This HGTE handling package for the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March and we’ve just been to Fiorano, appropriately, to test it. With Ferrari predicting the same sales in 2009 as 2008, despite the addition of around 2000 Californias, it plainly needs help shifting its current models, and particularly the V12s. But will the idea of spending an extra £13,960 for some chassis, gearbox and trim tweaks be enough to tempt existing 599 owners to upgrade?
So what does the HGTE pack give you for fourteen grand?
No engine modifications, for a start – not that the magnificent, Enzo-derived 612bhp V12 needs them. For the 2008 model year it cut emissions from 490g/km to 415 and consumption from 13.3mpg to 15.7; very impressive, if not exactly the kind of bar-room boasts that would tempt existing owners to change.
So the HGTE package aims to do that. It lowers the car by 10mm and springs are 17% stiffer at the front and 15% at the back. The magnetorheological damping system is remapped to reduce roll, the wheels runs half a degree more camber and the rear anti-roll bar is 1.5mm thicker. The six-speed paddle-shift manual transmission now shifts 15 milliseconds faster at 85m/s, and will perform multiple downshifts if you hang onto the left paddle. And the quad exhausts have been made a little louder and angrier, not that the current car is shy.
I’m struggling to spot the difference…
The easiest way to spot the HGTE is its new matt-silver five-spoke wheels, which cut 5kg in unsprung weight. They’re half an inch wider at the front and are shod with stickier rubber. The brake callipers come in five colours and the venturi is now finished in black and the front and rear prancing horses in brushed aluminium. Inside there’s a white rev counter and full carbon trim. The new carbon-shelled but fully electrically adjustable seats are trimmed in leather and Alcantara, with the Handling GTE logo stitched across the backrest.
>> Click ‘Next’ below to read more of our Ferrari 599 HGTE first drive
But can you tell the difference on the road?
It’s not easy, but only because the standard 599 is so good. The HGTE has a slightly quicker turn-in. Ride comfort in the standard ‘sport’ setting remains good but in ‘race’ it’s too stiff for some poorly-surfaced roads. In both modes, roll is reduced but this is still a big GT car; don’t expect it to corner as flat as a Scuderia.
But it now feels more at home on the track; the standard 599’s amazing resistance to understeer, huge power and torque and impassive braking are now matched to less mid-bend wallow. The exhaust note is bigger without getting you an ASBO, and the faster upshifts near the redline are the most noticeable change; shockingly fast and borderline uncomfortable.
You’ll need to be a talented driver and on a closed circuit to really feel the benefit, and even then Ferrari says the HGTE package only shaves 0.6sec off the standard 599’s time around Fiorano.
But the average 599 buyer spends this amount on bespoke cosmetic changes anyway, so they’ll have little difficulty justifying an extra fourteen grand for a slightly sharper-handling version of what is arguably Ferrari’s best-ever GT car.
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