Ferrari LaFerrari First Test
High Stakes: This Might Be the Quickest Production Car Motor Trend Has Ever Tested
Raffaele de Simone tells me to be smooth. It's normal instructor talk, but when you're sitting passenger in a 950-hp Ferrari LaFerrari, a car he helped develop, and circling Ferrari's 1.9-mile Fiorano test track -- his office -- you listen. De Simone's pushing while he talks, keeping the car just over the edge of its tires. Small drifts into the corners come with a confidence gained from countless miles logged here as the chief test driver. I'm trying to connect his inputs with reference points on the track. He's braking with his left foot, tightening the nose. He takes a hand off the wheel and makes a gesture I take to mean, "Just like that."
We enter the pits and read the data. De Simone had done a 1:19.8 lap. The official LaFerrari lap time here is 1:19.7. And then he says it's my turn to set a lap time. On the premises are de Simone, some of the engineers that developed this car, PR representatives, a few of my colleagues, and Fiat CEO and Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne, who'd landed a few hours ago. Just like that, indeed.
This is how you test the $1.4 million LaFerrari. The Ferrari is both the company's most powerful production car ever and its first hybrid car. Like the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918, it represents top-tier motorsports-derived technology, such as the hand-laid carbon-fiber tub prepared by the Formula 1 team, and the company's vision of future powertrains -- a 161-hp electric motor aids the 6.3-liter V-12's low-end output and throttle response. I drove the LaFerrari at this very track nearly a year ago, though it's eluded Motor Trend's testing equipment ever since. Today, finally, I get to record performance data.
We start by watching a few techs jack the car up onto scales. After verifying a full tank, we huddle around the readout, which shows 3,495 pounds split 39 percent front and 61 percent rear. An engineer says the pile of data loggers Ferrari installed in the footwell adds roughly 10 pounds. We didn't have time to remove the equipment, so we didn't subtract its claimed weight. This LaFerrari weighs 84 pounds more than the McLaren P1 and 263 pounds less than the all-wheel-drive Porsche 918. Though Ferrari claims a weight advantage of pre-impregnated carbon fiber versus the resin-injected variety, the LaFerrari is longer and wider than both of those cars and carries four extra cylinders. It also makes more power -- 950 hp at 9,000 rpm -- bringing the pound-per-horsepower ratio of this particular car to 3.7, or 0.1 better than the P1.
At the beginning of Fiorano's straight, I twist the drive mode dial to turn off stability control, plant the brake with my left foot, press the button labeled LAUNCH on the center console, and half-expect to hear the "1812 Overture." It doesn't play. Instead, the exhaust timbre grows deeper, more serious. I apply full throttle, wait a beat, and release the brake. There isn't much wheelspin as the traction control manages grip, but there is an unyielding wave of thrust -- the data shows an average of 1.0 g to 65 mph.
It also shows 0-60 mph in 2.4 seconds, the quarter mile in 9.7 seconds at 148.5 mph, and 0-150 mph in 10.0 seconds. That 0-60-mph time matches the 918's, and the quarter-mile result is a tenth quicker than the P1, though the McLaren swaps that result at 150 mph. The numbers are astounding, but so was the consistency. I did four acceleration runs back-to-back, and they varied by hundredths. By the fourth, I was simply having fun.
Is the LaFerrari the quickest production car in Motor Trend history? Maybe. Fiorano's downhill front straight was the only place we were allowed to do acceleration runs, and we couldn't run backward for a two-way average. The data shows the fastest quarter-mile run declining by 18.2 feet from start to finish, or 1.4 percent. For reference, the National Hot Rod Association allows a 1.0 percent maximum grade over the course of a quarter mile. It's difficult to say how much of an advantage this gives the LaFerrari, but it helps enough that we'll asterisk these results until we can test a car on level ground.
And then de Simone says it's my turn to set a lap time. He gives a talk about handling the car, and I try to make my "I promise not to crash" face. Ferrari wants groups of two hot laps separated by a cooldown lap or two. After two groups, the car gets new tires, and you get one more chance. I settle into the car's low seat, finding good visibility from the open cabin. I toggle Race mode and head out.
I give too much steering into the first corner, forgetting how quick and light the wheel feels. It seems like you can do 180-degree turns with half a turn, meaning you don't have to steer hand-over-hand in tighter corners. The front feels light and controllable as a result, but you sense, accurately, the heft and massive power centered right behind you. Mounting the battery low in the car helps reduce the LaFerrari's center of gravity by 1.4 inches versus the Enzo, and per Ferrari, a 1.2-inch reduction is the equivalent of adding 50 horsepower around Fiorano.
