The picturesque northern Italian town of Maranello is the birthplace of arguably the finest performance marque in automotive history. At the security gate of the secretive factory, visitors are greeted with a sign, bold and simple: a large rectangle with the word Ferrari written in yellow serif font. Nearby, three flags snap in the breeze: the tricolors of Italy; the navy blue and gold stars of the EU; and the cavallino rampante (the “prancing horse”), its front legs kicking in the air triumphantly, defiantly. Inside the sprawling campus, workers wear matching red uniforms, not unlike those found on the famed Formula 1 pit crew. The particular hue is so iconic, it’s known everywhere from the Arctic to the Amazon as “Ferrari red.”
This is home to the world’s most successful F1 team, holding the most Constructors Championships (16) and F1 Champions (15). Not surprisingly, many workers here pop their collars with an unmistakable Italian flair. They push carts carrying pristine engine blocks, crankshafts, and bits of gleaming machinery. Visitors’ phones are confiscated upon arrival to prevent any images of prototypes—Ferrari’s next generation of championship automobiles—from escaping the facility.
This year Ferrari S.p.A. celebrates its 7oth anniversary, and to mark seven decades of creating the most valuable vehicles on earth, Ferrari will begin delivering from this factory its greatest hypercar ever: the $2.2 million LaFerrari Aperta. Not only is it one of the modern era’s most technologically advanced vehicles, it is also the most coveted: Like all 499 LaFerraris built, all 200 Apertas sold before the first unit was even finished. (The company also built nine additional vehicles for promotional activities.)
Ferrari is so proud of its new release that it named it LaFerrari (as in, definitively, The Ferrari), and has opened an exhibit at its Maranello museum to celebrate its creation. In December, Ferrari auctioned one—number 500, built especially for the event—for $7 million to aid in the post-2016 earthquake reconstruction in central Italy, making it the most expensive 21st-century automobile ever sold. The Aperta, which was unveiled in Paris only two months prior, will be the open-air version.
The vehicle is a vision. Like the other “F” cars before it (F40, F50, F60 Enzo, etc.), the “F70” LaFerrari’s swooping lines are voluptuousness wrought in hand-laid carbon fiber. Elegant and absent of superfluous vents, wings, and strakes, the car, featuring a 6.3-liter V-12 engine, is both timeless and of the future at once.
“Both myself and my team at Ferrari Design immediately understood when we started the project that we were going to make a very important car, one of those special series that Ferrari builds every 10 years or so. These are models that have marked the history of Ferrari and are the highest expression of the company’s technological skills and aesthetic evolution,” says Flavio Manzoni, Ferrari’s head of design. “Two aspects in particular influenced the project’s development and definitely our state of mind: the dimension of dreams, the longing, on the one hand. And the sense of responsibility that a challenge of this kind imposes, constantly recalling our focus on the best technical and formal integration possible.”
The LaFerrari project initially launched with nine different proposals in 2010. Five made it to the full-size scale-model phase before the Ferrari brain trust settled on the final design. Because its architectural structure and underlying mechanical package were already dictated by engineering demands, the proportions of the LaFerrari came into shape quite organically.
While Manzoni admits the development process for the LaFerrari (and the Aperta) was similar to that of other Ferraris in principle, when making a flagship vehicle a vast investment of energy and resources is required. “Usually the greater and more complex the engineering,” he explains, “the longer it takes for our styling center to find the best possible solutions.”
The LaFerrari therefore represents the peak collaboration between Ferrari’s brilliant engineering department and its in-house design studio. The dynamic synergy and potential conflict between the two departments, one right-brained and the other left, was monumental in both scale and precedence.
“From the moment Ferrari decided to create an in-house styling center [in 2010], the aim was to work shoulder to shoulder with all the other departments. No longer were designers working alone, trying to give form to a car—now there’s a much more organic process of conception and design, where form is conceived as a technical unit complementary to the soul of each product,” Manzoni says. “It becomes what we call a holistic process.”
He continues: “Since Ferraris are of very high technological complexity, their implementation can’t simply be attributed to a sum of the different parts. There is always an added value that guides the design.” Which is precisely the challenge: How do you build a vehicle with all these varied demands and performance standards, as well as the complex engineering required to fulfill them, and actually make a beautiful car? A Ferrari? The Ferrari?
“I cannot say that this synergy between engineering and the design center is always easy and without conflict. There are, of course, differences, and these can arise because each new Ferrari represents levels of expectation for many different aspects: performance, beauty, introduction of innovative technical solutions, weight reduction, etc. There are many factors in play,” Manzoni explains. “Each department is called to give its maximum contribution. Sometimes these objectives are in conflict with each other.” For example, he notes that even the smallest weight reduction can greatly affect a designer’s aesthetic vision.
Of course, the final results speak for themselves. To celebrate the brand’s distinguished 70 years of building dreams, Manzoni and his team just may have created their most beautiful one yet.
UNDER THE HOOD
The Aperta shares the LaFerrari’s next-level hybrid powertrain, which combines a 6.3-liter V-12 with a 120 kW electric motor to generate a time-zone-shifting 950 horses. Despite losing its roof—which normally compromises aerodynamics and rigidity—the Aperta boasts the same 217-mph top speed and blistering acceleration of its hardtop sister, hitting zero to 60 mph in under three seconds and 124 mph in less than seven.
“We made significant modifications to the chassis to ensure we maintained the torsional rigidity, beam stiffness, and NVH characteristics of the coupé version,” chief technology officer Michael Leiters explains. This feat was accomplished via reinforcements added to the sill, A-post areas, and windshield frame.
The Aperta’s exceptional acceleration can be attributed to torque fill, or the performance hybrid technique of using the electric powertrain’s “instant torque” (electric motors offer full torque the instant the throttle is pressed) for the low revs until the petrol engine catches up and takes over, and then slingshots the vehicle into the stratosphere.
How does the car’s battery stay charged under such constant heavy usage? “The batteries are recharged in various ways: during braking and when the combustion V-12 produces excess torque, like through a corner. In the latter case, rather than the engine-management so ware cutting the engine, the excess torque is converted into energy,” Leiters says.
Unsurprisingly, this HY-KERS (Hybrid Kinetic Energy Recovery System) is technology borrowed from Ferrari’s legendary Formula 1 team. So you can partly blame Sebastian Vettel for any speeding tickets you acquire.