Ferrari LaFerrari

“Think of the LaFerrari as an F1 car with a canopy and anti-lock brakes,” said David.

“Ferrari's 2014 LaFerrari, now out of production, cost one million euros when new and was only available to 'friends' of Ferrari – preference given to those already having five prancing horses in their garage.”

“All 499 were sold before the first ever put tire to tarmac.”

“According to my hosts, I was the first journalist to track test the LaFerrari in the rain,” said David.

At the Pista di Fiorano, Maranello, Italy

It was, plain and simple, the most nerve-racking road test of my 30 year auto journalistic career. What the gods had blessed (after a year of begging and cajoling, I had finally secured a ride in the phantasmagorical LaFerrari), they had also damned. After a week of nothing but sunshine in northern Italy, my allotted eight hours in Ferrari's 949 horsepower supercar would be in a torrential downpour.

Staring out of the pits at Ferrari's blood red hyper-hybrid - not for the last time, I'll remind you that it boasts 949 horsepower - sitting on the thoroughly rain-soaked Pista di Fiorano test circuit, I was beyond nervous. My knees weren't only knocking because I was cinched so tightly into the LaFerrari's carbon-fibre seat. I was being inexcusably abrupt with my camera crew, not to mention my graciously forgiving hosts. I was, for only the second time in my car-testing career, scared beyond measure (the first was a drive in Damon Hill's A18 Arrows F1 race car).

If that all sounds a little melodramatic, consider this: no less an authority than Road & Track has timed a LaFerrari accelerating to 100 km/h in 2.5 seconds. That means it's the quickest car on the planet, beating the likes of Bugatti's Veyron, Porsche's 918 and even the McLaren's P1.

Let's take this contextual comparison a little further, to supercars which are truly legendary for their fearsomeness. For instance, the LaFerrari (2.5 seconds to 100 km/h) would trounce even the fastest Countach (5.1 seconds for the 1986 LP5000 QV) by as great a margin as the Lamborghini would outpace a lowly Toyota Camry Hybrid (7.2 seconds). Ditto Chevrolet's 1969 427 Corvette (5.2 seconds) and even Ferrari's own BB512 Testarossa (5.0 seconds). Even a current Formula One racer struggles to match the LaFerrari's withering acceleration. Indeed, if you really want to accelerate faster than the LaFerrari, you'd have to strap yourself into an aircraft carrier-launched F16 and hope you don't hurl on takeoff. All this - and pardon me for repeating this - in the rain.

I'd like to finish this tale of precipitation and power with some yarn of hidden talent that had me taming what others would dare not challenge. According to my hosts, I was the first journalist to track test the LaFerrari in the rain. Truth be told, I was just along for the ride. After allowing suitable time for calming of stomach and warming of tires, I did manage to mate throttle to mat and sample all 949 of the LaFerrari's horsepower - 788 from that great, screaming 6.3 liter V12 directly behind my right ear and another 161 from the electric motor bolted to the rear transaxle. I even (after a few more cautious laps searching tarmac for traction), 'pushed' the front tires' braking into treacherous Turn One and even stepped the rear Pirelli P-Zeros out through high speed Turn Eight. But none of it is to my credit, for, contrary to the reports I'd read prior to jetting off to Maranello (that will teach me not to have preconceived notions), the LaFerrari is, well, manageable – even for regular humans.

Part of that manageability stems from the LaFerrari's ultra-low centre of gravity, that sees the driver's seat built right onto the chassis. Another part was a traction control system that was more well-calibrated than any of the other supercars I've tested. Even more credit must be given to the precision of having the front suspension and steering system bolted directly onto the carbon-fiber chassis rather than the aluminum subframes, à la McLaren. And, on the topic of suspenders, thanks must also be given to dampers that are a little more compliant than its competitors - especially McLaren's P1 - and that let you feel more of that rain-reduced traction. Even more impressive, the electrified Ferrari is the only hybrid in the world with a brake regeneration system that works even when the ABS system is cycling. But, whatever source you credit for this manageability, it is the car and not the driver - at least this driver - with the talent. Indeed, only after actually driving a LaFerrari can one imagine so much horsepower being so easily controlled.

Yet, it still feels like the beast it is. One is always aware there's 949 horsepower underfoot, the torque-spewing 120 kilowatt electric motor rendering throttle response which is more than immediate. Then, the wailing V12 catches up, blistering the air with its scream and challenging the rear tires with its top-end horsepower. If there's traction, hitting the loud pedal can feel like getting shot out of a cannon; even Bugatti's steroidal Veyron doesn't feel nearly as violent. And, tromping on the six-piston, carbon-ceramic binders will stop you as though you've just run into a brick wall - yes, even in the pouring rain. A LaFerrari may be more manageable than ever imagined, but it is most certainly no less exciting than you had dreamed.

Verdict
So, consider this for context: the LaFerrari is McLaren's P1, amplified, yet easier to drive. It is Porsche's 918 completely and thoroughly spanked. It is a Formula One car with a canopy and anti-lock brakes. It is the snarl of a raucous Ferrari V12 married to the instantaneous throttle response of a torque-laden electric motor. It is a jet rocket strapped to a go-kart. It is the greatest supercar ever built.

Even in the rain.

Pros: Oh wow, where do we start? Absolutely monstrous power, V12 sound, hybrid torque, surprisingly easy handling.
Cons: Well, first off, you can't buy one anymore and if one does come up used, expect to pay a very pretty penny.
Rivals: McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder, Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4
5 stars
One word: phantasmagorical
Engine: 6.3 liter, V12/electric motor, 949 hp: 788 hp from gasoline engine/161 hp from the electric motor, 970 Nm: 700 Nm from gasoline engine/ 270 Nm from the electric motor
Transmission: 7 speed dual-clutch manumatic
Performance: 0-100 km/h: 2.4 sec, 14.2 L /100 km Top speed: 350+ km/h
Chassis: 1,420 kg

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