Used car buying guide: Ferrari 599

You could argue that no Ferrari has ever had it easier than the 599. Arriving in dealerships in 2006, it was a replacement for the soft and stodgy 575M Maranello, which set rather a low bar for any future front-engined V12 grand tourers to come out of Maranello.

That’s a big part of the reason 599 prices are doing so well today. Impressive to drive at the time and still competitive against modern equivalents, the predecessor to the thunderous F12 Berlinetta commands, on average, around £120,000 for a well-kept example.

Under that mile-long bonnet is a (very slightly) downtuned version of the hallowed naturally aspirated F140 6.0-litre V12 that powered the Enzo hypercar. It sends – even in its most lowly form – a good deal more than 600bhp to the rear wheels by way of, more commonly, the enticingly named F1 Superfast automated manual gearbox. It’s a truly awesome powerplant, and nestled within a lightweight, bespoke aluminium chassis, it was strong enough to shunt this luxury missile from 0-62mph in an astounding 3.5sec – let’s not forget the 599 tips the scales at nearly 1.8 tonnes – and beyond the 200mph mark.

Unlike the 575M, however, the 599 doesn’t baulk at the idea of carving the odd canyon. It was one of the first production cars to offer carbon-ceramic brakes as an option, and its Delphi Magneride suspension system – which uses complex magnetic technology to vary the viscosity of the fluid in the dampers – is instrumental in the 599’s famed adaptability and all-round competency, even if it is its Achilles’ heel in reliability terms.

The HGTE package (that’s Handling Gran Turismo Evoluzione) arrived in 2009, bringing a stiffer, lower suspension set-up, softer tyres and wider wheels with the aim of offering a sharper drive. It was a popular option from new, and many of the more expensive 599s in the classifieds are so equipped, but be prepared for the tyres to need replacing more often and for speed bumps to quickly become your worst enemy.

That wasn’t the most hardcore iteration of the 599, however. If you have more than £1 million to spend and access to a grand prix-spec race circuit, the track-only 599XX is one of the most unfathomably quick and capable Ferraris you can own. Power was up 109bhp over the standard car and kerb weight down nearly 300kg. It’s a truly biblical machine, but money alone won’t get you a taste: Ferrari made only 29 examples of what was then the fastest car to lap its Fiorano test track, so patience is a virtue in your quest to buy one.

Thankfully, prices descend to a mere £500,000 for the road-legal GTO, which weighed only slightly more and packed a smidgen less power than its track-only sibling but offers similar thrills on the circuit with the notable advantage that it can then be driven home.

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■ Electrics: Unless you’re bravely planning to drive it every day, keep the battery charged to avoid annoying system faults: use the cut-off switch in the boot and put it on a trickle charger if possible (battery conditioner was a factory option from new). Jump-starts aren’t recommended. Fault codes sometimes disappear after a full shutdown, so try that before panicking.

■ Brakes and suspension: Optional ceramic brakes offer massively enhanced stopping power but don’t last as long as steel items and are far more expensive to replace. If the ride feels choppy, check for fluid around the shock absorbers, which are costly to replace and tricky to rebuild. Control arms and ball joints need replacing fairly often; listen for knocking.

Also worth knowing

Ferrari’s New Power 15 extended warranty programme can be applied even to second-hand cars that weren’t previously signed up, giving 599 owners an opportunity to make sure any recalls have been addressed and to have certain repairs carried out at the dealer. The car has to undergo a technical check at the dealer first to make sure it hasn’t been modified.

How much to spend

£60,000-£74,999: Early 599 GTBs, sometimes lefthand drive and often with gaudy aftermarket bodykits installed.

£75,000-£89,999: Cleaner and more original GTBs with up to 60,000 miles. Eric Clapton’s old car is going for £89,900; its interior is brown, not cream.

£90,000-£114,999: Fully loaded cars with carbon brakes and covetable Daytona seats.

£115,000 and above: Late HGTE cars and special editions. Prices climb to £400,000 for GTOs and top £1m for an ultra-rare SA Aperta.

One we found

Ferrari 599, 2009/09- reg, 16K miles, £108,950: The 599 is one of Ferrari’s less extravagantly styled creations, so Nero Daytona arguably edges the more ubiquitous Rosso Corsa as the colour of choice. Bolstering this low-miler’s appeal are its blemish-free bodywork and unscratched original alloys.