What could be better than driving a Ferrari? Well, how about driving a Ferrari convertible? How about driving the newest Ferrari convertible, the 2001 360 Modena Spider? Well what a coincidence, we just happen to have one right here. So let’s fire it up and see how much fun driving can be, when you go bareback in the open air on a prancing horse!
How much fun? Well, for automotive open air enthusiasts, the 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena Spider could certainly be considered the pinnacle of topless touring! At least that’s the impression one gets when behind the wheel of the 360 Spider, judging from all the pointing fingers, eyes-wide-hand-over-mouth expressions, and rowdy thumbs up gesturing. And that was before we even left the parking lot!
And like most of the new generation of drop tops, this is Ferrari’s 20th convertible in the company’s illustrious history, exposing you and your passenger to those good vibes emanating from the outside environs is a snap. Just push the button and you’re there. No less than seven electro-hydraulically controlled actuators go to work to stow the aluminum framed, fully lined top in its own cozy compartment behind the seats and front of the engine. The whole operation takes 20 seconds and when its done there’s no evidence of the top whatsoever.
If all this looks vaguely familiar, it will come as no surprise that the same company that designed this set up, also designed the roof systems for the Mercedes SLK and Porsche’s Boxster and 911 Cabrio. The only bummer is the plastic rear window. Necessitated by the tight storage quarters and the way the top must fold to fit there. But Ferrari tells us that it’s easily replaced should it start to haze over.
To accommodate this piece of mechanized origami, a few design changes to the 360’s structure, which otherwise remains faithful to the 360 Modena Coupe we tested last year, were needed. All air intakes and outlets were redesigned and, of course, to make room for the top, the engine bay is smaller. The added hardware also adds about 130 pounds to the Spider’s 2970 unladen weight. There’s also two leather wrapped tubular steel roll bars incorporated behind the head restraints, and mesh wind screens within, and between, the roll bars to keep wind buffeting in the cockpit to a minimum. The topless nature of the 360 Spider boosts wind resistance slightly over the coupe’s 0.33 co-efficient of drag to 0.36.
But that’s hardly an issue when you have a 3.6 liter, DOHC, 40-valve V-8 that produces 395 horsepower and 275 pound- feet of torque at your disposal. In fact, not only are the mechanicals between the 360 Spider and its stablemate, the coupe, identical, nearly so are the performance numbers. That means neck snapping shots to 60 in just 4.1 seconds. And quarter mile passes in 12.2 seconds at 115 MPH. Our coupe tester had the same elapsed time, but managed to squeeze out 119 MPH.
Like the coupe, our Spider was outfitted with the F1-inspired electrohydraulic clutch with steering wheel-mounted paddles to stir the 6-speed automatic transmission. There are four settings, normal, sport, low grip and full auto, but we found operation in full auto rough and uneven for around town driving, and not nearly as much fun as the paddles. For purists, a 6-speed manual is available too.
As much as we love the sound of 395 screaming ponies, there are occasions when you’ll have to come to a stop. For that the huge ABS-equipped Brembo brakes at the corners do a highly commendable job. They squeezed us down from 60 in a short, sweet 104 feet.
As for handling, what’s to be said that hasn’t been said before? You’ll be hard pressed to find another car that delivers the responsiveness, feedback, and solidity of the 360 Modena Spider. Unless of course, it’s the coupe. With just enough understeer to keep you safe, plus ASR electronic traction and stability control, even the novice looks masterful winging through the cones.
In the cockpit, the Spider’s appointments and control layout are also the same as the coupe’s. Our staff complained about a few awkward placements, but Ferrari is paying more attention to ergonomics than in the past. The plush Connolly leather seats(?) doesn’t hurt either. And, at speeds, top-down wind buffeting is amazingly absent.
The price? Well that’s a different story. MSRP, including destination charge and gas guzzler tax comes to $170,835. And there are options. But you didn’t expect a car that comes with paddles to be completely pain free, did you?
After all, Ferraris have always provoked strong emotional and sometimes physical responses from drivers and curbside wannabes. In fact, we think it’s safe to say that, in addition to their legendary performance, that’s a large part of their appeal. So take it from us when we say, top down, engine singing, the 2001 360 Modena Spider offers plenty of both.
Engine: 3.6 Liter, Dohc, 40-valve V-8
Torque: 275 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 4.1 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.2 Seconds @ 115 MPH
60-0 MPH: 104 Feet