A second here and a second there eventually add up to a day with the LaFerrari, which leaves us feeling it’s the most joyous hypercar. It will make you feel like a hero as you slide it around, while also requiring patience on corner exit or you’ll start drifting. Next to the 918, the Ferrari comes off as mischievous and willing to play, as the Porsche’s four-wheel-drive setup takes some of the spirit and challenge out of lapping it.
That’s it with the caveats—apply an asterisk as you deem fit—but at Fiorano the LaFerrari produced the quickest acceleration to 150 mph of any production car we’ve ever tested. To 150 mph, the LaFerrari is a full 1.5 seconds quicker than the early Bugatti Veyron 16.4 we tested in 2008. Put up against the Porsche 918Spyder, the LaFerrari traverses the quarter-mile in the same 9.8 seconds, but the Ferrari is going 150 mph at the traps versus the 918’s 145.
Full disclosure: The Fiorano track introduces major limitations to our usual testing procedures. The straight has a slight kink in it as you pass under a bridge, and there’s not much space to accelerate beyond the quarter-mile. C/D procedure calls for running in two directions to offset any potential elevation changes and the effects of wind. Fiorano’s straight is ever so slightly downhill, but at least there was little to no wind on our test day. Ordinarily, we’d either reject the testing venue or we’d run in both directions and average the results. Running the straight in two directions is impossible, according to Ferrari, and reversing the FIA-approved racetrack would apparently poke the bureaucratic monster that rules over Italy. Or we might hit the bridge. Either way, that wasn’t happening. So we were unable to average our best runs in each direction and have to use the best in one direction here. The results, we must note, are uncorrected for ambient conditions, meaning they’re representative of what the LaFerrari did on this particular day. It’s the same policy we applied to our 2003 test of the Enzo, and, in any event, the weather correction wouldn’t have affected the LaFerrari numbers much at all.
How important is the center of gravity? Ferrari presented a graph of the relationship between the height of the center of gravity (CG) and the horsepower required to compensate for a higher CG. A 1.2-inch drop in CG has the same effect on Fiorano lap times as adding 50 horsepower. The message from an Italian power broker? Power actually isn’t everything.
In the Ferrari, the century mark passes in a what-the-hell-was-that 4.8 seconds—one-tenth quicker than the 918. And there’s the aforementioned advantage to 150. At one of our normal testing venues, we could have pushed well past 150 mph, but at Fiorano we had to be hard on the brakes a blink after the speedometer indicated that speed.
Our savior is the LaFerrari’s chassis. Mounting the batteries as low as possible gives an impossibly low center of gravity that’s 1.4 inches superior to the Enzo’s. And there’s also the surprisingly light and quick steering (1.8 turns lock-to-lock). It’s as if the car has the perfect caffeine buzz—the LaFerrari is never nervous, just alert and ready.
In addition to carbon-ceramic rotors, the LaFerrari decelerates with the help of air brakes and the electric motor. Heavy regenerative braking takes some load off the discs and the air brake adds drag and downforce and stabilizes the car. Braking hard requires a lot of pedal pressure and the ABS comes in shockingly late. We kept braking later and later on track and there wasn’t even a hint of fade or any change in the brake pedal’s firm resistance.
Making the performance even more remarkable is that the LaFerrari is rear-wheel drive. Ferrari’s launch control is easy to actuate and rips off consistent runs, but the 918’s four-wheel drive gives it an initial advantage. So the LaFerrari’s 2.5-second 0-to-60 romp can’t match the Porsche’s 2.2-second time to 60 mph. Initial traction gets the 918 to 60 in 114 feet; the LaFerrari needs 119. Still, the LaFerrari is pushing on your chest with a full g of force through 70 mph and it doesn’t taper off much after that. In the rolling 5-to-60-mph test, which removes the aggressive launch, the LaFerrari posted a 3.0-second time.
Driver confidence comes fast despite the ridiculous performance. But confidence, whether in a Greek tragedy or at the track, is a catalyst for mistakes. On our first quick lap, we enter Fiorano’s seventh corner, a long sweeping left-hander at a hubris-filled 117 mph. Just as we realize that we’re not de Simone, the 345/30R-20 tires in back start coming around. Major questions that immediately arose: What is there to hit here? When will this stop? What sort of nickname will this earn us?And then, Whoa, it’s back. Control is regained—hubris, schmubris.
Beyond 60 mph, the 3489-pound LaFerrari’s superior power-to-weight ratio allows it to begin to pull away from the 3724-pound 918. The Ferrari’s combined 950 horsepower yields a 3.7-pound-per-horsepower ratio; each of the 918’s horses moves 4.2 pounds.
A clear criticism of the slick tires that General Motors puts onthe Camaro Z/28, and not the first time Ferrari personnel commented to us on the Z/28’s rubber. We’ve driven the Z/28 in the rain, though, and it’s not impossible. Which leaves us dreaming of a LaFerrari on Trofeo Rs.
