Ferrari LaFerrari

Debut: 2014
Maker: Ferrari
Predecessor: Enzo

 Published on 25 Sep 2014 All rights reserved. 

Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo has an acquired taste on names. Since he took over the helm in the early 1990s, Ferrari started abandoning its traditional alphanumerical nomenclature for special names associated with its history. At first there was Maranello, then Scaglietti (its old coachbuilder), Fiorano (its track), Scuderia (its F1 team), Italia (its nationality) and California (its biggest market). When it came to the company's top supercar, Montezemolo chose the greatest name of all, Enzo. But what follows the Enzo could be a big headache because any inferior names would not be acceptable. In the end, Montezemolo said the new car is the ultimate expression of Ferrari, so he called it LaFerrari. Yes, Ferrari LaFerrari. That must be the silliest car name we have ever heard of!

LaFerrari is a long overdue replacement for Enzo, which was introduced as far back in 2002. Considering the time gaps between 288GTO and F40, F40 and F50, F50 and Enzo was 3 years, 8 years and 7 years respectively, it is abnormal for Ferrari to skip the top supercar league for so long. One reason could be the domination of Bugatti Veyron. That car overwhelmed the competition with excessive engineering – you want a record-breaking top speed and acceleration? No problem, the Bugatti gives you a quad-turbo W16 engine producing 1000 or 1200 hp, a heavy-duty twin-clutch transmission and a sophisticated 4-wheel-drive system to smash any existing records. Whether it is overweight or it excels on tracks is not important. For 8 dark years, the Bugatti led the supercar league to a dead-end road. Without any technical breakthroughs, Ferrari knew it was almost impossible to open a new chapter. It opted not to do another Pagani or Koenigsegg either. Although there is always demand for ultra-exclusive supercars, their market size and technical challenges are not interesting to Ferrari at all. It was not until Ferrari heard Porsche was developing 918 Spyder that it realized hybrid technology was to be the next big thing – not just to fuel-efficient cars but also supercars. Once it had decided to go ahead, everything fell into place quickly. These included the hybrid tech it learned in F1 racing and the associated component suppliers. In the end, it trailed the 918 Spyder and McLaren P1 by just a few months to the market.

The New Era of Hybrid Supercars

2014 is going to be remembered by automotive historians as the start of the hybrid supercar era, which is likely to be as important as the carbon-fiber era in the mid-1980s. Although Porsche, McLaren and Ferrari introduced their first hybrid supercars at the same time, their technology and implementation are very different.

The Porsche is a real plug-in hybrid that you can charge it at home, drive it in zero-emission mode for 30 km before firing the high-revving petrol V8. To do this it gets a larger battery and more powerful electric motors, hence inevitably a weight penalty over its rivals. Its front and rear motors enable intelligent 4-wheel-drive which is also absent on its rivals. Besides, the 918 is a Spyder, and its interior is made just as high-quality and usable as a Boxster. This gives it a more GT character than either McLaren or Ferrari.

In contrast, the McLaren P1 is almost a race car for the road. Although its hydraulically interconnected adjustable suspension can give it surprisingly good ride comfort, it is most memorable in Race mode, which drops its ride height by 50 mm, stiffens spring rates by a massive 300 percent and raise the rear wing by 300 mm. In this state it delivers the strongest roadholding ever seen on a road car, LaFerrari included. The twin-turbo V8 with the assistance of electric motor delivers crazy mid-range punch, but its zero-emission mode is more like a joke. To avoid numb brake feel it gives up regenerative braking at all, so it may run out of battery after just a lap or two of maximum attack.

In many ways, LaFerrari seems more akin to McLaren. Its relatively small battery and electric motor drive the rear wheels only and offer no pure EV mode. It even doesn't bother to offer plug-in charging (I like its honesty!) All Ferrari wants the electrification to do is to enhance performance and fill the torque gap when the engine is running at lower revs. However, the Ferrari differs from McLaren in many other areas. Its large naturally aspirated V12 is superior in terms of smoothness, linearity and sound quality. Its exterior, interior and chassis are bespoke, unlike the P1 which is obviously derived from the lesser MP4-12C. Moreover, its battery is recharged by the excess power of engine as well as regenerative braking, so when it comes to sustainable performance it has an upper hand.

