Saturday 18 July 2009

Ferrari 360 Review

Ferrari 360
2003 Ferrari 360 Modena 2dr Coupe Shown

We like the Ferrari 360. In other news, we also like Dom Perignon, vacationing in Fiji and dating Heidi Klum (or to be fair, Brad Pitt). Indeed, coming up with "cons" for such a marvelous automobile like the 360 Modena and Spider is like criticizing Heidi for having a funny accent or Brad for dyeing his hair. This Ferrari set the bar for other "lower-end" supercars by providing blistering performance, ethereal steering, superior ride and tenacious grip. It didn't look half bad either, and who can argue with a car that proudly presented its engine under a glass hood?

Most Recent Ferrari 360

The Ferrari 360 was all-new in 1999 and offered in Modena coupe and Spider convertible body styles. They were powered by a mid-mounted 3.6-liter V8 that pumped out a raucous 400 horsepower at 8,500 rpm. Low-end power wasn't as plentiful with a "mere" 275 pound-feet at 4,750 rpm. The all-important 0-60-mph sprint was accomplished in a few ticks north of 4 seconds.

The standard transmission was a six-speed manual tied to a classic Italian gated shifter complete with chrome ball knob. Many Modenas and Spiders were ordered with the rather pricey F1 automated clutch manual gearbox that shifted via column-mounted shift paddles in a lightning-quick 150 milliseconds. Although we'd probably stick with the stick, the F1's adept ability at rev-matching downshifts and its automatic mode (admittedly not the smoothest system in the world) make it a good choice for both aggressive driving and commuting.

What makes a Ferrari a Ferrari is so much more than simply a go-fast engine and a logo imprinted with a startled horse. The 360 sported an aluminum space-frame chassis, adjustable aluminum double-wishbone suspension and a sleek body by Pininfarina constructed of -- you guessed it -- aluminum, which resulted in super-low weight for ideal performance and handling. Of course, the latter was also made possible by a wide-track body and suspension that reduced body roll to a theoretical concept, while the steering stayed Ginsu knife-sharp right up to triple-digit speeds. (The 360 maxed out at 175 mph.) But again, if you need us to tell you the Ferrari 360 is a blast to drive, perhaps enrolling in Exotic Cars 101 is in order.

Unlike some past Ferraris, the 360 had an interior worthy of the car's price tag. Supple leather, high-quality materials and straightforward ergonomics struck an excellent balance between luxury and driving-focused simplicity. The snug seats offered plenty of lateral support, with a comfortable reach to the divine steering wheel. Besides contributing to superb road-holding, the 360's wide body also provided lots of elbow room and enough space for a set of golf clubs behind the two seats. And really, what's the point of a country club if you can't show off your Ferrari? One of the rare downsides to the 360 was rear visibility -- particularly in the Spider convertible with its high rear deck, thick roll hoops and plastic rear window.

For those who wanted an even more capable Ferrari 360 (or a more exclusive one), the Challenge Stradale was introduced in 2004. This stripped-down club racing version of the coupe had, according to Ferrari, everything eliminated that did not contribute to increased performance or safety (or apparently a chilled interior, as air-conditioning remained). The result was a car 242 pounds lighter than a regular Modena, that also sported 25 additional horses. Along with a 20-percent stiffer suspension and aerodynamic changes that produced 50 percent more downforce, the Challenge Stradale was the closest thing one could get to Schumacher's F1 ride -- at least until the Enzo came along.


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