MARANELLO, Italy – Ferrari's limited-edition supercars are special. They appear about once a decade, cost a small fortune (which has never hurt sales) and usually become the benchmark for next-generations supercars at Ferrari -- and the entire industry.
Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo says the new LaFerrari is no exception because of features such as the supercar's gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, its Formula One-inspired carbon fiber cockpit and its a state-of-the-art "active" aerodynamics.
Despite a pre-tax sticker price of 1 million euros, Ferrari sold out its 499-unit run of the supercar before its world debut in March at the Geneva auto show. Montezemolo said the company had more than 700 requests to purchase LaFerrari, which carries a name that the chairman picked despite internal skepticism. "We chose to call this model LaFerrari [Italian for the Ferrari] because it is the finest expression of our company's unique, unparalleled engineering and design know-how, including that acquired in Formula One," Montezemolo said.
Automotive News Europe spoke with the men responsible for LaFerrari's engineering and design. What follows is an in-depth look at some of the challenges each man faced to deliver the Ferrari's fastest, most technologically advanced road car.
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"Replacing the Enzo was far from easy," Ferrari Technical Director Roberto Fedeli said. Launched in 2002, the carbon fiber Enzo was powered by a 6.0-liter V-12 engine that delivered 660 hp and accelerated from 0 to 100kph in 3.6 seconds.
"Ten years later, there is no way that we would have allowed ourselves to make just a small step forward from the Enzo," Fedeli said, adding that one of the best parts about developing LaFerrari was the chance to take cutting-edge ideas from the drawing board into the car.
Ferrari knew that whatever replaced the Enzo had to be lighter. The first step toward this goal was a research model unveiled in 2007 called the Millechili (Italian for 1000kg). Ferrari developed the car to test ways to shave 265kg from the 1365kg Enzo.
To do this, Ferrari decided it had to:
- Make LaFerrari about 900mm shorter than the Enzo's 4702mm and
- Downsize the engine to a 3.0-liter twin-turbo, gasoline direct injection V-8 with 550hp from the Enzo's massive 6.0-liter V-12 engine.
Although Fedeli and his team supported the engine switch, which would have cut more than 90kg, the company decided that its next-generation supercar had to have a normally aspirated V-12. Period.
Making Fedeli's bid to cut weight even tougher was Ferrari's decision to equip its next supercar with a hybrid powertrain derived from F1's Kinetic Energy Recuperation System (KERS).
"We wanted to use the hybrid technology to boost performances, like in F1, rather than use it just to reduce fuel consumption and emissions," Fedeli said.
When development of Ferrari's HY-KERS system started in 2009, Ferrari predicted the hybrid's parts would add about 200kg because of the electric motors, batteries and wiring. By the time Fedeli were done with LaFerrari, the HY-KERS system was down 50kg to 150kg. The electric motors and control systems weight about 60kg, the batteries 90kg. That was just one of the ways the automaker slashed kilograms to make sure LaFerrari would match the Enzo's 1365kg.