However, the most important is it overwhelms its rivals in specifications – it has the most power, the least weight and therefore considerably higher power-to-weight ratio. To supercars perhaps nothing is more important than this.

Comparison of Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche

Porsche 918 Spyder Weissach pack
McLaren P1
Ferrari LaFerrari
Engine power
608 hp
737 hp
800 hp
Motor power
286 hp
179 hp
163 hp
Combined power
887 hp
916 hp
963 hp
Kerb weight
1634 kg
1490 kg
1350 kg
Power to weight
543 hp/ton
615 hp/ton
713 hp/ton
Top speed
214 mph
217 mph
217 mph
0-60 mph
2.5 sec
2.7 sec
< 2.9 sec
0-124 mph
7.2 sec 6.8 sec
< 7.0 sec
0-186 mph
19.9 sec 16.5 sec
< 15.0 sec
Production number
918 units
375 units
499 units
Price before tax
€850,000 / £710,000
€1M / £866,000 €1.2M / £1M

As a result, the Ferrari is also able to charge the highest price. Each one costs
£1 million or 1.2 million euros before tax, which puts it at the same level of Bugatti and Koenigsegg and slightly above Pagani Huayra (BTW, do you remember 288GTO sold for "just" £73,000 back in 1984?). Even so, Ferrari sold out all 499 cars slated to production in the next 2 years well before its official launch. At that time McLaren and Porsche were still struggling to sell the remaining cars. Such is the attraction of Prancing Horse!

Chassis, Body, Aerodynamics and Mechanical Layout

This car is the first road-going Ferrari in 4 decades designed without the involvement of Pininfarina. It was penned by Ferrari's design director Flavio Manzoni, who took over from Donato Coco (who unfortunately bet on Lotus) since 2010, having previously designed some fabulous Lancias (including the Fulvia coupe concept that won our Concept Car of the Year in 2004) and later on worked for Volkswagen group. He also completed the F12 Berlinetta together with Pininfarina. As the famed Italian design house has been underperforming in recent years, it is not much of a surprise that Ferrari finally goes its own way. The LaFerrari is not an easy design because its form has to compromise with the need for strong downforce, enhanced cooling, small glasshouse (to reduce frontal area and use of glass) and a long wheelbase (2650 mm) required by the V12-electric hybrid powerplant. This means it has no rights to match the beauty of, say, 458 Italia. Still, the outcome is quite respectable. There are some traces of Enzo to give a family resemblance, but the overall shape is sleeker and more futuristic. The heavily sculpted side intakes are quite extraordinary, concept-car-like. Ditto the blackened glasshouse and the nearly separated front fenders. It looks striking on the road.

The aerodynamics development is not focused on minimizing drag, as you can see from its unremarkable top speed. Instead, the target is to maintain good downforce. It employs a number of active aero aids, such as the adjustable rear spoiler, moving flaps at the rear diffuser and another pair of moving flaps at the front underbody. As they move, downforce varies between 90 kg and 360 kg at 124 mph. The front and rear downforces are also balanced.

Owing to the extra mass of hybrid power system, weight saving becomes more critical to LaFerrari. It is built around a carbon-fiber monocoque made of 4 different types of carbon-fiber materials. The monocoque is 20 percent lighter than that of Enzo yet its torsional rigidity is 27 percent up. It provides direct mounting for the double-wishbones front suspensions. At the back the powertrain and multi-link suspensions are mounted on an aluminum subframe to absorb NVH. Magnetorheological adaptive dampers are included in the package.

To save further weight, LaFerrari adopted a measure not tried before on road cars. It ditches conventional seats and fits seating pads directly onto the carbon-fiber tub, very much like the practice of F1 cars (well, we saw that on Lamborghini Sesto Elemento concept before, but Ferrari puts it to production first). This skips seat frames and adjustment mechanism. To fit drivers of different sizes, the pedal box and steering wheel are adjustable, and the seat pads are tailored to each customer. Another benefit of this fixed seating arrangement is that the seating position can be lowered. Now the driver sits 60 mm lower than the case of Enzo. This allows LaFerrari to adopt a 30 mm lower roof line (to benefit aerodynamics and center of gravity) yet offers 30 mm extra headroom for the driver to wear helmet.

