocker panel structure that makes dropping into the driver’s seat a cinch. On the other hand, the LaFerrari is noticeably smaller inside, bordering on cramped, due to the aerodynamicists’ desire to reduce the car’s frontal area in order to improve airflow management and decrease drag.

Much of the dashboard is instantly familiar to anyone who’s sat in an Enzo, but the way you get situated in front of it is fundamentally different. Ferrari worked out that it could reduce the car’s height compared with the Enzo by 30mm (about 1.2 inches) by fixing the seats, which will be fitted to suit the original buyer, directly to the floor. Pulling a lever close to the center tunnel unlocks the spring-loaded pedal box, which moves towards me; I push it away with both feet until it’s in the proper position, then release the lever to re-lock it in place. The steering column also adjusts manually.

The partially Alcantara-trimmed carbon-fiber steering wheel is squarer than in other current Ferraris, but contains the now-expected controls for lights and wipers, the manettino and the “bumpy road” button to soften the suspension, which suggests this might just be a useable road car. For now, though, I’ve got Fiorano all to myself.

Thumbing the big red starter button in the wheel’s lower left quadrant fires the monstrous engine mounted a few feet behind my back. The LaFerrari’s 6.3-liter all-aluminum V12 is based on the F12’s, which makes a world-class 740 hp and 509 lb-ft of torque. For this application, the engine has been squeezed a bit to pump out an additional 60 hp and 7 lb-ft, delivered through the usual seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and active differential to the rear wheels. Given that the Enzo packed “just” 660 hp, this new iteration of the V12 alone would make for spectacular performance. But in the LaFerrari, the gas engine is augmented by a 163-hp electric motor, for a staggering peak total output of 963 hp, along with 715 lb-ft of torque—by far the most ever in a road-going Ferrari.

Despite its hybrid powertrain, the LaFerrari does not offer an electric-only mode, unlike its McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spider rivals. Instead, the electric motor and gasoline engine constantly work together.

Rather than being a digital-analog hybrid as on the 458, FF and F12, the LaFerrari’s instrument-panel display is a full TFT unit. The VDA display, which shows the status of the car’s various systems, remains on the left-hand side, but now you can configure the main area to your taste, choosing between a traditional, circular “analog” tachometer or a deliciously 1980s-style engine-speed graph.

Whichever look is selected, redline hovers at the same, faintly absurd 9,250 rpm. That beats even the 458 (9,000 rpm), as does the V12’s sound track. Instead of the hard-edged tone of its baby brother’s V8, the LaFerrari sounds so much sweeter and more soulful.

Also from Issue 135

  • 458 Challenge Evo
  • Long-term Daytona
  • 599 Buyer's Guide
  • Survivor 250 Europa GT
  • F1: Fighting for second
  • FORZA Tifosi Challenge: Daytona
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