When you’re a legendary company like Ferrari, your biggest competitor is usually yourself, because enthusiasts don t compare the latest Ferrari to other high performance cars, but they always compare it to previous Ferraris. And the latest Ferrari to arrive from the Prancing Horse stable is this 360 Modena. Now Ferrari says that it sets a new standard for Maranello s 8-cylinder cars. But after years of driving Ferrari s fastest, most exotic models, even we have to wonder: how much better can a legend get?
Substantially so, if you ask us! The Ferrari 360 Modena builds on the design successes of its 355 predecessor in nearly every way. Massaged for over 5,000 hours in the wind tunnel, Pininfarina produced a sleek, modern, ultra clean shape that is still unmistakably Ferrari. Twin grill openings feed dual radiators and define a center downforce tunnel that is pure Formula 1 technology.
The same scrubbed character defines the rear also, with exhaust openings flanking a large center air extractor beneath the signature round taillamps.
The side profile is perhaps the most fluid mid-engined Ferrari design yet. Decidedly cab-forward in attitude, the eyebrow-arch front fenders melt into the sharply raked windscreen. From there, the contours flow back to a typically high, wide Ferrari rear section. The 360 looks liquid, ready to pour over any imprudent supercar wannabe.
The trim shape belies the fact that this is the largest Ferrari road car ever. So, it s no surprise that inside is the most inviting Ferrari cockpit yet. Ergonomics are finally more than an afterthought at Maranello, as the driver is presented with a very intuitive control layout. Climate controls and the CD stereo are housed in their own pod on the center dash. Ancillary switches for traction control and suspension settings are located to the left of the wheel. The center console holds the tiny reverse-gear lever as well as a small bit of storage.
Facing a deeply hooded analog gauge cluster, the driver is supported by firm leather buckets and grips a tilt and telescoping wheel. Behind that wheel on our tester was the available Formula One-style electro-hydraulic gearshift paddles we first sampled on the 355 F1. Shifting sequentially through 6 forward gears without the benefit of a clutch pedal takes some getting used to, but after a few miles we were wishing for this setup in all our cars.
A fully automatic mode allows the driver to go shiftless and avoid the paddles altogether. Some of our drivers found the system balky around town, especially the reverse lever, but in its element, out on twisty roads, or even better, a race track, shifting the 360 Modena is a pure delight.
We spent a rather cold, gripless West Virginia day pounding the 360 around Summit Point Raceway’s Jefferson Circuit, and can now understand why Michael Schumacker enjoys his work so much.
Entering a fast corner, the 360 s first tendency is toward safe understeer. Now, that will keep most drivers out of trouble, but it s no fun for the rest of us. So, the simple cure is a heavy application of right foot, followed immediately by a handful of counter-steer, as the rear end leaps out under power and is just as quickly reined in by the precise steering. In the fastest corners, this process can trigger a strong pucker reflex, and can keep the driver s hands and feet quite busy, but no car in our memory gives the driver so much immediate feedback to work with. Credit for that goes to a near-perfect weight distribution, sticky 18-inch Pirellis, 215-45s up front and 275-40s in the rear, and tremendous 13-inch vented Brembo brakes with ABS.
Lap after lap, the 360 lunges from turn to turn, propelled firmly by its 3.6 liter, DOHC, 40-valve V8. It produces 395 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, and along the way serenades you with a mechanical symphony of sound all the way to its 8,500 RPM redline. Launching at a slightly lower RPM, our test car sprinted from a stop to 60 in just 4.1 seconds. The quarter-mile zoomed by in 12.3 seconds at a whopping 119 MPH. Adding to the engine s appeal is its highly visible location under the rear hatch, and the industrial beauty of the design itself.
The whole 360 experience, from the razor-sharp downshifts through every neck-craning straightaway blast, is a feeling you never want to end. A street legal Formula One feeling at that. To fuel your own F1 fantasies, you ll have to plunk down somewhere in the neighborhood of $152,000. To keep that in perspective, that might just get you a used Formula 1 practice engine.
And driving the 360 Modena is closer than you might think to a true racing experience. In addition to the sequential gearbox, Ferrari adapted a drive-by-wire system, variable-geometry intake, and extensive use of aluminum from its F1 racing program.
While the aluminum used in the suspension, engine, chassis and body allowed for a 34% weight savings over the 355, the most striking result is in the aesthetic appeal of the architecture. Details like the exposed rails framing the engine lend a modern, high-tech look to the whole package, and say a lot about the company that produced it.
Ferrari has emerged from the shadow of its own cliche as builders of fussy, unobtainable cars for the richy rich, and is now poised on the forefront of modern performance car engineering. For the Ferrari 360 Modena, the name alone may make it an instant classic, but the design makes it a legend.
Engine: 3.6 Liter, Dohc, 40-valve V8
Torque: 275 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 4.1 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.3 Seconds @ 119 MPH