Like its predecessor, LaFerrari employs butterfly doors, which open both upward and outward together with parts of the roof and sills to ease access. The monocoque houses the lithium-ion battery pack, which is located on floor level just behind the cockpit. This helps the car to achieve a center of gravity some 35 mm lower than that of Enzo. Although the hybrid system adds some 140 kg – of which 60 kg comes from the battery – Ferrari still managed to keep its dry weight identical to Enzo at 1255 kg. This means it is a considerable 140 kg lighter than McLaren P1 and a massive 280 kg less than 918 Spyder. It is even lighter than the simpler Pagani Huayra and Koenigsegg Agera R! (Note: while this sounds incredible, bear in mind that Ferrari has track records of underrating kerb weights. Besides, there are talks that the owner's manual stated another figure – 1490 kg for weight in running conditions, which might translate to 1415 kg in DIN scale.)

Powertrain and Performance

LaFerrari’s 6.3-liter direct-injected V12 is derived from the production units of FF and F12. In the original FF, it developed 660 horsepower. F12 Berlinetta raised that figure to an incredible 740 hp by using a super-high compression ratio of 13.5:1 and freer intake and exhaust tuning. Considering its already high state of tune, you might wonder how LaFerrari could improve it further to 800 horsepower at 9000 rpm. Surprisingly, it does not seek help from titanium connecting rods like 458 Italia or 918 Spyder, because its shorter stroke (75.2 mm vs 81 mm in both cases) would not benefit as much. Its increased power comes from mainly 2 modifications. The first is the addition of a patented continuous variable length intake system. This is the first of such systems since BMW’s DIVA. We don’t know the exact mechanism, but you may google and find some patent drawings Ferrari filed a decade ago. It shows some flexible tubes running within the intake plenum to vary the length of intake air path in a continuous manner. All Ferrari said is the system was used in F1 many years ago but was banned soon afterwards. It goes without saying that the continuous variable length intake system optimizes output across a wider rev band.

Another modification is the intake and exhaust. Because the engine is now complemented with the low-end torque of electric motor, its intake and exhaust can be tuned to favor high-end output. As a result, its maximum rev is extended from the F12’s 8700 rpm to a record-breaking 9250 rpm, 100 rpm higher than the 4.6-liter V8 of 918 Spyder, and 250 rpm higher than Ferrari’s own V8 model. As Ferrari is turning to turbocharging, I think this might be the peak of naturally aspiration era.

The V12's maximum torque of 516 pound-foot is delivered at a rather high 6750 rpm, but that doesn't matter, because the electric motor supplies another 199 lbft from just above zero rpm. The motor also produces up to 163 horsepower, bringing the total to 963 hp.

For simplicity, the 26 kg electric motor is mounted at the end of the Getrag 7-speed dual-clutch transaxle. This inevitably deteriorates front-to-rear weight distribution to 41:59, compared to 43:57 on 918 Spyder or 44:56 on both Koenigsegg Agera R and Pagani Huayra. The motor drives the differential through a dedicated gear set rather than the gearbox.

We have yet to see independent performance test data, but if Ferrari delivers its promise of 0-300 km/h (186 mph) under 15 seconds, it will be easily faster than 918 Spyder, decisively quicker than McLaren P1 and running neck to neck with Bugatti Veyron SS and Koenigsegg Agera R. That said, straight line performance is not the focus of Ferrari. What matters is track time. On Fiorano, LaFerrari laps in 1 min 20 sec, 3 seconds faster than F12 Berlinetta, 3.5 seconds quicker than 458 Speciale and 5 seconds clear of its direct predecessor Enzo!

On the Road

The first thing you notice is how different you sit in the LaFerrari compared with any other supercars. You drop into the low, floor-mounted seat which wraps you like a cocoon. Your legs are angled to horizontal position as if driving a Formula race car. The cockpit is snug, of course, but it is not as uncomfortable as imagined. Outward visibility is quite good up front, less so at rear quarters, but that is to be expected on most supercars. Cabin surfaces are either exposed carbon-fiber or Alcantara. As in all Ferraris nowadays, the strange-looking square steering wheel is the home of Manettino switch, engine start button and adaptive damper switch. The TFT digital instrument offers 3 different styles of presentation. As a whole, this cockpit places functions and weight saving above aesthetic. It is probably too racy for my taste.

