- Apr 1, 2011
Move over Enzo, there's a new Sheriff in town.
The Scuderia have always taken pride in their road car division with regards to performance and styling. Ferrari produced some of the most beautiful and revered cars in the history of motoring like the 250 GT California Spyder, the GTO, the 275 GTS and of course the F40. More recently though, they've produced some incredible cars like the 458 Italia and the F12 Berlinetta. However, since the release of the Enzo, Ferrari hasn't really taken the limelight with a hypercar... Until now.
Welcome everyone, to the Ferrari LaFerrari: The fastest and most powerful production car the prancing horse have ever created.
The LaFerrari is part of a new generation of hypercar that harnesses the developing technology of hybrid power-trains that have been becoming more and more apparent as of late with the McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918 Spyder, both of which are supposedly direct competitors to the LaFerrari. All three cost more than a mansion with ocean views, all three utilize hybrid petrol-electric technology, and all three are designed and engineered by very very clever people. However, much pleasure will be taken by the curly dark-haired, spaghetti-eating chaps with the fact that when all three cars are at full chat, the Ferrari leaves both the Porsche (887 bhp) and the McLaren (903 bhp) in the dust as it produces 60 thundering thoroughbreds more than the P1. Sixty! However, having more power does not necessarily make it a better car, so I went on an explore to see just how this monster handles on a (virtual) racetrack.
Naturally with so much power, the first place I took it for a test drive was it's home stomping ground at the temple of speed: Monza. The speed is the first thing you'll notice about this car's performance because the rate at which it is able to cover ground is simply mind boggling, utterly astonishing and enough to make you brown down there. For example, the pit straight at Monza is one of the longest straights on any racing circuit in the world at just over 1.1 kilometres in length, and at full speed, the LaFerrari can cover it in just 12 seconds, reaching a top speed of 330km/h, all before having to stamp on the brake pedal and use those massive carbon ceramic brake discs that are able to slow the car from 330km/h down to just 60km/h in just over three seconds. The braking in the LaFerrari is enhanced with an air brake at the rear of the car that pops up as you press the brake pedal, and if you look through the mesh below the spoiler, you can actually see all the mechanisms working in real time to change the angle of the air-brake to produce more or less drag depending on your on-track situation. Additionally there are two rear floor-diffuser flaps that also provide a drag effect when the brakes are applied. Don't ask me how, I don't know, but the engineers at Maranello do, so I'll trust their judgement.
It quickly became apparent that the LaFerrari is fast beyond belief, and decelerates quickly enough for you to almost feel the G-forces from your armchair. But what about those other things on race tracks that make it a circuit? The corners, how does the LaFerrari fair around those? Well, to find out, I stuck with the all-Italian theme, and took it to a track that has many corners: Mugello.
Put simply, the steering response is the best of any road car I've ever driven in any sim. Once you get adjusted to the handling of the car and how it copes with the track, it's a surreal experience because the steering wheel feels like an extension of your arms, such is it's immediacy and directness. You end up just thinking your way around the race track, as the car does exactly what you ask of it. The force feedback is detailed and refined at the same time, so you know exactly what is happening with the balance of the car at all times. For a road car, especially with this level of power and torque, the turn in is akin to that of a GT car, which is high praise. However, it's not surprising when you stop and notice just how fat those tyres are, both front and rear, it's no wonder there's so much mechanical grip. Typically rear-engine cars tend to understeer when pushed to the limit of grip, but the overall balance of this car is tremendous, and if you take a corner correctly, the understeer is almost non-existent. If you feel like getting a bit silly, then controlling the oversteer on corner-exit is, for the most part, an easy and joyous experience.
Another big factor in the way this car handles is it's suspension. Again, it's fantastic. Bumps and kerbs in the track don't upset the balance, which enables you to really attack the track with the confidence that the car will act as you have instructed it to. It's both soft and firm at the same time, which is why you can pull 3.5 lateral G's through a corner, and have a comfortable drive to the shops. Win-Win.
The attention to detail that Kunos Simulazione have applied to the LaFerrari is as mind blowing as the LaFerrari itself. Starting with the meticulous replication of it's Kinetic Energy Recovery System, which provides 161 horsepower to it's already overly powerful 789 bhp, 6.3L V12 engine. As the KERS name indicates there is actually real time regenerative braking that you can see happening on the dashboard of the car. As you accelerate, the batteries discharge, and when you coast or apply the brakes, it takes that kinetic energy and stores it back in batteries the to boost you out of the next corner at a rate not yet seen by a road car. In fact, to prove that the KERS actually works and is not just some animated texture on the dash to fool you into thinking it's working, if you purposefully blow your engine, then you can still drive around on electric power, which is quite an experience, and is still amazingly quick, however, it's range isn't very large, which explains why there's no E-Mode on the LaFerrari.