But even when we test at our locations, Ferrari doesn’t just let us jump into its cars and test them. An engineer watches the proceedings and provides an often-valuable briefing on the subsystems of the car, and mechanics are there to swap out tires if necessary. When asked why all the bother, Ferrari says it wants the test to go smoothly and being there ensures that any problems that arise can be hammered out that day. Every modern Ferrari we’ve tested with the factory’s knowledge also had the automaker’s own test equipment inside the car to record what we’re doing and, as they tell us, as a backup should our own test equipment fail. We find this “generosity” completely unnecessary, however, and, aside from a recent McLaren 650S test, no other manufacturer proctors our normal battery of tests, and we test more than 200 cars per year.
Instead it’s a $1.4-million hypercar with the soul of a racing go-kart, one that mixes huge lateral grip with the ability to slide the car. Like a racing kart, small slips and slides happen in the LaFerrari and none of them feel lethal or surprising. There’s no snapping, no unsettling events, no twitchiness. The limit isn’t a cliff, but rather a very steep ramp. Approaching the limit calls for Adderall levels of attention, but going off the edge doesn’t necessarily mean a fall. Even the seating position is go-kart-like, with the seat set low and the backrest laid back. What’s astonishing is that a car as quick as the LaFerrari can be playful and forgiving—it’s not exactly a puppy dog, though. Let’s go with bear cub.
At least the LaFerrari’s braking numbers don’t require any hemming or hawing. There’s enough of a flat and even surface before Turn Twelve to perform our 70-to-0-mph test. Stops from 70 took only 136 feet, and the LaFerrari hooks to the ground as if it stubbed its toe. Regenerative braking can erase up to 0.4 g of braking force, but the big carbon-ceramic rotors are the main retardants. Stops are repeatable and incredibly stable due to the dynamic aero that flips up the air brakes under severe deceleration. Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires developed for the LaFerrari are the only rubber available. When asked if Pirelli’s stickier Trofeo R rubber was considered, an engineer quipped, “Our owners might have to drive home in the rain.”
To test the Ferrari LaFerrari, we traveled to Italy to the storied marque’s personal track, Fiorano. Ferrari’s offer was this: We could either test there—or not at all. We chose to test.
Numbers Are Far from the Whole Story
Fiorano might not be ideal for our normal tests, but it is a racetrack. After straight-line testing in the morning and a pasta-filled lunch, we spent the afternoon hammering the LaFerrari at a place where Villeneuve, Schumacher, Ickx, Lauda, and Prost lapped. Our guide is Ferrari’s test driver Raffaele de Simone, who can hustle the LaFerrari around Fiorano in 1 minute, 20 seconds. His on-track orientation for us lasts all of 1:21.50 seconds. Our best lap is a less-impressive 1:23.39.
The Results: Apply an Asterisk as You Deem Fit
If we had to guess, the 918’s record time at our Lightning Lap competition at VIR might not fall to the LaFerrari, but the latter car would be more involving and more fun. Perhaps someday Ferrari will let us whip the LaFerrari around VIR and we can find out once and for all. We won’t even mind if they
Power, however, counts. And the LaFerrari has plenty of it—like, African dictator levels, which come courtesy of a 6.3-liter V-12 and a 161-hp electric motor. The primary difference between the V-12 here and in the F12berlinetta is the LaFerrari’s continuously adjusting intake runners that constantly alter intake-tract length. The rev cut comes in at 9250 rpm, while the redline on the digital tach appears at 9000 rpm. The gas-burning engine makes 789 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque on its own. It’s smooth and it hums at low rpm, but opening the throttle sends it zinging like a sport-bike engine and triggers an adrenaline rush. It’s a race-car sort of sound and there’s absolutely no electronic auto-tuning going on—what you hear is the live performance of a short-stroke V-12. Facsimiles of this V-12’s audio could probably be digitized and played through the speakers of lesser cars.
The Fiorano circuit is nearly two miles long, a thirteen-turn rollercoaster built on what was once Italian farmland. Our usual testing venues, where we gather our zero-to-60-mph times, quarter-mile acceleration, braking figures, and grip numbers are nothing like racetracks. Putting a car through our battery of tests calls for a long, flat straight, usually one more than a mile in length, as well as a 300-foot skidpad to assess lateral acceleration.
0 to 60 mph: 2.5 sec
0 to 100 mph: 4.8 sec
0 to 150 mph: 9.8 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 9.8 sec @ 150 mph
The integration of the electric motor is so subtle and the flow of electrons from the 2.2-kWh lithium-ion battery pack so graceful that you don’t notice the second source of power, and it simply makes the V-12 feel like the most amazing naturally aspirated engine you’ve ever laid into. For example, to make the V-12 more responsive, the electric motor can work against and strain the V-12 in certain cruising conditions. Hit the accelerator and the motor releases its hold on the V-12 and the engine spins like the flywheel just disappeared; the word “zing” isn’t zingy enough to describe the feeling. This strategy may be responsible for the quickest-ever passing times we’ve recorded. Going from 30 to 50 mph requires 1.5 seconds, from 50 to 70 just 1.6.
The quiet sidekick to the superhero V-12 is that electric motor. Electric motors aren’t sexy and this one stays in the background, quietly fattening the torque curve and improving fuel economy.
You now know what the LaFerrari did to the test equipment, but the numbers don’t reveal what the car did to us. De Simone claims that a major goal in the development of the LaFerrari was to make the limit accessible. “We could’ve made a race car, but only a race car driver could enjoy it.”
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