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Ferrari: history and greatest cars of the evo years - Ferrari hypercars: history of Ferrari’s ultimate performance machines

Few cars create a furore like a full-on Ferrari hypercar. Models such as the 288 GTO, F40 and F50 pre-dated evo, but we were truly gripped by Enzo fever when that car was introduced in 2002.

As you’d expect, we first drove it in the controlled confines of Fiorano. You know the drill. Passenger ride with a test driver (in this case Dario Benuzzi), stern briefing, then a handful of laps to try to glean some meaningful driving impressions beyond ‘OMFG’.

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The F50 had already done the carbon tub thing. And it went one better by using the engine block from one of the Scuderia’s Grand Prix cars. But in terms of the driving experience it was as old as the Apennines: a big, bellowing V12 unfettered by electronic driver aids and stirred into action via a six-speed manual.

The Enzo was different. From the tip of its pointy nose to the abruptness of its Kamm tail, this was a millennial machine that drew inspiration from technology not tradition. A new, 651bhp V12 – the start of an extraordinary family of engines that would only get more ferocious – sat at its heart. Active airflow management helped reduce downforce at high speeds to nudge the car’s top speed to 217mph.

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The driving experience was unlike that of any Ferrari before it, with an abundance of grip and traction augmented by a multi-mode stability-control system and Launch Control. Compared with its contemporary rivals – the Porsche Carrera GT and Mercedes SLR McLaren – the Enzo was more rooted in the 21st century. It wasn’t as pure as the Porsche, perhaps, but it was a truer reflection of what Ferrari was about than the CGT was for its maker. More importantly – and admirably – the Enzo would have a direct influence on every Ferrari that followed.

Were it not for the rise of hybrid tech, following the Enzo with something meaningful might have been tricky. After all, when your series-production GT has the best part of 800bhp, where do you go from there? The LaFerrari emerged at a time of unprecedented growth for the hypercar – largely thanks to a growing global community of car-loving ultra-high-net-worth individuals, but also because adding battery power to conventional petrol power meant 1000bhp was within reach in cars two-thirds the weight of a Veyron.

Of the so-called ‘Holy Trinity’, Ferrari was alone in choosing pure performance over any notional nod to zero-emissions motoring. The result was a screamer of a V12 bolstered by the freakish torque-fill of electric motors for a cartoonish Ferrari-on-fast-forward sensation. That Ferrari looked at making the LaFerrari capable of running in electric-only mode but decided against it suggests the company couldn’t (or rather never intended to) match the true plug-in hybrid functionality of the Porsche 918 Spyder and didn’t see the point in offering the minimal all-electric range of the McLaren P1. Whatever the truth, it’s amusing that Ferrari exploited the performance-enhancing qualities of hybrid and ignored the rest.

The LaFerrari driving experience mirrors that of its direct siblings, the 458 and F12, in that it combines an incredible level of technology with a true sense of connection and the emotional exuberance of a true Italian exotic. That the technology enables you to dip into the best part of 1000bhp on the road and then unleash as much as you’re comfortable handling on track makes it something truly extraordinary. If the LaFerrari has the same influence over future Ferrari production cars as the Enzo did in its day, we have a scintillating future to look forward to.

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