Furthermore, because of this KERS benefit, the LaFerrari is 40% more fuel efficient than it would otherwise be without the electrical boost. This means that pushing hard for one full lap of Mugello will use around 1.5L of fuel, which for a 6.3L V12 is simply astonishing.
The LaFerrari in Assetto Corsa also utilizes a system called EF1-Trac F1 Traction Control, which is integrated with the overall hybrid system. I won't bore you with the details because it's quite a complex system, and because I've got no idea how it works, but basically in driving terms, it essentially acts to provide a braking force should the car sense that it's about to lose traction all together. For example, if you're too hot entering a turn, and the rear end begins to break away, you'll actually feel this stability braking system start to come into play and keep the car from coming out the other side of the corner in a backwards fashion. It's a tremendously effective system, and it works well without preventing you from having fun.
From an aesthetic perspective, I don't think the LaFerrari is the best looking car that Ferrari have ever made, but against it's competitors, I think it's prettier than the Porsche, and is much prettier than the McLaren, that's for damn sure. The rear end isn't exactly what you would call 'eye-candy', and while the front end is better looking than the rear with its aggressive styling, there's just something not quite right about it.
From the inside you'll immediately note the steering wheel... It's square. I've no idea if this is for reasons of performance, or if it's just square for the sake of being square. But it's a quirky touch, and I think it actually looks quite nice. As is the case with most of the hypercars of today's generation, the interior is almost entirely made from carbon fibre, mostly with performance in mind in order to save weight and stiffen the chassis of the car, which is yet another area that the LaFerrari excels at because the dry weight of this car is just over 1.2 tons, which is much the same as your average hatch-back. This means that putting 963 horsepower through the rear wheels of a car that weighs much the same as the winner of this years Mr. Big-Mac, the performance effects are going to be profound.
Additionally, the sounds aren't too great, in particular the downshift sound, because well, there isn't one. If you've seen footage of the car in real life, then you'll know what I mean. In-game, there's no engine rev as you shift down gears, and as a result you lose any and all visceral immersion with the car under braking and on corner entry. Just to clarify, the sounds of this Ferrari are by no means poor, but they're simply not what they could and should be for a screaming V12. So with this in mind, I'm hoping desperately that Kunos will address this issue with the arrival of the new audio samples, because once it's fixed, this car will be occupying many many hours of my time with Assetto Corsa.
Whilst I'm on the topic of things that I don't like, I might as well bring up the elephant in the room, it's name: LaFerrari. If that's not the worst name for what is arguably the greatest hypercar of this generation, then I don't know what is. I don't know who decided to call it LaFerrari, but I can only imagine that Enzo Ferrari is turning in his grave because of it. Are they trying to say it's "The Ferrari"? If they are, then it's somewhat understandable as it's the most extreme Ferrari ever to emerge from the Italian company, but there are certainly other Ferrari models out there that are more widely recognised and praised for their legendary status that could perhaps warrant the name of "The Ferrari" even more. But perhaps I'm being pedantic, I mean it's only a name, right? Before it was released it was initially going to be called the F150, which I personally like more.
As you can see, my complaints with this car are mostly superficial and purely down to personal taste, which should not detract from the fact that this is an unbelievably good car.
The LaFerrari has something for everyone; at low speeds it's as relaxing as a massage parlor, requiring no more concentration or effort than any other road car. If you want to stretch it's legs, it'll provide the rip-your-face-off speed in an instant. And if you fancy some sideways action, then it'll be all too happy to do that too.
Now, I know people tend to give electric cars a lot of shtick for being "green, tree-huggin', whale savers", but the fact of the matter is that this electric technology is helping to produce some of the most amazing, bonkers and mind-bogglingly stunning cars the likes of which this world has never seen. With some of the best engineers on the planet only just starting to scratch the surface of this new technology, lap records and ultimate top speed records are going to be broken, and the most exciting part in all of this is that with cars like the Porsche 918, McLaren P1 and the LaFerrari, this is just the beginning.
This then, truly is one of the greatest Ferrari's ever made, and I simply cannot wait to test it against the McLaren P1 when it arrives in Assetto Corsa in a few months time, because I'm certain that Kunos will have done just as stellar a job with that car, as they have done with this one.
4 out of 5 stars.
1.7 million dollars, 963 horsepower, 900Nm of torque, a top speed of over 370km/h and rev limit of 9000 rpm. The only small number involved with this car? 0-60: 2.9 seconds.