Yes, yes, I know that it's pretty well decided that the future of fasts cars is electric and until then we're going to have boosted motors. I understand that we can still make huge power and go ludicrously fast with forced induction, hybridization, and electrification. That doesn't mean I have to like it and go gentle into that good night. And yes, I know that makes me a dinosaur. Certainly our Holy Trinity, Rimac, the Koenigesegg Regera, and (hopefully) the Lamborghini Sian have proven that our modern world still builds incredible cars. But, call me old fashioned all you like, there was a certain magic to the cars that really forced you to manhandle them to get them to show you what they were truly capable of.
For Ferrari, I'd say that the last of the flagships to be one of those cars was the 599. Now before I get people screaming about the F12 and 812 being "traditional," I would argue that those two don't require manhandling as much as synchronicity with the the computer systems as they're at the point of being too powerful. Don't take my word for it - even Clarkson himself said the F12 was almost too powerful. As such, the F12 and 812 are more a marriage of modern computers and old school V12 power. The 599 on the other hand, feels like the driver aids were added on to make sure that Gordon Ramsay and all the footballers that bought them didn't wrap them around a tree.
Since I started driving the 599 in the photos (not because it's mine, but because the owner is crazy enough to let me drive it) I'd estimate that I've put over 1000 miles on it. Doesn't sound like much for a normal car, but when the car has fewer than 17,000 miles on it and is considered to be on the higher side of the mileage range, it does seem like a bit more. I don't mention this to stroke my own ego or some such nonsense, but to give a bit more perspective on the amount of time I've spent with the car and how well I've gotten to know it over the past few years.
When I first drove the 599 I was in comfort mode, and while I thought it was certainly a sporty car, I couldn't help feeling that it wasn't so much a prancing horse as a trotting pony - like it was dumbed down so anyone could drive it. Thankfully, I was only half right. In comfort mode, the 599 is no harder to drive than a Camry. Well, a Camry with a bunch of crap in the back seat that makes it hard to see out of. But when you flip the manetino over into race (or hold it all the way to the right until every system is off if you're really brave), the prancing horse comes out to play.
The first thing you notice when you let the 599 go is how happy it is to absolutely obliterate its rear tires. I remember the only time I attempted a proper burnout the owner wanted to be a bit cross with me for it, but admitted that he couldn't be because the smoke show was so damn good he was jealous he hadn't been the one to put it on. (Side note: I have a very good relationship with the owner and have built up a considerable amount of trust with him - please FOR THE LOVE OF GOD do not do what I did without checking in and making sure the owner is okay with you doing that.) One of the craziest and most smile inducing things you can do with a 599 in race mode (which the owner taught me) is easing the car up in first until you hit about 3500 RPM, then absolutely matting the loud pedal. The tires will completely break and shred up through second and third gear in an incredible combination of an Italian symphony and smoke show. Feeling the car munching its rear tires as it surges forward is a thrilling experience, though one that should not be attempted without a considerable amount of space as the back end will eventually step out. The downside to the great burnouts and peel-outs though, is that if you start putting down the power before you've completely straightened out from a corner, you will kick the back end out if you're not in comfort mode.
If you keep the 599's love of killing tires in mind, learning how to manage it through the corners is fairly straightforward. It isn't exactly a lightweight car and it isn't exactly a small car either, but if Ferrari knows how to do anything, it's how to make a car with a front mounted V12 go around a corner. As long as you're not an idiot and don't assume that you can chuck the car into any corner at any speed and assume it'll be fine because it's a Ferrari, you can make the 599 dance for you. Taking that dance from a simple two step to a ballet Baryshnikov would envy, though, is where you can get yourself into trouble. Thankfully the optional carbon ceramic brakes are very good at taking things from very fast to not fast quite quickly, but like any other car, finding everything the 599 has to offer requires balancing brake, steering, and throttle input throughout the corner.
When I compare the feeling of pushing the 599, even at lower road legal speeds, to more modern supercars I can't help but feel far more satisfied by finding the sweet spot in the 599. While I absolutely adored my track time in the Huracan Performante and loved the feeling of pushing it as hard as I could, I can get the same amount of satisfaction at roughly half that speed in the 599. Therein lies my initial point - certainly modern cars are much faster, more efficient in producing power, and more environmentally friendly, but we've reached a point where it's nearly impossible to bring out that magic off the track. Even on the track, you can constantly feel the computers helping keep you from introducing the car to the nearest wall.
I don't know about you, but I find managing a raw, unbridled car on its edge far more satisfying than going a few seconds faster in a car that's doing all the work for me. But like I said, maybe I'm just a dinosaur now.