Every Ferrari is a show-stopping car, that’s just a given. But once every generation, the Italian firm really bends the laws of physics and creates a landmark car. The 288 GTO, F40, F50, Enzo and more have etched their names into history. They will simply never be forgotten, but will we say the same about the LaFerrari?
The latest apex predator has a lot more competition to contend with than Ferrari has faced for a long, long time. For the past 50 years Ferrari really only had to cast a cursory glance over its shoulder at Lamborghini. Now it has to contend with Pagani, Bugatti, Aston Martin and its old enemy from the Formula One circuit, McLaren. Even Tesla is pushing it to the limit.
So this is a tougher world for the Prancing Horse and it has responded with the most technically advanced machine ever to leave Maranello. It is a petrol-electric hybrid that should have been a quantum leap forward, but it landed in a head-to-head battle with the McLaren P1.
Is this car good enough to blast the upstarts from its path or is this the changing of the guard?
Ferrari could have doubled or trebled the price of this car and it would have still sold out in a heartbeat. The fact that before you could even apply, you had to be a friend of the company and owned several of its higher end cars, meant this car was exclusive enough to have people fighting for a spot.
With just 499 cars scheduled for production, before the company produced one more to auction off for the victims of the 2016 earthquake in Italy, this was an easy sell even at $1 million.
Ferraris used to be beautiful. In fact, lower down the line-up, the likes of the 488 and F12 are still breathtaking cars. So is the LaFerrari, in its own special way, but it isn’t pretty.
Scary? Yes. Awe-inspiring? Absolutely, but Ferrari has sacrificed elegance in the name of aerodynamic function. It’s the first range-topper that iconic design house Pininfarina didn’t style and we think it shows.
The nose is cut up like a Formula One machine and that distinctive wedge-shape front end, from above, is probably its best angle. When you look at it on the level, or from the side, or the rear, it just isn’t nearly as convincing as the McLaren P1 that is its natural enemy. With the wrong color combination, it looks positively ungainly and that just isn’t good enough for a $1 million Ferrari.
Looks aside, it’s a masterpiece of actual technical design. It comes with active aerodynamics at the front and rear so the wings actually appear when the car needs them. It has a lower center of gravity than the Enzo that it technically replaces and the chassis is lower and narrower, too.
That’s no mean feat when the car has to accommodate the hybrid drivetrain, as well as the 6-liter V12, in a car with roughly the same wheelbase and length as the Enzo. The fact that all this tech weighs in at 3,495lb is a testament to the weight saving elsewhere in the carbon-fiber wonder that is the body as well. Because the beating heart of this car, that V12 and electric motor, take up an awful lot of the final mass.
We always knew the LaFerrari was going to pack a brutal punch, but it was never going to leave the competition crying in the corner like Ferrari supercars of days gone by. Still, the 6.3-liter V12 punches out a spine-tingling 789bhp and it gets 120kW (161bhp) of additional force from the HY-KERS electric motor.
As the name suggests it harvests energy from braking and can even salvage valuable power from the action of the Antilock Braking System.
Unlike other manufacturers that give a limited power figure well below the combined output, Ferrari gives you every last drop and quotes combined figures of 950bhp and 664lb/ft of torque. That’s good, in fact it’s great. But it’s no longer a hammer blow to the rivals.
The basic acceleration figures should be insane. They are, but once again context is everything. We live in an age where the four-door Tesla Model S P100D can smash through 60mph in 2.5s and the Bugatti Chiron should beat the 280mph mark when the company finally lets it off the leash.
So suddenly the LaFerrari 0-60mph time of ‘less than three seconds’ wasn’t quite the punch to the throat we were expecting. Then videos started to surface of a variety of cars, from the McLaren P1 to the Rimac Concept One, stomping all over this car on the dragstrip.
We haven’t heard a single owner complain their car is too slow, but it is no longer the foregone conclusion. It is not the unbeatable Top Trumps card that Ferrari used to deal out every 10 years.
It’s still ludicrously quick, of course, and nails 124mph in under seven seconds and 185mph in 15s. It has taken seconds off the lap record at Fiorano, Ferrari’s in-house test track and it will break 220mph thanks to that slippery form.
It also comes with something the other cars don’t: the inimitable sound of a V12 engine roaring its heart out. It’s an emotional sound that is going to disappear from this world before too long and we should celebrate its presence in a car this advances.
Fractions on a stopwatch matter with cars like this, but the lucky few that get to own one will just remember the way it made them feel, the way it made the hairs on their neck stand on end when they opened the throttle. The Ferrari V12 simply has a charisma that the McLaren’s twin turbo and the Bugatti’s quad turbo will never quite match.
Just after the turn of the century, Ferrari made a conscious decision to go high-tech and strengthen the connection between its road cars and its iconic Formula One team.