The throttle has an instant-on response provided by the electric motor, but it's easy to modulate. Ferrari says its goal was to make taller gears feel like shorter gears (acceleration in fourth feels like third, for example), and the effect is apparent. Race mode cuts power a little too aggressively, and on to the straight after my first lap, I turn off traction control by twisting the dial to CT OFF. Pleasantly, this mode wisely limits power to the near-overwhelmed rear tires but still lets the car free up, even on power at the top of third. The quick steering and long gas pedal make it easy to correct. The easy power delivery and confident chassis can lead you to overdrive the LaFerrari, at which point the front tires start protesting with understeer. Calm the driver inputs down to appropriate levels, though, and you find a great balance. It's a wonderful thing to control, smooth and willing and engaging but immensely fast and thrilling at all times. Its handling requires no warning signs.
And then the first session is over. I drive back to the pits, and the techs install another set of Pirelli P Zero Corsas, the only tire option. When asked why the Pirelli Trofeo R wasn't available, Ferrari reps say those tires weren't realistic for street use, especially in the rain. Never mind that you can buy a Camaro with them stock — it might also be because the largest Trofeo R is a 305/30. The huge 345/30 rear Corsas do an admirable job when you consider what they're facing.
The new tires immediately offer more grip, and I try to match my inputs to de Simone's. The abundance of power means short shifting, keeping the engine in the midrange to maintain balance. It's easier to mete out power in lower revs, though you still have more than enough to overwhelm the tires. Manage the grip and be smooth. "Just like that."
Afterward, the data logger shows a 1:21.8 best lap — 2 seconds off de Simone. That time speaks to the LaFerrari's greatest strength: that a car so preposterously capable and powerful, so expensive and exclusive, and so technologically advanced could be so easy to drive fast.
I came back from Fiorano last year wondering if the LaFerrari was the best car I'd ever driven. Although the test numbers remain murky and Ferrari's refusal to let customers have third parties test their cars is disappointing, in terms of feedback, accessibility, and excitement, the LaFerrari is the best car I've ever driven.
TO THE NINESFerrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder Acceleration Compared
I've done a handful of 10.0-second and faster quarter-mile passes, but what's remarkable is that the majority of them have been with stock hybrid cars.
The Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder reach that fabled mark with alarming ease: Press the button and the right pedals, and hold on. We've placed the acceleration curves of each on a graph with a GT-R NISMO for reference.
Despite routing the most power through two driven wheels, the LaFerrari displays the fastest and hardest launch, showing a gap until 55 mph.
The P1 surges just ahead of the LaFerrari past 100 mph, indicating a stronger top end. This is likely the result of the cleaner aerodynamic profile afforded by the low ride-height Race mode.
With the least horsepower and the most weight, the 918 is the slowest of the three. But what company you're in when the slowest car does a 10.0-second quarter-mile pass! Porsche said this development car did not have the final calibration for launch control, and we expect production cars to be slightly faster.
And the GT-R? Well, it now knows the new meaning of fast.
ME VS. RAFFAELE
This graph shows the difference between someone who tests cars for a living and someone who tests Ferraris for a living, driving on his home track. I'd driven Fiorano twice before today in two different cars for a combined number of laps of maybe 12.
Unsurprisingly, de Simone gains speed everywhere, but the majority of our acceleration curves are similar. The biggest differences appear on the complex parts of the track (Turns 2 and 3) and the fastest corner on the track (Turn 7), where I chickened out on entry and speed throughout.
There was no chance of my going faster that day, but the most telling thing about the LaFerrari is that a mortal can get within 2.0 seconds to the chief test driver of the thing without being familiar with the car. It's utterly approachable.
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Mid-engine, RWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||65-deg V-12, alum block/heads, plus AC electric motor|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||382.1 cu in/6,262 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||789 hp @ 9,000 rpm (gas)*/161 hp (elec)/950 hp (comb)|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||516 lb-ft @ 6,750 rpm/664 lb-ft (comb)|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||3.7 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F;R||15.7-in vented, drilled carbon ceramic disc; 15.0-in vented, drilled carbon ceramic disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F;R||9.5 x 19-in; 12.5 x 20-in, forged aluminum|
|TIRES, F;R||265/30R19 93Y; 345/30R20 106Y Pirelli P Zero Corsa|
|TRACK, F/R||66.2/63.5 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||185.1 x 78.4 x 43.9 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||38.4 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,495 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST., F/R||39/61 %|
|CARGO VOLUME||1.4 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH**|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||1.0|
|QUARTER MILE||9.7 sec @ 148.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||95 ft|
|1.9-MI ROAD COURSE LAP||1:21.84|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||2,600 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$1,400,000|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/Unlimited miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||3 yrs/Unlimited miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/Unlimited miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||22.7 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||12/16/14 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||281/211 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.43 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium|
| *Including dynamic ram-air effect at speed. |
**Tested on 1.4 percent downhill grade