In terms of speed, LaFerrari is certainly racy. It feels easily faster than 918 Spyder and probably a bit quicker than McLaren P1. The high-revving V12 and electric motor combine to provide the widest power band we have ever seen. It is so responsive low down, with good thrust coming as soon as you press the throttle, yet the powertrain is so eager to rev beyond 9000 rpm. The sheer thrust goes through the lightning-quick gearbox and translates into insane acceleration, yet the power delivery is linear, with no lag and surge such that you can precisely control the amount of power with throttle. Its linearity means it doesn’t feel as explosive as McLaren P1 in the mid-range, but it extends the thrills to higher rev. This is also why it avoids the scary moments that trouble the McLaren at times and results in a better driver’s car. Moreover, the sound the Ferrari naturally aspirated V12 produces is intoxicating, putting the McLaren twin-turbo V8 as well as most rivals in shame.

On track, the LaFerrari is amazingly quick. Its roadholding and braking are remarkable even by the high standards of its class. Its electric power steering is surprisingly light yet ultra-quick, precise and feelsome – much like a 458 rack boosted with more feel. Perhaps because of the low center of gravity, the outstanding front-end grip, the perfectly tuned traction and stability control, or the combination of them all, the car slices through corners beautifully, displaying a balance not found on most supercars. You can adjust its attitude with throttle and counter locks as in a much smaller, less powerful sports car. Its linear controls give you the confidence to exploit its chassis. The well-modulated brake pedal is especially worth praising for something working in tandem with regenerative braking (take note, Porsche). As a result, the LaFerrari is incredibly fun to drive. In fact, it feels like a 458 Speciale with 20 percent more cornering power and 50 percent more straight line thrust.

On country roads, its versatility is even more obvious. Thanks to the low center of gravity, its suspension is able to employ softer springs. In addition to the magnetorheological adaptive dampers, the LaFerrari rides with even more suppleness than 458 Italia. Its light and quick steering continues to shine on bumpy roads as it has kickbacks all but eliminated. The seamless gearshift and linear power delivery suit road use. It doesn't pretend to be a GT, but its easy-going manner should give you a wider scope to exploit its speed in the real world.

However, the most impressive of all is how “normal” it drives, or how “un-hybrid” it feels. With the electric motor assigned to support the V12 engine all the time, this car successfully avoided an unnatural driving experience. Neither has it complicate the driving experience with different propulsion modes (as in Porsche 918), power boost or drag-reducing buttons (as in McLaren P1). You simply jump into the car and drive it straight from garage. No need to read manual, no need to experiment the effects of different modes. Its behavior is fully transparent to you, whereas the clever electronics work silently behind the scene. LaFerrari masters the art of “less is more”, because the less complication it gives you, the more fun you can have.

Automotive historians will remember LaFerrari as the best of the hybrid supercar trios breaking ground in 2014. It is also likely to be branded as the best ever Ferrari supercar, or at least the best since F40, depending on your viewpoints. They will praise its vision for switching to hybrid power as well as its persistence of traditional driving experience. I guess that is the last present Luca di Montezemolo brings to the world as the Chairman of Ferrari. To me, its only problem is the silly name. Why don't we give it a nickname instead? How about Ferrari Luca?


Length / width / height

Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power

Max torque

Suspension layout

Suspension features

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
0-124 mph (sec)
0-150 mph (sec)
0-186 mph (sec)
Mid-engined, RWD
Carbon-fiber monocoque, aluminum subframes
4702 / 1992 / 1116 mm
2650 mm
V12, 65-degree
+ electric motor
6262 cc
DOHC 48 valves, DVVT
Engine: 800 hp / 9000 rpm
Motor: 163 hp
Combined: 963 hp
Engine: 516 lbft / 6750 rpm
Motor: 199 lbft
Combined: >664 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 265/30ZR19
R: 345/30ZR20
1350 kg (dry: 1255 kg)
217 mph+ (c)
<2.9 (c) / 2.5* / 2.4** / 2.4***
4.8* / 4.7** / 4.8***
<7.0 (c) / 6.9****
9.8* / 9.8** / 10.0***
<15.0 (c)

Performance tested by: *C&D, **R&T, ***MT, ****Quattroruote

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