It was riding high in Grand Prix racing with Michael Schumacher and it sensed the time was right to introduce a flurry of electronics into its cars that, ironically, get the Formula One car thrown out of the sport.
It’s a philosophy that it has stuck with to this day and the LaFerrari gets the third generation e-diff, advanced traction control and magneride suspension that contains a gel filled with metal particles that stiffen or soften depending on the terrain.
It’s all linked to the Manettino switch on the wheel and if you’re feeling brave then you can switch it to Race mode and the car will slide on command without getting too far out of control.
The really clever part is that Ferrari has managed to retain the driver involvement, despite using all these of electronic driver aids. They add to the experience and make the car accessible to everyone, an average driver fast and a good driver into a racer.
LaFerrari Special Editions
Ferrari pioneered the trackday hypercar concept and the likes of McLaren followed in their footsteps, so the Italian marque was always going to produce a racing LaFerrari and the LaFerrari FXX-K is absolutely brutal.
It comes with 1035bhp, the KERS system found on the Formula One cars and even more advanced aerodynamics that give the 40 handpicked drivers that get to essentially borrow the car that Ferrari keeps and drive it on selected circuits around the world.
Ferrari’s Client Test Driver program sells the dream. You get a set of Ferrari overalls, an official team of mechanics and the chance to drive the ultimate Ferrari at the world’s best circuits. The price of admission for this privilege is $2.8 million.
As well as the full-bore lunacy of the FXX-K, Ferrari also produced an open top version, the LaFerrari Aperta, which made its debut at the 2016 Paris Motor Show. As the car comes with a carbon body there’s no real loss, apart from a little top speed thanks to the reduced drag, and buyers will get the benefit of open top motoring in one of the world’s greatest cars.
Most of the actual magic in the LaFerrari interior is on the wheel. That’s clever, most of the functions you really need are at your fingertips. The square wheel shape is challenging, but then you see the lights that indicate when it’s time to flick the paddleshift for the next gear.
The indicators can be tapped with a thumb and you can even play with the damper settings and the Manettino without taking your hands away from the wheel. The instrument binnacle is actually a screen that means you can toggle through a vast library of information with ease and the only other buttons are clear, driver-facing and designed not to get in the way.
There’s a touch too much low-grade plastic in the switchgear. For a car with such limited numbers it really wouldn’t be too much to ask to coat them. But apart from that minor gripe then the rest of the car is beautifully finished in either naked carbon-fiber and Alcantara.
It isn’t the prettiest interior in this class, it’s just too busy and incoherent to mix it with the likes of the Bugatti Veyron and McLaren P1. But it is supremely functional and it works well.
It’s a mild hybrid, so Ferrari said there was no electric-only mode. There is and Ferrari made it accessible to the customers who requested it, but the range is so low that it just didn’t mention it on any of the marketing material.
Essentially Ferrari volunteered itself for a 0 range on electric only and then made a fuss of reducing its overall emissions by 40% compared to the Enzo. It’s eccentric Italian marketing at its best, but the customers probably didn’t worry too much about the car’s green credentials. It’s all about the performance, the drama and the Ferrari name.
For the record the car does 14mpg in the city and 20mpg on the highway, which is seriously impressive for a near 1000bhp car. It’s also almost an exact match for the McLaren P1.
LaFerrari Next Generation
Nobody knows what’s coming next from Ferrari this early in the development cycle. We can guess at an all-electric Ferrari, but our gut feeling is that we’ll head towards an advanced hybrid with a development of the twin turbo engine that currently sits in the 488 GTB and a much more intense electric motor. We can only speculate because the LaFerrari’s successor could be seven years or more away. For now, let’s just be happy with what is here.
LaFerrari was meant to distill the very essence of Ferrari and give us the ultimate car from the company that Enzo Ferrari founded in 1939. There’s no doubt it’s an incredible car and if it had hit the world just a few years earlier then it would have been absolute landmark and it would have gone down as a legend.
But the LaFerrari was born into a world where the McLaren P1, Bugatti Chiron, Pagani Huayra and Koenigsegg Regera also roamed. Suddenly Ferrari isn’t the Great White Shark anymore. It will still tear 95% of the world to pieces, but it is no longer the jewel in the crown of the automotive world. It is no longer the automatic king of all it surveys.
Read: The best hybrid cars
So will the LaFerrari go down as one of the all-time great cars? Will it go down as one of the greatest Ferraris of all time? Is it even the best hypercar in the world right now? We have our doubts and think this is merely a stunning car, rather than an absolute superlative.
But let’s be honest, we’d still give body parts to wake up to one of these on our drive and the 500 people that have one in their collection will love it dearly. They should, it’s a fantastic car and an almighty piece of engineering.