When Ferrari does a technological showcase it's anything but dry. The 950PS LaFerrari is a hybrid like no other. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Following in the vein of low-volume exotica like the 288 GTO, the F40, the F50 and the Enzo, the LaFerrari packs a 963PS punch, courtesy of a 6.2-litre V12 and a meaty electric motor. All 499 have been sold to pre-approved customers but the fact that such a thing exists is nevertheless a cause for celebration.
You've never had it so good. That is if you've got a spare million pounds or so to splash on the purchase and running costs of a hypercar. Prior to 2014, were you in this position, your choice would have been limited to cars like the Bugatti Veyron, the Koenigsegg Agera and the Pagani Huayra. Life is cruel, eh? Thing is, the goalposts haven't just moved, they've been punted clear into the next postcode with this next generation of petrol-electric hybrid hypercars. The Porsche 918 Spyder, the McLaren P1 and now this car, the La Ferrari, have recalibrated what we thought cars could do. We'll get the pedantic bit out of the way first. Yes, referring to it as the 'LaFerrari' is effectively calling it 'the the Ferrari' but you're going to have to deal with that. The alternative sounds so pretentious and silly I can't bring myself to do it. The awful name aside, and the fact that all 499 cars have already been sold to forensically vetted customers, it's hard to see how Ferrari could have done much better.
With a total power output of 963PS being asked to shift just 1,345kg of car up the road, the LaFerrari aces its counterparts from Porsche and McLaren with its 715PS per tonne power to weigh ratio. A 6.3-litre naturally-aspirated V12 does the heavy lifting, with a 163PS Hy-KERS electric motor providing the support act. Together they generate more power and torque than Ferrari's last V12 Formula 1 car. Power is transmitted to the rear wheel only via a seven-speed Getrag twin-clutch gearbox. With a carbon-fibre tub with moulded-in seats, the centre of gravity is some 65mm lower than in the Ferrari Enzo, which isn't exactly like piloting a bar stool. Everything about the LaFerrari has been designed with immediacy of response in mind. There's no turbo lag to consider and the electric motor infills any perceived dips in the torque curve. This makes it quite devastatingly fast, right up to the 9.250rpm redline, but aside from the 217mph+ top speed and the crazy acceleration figures (0-100mph in 5.1 seconds), the genius in this car is the way that the hybrid drive system, the steering, the regenerative braking and so on have all been calibrated. And, yes, how the active suspension can be tailored to make it civilised at normal road speeds. It's quite a dizzying achievement.
Design and Build
The LaFerrari looks exactly as you'd expect from a state-of-the-art hypercar. Its basic silhouette is typically mid-engined but the shape has been teased lower and wider, with extreme air management dictating the panel forms. At speed, its aerodynamics add a massive 350kg of downforce and beyond that, air is worked to cool the massive carbon-ceramic brakes and feed that ravenous V12 engine. Active flaps deploy at speed and then fold away to create a sleek look when the car is parked. The interior is accessed through beetle-wing doors with deep sill cutaways and doesn't feature real seats as such, just custom-built padded sections in a scoop of the carbon monocoque. You sit there and the wheel and the pedals are then adjusted into place. The original plan was to recline the driver in an F1-style, with feet up as if in a bath. It was found, however, that 32 degrees is about as far as you can tilt Joe Public before neck muscles impinge on airways. The all-digital dash is dominated by a massive rev counter and while it's undoubtedly racy, there are still refinements like Alcantara dash covering and buttons for the sat nav.
Market and Model
In order to land one of the 499 LaFerraris on offer, you not only had to have the requisite £1.15 million pounds available, but you also had to have bought at least two recent Ferraris through the authorised dealer network, have owned six in total in the past ten years and not speculated on any of them. In other words, this isn't a car a Euromillions winner can just waltz into a dealer and buy. You have to be an invited 'brand ambassador'. I like the fact that these cars were delivered to customers before journalists got their hands on them for test drives. That's called doing premium right. Of course, the car will inevitably arrive in dealerships in due course, doubtless at an eye-watering premium, but for most of us, the concept of value for money here is pretty opaque. If you're buying a car that's priced at over a million pounds, the notion of standard equipment is also wholly nebulous. You put whatever you want in it. Still, it's good to know that when you get your new toy, batteries are included.
Cost of Ownership
Because the LaFerrari never runs solely on battery power, its economy and emissions figures aren't as ridiculous-looking as those of the Porsche 918 and the McLaren P1. Maranello quotes an emission figure of 333g/km which, by my calculations, would backwards translate into a fuel economy figure of 20mpg. That still sounds optimistic for any V12, electrically-assisted or otherwise. Depreciation shouldn't really be an issue. It hasn't been for 288 GTO, F40, F50 and Enzo customers and LaFerrari owners will similarly sleep easy knowing that their car will be worth more in the morning than when they went to bed. Running the thing certainly isn't going to be cheap. It probably won't approach Veyron-sized bills, but servicing and insurance will be enough to make even an oligarch think twice.
Enthusiast magazines have been tying themselves in knots speculating whether the LaFerrari is going to 'better' the McLaren P1 or the Porsche 918 but it's a pointless exercise. Most customers will buy on brand loyalty than through any perceived superiority. Many will be able to afford two or all three of these cars and then come to a decision on which they keep. One thing's for sure though; Ferrari hasn't held back. This isn't so much a car as much as a clinically calibrated amalgam of technologies. That might sound sterile but the end result is anything but. It's an utterly feral celebration of next-gen engineering given life. Most of us will never see the LaFerrari, never even get close enough to smudge our noses on the showroom window. Indeed, that's the way it ought to be. In an age where everything is made normal and commonplace through the web, perhaps there should be a place where special cars can remain truly exotic.