Don't judge a book by its title: The Ferrari LaFerrari (F70) hybrid hypercar
By C.C. Weiss
March 5, 2013
The 288 GTO, the F40, the F50, the Enzo, the ... LaFerrari? They really want us to call it that? It's not the strongest model name, but Ferrari's latest creation is its most powerful, technological masterpiece to date. Flirting with 1,000 horsepower, the Ferrari LaFerrari isn't your typical green car, but it is Ferrari's first production hybrid and its most efficient car ever.
What's in a name?"We chose to call this model LaFerrari because it is the maximum expression of what defines our company – excellence," Ferrari’s President, Luca di Montezemolo explained. "Excellence in terms of technological innovation, performance, visionary styling and the sheer thrill of driving. LaFerrari is the finest expression of our company’s unique, unparalleled engineering and design know-how, including that acquired in Formula 1."
With all due respect to Montezemolo, his logic does not justify a name that sounds like an intern thought of it on the plane to Geneva. We'll just chalk it up to the Maranello crew draining all its brain power building Ferrari's most advanced road car ever.
Goin' greenThe LaFerrari is indeed the road-legal pinnacle of Ferrari's engineering and technological know-how, just as its predecessors were for their generations. The LaFerrari is sort of a middle ground between Ferrari's F1 program and its regular production line, letting the Prancing Horse experiment with cutting edge, race-inspired design, elements of which may eventually filter down to "everyday" Ferraris.
In this day and age, it's hard to develop a truly cutting edge car without some type of electric or hybrid powertrain providing momentum. The LaFerrari represents those times by using the HY-KERS system originally showed three years ago. As applied to the LaFerrari, HY-KERS combines a 789-hp 6.3-liter engine – Ferrari's most powerful naturally aspirated road engine ever – with a 161-hp electric motor. We'll do that quick addition for you: total system output is 950 horsepower, or more than 40 extra ponies over the McLaren P1. But who's counting?
The hybrid system places the V12 amidships with an electric drive motor mounted to the F1 dual-clutch gearbox. That motor assists the engine in powering the rear wheels, and a second electric motor serves to power ancillary electrical equipment. The high levels of torque supplied by the primary electric motor at low revs allowed Ferrari engineers to hone the V12's performance at higher revs, providing optimized power all the way up to the car's 9,250 rpm limit. Total available torque is 664 lb-ft (900 Nm).
The motors rely on a floor-mounted battery pack that's being built alongside the F138's KERS at Scuderia Ferrari. In addition to the typical regenerative braking, the battery is charged by torque that's redirected from the engine. When the engine produces more torque than necessary, as in cornering, it is converted to electricity and sent to the battery for storage.
Bucking the trend of nominal all-electric driving capabilities, Ferrari does not equip the LaFerrari with an e-drive option, explaining that it doesn't fit the mission of the model. The car does still manage emissions of 330 g/km.
Heritage modernizedFerrari worked to develop styling that is both radical and historically grounded. Under the direction of Flavio Manzoni, the design team was guided by past prototypes of the 1960s. We don't think the appearance is as standout as predecessors like the Enzo and F40, but it does have a softened elegance that those cars lacked. It bears most resemblance to the Enzo but has rounded out fenders, a smoother nose, a more dramatically descending roof line, 458-style LED headlamps and other modernized updates. It leans more road, less race, than the Enzo.
Manzoni's team also pursued the commonplace goal of function-based form. The LaFerrari's shape and design elements are heavily modeled around proficient airflow. A fat split grille and side intakes funnel air through to the churning powertrain while the car's low, smooth cabin allows molecules to flow naturally over and past. The front wing, which appears to be hanging from a central pylon, and the active rear spoiler that's seamlessly incorporated into the body are both functional and visually captivating.
F1 racing unleashed on the roadIn spite of its gentrified looks, the LaFerrari is every bit as F1 as its predecessors. Below the bright Ferrari red lies a carefully crafted chassis that balances rigidity with low weight. To help find that perfect medium, Ferrari brought in Rory Byrne, the F1 designer behind 11 of its world championship cars, to lead a team of GT and F1 professionals. The chassis is built from a quartet of carbon fibers, including T800 and T1000, with a little Kevlar mixed in.
Active aerodynamics, including the front diffuser, underbody guide vane, rear diffuser and rear wing, assist in delivering what Ferrari frames as the highest degree of aerodynamic efficiency ever achieved with any road car. The active aerodynamics adjust automatically, optimizing the car's performance based upon external conditions and driver input.
The LaFerrari possesses more road and track capability than any other road car in Prancing Horse history. It can reach 62 mph (100 km/h) as quickly as a Lamborghini Aventador (~2.9 seconds), continuing on to beat the Lambo to 124 mph (200 km/h) by nearly two seconds - Ferrari lists 0-200 km/h at under 7 seconds. Ferrari defines it as the fastest road car ever thanks to a 1' 20" lap time, more than three seconds faster than the F12 Berlinetta, the previous fastest road Ferrari ever. Ferrari lists the top speed at over 217.5 mph (350 km/h).
Beyond the spec sheet, Ferrari engineers implemented advanced systems integration to undertake all types of drives - from straight runways to zig-zagging mountain roads - with the utmost of finesse and performance. New measures include proprietary algorithms used to optimize the revs of the electric motor and V12 and a new Brembo braking system with lightweight calipers and new carbon-ceramic discs.
Other systems helping to create a whole that far exceeds the sum of its parts include double-wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear suspension, F1 electronic traction control, stability control, a third-generation electronic differential and magnetorheological damping with twin solenoids. The car rolls on Pirelli P-Zero rubber, 265/30 - 19 up front, 345/30 - 20 out back.
Drivers with the confidence to take hold of all that engineering step through the dramatic upswinging doors into a cabin that draws heavily on F1 experience. Designed with input from Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, the cockpit is more similar to race cars than typical road cars. It has a seat affixed to a low, reclined position, relying on an adjustable steering wheel and pedals to dial in driver fit and comfort. Not only does the driver get to enjoy decades of race-based engineering, he gets to feel like an actual race car driver. The cockpit design contributes to the lowered center of gravity, which drops by 35 mm compared to the Enzo. Fifty-nine percent of the car's weight is concentrated over the rear.
The futureFerrari plans to build 499 examples of the limited edition LaFerrari. According to Reuters, every last million-euro (US$1.3 million) one is already spoken for.
Pleased to make your acquaintanceThe video below shows how all the aforementioned technological bits combine for a truly exhilarating and eargasmic ride. Be sure to click the 1080p HD option, ratchet up the sound and immerse yourself in Ferrari's world for the next two and a half minutes.
For more video and a closer look at each aspect of the latest Ferrari, check out the LaFerrari website linked below.