Driving The Enzo: Ferrari’s Flagship Struts Its Stuff

Is it really worth a million dollars? Nika finds out with Canada’s first drive

NIKA ROLCZEWSKI
Special to The Star

This wasn’t going to be your average Sunday drive.

It’s not every day you get to tour the back roads of Ontario in the flagship of the prancing horse – the ultra-exclusive and ultra-expensive Ferrari Enzo.

Even if you have the $1 million needed to buy one (which makes it the most costly production car currently available), you have to qualify for the right to do so: there will only be 399 manufactured and Ferrari wants to be assured that you won’t turn around and sell it for a profit.

As a potential buyer, you must have owned Ferraris before and you must have not crashed any of them. Nobody in Maranello wants to see their Enzo in a ditch.

Even so, there are a handful of Enzos coming to Toronto buyers – and I had an invitation to drive one of the first of them.

It meant missing a broadcast of a Formula One race, but I’m sure my friends understood, for the Enzo is the closest thing to a Formula One race car on the road today.

It’s a radical design that you either love or hate, and is intended as a tribute to the company’s founder, Enzo Ferrari, himself.

And now it’s my turn to drive it.

It’s different, right from the start. Flipping up the Lamborghini-style scissor doors, it’s a long way down to the Enzo’s leather seat. I find it a near-perfect fit, allowing for a comfortable driving position with all the controls within easy reach.

The turn signal indicator is a button on each side of the steering wheel – press once to activate your signal and again to turn it off. This would be hard to get used to.

A turn of the key and a push of the large red starter button and the 660 hp, V12 engine comes to life with a characteristic Ferrari growl. It’s rather quiet at low revs, but builds with a press of the pedal to a more highly-pitched Formula One sound.

I’m too timid to set the transmission to “Race” mode, which quickens the shifts, but find first gear with the paddle shifter and accelerate gingerly.

Shifting is more precise and without the lag of Ferrari’s earlier paddles, such as on the 355. The Enzo switches gears easily at both high and low rpm with incredible pickup, while blinking lights on the steering wheel flash in sequence to let you know when to shift at 8000 rpm.

The speedometer quickly rises in a smooth sweep like the hands of a clock that’s running far too fast. From standstill to 100 km/h takes less than four seconds, and the pace of acceleration doesn’t slow down until speeds far beyond that.

At all speeds, the car feels vacuumed to the road, thanks to twin diffusers front and rear that force air up and increase the downforce without resorting to ugly wings or fins. As well, a rear spoiler deploys at low speed, while a pair of front flaps come out at higher speed to push the car against the road.

The styling is both aerodynamic and purposeful, not to mention about as low as a road car can be. Noisy, inflatable air cushions will raise the front axle by 10 centimetres at the touch of a button in case of speed bumps, although the car automatically drops down again to cruising height once the speed reaches 30 km/h.

The suspension rides rough and stiff, and I want to close my eyes and let the car drive itself.

There’s no doubt the Enzo outperforms any car I’ve ever driven. The 15-inch vented discs provide near-instant stopping without the squeaking noise associated with other “race version” models, such as the 355 Series F.

The huge Brembo carbon-ceramic rotors and specialized brake pads give a firm pedal feel, while their compounds are intended to minimize brake dust – technology taken directly from Michael Schumacher’s F1 car.

They’re not always needed, though. Engine braking alone slows this car real fast.

The specially designed Bridgestone Potenza RE050A Scuderia tires have built-in pressure monitors, but if they go flat, there’s no room for a spare. In fact, there’s not much room for anything at all.

There’s a bit of space inside the nose of the car for some special fitted luggage and a tool kit, and behind the seats are two hooks for hanging your suit bags. But if you pack more than a toothbrush and socks, sorry – have the chauffeur bring along the extra luggage in the Bentley, and don’t forget to tell him to bring the spare tire, just in case.

And send him off with a big head start. The Enzo’s 400 km/h speedometer isn’t kidding.

At speed, it’s surprisingly quiet in the Ferrari’s cockpit. There’s no stereo, for the engine sound is supposed to be music to the ears. The low drive height means that every ping of a stone is heard against the carbon-fibre undercarriage.

Despite the costly price tag, there are no car mats or holders for coffee cups – those are for people who buy Fiats, not Ferraris.

The windows are manually raised and lowered, with a knob reminiscent of an Etch A Sketch (electric motors add weight, you know).

Fortunately, the performance-focused Italian engineers were not so cruel as to deny the Enzo air conditioning, for the heat from the massive air intakes behind the doors is a good 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the slipstream. Driving with the windows up is recommended.

The biggest disappointment, by far, is the horn. The musical two-tone that Ferraris are known for is now just a monotonous General Motors honk.

I never needed to use it, fortunately, although the Enzo attracts stares and comments wherever it goes, at whatever speed. People gasp and point. Cars come to a screeching halt for a close-up view.

Pulling back into the driveway and handing back the shiny red key to its owner, now looking considerably more relaxed with the engine quiet, I can accept that this is an incredible, roadworthy race car. It’s not an underdressed street car, but a race car with amenities.

A toast to Enzo Ferrari, my hero, for no better salute can be given to the master than this marvelous automotive example of power, performance and beauty. Una meraviglia!

Nika

Pricey purchase

So who buys a million-dollar super car? Someone with a wallet as big as the garage where the Enzo will inevitably spend most of its time.

Owning the car means having a preferred customer card at Ferrari, not just for the exclusivity of ownership but also for the costly maintenance and (God forbid) any repairs that may surface.

The car comes with a basic two-year warranty – one year less than Ferrari’s 360 Modena gets and three years less than provided for Chevy’s Cavalier (a car that costs about 100th of the Enzo’s price).

Careful if you actually drive the car.

A simple oil change for the Enzo will run you $800 (no $30 Jiffy Lube specials for this baby) and a complete brake job will be $100,000.

Yes, you read that right.

Add in the fact that insurance on an Enzo comes in at approximately $24,000 per year and you begin to see why so many of them have sadly been retired to be garage queens.

Nika

Nika

Nika has had a love for cars and racing since childhood. A regional racing license holder she has been involved with the industry, working with racers, teams, journalists and automobile manufacturers in sponsorship solicitation, logistics, hospitality, road show and communication program implementation.